Farmers’ Market Report – August 31st, 2010

31 08 2010

Heirloom tomatoes at the East Lynn Farmer's Market, Toronto

I recently returned from two weeks in Quebec and can see the signs of summer winding down.  The sun is setting earlier, the evenings are cooler and kids are gearing up to go back to school.  However, the farmer’s markets are in full swing – if it grows in Ontario, you can probably get it at our markets right now (with the exception of early spring produce such as asparagus and fiddleheads).  I went to three farmers’ markets over the past week and here are some of the highlights:

Heirloom tomatoes at the market. Don't be fooled by their imperfect looks - they were delicious!

Tomatoes

The king of late summer markets, tomatoes are finally in season.  Last year I lamented how horrible the season was for tomatoes because the weather was cool and wet and there was a fungus that destroyed a lot of crops.  However, all signs point to 2010 being a much better year thanks to hot and dry weather. I’ve been experimenting with heirloom varieties, plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and so far I’ve been pretty pleased.  The key to using summer tomatoes is to keep preparation simple.  Why not make a classic BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato) Sandwich?  When tomatoes are sweet and juicy, it just might be the perfect sandwich. Cook up some good quality bacon, cut some tomatoes into thick slices and add some cool, crunchy lettuce.  A smear of mayo on lightly toasted bread finishes this masterpiece.

For more great tomato ideas, check out the tomato archives: Tomato Recipes.

A classic BLT: Possibly the perfect sandwich

Eggplant

It took me a while to get into eggplant – I used to think it was bitter and mushy. However, now I love them, as long as they’re not too big (the bigger they are, the more watery and prone to bitterness they’ll be).  This week, there were eggplants of every size, from miniature ones not much bigger than my thumb to large ones you would normally see at the supermarket.

Tomatoes + Eggplant = The basis for Pasta alla Norma (see below)

For a fresh idea, why not make a simple Pasta alla Norma?  Last week I made a version with rigatoni, fresh plum tomatoes, fresh ricotta cheese and miniature eggplant rounds.  This recipe from Mario Batali is similar but uses canned tomatoes instead: Pasta a la Norma.

My version of Pasta alla Norma made with fresh plum tomatoes, baby eggplant and creamy ricotta

Corn

Corn was a bit early this year so it’s already starting to taper off. I’ve been enjoying it straight off the cob – boiled and simply dressed with butter, salt and pepper. However, Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers is a great way to use up extra corn (and local peppers, which are also in season right now).  Leftover cooked corn can also be mixed with some fresh thyme, sage or basil and tossed with olive oil, parmesan and pasta for a simple, summery dinner.

Corn on the cob at a vegetable stand

Summer Berries

Local raspberries and blueberries are abundant right now and won’t last long so take advantage of them while you can. Raspberries are delicious in both sweet and savoury recipes so you can create an entire menu built around them.  Start with a hearty main course salad such as Duck Confit Salad with Fresh Raspberries and finish with an impressive dessert like Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets.

A hearty salad with duck confit and fresh raspberries

Autumn Fruit

Autumn fruit such as plums, pears and apples have started appearing at the market. I’ve been focusing more on ‘summer’ fruit (such as the berries, above) but I did try some delicious plums and a beautifully crisp Cortland apple.  Visit the apple archives for some tasty and impressive ideas: Apple Recipes.

I’m a little saddened that in a matter of weeks this abundance of produce will begin to slow. However, I love fall (and the cooler weather that comes with it) so I’m looking forward to coming up with some great ideas for autumn.  Plus, there is still plenty of summer left so hit the markets and enjoy!

Trish





Blueberry Lemon Bread

30 08 2010

Fresh blueberries at a farm stand near Belleville, Ontario

Local blueberries are at their peak right now in most parts of Canada.  While imported blueberries are usually available at grocery stores year round, local wild berries are a special summer treat.  This moist and flavourful sweet bread is the perfect way to showcase juicy berries.  However, it can be made with frozen blueberries if fresh aren’t available.

Click here to get the recipe from Suite 101.com: Blueberry Lemon Bread

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Slices of freshly baked Blueberry Lemon Bread





Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets

22 08 2010

Fresh raspberries and dark chocolate are an unbeatable combination in these mini-tarts.

