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Tag Archives: farmer’s markets

“Ramp” ing It Up

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It’s that spring ritual for me. If it isn’t asparagus, it’s ramps. If it isn’t ramps, it’s morel mushrooms. And, when they are done, it becomes garlic scapes. Etc. Etc.

I post every year about those fleeting specialties that grace our table in all their glory.

Ramps, last year, for example. That post also mentions the fresh morels from Jenny’s Market. Yesterday when I saw the signs on route 32 for the market, they highlighted the seasonal goodies like the mushrooms.

I have also written many posts on asparagus, and on garlic scapes, but today I want to show another simple preparation with the ramps that were still available at the Silver Spring farmer’s market.

Ramp pesto.

I found a recipe in Laurie Lundy’s amazing book on Appalachia. The book is called Victuals, pronounced viddles, according to the introduction. I also grew up hearing it pronounced at vittles. No matter, it is a very complete collection of recipes and their history in the Appalachian communities.

I ended up using her guidelines for ratios, but using what I had in the pantry.

4-5 ounces of ramp leaves. Three large bulbs. I blanched the leaves. Wrung them out after their ice water bath. Put them and the bulbs in the food processor with about 1/2 cup of pistachios. Added 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Poured in the olive oil while watching it emulsify. A little salt and pepper to taste. I used this pesto on pasta, and on flatbreads. Added it to an omelet with sautéed potatoes. Put a little on a freshly baked potato. I made it twice already in the past two weeks.

Ramp season is fleeting. They are wild, and not agreeable to cultivating.

An interesting fact I recently heard on the newest Parts Unknown. The West Virginia episode that premiered last week. The farmers in West Virginia are paid $2 a pound for ramps that are taken to New York City where they fetch up to $32 a pound. Talk about a markup!

We pay about $4 a bunch to the West Virginia farmers who frequent the Silver Spring market. Those bunches weigh about 5-6 ounces so they are getting around $12 a pound by selling direct to customers here. A big difference in price.

If you get the opportunity to buy from the local communities, they do far better than selling through distributors.

Now, I just need to head up to Jenny’s and get some locally sourced morels.

 

The 2018 Spargel Season

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The first asparagus in my garden this year were recorded 26 days later than a year ago. This cold wet spring is doing a number on the growth and readiness of our favorite spring “heralders”. I picked a half dozen spears on the morning of the 26th, and saw about a dozen that I should be able to harvest tomorrow morning. Contrast 2018 to 2016, where we also had a late spring.  The numbers were closer to what we are seeing now.

But, I still had 27 spears by the 26th then. I had a whopping 54 in 2017 by this date. I keep records of my garden, just like most farmers do for their crops. Bud break, first harvest, length of harvest, total numbers, total weight, etc.

I still only have a few annuals in the ground. My perennials, like the rhubarb and the herbs, are slowly awakening.

Spargel season is fleeting. White asparagus is a special treat in the spring, and we had our first ones at Lupa last week. Lupa is a new restaurant in downtown Columbia. Owned by the same people, Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf, that gave us restaurants in Baltimore, and replacing Petit Louis Bistro on the lakefront.

We shall see if Italian fare does better in that location than the former French bistro. We were impressed with the freshly made pastas, including the fettucine with spargel and mushrooms that I had for my dinner. They also featured a white asparagus salad that I had been tempted to try, but I ended up enjoying perfectly executed calamari as a first course. For pizza lovers, there is also a white asparagus pizza on the spring menu.

I like Lupa, with its reasonably priced courses. My husband’s gnocchi were delicious, as we brought home a small amount of leftover pastas which graced our dinner table on Wednesday. We will try and visit the gelateria when the warm weather finally arrives. Having that little area off the dining room become a place to enjoy homemade gelato and sorbet in the summer is another nice addition to the dining options on the lake.

