Farmer’s Market Report – September 14th, 2009

14 09 2009
Ontario Grapes

Ontario Grapes

I didn’t post a Farmer’s Market Report last week but I actually visited three or four different ones.  I was on the quest for decent tomatoes, which have been difficult to find this year due to poor weather earlier in the summer.  I did find a few that were okay but sadly, many more that were disappointing.  However, there are were a lot of other great finds as summer draws to a close:

Grapes

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never tried Ontario grapes (except in wine, of course, but grapes used in wine production are different from edible grapes). It seems I’ve been missing out!  I bought some seedless Coronation grapes last week and they were fantastic.  They tasted like grape juice but with a bit of a sour finish.  It was almost like eating sweet and sour grape candies.  They were so good that I went back and bought more.  Highly recommended as a snack or as part of a cheese plate.

Corn, Peaches and Peppers

Corn and peaches are still going strong.  The peaches this year are quite good and I’ve been enjoying them in desserts and out of hand.  I have a few that are getting soft so I may puree them into juice so I can enjoy some Peach Sangria on a late summer afternoon.  All of the corn I’ve had this year has been good and I’ve enjoyed it both on the cob and in salads.  There were lots of red bell peppers and shepherd peppers available, perfect for making Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Thyme Croutons.

Fall Produce

Despite the fact that fall is my favourite season, I’m a bit saddened this year to see typical autumn vegetables at the market such as squash, Brussel sprouts, apples, pears and leeks.  Summer seemed to pass quickly this year and I’m not ready for fall quite yet! Luckily, the weather in Southern Ontario is the best it’s been all year so hopefully that will allow us to enjoy what’s left of the season for a little while longer. As soon as the days turn cool, my thoughts will turn to braising, roasting and hearty fall dishes such as Leek and Ham Tart, Braised Short Ribs and Apple Caramel Tart.

There’s no need to lament the end of summer just yet – there is still a week left in ‘official’ summer and hopefully the good weather will extend the season even longer.

Until next week…

Trish

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Farmer’s Market Report – August 26th, 2009

26 08 2009

 

Ontario Peaches - August 2009

Ontario Peaches - August 2009

Before I talk about my recent market visit, I would like to address the terrible weather that has recently taken its toll on Ontario and Eastern Canada (tornadoes and a hurricane, respectively).  My thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by these disasters. The ‘Kitchen Tip of the Week‘ I coincidentally posted last week talks about how to tell if stuff in your fridge is ok after a power outage.  After the Ontario storms we lost our power three times so the information was timely for me as well.  I hope everyone stays safe and healthy during these trying times.

Tomatoes

Meanwhile, the farmer’s markets continue to thrive and this past weekend was the best I’ve seen this summer.  The stands were overflowing with local bounty – corn, melons, peaches, peppers, blackberries, raspberries, zucchini, garlic,onions, blueberries… the list goes on and on.  The notable exception was tomatoes.  There was one stand with a few cherry tomatoes, some plum tomatoes and a few field varieties but it was pretty meager overall.  I’m beginning to think that we might not get many good tomatoes this year. We’ll see in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, if you’re looking for a delicious dish using cherry tomatoes, try my recipe for Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta.  Roasting the tomatoes enhances their sweetness so even mediocre tomatoes will become rich and flavourful.  If you are lucky enough to find good tomatoes, try a classic Caprese Salad – it’s a summertime favourite that can’t be beat.

Melons

 

 

Muskmelons (also commonly called cantaloupe)

Muskmelons (commonly called cantaloupes)

 

 

There were all sorts of different melons at the market including bitter melon, yellow watermelons and muskmelons. One of the farmers was giving out samples of her watermelon and muskmelon so I asked if muskmelon is the same as a cantaloupe. She said that they’re similar but not the same.  I did some research and the answer is … somewhat confusing. Technically, cantaloupes aren’t grown in North America but most vendors label muskmelons as cantaloupes.  They look and taste very similar so they can be used interchangeably in recipes.  A classic way to serve muskmelon/cantaloupe is to wrap chunks of the melon with cured ham such as proscuitto or serrano.  The salty meat paired with the juicy sweet fruit is an irresistible combination.  It makes a great hors d’oeuvres for cocktail hour with a cocktail or glass of sparkling wine.

 

Melon wrapped with proscuitto makes a classic hors d'oeuvre

Melon wrapped with proscuitto makes a classic hors d'oeuvre

Other Fruit and Vegetables

Corn is king right now so take advantage of the brief season while you can. Epicurious.com has over 200 recipes using corn or you can search the archives on this site for all corn recipes. Peaches are also at their peak – check out a new recipe using peach juice: Peach Sangria.  Another popular recipe from last summer is Peach Chutney – it pairs really well with chicken and pork.  

It always makes me a little sad to know that the tremendous abundance of local produce will be almost completely gone in a couple of months so we need to enjoy it while we can!

Until next week…

Trish





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

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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





Farmer’s Market Report – June 17, 2009

17 06 2009

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I visited a local farmer’s market this morning for the first time this season.  Of course, where I live (Southern Ontario), the growing season is just getting under way so the options were still fairly limited.  The weather has been unseasonably cool this year so some fruits and vegetables may be a bit behind.  However, I was pleased to see lots of strawberries and asparagus as well as radishes, green onions, spinach, baby cucumbers, peas, fresh herbs and rhubarb.  The fun thing about visiting the market on a regular basis is that the offerings change from week to week and get better as the summer progresses.  I like to select what looks good and then decide what to do with them when I get home.  Some ideas I had for this week’s purchases include:

For more ideas, check out the list of fruits and vegetables listed under ‘Categories’ on the right side of the screen.  Clicking on ‘Rhubarb’, for example, will give you all the rhubarb recipes on the site.

Enjoy!

Trish