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Tag: Farmers’ Market Challenge (page 1 of 2)

FMC Barbunya: Turkish Beans in Olive Oil

Last Saturday as I sklathed myself around the apartment fighting the tail end of a sinus cold, Mr. T decided to jaunt off to the 14th & U Street Farmers’ Market for a few provisions. While he can always be counted on to buy tomatoes, peaches, and bread, he’s also quite adept with more imaginative purchases.

No surprise really. As he’s fond of pointing out, Mr T. possesses a vast theoretical knowledge of food, garnered from a lifetime of discriminating dining, and–of course–10 years in the immediate impact zone of a certain culinary tornado. So, when he recognized the vibrantly striped cranberry beans at the market as the key ingredient to a tasty Turkish mezze, he scooped a big bag up and brought them back as a special treat/challenge.

The cranberry beans–aka Roman beans, aka barbunya–are gently stewed in olive oil and tomato to make a really tasty topping for bread or crackers: tender beans in a clingy, tomato-y sauce. I have to admit that I was taken aback by how tasty this was for all its simplicity. The long cooking reduces the tomatoes and onions to a rich, deeply flavorful sauce punctuated by sweet carrots and tender, substatial beans. Though I liked it warm, Mr T says it’s traditonally served cold, so I’m going to split the difference and recommend it at room temperature.

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FMC Garlic Scapes: That’s a Tasty Fried Rice, Dave

Another week, another semi-illicit Farmers’ Market Challenge pick-up. For this week’s secret ingredient, Joe sidled up to the table where I was having dinner with Mr. T and some friends to hand me a white plastic bag full of unruly green snakes–garlic scapes–before melting back into the crowd. It’s all very exciting, you see, particularly since I’d never cooked with garlic scapes before. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t do any research at all, merely took a look and a nibble and decided what I wanted to do. They look very Asian-y, and while I’d not eaten them either, I though the garlic scapes would make for a lovely fried rice.

Raw, the scapes were quite bracingly garlic-y. Cooked, they took on a vegetal sweetness, but retained a powerful garlic flavor as well–much to my surprise. They also had a pleasingly substantial crunchy-tender texture that provided a nice contrast to the rice and chewy sausage.  All in all, this was a winner. The scapes definitely were front and center in this dish, but everything else came together behind them to make a tasty, coherent dish that wasn’t overpoweringly garlic-y. Or scape-y, for that matter. I’d be happy to serve this to anyone’s po-po or nai-nai, should they come to dinner.

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FMC Leeks: Dumplings of Dubious Distinction…

This week’s Farmer’s Market Challenge made for a marked departure from the last few thorny vegetable problems we’ve faced. Rather than having to work out what to do with some esoteric and impossible bit of produce, we had to decide what to do with one of the kitchen’s unsung workhorse heros: leeks. In this case, the difficulty stemmed from the embarrasment of choices the leeks presented. Braised them gently? Vichyssoise, potage Parmentier (aka HOT vichyssoise), cock-a-leekie soup? Leek and potato fritters? A gratin? Something Welsh?

In retrospect, I really should have gone with my initial instinct and developed a cream-free braised leek recipe that would’ve brought their sweet, subtle flavor to the fore. That, or rise to Maria’s challenge to make a savory leek muffin. But, dammit, I wanted dumplings and dumplings are what I made.

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FMC: Eeks! It’s Leeks!

Check back tomorrow to see what we’ve created!

FMC Blood Sorrel: A Sanguine Meeting With Halibut & Beet

bloodsorrel1I trotted on down to the Farmers’ Market like a good little French housewife last Sunday morning in search of petite bebe turnips and carrots destined for JOOOLIA’s Navarin Printanier that I was making that evening. Clearly, the market is the place to be. Not only did I manage to find the profligate baby vegetables I needed, I also bumped into a good percentage of my address book out hunting for ramps and other early spring goodies.

