What’s In Season (and what to do with it!)

By Caitlin Porter, Seacoast Eat Local Intern

The farmer’s market carries produce that can differ from what we’re used to seeing in the grocery store. Certain vegetables such as bok choy and salad turnips can seem unusual and difficult to prepare. However, several farmers from the Dover Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays 2:15-6 pm) gave their tips on what these vegetables are and how to use them.

photo by Caitlin Porter

Bok Choy

Bok Choy is probably best known for its place in Chinese stir-fries. However, it can be grilled or finely chopped into a salad. Mary Beth from Two Toad Farm, whose bok choy is featured here, gave me a great recipe for an Asian-inspired salad that involves:

  • Finely chopping: bok choy, carrots, and radishes
  • Adding a tablespoon or two of sesame seeds
  • Finishing with a light sesame dressing

 

dandelion greens, photo by Caitlin Porter

Dandelion greens

Dandelion Greens, featured here from Wake Robin Farm, are a leafy green that are packed with vitamin A. They can be eaten raw, but have quite a bit of bitter kick to them. They are usually preferred by most people to be eaten cooked, either caramelized on their own or put into a quiche. Here is a quiche recipe featuring dandelion greens.

Swiss chard, photo by Caitlin Porter

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard, featured here from McKenzie’s Farm, is a leafy green that is very similar to spinach. It is very versatile and one of the most nutrient-packed foods available, since it is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It can be eaten raw, but again has a very bitter kick to it. It is good chopped with garlic and soy sauce. It can also be enjoyed in smoothies as well as scrambled eggs.

Here is a recipe for a Pineapple Swiss Chard Smoothie

salad turnips, photo by Caitlin Porter

Salad Turnips

Salad turnips are a vegetable that is usually found next to the radishes since they are similar in appearance. These, featured here from White Cedar Farm, can be eaten raw in a salad or sautéed to bring out their sweetness (similarly to carrots). Their greens can also be eaten in salad or sautéed.

Here is a very simple recipe for Salad Turnips sautéed in butter

 

 

Sources:

Dandelion greens

Swiss chard

Market Notes: Why do asparagus come in different sizes?

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We were picking up a couple of bunches of asparagus at the local farmers’ market when we overheard a customer ask the farmer, “Why are these asparagus so many different sizes and why are they so long?” His question was a spontaneous reaction to seeing asparagus unlike the supermarket variety, with their uniform-sized spears packaged up into tidy bundles, that he was more accustomed to. The farmer explained that the asparagus grow this way, that the stems don’t thicken with age but are already thick or thin when they poke out of the ground. When they’re harvested together, they create a mixed bunch. As for length, rather than forcing the asparagus into same-sized spears and tossing out what may be usable, most farmers leave them untrimmed to prevent waste. So the next time you see an unruly bunch of asparagus, you’ll know you’re getting as much from each spear as possible. And, contrary to popular belief, thin spears aren’t necessarily more tender than thick, and, instead, is related to maturity and freshness.

Season: From now through June, depending on weather. To find locally grown asparagus, visit Seacoast Harvest.

Storage Tips: For best flavor, eat soon after harvesting. To keep asparagus, treat them much as you would cut flowers — stored upright, cut-ends down in a container with one to two inches of water, either at room temperature or in the fridge for up to a week.

Preparation: Asparagus can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed/stir-fried, grilled, or roasted. For more cooking ideas and recipes, visit our collection on Pinterest.

Feeling curious? Send your local-food questions to debra @ seacoasteatlocal.com. Debra writes about eating locally at her blog, Diary of a Tomato. Photo courtesy of Seacoast Eat Local.

Local Food: Duck Confit with Ginger-Braised Red Cabbage, and Pan-Fried Potatoes

Duck Confit with Ginger-Braised Red Cabbage

Despite the hardy souls we see walking around in shorts (we mean you, Mr. UPS Man) and sandals, it’s still considered early spring here and evenings can be downright chilly. We find ourselves craving such warming foods as this duck confit, served up with a side of red cabbage braised with ginger and apples. Truth be told, though, this week-end meal was just an excuse to make a pile of potatoes pan-fried in duck fat.

