Farm Fresh and Local Produce 5/29/2010

I’m pretty good about getting up early on Saturdays – and am also pretty good about getting out of here early enough to get to the North Market before 8am – that is, unless P. is getting up and going with me. He’s the only person I know who can stretch out taking 2 pills in the morning to a 30 minute ordeal. What that meant for us was that we got out of here later than we usually do, and didn’t get to the North Market until about 8:15. The good thing about that was that all the farmers were set up already. The bad thing about that is that between his late start and my tendencies to be a motormouth, we didn’t get to Worthington until 9:15. But more about that later – for the time being, let me tell you about all the stuff available at the North Market this weekend.

As they do every week, Wishwell Farms had some stellar looking grape tomatoes – just the perfect thing to be paired with some fresh mozzarella and basil in a caprese salad.

Grape Tomatoes from Wishwell Farms

Toad Hill Organics had lots of pretty looking lettuces and other greens.

Lettuce from Toad Hill

And the flowers at Combs Herbs were just gorgeous this week. While I was here, I bought some arugula.

Pretty Flowers from Combs Herbs

I got a pound of shiitakes at Toby Run (yay for mushrooms!) to make paprikash – yes, I know – unseasonably hearty, but damn I’m craving it.

Shiitake Mushrooms from Toby Run

And Rhoads had, in addition to the strawberries they’ve had every week, some sweet cherries – this is just one of the two varieties they had.

Cherries from Rhoads Farm Market

Off to Worthington – by the time I got there after 9:15am, parking was almost impossible and the place was a madhouse. The holiday weekend brought out the mean in people, though – with all the pushing and shoving and rudeness and impatience, I could only snap a few pictures, like this of some of Mockingbird Meadows’ honey. That was just nuts – I was definitely reminded of why I like getting there as close to 8:15-8:30 as possible. Many of the farmers there start selling at 8am – while you won’t have all of the same produce you can get when everyone is set up, it’s definitely a more relaxed vibe before 9am.

Honey from Mockingbird Meadows

After dropping my stuff back off at home, it was back to the North Market for the Grillmaster’s Festival, where I, along with Miriam Bowers Abbott (reviewer for The Other Paper), G.A. Benton (reviewer for Columbus Alive), Tricia Wheeler (editor of Edible Columbus) and fellow food blogger Jim Ellison (CMH Gourmand) judged the Thrilla at the Grilla, which pitted 2 local chefs + a mini-Weber grill against each other for a showdown to crown one the Baron(ness) of the BBQ!

Grillmasters Festival

Janel Hedgepeth of Latitude 41 (and last year’s Baroness of BBQ) had an extremely strong showing with her grilled pork belly dish, which topped a super-tender but flavorful cheddar biscuit that I fell in love with. The slaw on top tied everything together, and her dish, at least for me, edged out the competition by a narrow margin. Of course, pork belly is one of my favorite things in the world so I may be a bit biased. ;)

Pork Belly on Cheddar Biscuit with Slaw

John Skaggs (of MyCateredTable.com, and formerly of Giorgio, R.J. Snappers, L’Antibes, and Northstar (to name a few)), who was also Baron of BBQ in 2007, picked up another win this year with his Seasonal Veggie Skewers with Marinated Grilled Bison, and what if I’m remembering correctly was a Blackberry BBQ sauce. I loved the presentation and use of seasonal ingredients in his dish, and thought his extremely tender bison was absolutely perfectly cooked to bring out the best in the meat.

Grilled Bison with Seasonal Veggie Skewers

I had a great time judging, and tasting the creativity of what some of our Columbus chefs have to offer up close and personal.

So how are the rest of you spending your Memorial Day weekend?

A Trio of Pasta Salads

As much as I prefer to cook practically everything from scratch, let’s just put it out there that I’m a realist. I am not immune to the call of convenience products, even if I don’t prefer to eat them in their native state. I’m also not immune to the call of the checkout line, and end up buying way more cooking magazines than I care to admit. Usually I’m pretty good about staying away from ones that are blatantly product-centric, but this time around, I couldn’t resist. I was lured in by the promise of dozens of different pasta salads using Suddenly Salad as a base. Here are three of the ones that called to me most, made over the course of a week. The consensus? One was good, one was great, and one was just OK. Read on to see which was which…

I’m a sucker for the honey mustard + spinach combination, and this one was among one of the better versions of this salad. I’m not a huge fan of Suddenly Salad Classic, but this made it edible for me. I would eat this one again, but it’s not something I would make more than once or twice a season.

