Farmers’ Market Report – October 21st, 2010

22 10 2010

Cortland apples and bosc pears from the farmer's market

As we near the end of October, many of the farmers’ markets in Ontario are beginning to wrap up for the year (there are a few that operate year round but the variety of local produce drops off considerably by November). I visited a small one this week and was pleasantly surprised to find there was still a lot available.  These were some of the highlights:

Corn

I was a bit taken aback to still see local corn at the market.  The husks looked sad and tired but the farmer ensured me that the corn was in fact sweet and tasty.  I was skeptical but at $4 for 7 cobs, I figured it was worth giving them a try.  I husked the corn and cut the kernels off the cob, sautéed them in butter and dressed them simply with some salt and pepper. Much to my surprise, it was delicious!  I expected it to be dry and tasteless but it was sweet and juicy (although the cobs were quite small).  It was almost certainly the last of the year and a sweet reminder of how much I will miss local corn over the next nine months or so.  However, canned and frozen corn are usually decent enough to tide me over.  Check out the Corn Archives for some tasty corn recipes.

Apples and Pears

 

A bosc pear

Apples and pears were abundant at this week’s market.  There were many different varieties available and the farmers were offering samples so it was a great way to make comparisons.  My favourite apples to eat out of hand are Cortlands – they are the perfect balance of sweet and tart. However, sometimes they can be a bit mealy and I prefer ones that are perfectly crisp and juicy. This week’s specimens were pretty good; I will eat a few and use the rest to bake with.  Perhaps a classic Apple Pie will be on the menu.  I also picked up some bosc pears after sampling various types including the always popular Bartletts.  Pears are delicious with nuts and my recipe for Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce is sure to be a hit at your next dinner party. An unusual pear cocktail is another fun way to incorporate pears into your menu.

Root Vegetables

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of root vegetables such as carrots, beets and potatoes available.  Because they can be harvested late in the season and store well, they are staples throughout the winter.  Why not make an interesting salad out of roasted beets or some carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting?

Pumpkins and Squash

 

Pumpkins are at their peak in October

October is peak pumpkin season and the sunny, dry weather this year has produced some nice specimens.  Large jack-o-lantern pumpkins aren’t very good for eating but they’re fun to carve and you can roast and eat the seeds.  Sugar (or pie) pumpkins can be turned into a delicious pumpkin treats such as pie, pumpkin french toast or pumpkin spice muffins.  My favourite winter squash are butternut squash – they can be used to make a variety of dishes such as soup, salads or gratins.

There are a few more weeks left for local produce so I’m looking forward to testing some new ideas I have using the best of the season.  Enjoy!

A black squirrel enjoys a snack in the park near my house

Advertisements




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





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!