Where else have you seen asparagus featured? Do you like to cook with asparagus? Are you waiting for them to arrive in our local farmer’s markets, and at Jenny’s Market? Jenny’s is supposed to open later this week, and I can’t wait. My go-to right up the road food stand. Where I run to when I need one extra ingredient missing, as I am cooking. I always seem to run out of scallions, or onions, or citrus, and I love that they aren’t 7 miles away. For six months of the year, Jenny’s helps us stay sane with her great selection. She has promised that there will be asparagus when she opens, for those who love cooking seasonally.

Some of my favorites with spargel?

A simple mixed grill. Whatever looks freshest, brushed with oil, seasoned lightly, and served with something easy like kebabs, fish, or steak.

Maybe a frittata. Chopped asparagus, added to the egg mix, with herbs and greens.

Pasta primavera. My favorite pairing is peas and asparagus, with flavors enhanced with sautéed spring onions.

I have to admit, I have been really looking forward to retiring all those root vegetables from my diet, and getting into spring cooking.

 

Dashing In

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Who knew March would be one of my busiest months. Between garden orientation and the Art of Stewardship up at the Howard County Conservancy, my calendar is filling up.

I will be bartending at the preview reception on the 18th. The day after we conduct our new gardener orientation for our community gardeners.

I have been tied to the email accounts and the google drive assigning plots to new gardeners. Being the co-manager of the gardens is a fun job, but this is our busy time. Add to it, trying to start my seedlings for my own garden.

In between all the computer time, and the meetings and the phone calls, I have gotten to visit Food Plenty for lunch. Dinner there soon with friends as it is one very nice restaurant in Clarksville Commons. They are now open for lunch and dinner, and the service as well as the food, are very good.

Speaking of Clarksville Commons, I see their announcement that this year’s farmers market will be on Saturday morning. Yes! I prefer hitting the markets in the morning, and I missed having one at Glenwood. Ellicott City is a great market but it’s a hike over the river and through the woods to get there from here. Maple Lawn is just as inconvenient. At least for me when I just want to head over and get a few items.

I hope Earth First comes back, and that Dimitri’s is there with their amazingly good olives. We were lucky to have Earth First’s vegetables at our recent dinner at Clarksville Catering.

One last quick topic before I head up to start dinner. I want to highlight a simple party dish that would work well for almost any event. A “Party Magnet” from the Deep Run Roots cookbook I used often for inspiration with my fresh foods.

Whipped up in about 15 minutes including roasting the pecans. Pecans with butter and salt. Roast about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Make the cheese ball. Just leave leftover mixed cheeses at room temperature and then form the ball from them. I used some of my CSA cheeses that were left hanging around in the fridge. Added about 3 ounces of cream cheese to smooth it all out. Rolled it in parsley and paprika.

Perfect with a glass of red wine.

Hang in there, spring is less than two weeks away.

 

Summer in the Winter

The weather here has been crazy. Short sleeve weather. Open the windows and eat outside.

Tuesday, we just decided we needed a road trip to our favorite flea market, farmer’s market and lunch stop. Manheim PA. The Roots market and auction.

It’s a throwback to the large markets once common across the country. Not that far off from some of the best markets we found on our trip to the Mediterranean.  Lots of local stuff. Some not so local stuff. Many vendors selling goods. Used items.

Everything and anything. Even a live poultry auction in one of the buildings.

Flea markets are fun. I found a treasure trove of Time Life cookbooks of the world here a few years back. This year, wandering around we did find a book seller that had many of the westerns that my mom loves. In large books, without faded print.

We had lunch. Did a bit of shopping. I picked up some of my favorite celery. Some herbs. A couple avocados to go with the Tuscan kale in my CSA share.

A lazy day in almost perfect weather.

This celery was the real reason for the trip. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Head up to the area just west of Lancaster, on any Tuesday. Find Hodecker’s. Their celery is so sweet, and so different from that in the stores. The family sells their home grown product part of the year, and the rest of the year imports the same variety from California. It’s different. It’s awesome, and a treat for those of us who enjoy the best produce we can find.