Honey Mustard Chicken Pasta Salad

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken Salad
recipe courtesy Betty Crocker

1 box Suddenly Salad classic pasta salad mix
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. honey mustard
2 c. cubed grilled chicken
2 c. washed fresh baby spinach leaves
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 stalk celery, chopped (1/3 cup)
1 c. shredded cheddar
3 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
3 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

Empty pasta mix into 3-quart saucepan 2/3 full of boiling water. Gently boil uncovered 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water. Shake to drain.

In large bowl, stir together seasoning mix, mayonnaise and honey mustard. Add pasta, chicken, spinach, tomatoes, celery, cheese and eggs; toss gently to coat. Top with crumbled bacon. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate one hour to chill.

Per 1 1/2 cup serving: 500 calories, 30g fat (9g sat), 1210mg sodium, 30g carb (1 g fiber), 27g protein.

The second salad, the Fattoush Pasta Salad, was a bit too salty as specified in the recipe for me to recommend it as is – however, I’m convinced that if you cut the feta by half, it would be a lot better. My problem with this particular salad is that if you don’t eat it right away the croutons and the lettuce would get so soggy it would be disgusting. So my advice is to give this one a try only when you’re convinced that it will be eaten within an hour or two.

Fatoush Pasta Salad

Fattoush Pasta Salad
recipe modified from Betty Crocker

1 box Suddenly Salad classic pasta salad mix
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. all purpose Greek seasoning
1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped cucumber
1 c. coarsely chopped romaine lettuce
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese (recipe originally calls for 4 oz)
1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. thinly sliced zucchini, slices cut into quarters
1/3 c. thinly sliced radishes
1/3 c. chopped red oion
1/3 c. chopped fresh leaf parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 c. garlic flavored croutons

Empty pasta mix into 3-quart saucepan 2/3 full of boiling water. Gently boil uncovered 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water. Shake to drain well.

In large bowl, stir together seasoning mix, oil, lemon juice and Greek seasoning. Add pasta and all remaining ingredients; toss gently. Cover and refrigerate one hour to chill.

Per 1 cup serving: 230 calories, 12g fat (3g sat), 790mg sodium, 25g carb (1 g fiber), 5 g protein.

The third salad is the one we absolutely love – so much so, in fact, that we’ve made it a couple of times already. This makes a great shortcut entree salad on a hot night where you don’t feel like cooking. Ultimately satisfying. We doubled up on the corn that the recipe called for.

Smoky BBQ Chicken Salad

Smoky BBQ Chicken Salad
recipe modified from Betty Crocker

1 box Suddenly Salad ranch and bacon pasta salad mix
1/2 c. frozen corn
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
2 c. shredded rotisserie chicken
1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 medium green onions, chopped (1/4 cup)

Empty pasta mix into 3-quart saucepan 2/3 full of boiling water. Gently boil uncovered 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding corn during last 2 minutes of cooking.

Drain pasta and corn; rinse with cold water. Shake to drain well.

In large bowl, stir together seasoning mix, mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. Stir in pasta, corn, chicken and tomatoes. Sprinkle with green onions to serve. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate 1 hour to chill.

Per 1 cup serving: 330 calories, 12g fat (2g sat), 680mg sodium, 36g carb (2g fiber), 19g protein.

Do you have any “souped up” recipes that use a convenience product as a base? I’d love to hear about your favorites…

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 5/25/2010

You know, I had it in the back of my mind that the Pearl Market had started again for the season, but it wasn’t until Paul mentioned yesterday that he was craving Nellie’s Samosas that it even occured to me that we had a few extra minutes to go before heading to class. Since it was a bit past the lunch rush, it wasn’t too difficulty finding a parking meter along Gay Street.

For those not familiar, Pearl Alley (at least the portion that the farmers market is held at) runs between Gay Street and Broad Street, a block or so east of High Street. While there are quite a few farmers there offering meat, cheese and produce, there are equally as many non-food vendors. It’s strength, I think, lies in the fact that it’s convenient to downtown workers, and that one of the vendors that is usually there has the best damn samosas in town. Unfortunately for me, Nellie’s wasn’t there yesterday.  I ran into Bethia there, who apparently had the same craving for samosas that we did.

Pearl Alley Market (Columbus, OH) 5/25/2010

Many of the farmers there are ones that I am familiar with from other markets, like Becky from Honeyrun Farms, who was there with some lovely radishes and a bunch of salad and other greens.