We started with the red cabbage, and sautéed it with a chopped onion, a couple of apples, and some chunks of ginger. For a braising liquid, we used hard cider with a splash of tart cider vinegar and, for some balancing sweetness, apple molasses; maple syrup would serve just as well. We keep a stash of Popper’s duck confit on hand, and after searing it in a cast iron pan a crust formed, we set the legs aside and finished cooking the potatoes in the remaining duck fat. The secret to crunchy potatoes: Blanch the cut pieces briefly in unsalted water, drain until dry, and, if possible, let them cool down before finishing frying; the sugars and starches drawn to the surface through par-cooking work to form a crispy shell surrounding an almost souffléd texture within.

Local ingredients: Duck confit from Popper’s Artisanal Meats; red cabbage from Red Manse Farm; onion from Black Kettle Farm; canola oil  from Coppal House Farm; hard cider from Nottingham Orchard; apples from Hackleboro Orchards; cider vinegar from Sewall’s Orchard; sea salt from Maine Sea Salt; homemade apple molasses, and the last of our storage potatoes from the garden. Diary of a Tomato

Featured Food: Farm-Fresh Eggs

Brandmoore Farm, Brookford Farm, Burnt Swamp Farm, Coppal House Farm, Hurd Farm, Jesta Farm, Kellie Brook Farm, Meadow’s Mirth Farm, Mona Farm, Our Place Farm, Patridge Farm, and Sugarmomma’s Maple Farm will all be bringing our featured food, eggs, to our April 13 Winter Farmers’ Market in Exeter!

Eggs are quite abundant in the springtime, as chickens respond to the longer daylight hours with increased production. Eggs are an amazing food, and local eggs are even better! For one thing, local eggs are better for you: Mother Earth News found that eggs from hens raised from pasture contain “1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene, and 5 times more vitamin D” than typical supermarket eggs from factory farms.

Not only that, but they’re also better for our environment: Rather than creating a waste management problem like their industrial counterparts, chickens on small farms in our region are part of a healthy, sustainable system, helping to enrich soil fertility and control pests and weeds.

Plus, there is the health of the chickens to consider: There are many labels on supermarket eggs, but even ‘cage-free’, for example, doesn’t mean the chickens aren’t living in cramped, unhealthy conditions. At the farmers’ market, you can speak directly to the farmers about how they raise their chickens. Chickens that eat a diverse, high quality diet that includes grains, grass, vegetable scraps, and insects produce amazing eggs. Their eggs have rich, deeply hued orangy yolks that are incredibly delicious!

In addition to chicken eggs, you can find duck, goose, and quail eggs at the market:

The large size of the duck egg gives it a larger yoke to white ratio than a chicken egg. Many bakers report that using duck eggs makes cakes rise higher and provides them with excellent taste due to their high fat content. As the water content in duck eggs is lesser than chicken eggs, you need to be careful not to overcook them.

Goose eggs are very richly flavored. As goose meat is to chicken, goose eggs are to chicken eggs: richer, fattier, heavier, and more deeply colored. Some chefs particularly prize goose eggs for making pasta, claiming a superior flavor and texture in the final product.

Quail eggs are packed with vitamins and minerals. Many people with allergies to chicken eggs turn to quail eggs, because they have not been known to cause allergies or diathesis, and can actually help fight allergy symptoms due to the ovomucoid protein they contain. An interesting note: the splotches on the eggs are unique to each female quail, like fingerprints, so if you pay really close attention, each egg from a unique hen will have the same pattern of splotches.