We must be crazy. Driving for two hours just to buy celery. And have PA sausage subs. And home made cookies for dessert. Maybe pick up a shoo fly pie.

 

The Grain Train

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Great name for a bread. Maybe even an interesting name for a rock band (psst Mickey, this is for you).

I haven’t been writing about the two new sources of bread that my Community Supported Agriculture share has been delivering.

This week we received a very dense lovely loaf of bread.

Green Lion Bakery in Phoenixville PA.

Our share alternates between this source, and one from Sherman Dale PA. They are Talking Breads.

Talking Breads also sells at two DC area markets. Silver Spring and DuPont Circle.

At the moment, Talking Breads is winning our home bread battle, over who provides the best bread for our morning toast, and for sopping up sauce from my dinners.

The winner.

Semolina Loaf, from Talking Breads.

I wish you could get the scent of this bread. I can’t even describe what the sesame seeds do when it comes to adding flavor that is far beyond what a simple wheat bread would contain.

What I love most about the breads we get. The lack of overly refined flours. The minimal, if even used, presence of sugars.

The vegan breads keep longer. No dairy to spoil. They have a rich nutty taste. I mean, who had heard of einkorn, for instance. And, redeemer wheat?

I am so impressed by these young bakers. Stepping up and giving us substantive choices. Every week we are surprised with the choices.

Like this pumpernickel.

Yes, there are coffee grounds in this bread. And, the taste is so complex, you can’t imagine it.

If you live in the DC area and can get to the markets in Silver Spring or DuPont, you must try their breads. If you live up here around me, you could buy a bread share from our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and pick up fresh bread every Tuesday. We have members who only do fruit, eggs, bread, herbs, and don’t do vegetables. You can pick what you want.

Bread is one of the highlights every week.

 

 

Ramps aka Wild Leeks

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It is ramp season. Hit the farmer’s market in Silver Spring and find at least three farms from West Virginia selling them. Vastly different prices, too. So, shop carefully.

We hit the market early Saturday morning and scored a couple bunches along with an excellent ramp mustard from Spring Valley Farm and Orchard. I buy many items from them when I make my infrequent pilgrimages to the year round Saturday market there.

Some other goodies. Smoked duck breast from the Urban Butcher. And, absolutely awesome scallions, red and white, also from Spring Valley.

Forgot to get morels. The other early spring delicacy, but never fear. Jenny’s Market is open right down the road from us, and she had a cooler full of morels. Perfect to make a ramp and morel scrambled egg dish.

The picture of the eggs isn’t so great, but they were incredibly good. Served with a petit filet covered with creamed baby spinach, also bought in Silver Spring.

Decadent, isn’t it? First course, the eggs. Second, the steak. Served with bread and a nice cabernet.

Beats fighting the crowds on a Saturday night out.

Coming Soon

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It’s spring. In full bloom. So many great things happening this week and next. New markets. New shopping venues. Opening of old friend’s markets. An innovative art show. First, let’s talk about gardens.

My first asparagus. Over a month ago. Today, the count stands at 91 spears. Last year, my total haul was 360. This year I am on track to exceed that.

As for new markets, Clarksville Commons is going to have a Thursday night market. Their soft opening of the Commons is later in May but the farmers market opens a few weeks earlier. Can’t wait to see who moved into this prime spot.

You Pizza, created by Gino Palma, of Facci fame, is opening this month also.

And, for me, the biggest deal of markets, Jenny’s, right up the road, opens Saturday.

Finally, my favorite art show, The Art of Stewarship, has their opening on Sunday night, at the Howard County Conservancy. There are over 130 pieces entered. All on 10″ by 10″ squares. Anonymous. A bargain for great art. Like this one.

They are unique. Including art from Howard County school students. One price. A rush to get your sticker on what you want. A fun and different approach to owning fine art at an affordable price.

Details here.

I’ll be there for the preview wine and cheese party, as bartender. Checking out the great art.