Radishes

But then there are ones that I am just seeing for the first time, like this bread baker, whose name is escaping me at the moment. If I hadn’t been on my way to class, I definitely would have picked up a loaf to try.

Bread

And of course, it wouldn’t be May if there weren’t strawberries to be found everywhere…

Strawberries

And market staples like green onions are a popular choice at just about every market.

Green Onions

Wishwell Farms had greenhouse-grown tomatoes.

Tomatoes

The vendors continue around the front of Broad Street toward High – that’s where you can find most of the produce like these green beans.

Green Beans

If you live or work near downtown, this is a great midweek market to check out – which other midweek markets do you frequent?

Event: 14th Annual North Market Apron Gala

Last Saturday marked the 14th installment of the North Market’s annual fundraiser, the Apron Gala, where the market opens up after hours and each of the vendors prepare dishes that showcase their offerings. In many cases, they make dishes that they don’t usually offer during normal business hours, which allows their creativity to shine through and really turns out to be something special. Paul and I were able to attend again this year because of the kindness and generosity of the North Market, in particular their tireless marketing director, Mary Martineau.

North Market Apron Gala Program

This year, there were tons of standout dishes, in particular one of the favorites of the crowd were the fantastic bison sliders with duck fat fries from Kitchen Little at North Market Poultry and Game. I would love to see these little bundles of joy offered as a regular item from their kitchen.

nmag2010_nmpg_buffalosliders

Also near the top of my personal list was the New Orleans inspired spread offered by Omega Artisan Baking – a recent trip left them wanting to share the culture of the area with the rest of us here in Columbus, and one of the results was a deeply satisfying (but not overly spicy) gumbo over rice.

nmag2010_omega_crabgumbo

Also high on my list was the Liege waffles from A Taste of Belgium topped with fresh mozzarella and a beautifully savory sun dried tomato vinaigrette that played upon the sweetness of the waffle perfectly. Again, if this were a regular menu item I’d be ordering this with regularity.

nmag2010_tob_sdtomwaffle

Hubert at Hania’s said that people tore through 200+ mielone and pierogi with sauteed onions in no time flat. As someone who regularly purchases these items because I’ve long known how good they were, it doesn’t surprise me one bit.

nmag2010_hanias_mielone

We took tons of other pictures – I’ve put them all together in a Flickr set for your viewing enjoyment.

I’m already looking forward to next year. If you went this year, what were your favorite dishes?

Roadside Ohio: Hann Farms

May is definitely my favorite month for Ohio produce, because it means both morels and strawberries are in season – the one (morels) are quite difficult to come by, but strawberries – they are quite plentiful.

So plentiful, indeed, that there are several options for pick your own strawberries. My favorite, hands down, is Hann Farms on the south side of Columbus.

Hann Farms (Columbus, OH)

Hann Farms is located on Lockbourne Road, just north of Rathmell Road. From my part of town (the west side), the easiest way to get there is to take 23S to Rathmell, east on Rathmell to Lockbourne, north on Lockbourne and it’s less than a mile ahead on your right. You have to keep your eyes peeled for the strawberry sign, otherwise it’s pretty easy to miss.

Even though it’s a pick your own field, you still want to make a quick stop at the farm market building to pick up a couple of bags (10 cents each), or to have your own containers weighed before hand. Once you’ve got that out of the way, follow the dirt farm road around to the field and have at it!

Outside of the Farm Market at Hann Farms

They have about an acre of strawberries planted, done as annuals so that they are ready early in the season. There are a few tricks and etiquette points to picking strawberries. First, you don’t want to pick while it’s raining or right after – strawberries don’t keep as long if they’re picked when wet. Second, you want to go before the heat of the day, because with the heat comes the bees – if you, like me, are skittish around bees, late morning is the best time for picking. Third, pick a row that doesn’t have anyone already picking in it – it’s bad form to cross into someone else’s row ahead of them. Make sure you don’t stack them more than 2-3″ high in whatever container you put them in, or they may get bruised.

Strawberry Patch at Hann Farms

Get them home as soon as possible, and into a shallow container and in the fridge as soon as you get home. Remove any bruised berries before storing them. Any berries that you won’t use immediately (within a couple of days) can be frozen – hull them first, and then freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet before moving to a freezer bag for longer term storage. Frozen berries are best for making smoothies or recipes where the strawberries will be cooked.