Chicken eggs are of course the most commonly eaten eggs, prized for their versatility in so many dishes. You can eat them scrambled, fried, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, pickled, and in baked goods and desserts. Fresh eggs can last up to five weeks in the refrigerator. Be sure to stock up!

Recipes: Open-Face Egg Salad Sandwich, Spaghetti Carbonara, Fried Egg with Sizzling Vinegar (including how to perfectly fry an egg), or any of these egg recipes we’ve gathered together for you.

Market Notes: Potatoes

We will be featuring potatoes at our Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday, January 26th at Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford. While at the market, stop by the cooking demonstration table, where Chef Evan Hennessey of Stages at One Washington will be working wonders with this versatile tuber. Brookford FarmHeron Pond FarmHollister Family Farm, Maine Herb Farm, Meadow’s Mirth FarmRed Manse FarmRiverside Farm, and Wild Miller Gardens will all be bringing a wide selection for you to bring home.

Potatoes are possibly the most versatile vegetable used in the kitchen; there are hundreds of recipes involving potatoes. From potatoes au gratin to potato and leek soup to potato salad, there is not a season without its share of delicious potato recipes. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, each with their own qualities: fingerlings are fantastic roasted, russets are ideal for baking, and Yukon golds are great for just about anything.

Early cultivation of potatoes soon revealed that they are hardy, easy to store, and nutritious. A medium-sized potato contains no fat, no cholesterol, less than 10% of the daily recommended value of carbohydrates, and only 110 calories! It also has more potassium than a banana, 45% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, and one of the highest overall antioxidant activity among vegetables. So enjoy a potato today!

Storing

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place with good ventilation. The ideal storage temperature is 45 to 50ºF. At these temperatures, potatoes will keep for several weeks. But don’t store potatoes in the refrigerator! When kept below 40ºF, potatoes develop a sweet taste, due to the conversion of starch to sugar. This increased sugar causes potatoes to darken when cooked. Also, prolonged exposure to light will cause potatoes to turn green; this greening causes a bitter flavor. If potatoes develop green areas or start to sprout, just trim off these areas before using.

Cooking Tips

• Baked — For baked potatoes, scrub well and pierce the ends with a fork or skewer so steam can escape. Never attempt to bake a mature potato without puncturing the skin – it might explode. For crisp skins, rub lightly with oil or butter (to prevent skin from cracking and to improve the taste) and roll in sea salt for taste. For more tender skins, leave dry. Place onto an oven rack in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake until done, approximately one hour. To test doneness, squeeze gently. Done potatoes will yield to gentle pressure (for detailed instructions, check out the Perfect Baked Potato).

• Boiled — Boiled potatoes should be started in cold water rather than hot; this allows for more even cooking and heat penetration from outside to inside during the relatively long cooking time required. Potatoes should never be cooled in cold water, unlike most vegetables; this makes them soggy. For fluffier boiled potatoes, simply pour off all the water after they are boiled and cover the pot with a double thickness of paper towels, then cover with the saucepan lid. In ten minutes, steam will be absorbed by the towels and your potatoes will be dry and fluffy.

• Mashed — Russet potatoes make the best mashed potatoes. Peel them and cut into equal-sized pieces. Boil and cook the potatoes until they are just tender. Remove from heat and drain. Dry over low heat for a few minutes. Mash quickly (so the potatoes remain hot) with an old-fashioned potato masher. Add one tablespoon butter for each two potatoes and salt to your taste. Beat until the butter is melted. Then add milk or light cream that has been heated but not brought to a boil (if you add cold liquid, the potatoes will be cold and gummy). Beat the liquid into the potatoes to make a smooth, fluffy mixture. Add only enough liquid to make the mixture smooth, about one tablespoon for each potato. Do not overbeat. All this should be done as quickly as possible so the potatoes never have a chance to get cold – that is the secret of delicious mashed potatoes!

