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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Farmers’ Market Report – July 8th, 2010

8 07 2010

Zucchini blossoms are a rare and delicious summer treat.

Welcome to my first Farmers’ Market Report for Summer 2010!  The markets are at their peak for the next couple of months and this week’s offerings did not disappoint.  In fact, growing conditions in Southern Ontario have been so good this year, there were a few surprises.  Here is a rundown of some of this week’s highlights:

Corn

Corn has arrived at Ontario markets earlier than usual this year.

I was a bit stunned to see the first local corn at the markets already.  Speaking with some farmers, I learned that’s about two weeks earlier than normal this year.  I bought six ears to experiment with, crossing my fingers the quality was going to be decent. The ears were on the small side but the kernels were very tender.  It wasn’t as flavourful as I’d hoped but because it’s so early, I’m sure later harvests will be sweeter. My favourite way to eat corn is boiled, rolled in butter and then topped with salt and pepper. However, if you’re looking for something more elegant, try my recipe for Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Peaches

Like corn, peaches are also early this year.  I didn’t buy any this week but we’ve been having a heat wave so hopefully that bodes well for upcoming weeks (peaches love hot, dry weather).  Peach Tiramisu is an elegant, no-bake dessert that showcases fresh peaches beautifully.

Apricots

Apricots were abundant at this week's market.

I often find raw apricots kind of bland with a bit of a mealy texture but the ones I bought today were pretty tasty.  They had a nice sweet-tartness to them so I ate a few out of hand.  I chose ones on the smaller side but the farmers were selling larger ones as well.  Apricots are ideal for both sweet and savoury recipes; why not make some Spicy Apricot Glazed Grilled Shrimp?

Herbs

Fresh herbs were in abundance this week including basil, mint and dill.  I keep an herb pot during the summer for day-to-day herbs but if I decide to do any large batch pickling or pesto, I’ll head to the farmer’s market to buy large amounts at a good price. To make use of summer herbs, check out my recipes for Pesto Sauce and White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs.

Summer Squash

Pattypan squash and baby zucchini.

I have a feeling that zucchini are going to take over many gardens this summer, judging by the number and size of them at this week’s market.  Many of the yellow and green zucchini on display were already getting a little big for my taste (smaller ones tend to be less watery and are better for most recipes).  Pattypan squash were also abundant this week. You can make the most of summer squash by making Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil or a moist Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I was also excited to find zucchini blossoms at a local grocer this week.  They are fragile and rare but will occasionally turn up at local markets.  To use them, try my recipes for Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms.

I discovered another summer squash this week that I was not familiar with: vegetable marrow (see photo below).  I asked the farmer about them and learned that they are very similar to zucchini and are often stuffed with a ground meat mixture.  It seems to be a popular vegetable in England.  You can find a recipe for stuffed vegetable marrow here: Recipe for Stuffed Marrow with Sausage Meat.

Vegetable marrow are similar to zucchini and are delicious stuffed.

Cucumbers

My husband loves cucumbers and often eats sliced cukes with a dash of salt and pepper as a snack.  They also add a fresh note to sandwiches and salads.  A crisp Asian Summer Slaw makes a great no-cook dinner.  Some of the stalls were selling dill alongside baby cucumbers – one-stop shopping for pickle makers.  Pick up some smoked salmon to make a Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad that is accented with fresh dill.

Cherries

Both sweet and sour Ontario cherries were abundant this week.  While sweet cherries are imported from the U.S. each spring, sour ones are harder to find.  My grandmother had a sour cherry tree in her yard so they were the only kind we ever had when I was growing up.  They’re not very good raw but once cooked and sweetened, they have a tartness that is addictive.  For a classic sour cherry pie recipe, check out this one from Epicurious.com: Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust.  If you have sweet cherries, why not make a Cherry Clafouti with Almonds or a simple Cherry Almond Bread?

Asparagus

I was told that this is probably the last week for asparagus this year.  Usually by the end of the season, asparagus is starting to look tired but not this year.  The stalks were thick, robust and vibrant.  This was an exceptional year for asparagus and I enjoyed it in a variety of dishes.  Check out the Asparagus Archives for some delicious ideas ranging from Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms to a rich and decadent Roasted Asparagus Lasagna.

Until next week,

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Farmer’s Market Report – August 12th, 2009

12 08 2009

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It’s mid-August and FINALLY the weather is starting to look like summer!  July was unseasonably cold and wet and the first part of August has been unstable with thunderstorms on a regular basis.  The forecast in Southern Ontario looks sunny and warm for the next week which should be good for the crops.