Fresh Picked Strawberries from Hann Farms

When picking berries, look for ones that are fully red without any white at the bottom or top – once picked, strawberries do not ripen further so you want to make sure you pick the berry at it’s optimal ripeness. Pick by wrapping your fingers and tugging gently. If it doesn’t pull off easily, don’t force the issue – it probably means that the berry needs another day or two to ripen. Try not to trample runners (vines coming out from the strawberry plants) trying to get to a berry that’s out of your reach. Picking berries is hard on the back, so don’t overdo it. Kids love to pick berries, so make a family day out of it and let them do all the work. ;)

Strawberry Plant at Hann Farms

Once you’re done picking, take them back around to the inside of the market to pay. They are $1.49/lb. for pick your own – a full bag of berries (which you don’t want – remember the rule about stacking them no more than 2-3″ high) is about 6-8 lbs. depending. There is about 1 1/2 lbs. in a quart container.

They also have other vegetables that they grow on the farm and other Ohio products for sale in the farm market – later in the season there is much more selection.

Inside the Farm Market at Hann Farms

Be sure to check out their Facebook page – they will post updates about the strawberry availability regularly.

If you’d like to go: Hann Farms, 4600 Lockbourne Rd, Columbus, OH 43207, 614-491-0812

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 5/22/2010

I thought the old saying was “April showers bring May flowers”? I think someone missed the memo, because this May has been crazy rainy. This past week has been so wet that every time I even thought about planting in my gardening, a couple minutes later the clouds rolled in and I never got the chance. Last night was no exception – it stormed for a good portion of the night, and it was still really wet out when I got up at the crack of dawn this morning. For a while there, I wasn’t even sure if it would dry up by the time I needed to leave for the market, but luckily by the time I left the house at 7:30, it had stopped raining and was just really overcast. So today’s pictures aren’t as bright as usual, because the sun didn’t even pretend to come out.

I made a whirlwind stop at the North Market, but didn’t end up getting anything there. Not for lack of there being anything to get, though – I’ve just been trying to limit my farmers market purchases this year because my food budget is much smaller than it was this time last year. I’ve been tending to buy things that I can get multiple meals from when I do make purchases. Either way, I still enjoy getting out and seeing and talking to my favorite farmers.

There’s a new vendor at the North Market farmer’s market this week – Folck Family Farm. They had some beautiful strawberries, and will also have a u-pick at their farm starting on Monday – I hope to check it out next week, and will report back about their farm then. In the meantime, they will be at the North Market on Saturdays during strawberry season, so be sure to check them out.

Strawberries

Combs Herbs had peonies today – they are one of my favorite flowers, and their season is so short, so I enjoy them while I can.

Peonies

And my mushroom man is finally back! Yay! I got there a little too early to get my shiitakes (he was only partially set up, and nowhere to be found for the few minutes I was there), but glad to know that I can probably expect to see him next week. Here are some of his yellow oyster mushrooms.

Yellow Oyster Mushrooms

I zipped off to Worthington, and got there around 8:30. The great thing about getting there early is that you miss almost all the crowds. The bad thing about getting there early is that many of the farmers are still setting up, so you end up missing out on a few things. Still, there were plenty of choices available when I got there.

Seeing these potatoes and green beans (greenhouse grown, I believe) reminds me of summers at my grandmother’s house when I was little – she made this one dish with green beans, potatoes, summer savory and a cream sauce that was just fantastic. I may have to try to recreate it one of these days.

Potatoes and Beans

And there’s a new baker in town, right near my favorite one, Sassafras Bakery. It’s called Snax! and he makes some fantastic pastries, lots with strawberries and chocolate ganache and apples. I really enjoy his pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants). It’s going to be hard to choose between the two – both do their own things really well. I guess it all depends what I’m in the mood for in any particular week.

Baked Goods from Snax!

After finishing at Worthington, I made a quick trip to Clintonville. Since I left P. at home to sleep in while I went out, I wasn’t sure if I would stop or not – I have a weird thing about parallel parking (i.e. I’m not very good at it), but luckily I found a space with tons of clearance that made parking a breeze. While I was there, I ended up picking up some spinach from Elizabeth Telling Farms, so it was worth the stop.

Spinach

I was done by 10am – there’s something really great about getting all your chores out of the way early so you have time to relax later. So where did you all stop this morning and what did you get?

BTW, I’m going to be going strawberry picking tomorrow afternoon at Hann Farms. Anyone want to join me?