Another delicious way to fix potatoes is a dish called Twice Baked Potatoes: Bake potatoes. Let cool to touch. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out potato leaving peel intact. Mash potatoes. Add butter, sour cream, chives, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Fill potato peelings with potato mixture. Top with cheddar cheese. Place in oven at 350 degrees for 10–15 minutes until cheese melts and potatoes are heated through.

Potatoes are useful in other ways. If your mouth is burning, a bite of cooked or raw potato is an excellent way to cool a mouth that has been heated with hot chili peppers or salsa. If you put too much salt in a stew or soup, place a peeled raw potato in them to soak up the salt. Enjoy potatoes! They are fun, delicious, and nutritious!

Recipes

Try Crunchy Oven-Roasted potatoesCreamy Potato and Roasted Garlic Soup; Spicy Potato, Bok Choy and Shallot Hash; Potato Leek Soup; or any of these delectable potato recipes we’ve collected for you!

Market Notes: A Lamb for All Seasons

IMG_2935Don’t look now, but as the local food movement gathers momentum, the range of products offered is growing as well. Eating everything from heirloom tomatoes in the summer to fingerling potatoes in the winter, consumers have more choices than ever before. Lamb is one of those choices.

As with all locally grown and raised products, area farms take a great deal of pride in the breeds of sheep they raise and how they treat their animals. For instance, John Hutton of Coppal House Farm manages a nearly self-sustaining cycle with his farm and flock, including growing his own grains, and is quick to point out that local lamb tends to come from small farms, versus being shipped from large commercial farms in New Zealand. In addition, most local farms graze their sheep, helping to maintain precious open space. From the John Crow Farm website: “We are committed to farming practices that care for our animals and for the land. Every product you eat from our farm has been raised and tended by hand. We provide high quality, nutritious food while being caring stewards of New England land and our community.” If you have any questions at all, local farmers are more than happy to discuss their products and methods with you.

For anyone not familiar with purchasing lamb, here is a quick primer on cuts:

For Grilling

Rib Chops: One of the most popular cuts is individual rib chops, with a tender eye of lean, pink meat and a thick layer of flavorful fat.

Loin Chops: These diminutive T-bone steaks contain a portion of the loin and tenderloin and are the leanest, most tender cuts. Cooked quickly on the grill, they develop a caramelized crust and have a pink, juicy center.

Sirloin Chop: The thick, inexpensive steaks cut from the fat, sirloin end of the lamb’s leg and hip section are tender enough to grill or broil, steak house style.

For Slow-cooking

Shanks: The shank is the muscular bottom portion of the leg. It is the ultimate cut for slow braises that require rich, intense flavor, such as North African tagines.

For Stews

Stew Meat: You can make rich stews using pieces cut from almost any part of a lamb, but stew meat from the shoulder is best, as it becomes incomparably tender during stewing and braising.

For Roasting

Leg: This generous cut, which can weigh anywhere from five to nine pounds, is the perennial choice for holiday feasts. The whole leg—which comprises both the narrow shank and the plump sirloin—can be simply seasoned with salt and pepper or a spice rub and roasted with the bone in.

In addition to farms selling cuts of lamb, there are some value-added foods containing lamb also sold at the market, such as Riverslea Farm’s shepherd’s pie and lamb stew and Popper’s Artisanal Meats products. Finally, if you want to take the plunge but are still a bit wary, Liz Conrad of Riverslea Farm recommends using ground lamb in a meal that you’re familiar with and that the whole family likes, such as adding ground lamb to pasta sauce or barbequing lamb kebabs on the grill.

Recipes: Irish Lamb Stew, Roasted Onions Stuffed with Ground Lamb, Liz’s Braised Lamb Shanks, or any of these lamb recipes.

Coppal House FarmJohn Crow FarmPatridge FarmPopper’s Artisanal MeatsRiverslea Farm, and Top of the Hill Farm will all be bringing our featured food, lamb, to the Seacoast Eat Local Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday, January 12th in Exeter!