Joe, a regular denizen of the market, had cased the joint far more thoroughly than I and was all set to throw down our latest challenge to the tune of blood sorrel. Naturally game, I accepted and found myself holding a bag of slightly alien-looking red-veined leaves. Though their appearance suggests small, delicate beet greens, their stridently acidic flavor identifies them very much as sorrel. This lemony bite is due to oaxalic acid–poisonous in large quantities, but harmless in small amounts. Fortunately, I only had about 10 oz of the stuff, so I felt fairly confident that I’d not be able to kill anyone with it.

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FMC: There Will Be Blood…

BloodSorrel…Sorrel. Continuing with our “Luke REALLY Hates Me” challenges, I happened upon blood sorrel in the market the other day. The greens were striking: bright, lime-y colored looking leaves with deep (Ron) burgundy could I resist?  I sampled a leaf at the market. It’s more bitter than regular sorrel but still packs a tang. A sourness. Impulsively, I snatched a half pound bag, a purchase solely based on aesthetic:

“It’s…so…pretty! Oh, the colors!”

Now, how to prepare? Luke fears that we’ll both have salad recipes, his faith–clearly–challenged by my…challenges. I wonder if Rose Levy Beranbaum has a blood sorrel tiered cake recipe for him.

FMC Kale: When Joe Gives You Kale, Make Ribollita

Knowing that Lacinato kale is one of Joe’s very favorite green things ever–having heard him bang on about it incessantly and having been served it in several lovely meals at his table–I kind of thought he’d go and do something unexpected with it. Turns out I was right.

How fortunate, then, that I also cooked against type, embracing kale’s humble Tuscan roots and making that cornerstone of Italy’s cucina povera, ribollita. I’d recently been served a version of it at a local Italian restaurant that shall remain nameless, primarily because the soup was thin, wan, and the beans were crunchy. CRUNCHY. Also,  tragic. Ribollita is SUPPOSED to be a lush, thick mix of beans, old bread, kale, etc.

Getting into the spirit of the thing, I pretty much winged it based on what was at hand–i.e., at home or at the market on the way home–rather than finding an ur-recipe from some scion of Italian cuisine… Marcella, Lidia, and all those other grande dames (or the Italian equivalent) will have to wait for another day.

In any event! According to Wikipedia, that inscrutable arbiter of all internet knowledge, the only things a ribollita HAS to have are: beans, kale, and old bread. No problem! Thus, for my first batch I went with a mild bacon rather than pancetta but I did manage to unearth a Parmesan rind from the bowels of the refrigerator, because I am nothing if not a thrifty European housewife. I mean, REALLY.

In subsequent forays, however, I’ve swapped in nubbins of spicy Spanish chorizo (cured, not fresh–that’d be Mexican chorizo…) and I’ve not looked back. With more flavor, (slightly) less grease, and a much more appealing texture when cooked, the chorizo wins hands down.

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Farmers’ Market Challenge: Dance of the Seven Kales

LacinatoKaleI suppose I should not have been surprised to see the richly textured green leaves of Lacinato, or dinosaur, kale when I opened my latest brown bag o’ mystery from the farmers’ market. It is not only a superfood du jour, it is also a favorite of Joe’s. It’s also–despite the current heatwave–a little early to expect much else from our local farmers. This formerly neglected member of the brassica family has of late leapt to centerstage as foodies turn more to local, seasonal produce.

First and foremost, it’s a tasty, sturdy green that offers an earthy, verdant flavor even during the depths of winter when green can be hard to come by. Kale’s also sturdier than spinach–baby or otherwise–and is thus far more rewarding to cook with; it will cook down, but a pound of sauteed kale will net you a few side servings where the same amount of spinach will have to be served by the thimbleful. It’s much touted nutritional value–packing massive amounts of antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients per calorie–also adds to kale’s appeal.  

Unsurprisingly, the blogosphere has been abuzz with kale-related postings–so much ink has been spilled on kale chipsalone that it counts as  meme in and of itself. Given the intense heat of kale’s spotlight, it will be interesting to see what we both come up with for Challenge Kale. Not chips, for sure, and we’ve already done it with pasta. So, check back in soon; we’ll be posting our two odes to kale in the next day or so.

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