Farmers’ Market Report – August 25th, 2011

25 08 2011

A roadside farm stand in the Niagara region

As we near the end of August, farmers’ markets in Ontario are stacked high with summer’s bounty. With the exception of a few spring vegetables, pretty much anything that grows here is now available. It’s almost too much to keep up with! Here are a few of the highlights from my recent market visits:

Tomatoes

I’ve been pleased to discover that this has been a pretty good year for tomatoes in Southern Ontario. Thanks to a hot, dry July, this year’s tomatoes have good flavour. Eatocracy recently did a story about the Best Sandwich in the Universe: a tomato sandwich, simply prepared with white sandwich bread, sliced ripe tomatoes and mayo. It only works in the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. I don’t disagree that a tomato sandwich is a thing of beauty but my personal favourite is a BLT. The crisp bacon and crunchy lettuce elevate the tomatoes to new heights, in my humble opinion. For more great ideas using tomatoes, check out the Tomato Archives.

Corn

August is the peak month for corn in Ontario

Corn has been plentiful this summer but I’ve had a bit of an issue with some of it. I bought some nice looking cobs at the market a couple of weeks ago and used them to make a pasta dish. Unfortunately, the kernels were a little too sweet (if that’s possible!) and tasted more like sugar bombs than corn, which didn’t really enhance the recipe. However, I bought some cobs last weekend that were much better – still sweet but they had a decent ‘corn’ flavour as well. Simply boiled and dressed with butter, salt and pepper, it was a true taste of August. Why not make some Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers or try Corn Scallop, a delicious side dish for grilled meats.

Peaches

Freshly picked Niagara peaches

Peaches are a staple at Ontario markets this time of year. This year I’ve found them to be flavourful but a little on the small side, which one of the growers told me was because of the dry weather in July. Peach Cobbler is a classic and Peach Tiramisu is a unique twist on an Italian standard. If you’d rather something more savoury, Peach Chutney is a great accompaniment to pork or chicken.

Summer Squash

Zucchini and patty pan squash were abundant at the last market I attended. Luckily the zucchini were still young and tender – they can get watery as they grow large. Smaller summer squash tend to be sweeter and work well in pasta dishes such as Summer Squash with Egg Pasta. Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting is a great way to finish the meal – it’s moist, flavourful and the cream cheese frosting makes it special.

Potatoes

Ontario baby potatoes

Baby potatoes are one of my favourite things. They can be prepared very simply: give them a quick boil or steam and dress with a little bit of butter, salt and chopped parsley (add a little sour cream if you want to be decadent!). Or you could whip up a batch of Baby Red Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, a mayo-free, zippy potato salad that’s a nice change from the usual (you can use regular white potatoes in place of red).

Basil

Fresh basil is a fragrant summer treat

It has been a good year for basil, at least for farmers (my personal pot of basil didn’t make it through the heat wave). Every time I have purchased some at the market this summer, people on the street and the bus have commented on how incredible it smells – a taxi driver even asked me for a leaf so he could see what it tasted like! Pesto is one of the most common ways to use a lot of basil. Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto is impressive and surprisingly simple to make. This month’s Saveur magazine has a full feature on pesto with a number of delicious recipes, from Pesto-Rubbed Chicken with Panzanella to Crispy Calamari with Pesto Mayonnaise. Caprese Salad is another way to use fresh basil – and it’s a great showcase for perfect tomatoes too!!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Farmers’ Market Report – June 5th, 2011

5 06 2011

The first day of the 2011 East Lynn Farmers' Market, Toronto

The farmers’ markets are underway for another year! Last week marked the launch of weekly farmers’ markets in Toronto. While there are a handful of markets that run through the year, the pickings tend to be slim between December and April. Now that there is locally-grown produce available, we can enjoy getting it straight from the farmers for the next five months or so. For a list of Ontario markets, check out Farmers’ Markets Ontario. (If you live elsewhere, a quick google search should point you in the right direction).

There isn’t a whole lot available right now but things should pick up considerably in about a month. Here were some of the highlights of this week’s markets:

Asparagus

Asparagus at its peak

It’s June and that means asparagus is at its peak! It seems to be a very good year for asparagus – the spears have been sweet and flavourful. The tables at the market Saturday morning were piled high with bundles of asparagus of various thickness (I prefer thicker ones but many people enjoy the delicate thin spears). It’s extremely versatile and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I whipped up a simple egg white omelet for lunch the other day and threw in some steamed spears (see Asparagus 101 for cooking tips). I added some chopped ham, finely diced onion, chopped chives and a tiny bit of cheddar cheese. Served with a simple green salad, it was the perfect spring lunch. Eggs pair very well with asparagus: try a Crustless Asparagus Quiche. It can be dressed up with a bit of ham, cooked crab or lobster, your favourite herbs, different cheeses (swiss is nice) or diced red peppers.

A simple egg white omelet filled with steamed asparagus, fat-free ham, diced onions, chives and a bit of cheese is easy, nutritious and delicious.

Strawberries

Ontario strawberries are finally in season!

I was excited to finally see strawberries at the market. They are a little bit late this year, likely because of the cool, damp weather we had for most of May. The few I tried were on the tart side but still had more flavour than imported berries. As the weather warms up, hopefully the berries in coming weeks will be a little sweeter. For breakfast, I like to add a few sliced strawberries to my cereal. If you’re feeling a little more decadent in the morning, Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce are sure to be a hit.

Rhubarb

There was no shortage of rhubarb at the markets this week. It’s a bit of an acquired taste (I know quite a few people who don’t care for it) but properly sweetened, it can be quite refreshing. Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote is a great make-ahead dessert for a spring meal. Or start your evening off with a rhubarb-based cocktail such as a Springtime Kir or a Rhubarb Refresher.

Onions and Herbs

There were a few fresh herbs available this week, including mint which pairs beautifully with strawberries in Strawberry Mojitos. I also saw garlic scapes and picked up a few baby onions. Chives are also starting to blossom (in my herb pot – I didn’t see any at the market) and are delicious in stir-fries or coated in a tempura batter and fried: Chive Tempura Blossoms.

Chive blossoms: pretty and edible!

Bon Appétit and Happy Marketing!

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