I’ve was out of town for a short time so today is the first market I’ve been to in a while.  The theme of today’s farmer’s market seemed to be Fruit.  There were strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches, cherries, melons, currants, pears, apples and plums.  I picked up some cherries, raspberries and blueberries with the intention of developing some delicious desserts or breakfast pastries.  Stay tuned… 

Update: Click here for a delicious and decadent breakfast recipe using fresh raspberries – Raspberry-White Chocolate Scones

Update: Click here for a great cherry dessert: Cherry Clafoutis with Almonds

Using Fruit in Savoury Dishes

Dessert is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of using fruit in cooking but it can be used in savoury dishes as well.  Fruit sauces pair well with meat and seafood  - think of classic pairings such as pork chops with apple sauce or duck with cherries.  Check out my recipe for Peach Chutney if you’re looking for an interesting way to use peaches.  I also published a recent article on Suite 101.com for Spicy Apricot Glazed Shrimp – my husband called the sweet and spicy shrimp skewers ‘addictive’.  

 

Spicy Apricot Glazed Grilled Shrimp

Spicy Apricot Glazed Grilled Shrimp

 

 

Fruit Jams

Another popular way to use seasonal fruit is in jams and jellies.  Easy Drop Biscuits with Strawberry Jam or Apricot Jam will start your morning on the right note. Experiment with using plums, raspberries, cherries or blueberries instead of strawberries.  

Market Vegetables

Of course there were vegetables at the market as well.  Corn was the main attraction – huge piles of sweet, freshly picked ears were featured at a number of stands.  For an elegant side dish featuring corn, try Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.  Tomatoes were still relatively scarce which is not surprising given the weather we’ve had. Hopefully the warm weather this week will help field tomatoes ripen and sweeten. 

Until next week…

Trish

P1000848





Farmer’s Market Report – July 21st, 2009

21 07 2009

 

Fresh arugula (aka rocket or rucola) is great in a salad or on sandwiches

Fresh arugula (aka rocket/rucola/roquette) is great in a salad or on sandwiches

It’s mid-summer here in Southern Ontario, although you’d be hard pressed to tell. The weather has been unstable at best and downright cold at its worst.  We’ve hardly had any days over 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) and the temperature has generally topped out between 20 and 23 degrees Celsius. It’s usually pretty hot and humid in July so this is very unusual but hopefully the weather will improve as we move into August – summer’s days are numbered!  

Unfortunately, a cool and damp summer takes its toll on the produce.  Tomatoes, corn, grapes and peaches are at their best when the weather is hot and dry and other fruits and vegetables are also behind schedule.  The strawberries I’ve had this year have been very hit and miss – I’ll get a sweet batch in one box only to find the next one sour and tasteless.  The best advice I can offer is to ask vendors at the market if you can taste the produce before buying so you can avoid disappointment (unfortunately, this often isn’t possible at the supermarket).

Here are some highlights of this week’s market visit:

Asparagus

The very last asparagus of the season was still available.  We won’t have local asparagus again until next May so enjoy it while you can!  I think my husband will be kind of relieved that we won’t be eating it for a while – we definitely get our fill during the brief season.  Visit the Asparagus archives for lots of ideas on how to use this delicious vegetable.

Strawberries and Rhubarb

There are still local strawberries at the markets but their quality can vary.  The ones I got this week were actually better than last week’s tasteless berries.  A handful of rhubarb was still available but it was probably the last week for it.  It’s your last chance this season to enjoy a sweet-and-tart strawberry-rhubarb cocktail.

 

Enjoy the last rhubarb of the season in these delicious cocktails

Enjoy the last rhubarb of the season in these delicious cocktails

Zucchini

Local green and yellow zucchini were in abundance but some of them were almost past their peak as far as size is concerned.  Smaller zucchini tend to be sweeter and less watery – they can get seedy and wet once they get too big. Miniature summer squash were also available.  For a great recipe using zucchini, check out Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Apricots

The first apricots are showing up at the markets although the ones I picked up this week were quite sour.  I find apricots are usually at their best when cooked or dried, as opposed to eating them raw out of hand.  Check out a quick and delicious recipe for Apricot Jam that makes a great addition to the breakfast table.

Cherries

Ontario cherries are at their peak right now but the quality has been mixed this season.  Both sweet and sour cherries are at the markets.  For a delicious way to use them, see my recipe for Cherry Almond Bread.

Tomatoes

A few vendors were advertising ‘Ontario Field Tomatoes’ but they aren’t in their peak season quite yet.  Within a couple of weeks we should be seeing more local tomatoes.  However, I did buy some locally grown grape tomatoes that didn’t look so great but were sweet and delicious.  You can’t always judge a tomato by its skin! Why not make a Caprese Salad with some sweet, local grape or cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil?