Gazpacho Shooters with Lemon-Basil Shrimp

Nothing else says spring/summer to me like gazpacho. When the heat ramps up, I want the temperature of my food to ramp down. And gazpacho is one of those dishes that that not only brings out the very best of each of the individual ingredients, but also gets better with age. This is a nice solid recipe for gazpacho from another blog, and we served it shooter-style with lemon-basil grilled shrimp using Chef Kent Peters’ recipe. Complete and utter awesomeness in a shot glass.

Gazpacho Shooter with Lemon-Basil Grilled Shrimp

Gazpacho
recipe from Simply Recipes

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 purple onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper (or green) seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
6 or more drops of Tabasco sauce to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (omit for vegetarian option)
4 cups tomato juice
Method

Combine all ingredients. Blend slightly, to desired consistency. Place in non-metal, non-reactive storage container, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, allowing flavors to blend.

Serves 8.

Event: Taste of Dublin

While there are a ton of foodie events that happen in May (Taste of Dine Originals, North Market Apron Gala, etc) one of the more affordable options is the Taste of Dublin, which will be held tomorrow evening at the Atrium II Building in Dublin.

Taste of Dublin Wristband

While there are quite a few chain restaurants there, additionally there are lots of independents as well, and at $25 for the food and drink ticket, it is well worth every penny. I left absolutely stuffed last year, having tried a number of dishes that I’ve returned to the restaurants to get later on.

Although I won’t be able to go this year, I took tons of pictures last year – take a look at my Flickr set to get an idea of what to expect.

More details at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce web site.

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 5/15/2010

It’s hard to believe, after running around like a madwoman all day, that I had almost skipped going to the farmers markets all together today. This weekend was Komen’s Race for the Cure, and for the past 2 years I forgot all about it and ended up going to the North Market and getting stuck within the race perimeter until the race was over. So regardless, I skipped the North Market today. Between the road closures and the post-race crowds, it would have ended up being more trouble than it was worth.

So we got started a little later than usual (I got a whole 3 hours sleep, after forgetting until about midnight last night that I had a psychology paper due today), and we started at Worthington. It was unbelievably busy with almost no parking, and it wasn’t even the 9am opening yet!

After getting asparagus the past two weeks, I’m pretty much asparagus’d out for the time being, but oh my was I so very tempted by these perfect bunches. Haven’t seen asparagus this pretty all season….

05152010asparagus

Didn’t get any brittle, but again, was super tempted. I was a good girl, though – kept my carb consumption to a minimum today.

Betsy's Brittle

Green onions tempting me to make some more pa jun. :)

Green Onions

Over at Clintonville – super crowded at 9:30ish. Not sure what kind of Asian greens these are, but someone says they’re really good in stir fry – anyone know what this is? I’m guessing tat soi, but I’m probably way off.

Tat Soi (or some other Asian green)

I picked up a small block of Oakvale Aged Gouda – thinking this would be delicious on salad.

Oakvale Aged Gouda

And lots of chives, but so few blossoms compared to last year. I’m dying to make some more chive blossom vinegar.

Chives

So which markets did you hit this morning, and what did you get? I’m super proud of myself for not spending more than $30, that’s a huge feat for me….

Event: Taste of Dine Originals 2010

Even though it’s been a tough year financially, I was fortunate enough to still be able to attend the Taste of Dine Originals this year as a guest of Dine Originals Columbus. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time now, and have greatly enjoyed attending their yearly fundraiser, Taste of the Independents for a few years now. Although they changed the name this year, it’s still the same great event.

Unfortunately for me, I was still feeling a bit under the weather, so I didn’t have much of an appetite. Although I sampled a lot, I didn’t get around to trying everything. I did have some definite favorites from what I did try, though.

One of my favorites was the Smores Napoleon from Due Amici. It’s a regular item from their dessert menu, so I’m looking forward to visiting the restaurant to eat it again. So, so sweet (and a bit messy to eat) but absolutely delicious.

toti2010_dueamici3

I also absolutely loved the short ribs over wild mushroom ravioli from Bexley Monk. Although it’s not currently on their menu, P. talked to the chef and it looks like they’re planning on adding it in the future.

toti2010_bexleymonk5

As usual, Alana went all out this year – we especially loved her rice cakes with wasabi caviar.

toti2010_alana

The scallop and grapefruit ceviche from Barrio was nice and light – perfect for a humid evening. I glanced at their menu and I didn’t see the ceviche on it any more – a shame, because it would have been worth the trip.

toti2010_barrio

I was pleasantly surprised to see Local Matters there – Colleen and Michael whipped up a fantastic farro dish.

toti2010_localmatters2

All in all, it was a wonderful night. Be sure to check out the rest of the pics in my Flickr set.