Raspberries are at their peak right now and it’s a real treat to use fresh berries in pies and tarts.  Local raspberries can be found at roadside stands, farmer’s markets and most supermarkets by the end of August.  However, they are very delicate and don’t store well so they should be used within a day of purchase.

These mini-tarts are very easy to make but they do require a bit of time between steps so the ingredients can cool.  They’re great for entertaining because they can be made in advance and the shells won’t get soggy thanks to a layer of chocolate protecting the tartlet shells.  You could also make one large tart instead of mini tartlets.

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets

Makes 8 mini tarts (about 3″ each in diameter).  Recipe can be doubled or halved as desired.

  • 8 mini tart shells – I sometimes use Tenderflake frozen mini-tart shells or you can make the pastry from scratch: Basic Pastry
  • 2 ounces / 57 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa).
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons water
  • A pinch of salt
  • 8 fresh raspberries for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  If using frozen shells*, let them stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Use a fork to prick the bottom of the shells.  Place on a baking sheet and blind bake (ie. bake the empty shells) until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.      *If you are using freshly made pastry, line mini-tart pans or a muffin tin with the pastry and crimp the edges.  Prick the bottoms with a fork and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove baked pastry shells from the oven and let them cool completely.  They can be baked a day or two in advance and kept in an air-tight container until ready to use.
  3. To prepare the chocolate layer:  Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave in one-minute increments.  Spoon some of the chocolate into each tart shell and use a pastry brush to coat the entire inside of the shell. Refrigerate the shells until the chocolate has hardened.
  4. To make the raspberry filling: In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of raspberries, 2 Tablespoons of water and the sugar.  Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Cook until berries begin to soften, about 8 minutes.  Lightly mash berries with a spoon.
  5. In a mug or glass measuring cup, mix together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Pour into the saucepan of raspberries and stir to combine. Cook raspberry mixture until it becomes glossy and thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Remove the raspberry filling from the heat and let cool slightly.  Spoon filling into the chocolate-lined tart shells and refrigerate shells until the filling is cool and firm.
  7. Garnish tarts with fresh raspberries and serve.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

18 08 2010

Cherry tomatoes on the vine

It’s mid-August and we’re just coming into tomato season in Southern Ontario. It’s been a great year for tomatoes because we’ve had hot and dry weather for most of the spring and summer.  Some of the tastiest tomatoes that can be found at grocery stores and farmer’s markets are cherry tomatoes (bonus: they’re grown in greenhouses during the winter so high quality cherry tomatoes are usually available year-round).  They can be used in salads, pasta dishes sandwiches, roasted or just eaten on their own.

Roasting cherry tomatoes concentrates their flavour

This pasta dish is one of my most popular recipes on Suite 101.com.  It’s easy, delicious and only requires a few ingredients.  The sauce coats the noodles lightly but it’s very flavourful so a little goes a long way.  The spaghetti is delicious served with a green salad and a glass of wine.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Makes approximately 6 main dish servings

(VEGETARIAN)

To roast tomatoes:

  • 4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 40 tomatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Parchment paper

To finish sauce:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil + more to finish, if desired
  • 2 cloves chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to garnish
  • 1 lb. / 500 g dried spaghetti
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, add cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and sugar and toss to coat all of the tomatoes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.
  3. Pour tomatoes onto the baking sheet and roast for 25 to 35 minutes or until they collapse and their skin begins to char.
  4. Remove tomatoes from the oven and let cool slightly. Carefully lift the parchment paper and pour the tomatoes and all their roasting juices into a large bowl. Set aside. (Tomatoes can be roasted in advance and refrigerated until ready to use).

To finish sauce:

  1. In a large skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes with their juices and oregano. Use a spoon to break up the cherry tomatoes and cook until heated through.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions (for al dente results, it’s usually cooked for 9 to 11 minutes). Reserve 2 Tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and drain spaghetti.
  3. Add pasta and 1 Tablespoon of the pasta waster to the tomato sauce. Stir to thoroughly coat the spaghetti. If it seems a bit dry, add the remaining tablespoon of pasta water and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a grating of fresh parmesan to serve.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.








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