'Chopped' Caprese Salad

A chopped caprese salad made with cherry or grape tomatoes is a summer classic

 

Corn

The very first (very early) Ontario corn was on sale this week but it was a little disappointing.  I should have known better – corn doesn’t typically reach its peak here until August but I love it so much, I couldn’t resist!  I will wait a couple of weeks or so to try it again.  Soon it will be cheap and plentiful.

Arugula

I have a minor addiction to arugula (also known as rocket, roquette or rucola) and usually buy the greenhouse grown stuff through the year.  However, Ontario grown arugula was at the market the other day and it was much more flavourful than the packaged kind.  It was peppery and pungent and really made my salad sing.  For simple vinaigrette ideas to dress an arugula salad, see my primer on Vinaigrettes. Arugula is also great on sandwiches or on top of a pizza – it adds a nice peppery bite.

Garlic

I was very pleased to finally find locally grown garlic at the market.  Most of what’s in the grocery stores through the year is grown in China and tends to dry out and loses its flavour quickly.  The Ontario garlic I bought was very fresh and sweet.  To learn more about garlic, see my primer ‘Garlic 101′.

Cucumbers and Dill

Smart farmers are selling miniature cukes next to big batches of dill so it’s one-stop-shopping for pickle makers.  However, cucumber and dill are also great in other dishes, such as Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad and Smoked Salmon Spread (use the cucumber slices to scoop the dip for a lower carb treat).

Happy Marketing!

Until next week…

Trish





Farmer’s Market Report – July 6th, 2009

6 07 2009

 

Sweet local peas are at their peak in July

Sweet local peas are at their peak in July

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been to the farmer’s market due to a very inconvenient city worker’s strike here in Toronto that temporarily shut down some of the markets.  However, it appears that the affected markets are going to re-open this week and luckily there are others that weren’t shuttered at all.  Good thing, because our summers are extremely short and there is a limited amount of time to get the great fresh produce that our local farmers have to offer.

Despite the unseasonably cool and damp weather this spring/summer in Southern Ontario, I was excited to see that the summer harvest has begun.  Strawberries were the main attraction and there is still a lot of asparagus available.  The very first cherries and zucchini are showing up and peas are in full swing.  Green beans and tiny baby potatoes were also abundant.  Fresh lettuces, beets, green onions, various peppers and a variety of carrots were available as well.  There is easily enough available now that you could design a menu around strictly local produce that would offer great variety and abundance.  Such a nice change from a few months ago!

Here are some simple suggestions for using what’s in season now:

Strawberries

Undoubtedly the star of the markets right now, strawberries are at their peak and don’t require too much dressing up to taste good.  Slice a few, sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and enjoy with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. You can also mix them into some vanilla yogurt.  I enjoy a few strawberries sliced on top of my cereal in the mornings and it only takes a short time to whip up some biscuits and jam for a weekend breakfast.  Stay tuned in the days to come for some new strawberry recipes I’ve been working on. 

Asparagus

Asparagus will be nearing the end of it’s season soon so it’s time to take advantage of this seasonal delight before they’re gone. I’ve posted quite a few recipes this year including a crustless quiche that’s perfect for breakfast or lunch, asparagus orzo, grilled asparagus spears with goat cheese and prosciutto and a divine roasted asparagus lasagna that is fantastic (if a bit rich!).  Check out the archives at epicurious.com for many more great asparagus ideas.

New Potatoes

Although stored potatoes are a winter staple, the first new ones of the summer have a flavour and texture that is more sweet and delicate than older potatoes.  They require little embellishment: just boil or steam and serve with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. Or make a classic vinaigrette and toss with small boiled potatoes and fresh green beans for a refreshing and simple side dish. Keep it simple and save elaborate potato recipes for fall and winter!

Peas

Fresh new peas are so sweet that they bear no resemblance to the the canned kind (or even the frozen ones that I use through the winter).  Simply boil until just cooked through (NOT to mush!) and finish with a bit of butter, salt and pepper – yum!  If you are able to find ones that are very small, they don’t even need to be cooked before adding to dishes such as pasta.  A couple of months ago, Food and Wine magazine featured a pasta with asparagus, sage and peas that was delicious.  I added a bit of chopped ham to add some protein.  It also takes advantage of the fresh asparagus and herbs that are available now. Click here for the recipe: Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas.

Asparagus and strawberries at the farmer's market

Asparagus and strawberries at the farmer's market

Enjoy!

Trish








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