Market Notes: The Many-Layered Onion

Winter Farmers' Market, Rollinsford - 12/1/12Onions are ubiquitous in today’s kitchen, a staple to many recipes. But can you imagine cooking without onions? We rely on these versatile bulbs for flavor in everything from soups to dips to salads. A red onion gives an amazing zip to a simple sandwich. The sweetness of sauteed onions adds a whole new layer to soups and sauces. They are so important to cooking that Julia Child once said, “It’s hard to imagine a civilization without onions.” We heartily agree!

There are many different varieties of onion — red, yellow, white, and green — each with their own unique flavor, from very strong to mildly sweet. Yellow onions are full-flavored and are a reliable standby for cooking almost anything. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when cooked and give French onion soup its tangy sweet flavor. The red onion is a good choice for fresh uses or in grilling and char-broiling. White onions are the traditional onion used in classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed.

Purchasing: Choose onions that are firm and dry with bright, smooth outer skins. The neck should be tightly closed and the outer skin should have a crackly feel and shiny appearance. Onions should smell mild, even if their flavor is not. Avoid selecting onions with dark patches or sprouts.

Storing: Onions absorb moisture easily, so store them in a dry, cool, dark, well-ventilated location (and if you want them to look pretty, try making your own onion braid!). In this environment, onions have a shelf life of four weeks or more.

Preparing: Lose the tears. You can help avoid eye irritation while cutting onions by chilling the onion prior to using it (but remember, refrigerate, don’t freeze!). You can also try cutting the root of the onion last, as the root has a higher concentration of eye-irritating enzymes. Using a sharp blade to chop onions will also help (and you can get your knives sharpened by On the Edge Knife Sharpening at Saturday’s market!). For more onion cutting ideas >

Cooking: Three Onion Chowder, French Onion Soup (of course!), Flatbread with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions, or any of these onion recipes.

FindingBrookford Farm, Burnt Swamp Farm, Coppal House Farm, Heron Pond Farm, Hollister Family Farm, Meadow’s Mirth Farm, Red Manse Farm, Riverside Farm, Wake Robin Farm, and Wild Miller Gardens will all be bringing our featured vegetable, the onion, to our December 22nd Winter Farmers’ Market in Rollinsford!

Market Notes: Beet it!

What we think of as a beet, that red bulb, is actually the root of the garden beet. Its red color comes from a variety of betalain pigments, which have been shown to support the body’s detoxification process, activating and processing unwanted toxic substances. Plus, that beautiful color offers a delightful contrast to other winter vegetables such as parsnips and potatoes.

Beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable, so their lovely sweet flavor is best highlighted when they are slow roasted or steamed. They pair well with cheese, bacon, smoked fish, walnuts, horseradish, chives, and citrus. Beets are great shredded raw into a salad, giving a fresh crunch to our winter diet. These roots can also be preserved by pickling.

In addition, the leaves and stems of young plants can be steamed briefly and eaten as a vegetable; older leaves and stems can be stir-fried and have a flavor resembling taro leaves.

Purchasing: Choose beets that are firm. Large beets are easier to clean and peel (good for recipes where beets are boiled or grated), and small beets can roasted whole (the skin can be rubbed off after roasting).

Storing: Beets prefer cold (32–40 degrees F) and very moist conditions (90–95% relative humidity). Minor blemishes are not a problem if the beets are not intended for long-term storage. In your refrigerator, store beets in sealed plastic bags in your crisper drawer.

Tips: To minimize “leakage” when cooking beets, leave the skin on. Washing your hands with salt will remove any staining. And don’t throw away that leftover cooking liquid: use it to tint frosting pink!

Recipes: Try Roasted Kale and Beets with Honey, Roasted Beets and Balsamic-Sauteed Figs on Arugula, Beet Salad with Feta, Orange, and Mint, or visit us on Pinterest for more beet recipes >

Beets are the Featured Vegetable for our Winter Farmers Market on December 8th in Exeter — stop by Brookford Farm, Burnt Swamp Farm, Heron Pond Farm, Hollister Family Farm, Meadow’s Mirth Farm, New Roots Farm, Red Manse Farm, and Wild Miller Gardens for your beet fix!

Market Notes: Of Cabbages and Kings

Winter Farmers' Market, Rollinsford - 11/17/12Astoundingly, cabbage has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. Its English name comes from the French word, caboche, meaning head, referring to its round shape. And while cabbage is most commonly associated with the Irish (and boiled dinners!), its history goes back to the Greeks and Romans; in fact, Emperor Claudius called upon his Senate to vote on whether any dish could beat corned beef and cabbage. (The Senate voted no.)

Today, cabbage is known for its wealth of protective vitamins. Hailed as a cancer inhibitor, particularly colon cancer, cabbage stimulates the immune system, kills harmful bacteria, soothes ulcers, and improves circulation. Its outer ears are a good source of vitamin E, which is excellent for a healthy complexion. Also rich in vitamin C (raw white cabbage contains as much vitamin C as lemon juice), the cabbage can help maintain your health during cold and flu season. And all at only 24 calories per 3.5 ounces!

Cabbage comes in several varieties. The red and purple take the longest to mature, so these types are generally not as tender as green or white varieties. When cooking with red or purple cabbage, be aware that the compound that gives cabbage that beautiful color will also turn it blue when it is cooked along with any alkaline substance. Since tap water is often full of alkaline minerals such as lime, be sure to add about 1 teaspoon of acidic agent, such as lemon juice, vinegar, or wine, to the pot when using tap water. If your red cabbage begins to take on that blue tinge in any recipe, the addition of the acidic agent will usually bring back the original color.

Don’t write off cabbage if you sometimes suffer from digestive distress after eating it. Try blanching the whole or quartered cabbage for five minutes, change the water, and then continue cooking in fresh water if necessary. Experiment with some of these recipes, which may have you looking at cabbage in a whole new way!

• Cabbage, Potato, and Leek Soup
• Grilled Cabbage
• Spicy Shredded Napa Cabbage Salad
• Pasta with Caramelized Cabbage.
More cabbage recipes…

Brookford Farm, Heron Pond Farm, Red Manse Farm, Stout Oak Farm, and Wild Miller Gardens will be bringing this week’s featured vegetable, cabbage, to our next Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday, December 1st, at the Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford — make sure to stop by the Seacoast Eat Local information booth and pick up the day’s recipe card!

Market Notes: Stock Up on Cranberries!

Just in time for the holidays, Seacoast Eat Local will be selling cranberries from Sugar Hill Farm, ME, at our Winter Farmers’ Market this Saturday. These fresh, plump berries are perfect for making your own sauce, a delicious addition to any meal!

The sale of cranberries is part of our fundraising efforts to support the farmers’ markets, with additional regional products not otherwise available from our vendors. Funds raised go toward managing, running, and promoting the markets, everything from paying for our website hosting to the needed insurance policy. We appreciate your support!

Cranberry Basics

Purchasing: Fresh cranberries are available from October through December. Look for bright-colored, firm cranberries that “bounce.” Fresh cranberries are dry harvested, while wet or bog harvested ones go to processing plants.

Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, or up to one year in the freezer. To prep, rinse and discard any discolored or soft berries; if frozen, there’s no need to thaw before use.

Nutrition: Naturally fat free, cholesterol free, low sodium and a good source of dietary fiber, cranberries contain flavonoids and polyphenolics, natural compounds that promote health. According to the largest USDA study of the antioxidant content of food, cranberries are among the top five foods with the highest antioxidant content per serving.

Factoid: Cranberries, blueberries and the Concord grape are the only 3 fruits native to the United States and Canada.

For recipe ideas, visit us at Pinterest, where we’ve a collection for cranberries, from sweet to savory!