The Top 9 Things NOT to do at a Farmers’ Market

by Anne Maxfield on July 14, 2014

Accidental Locavore Tomato Close Up

Because it’s getting to be peak Farmers’ Market season, the Accidental Locavore thought it was a good time to re-run my farmers’ favorite posting. If you want to see what 800 people had to say about it, check out the comments on HuffPost.

During the taping of a new cooking show the Accidental Locavore was talking to a couple of farmers who have been at the various Greenmarkets in New York City for years. As you can imagine, they’ve witnessed a lot, from drunks, dogs and kids all run amuck, to women with cigarettes demanding to know if the produce is organic, they’ve seen it all. Some of their stories may surprise you and if you recognize yourself…

  1. For example, the Locavore never realized that if you pick up a tomato to see how ripe it is, put it down, someone else picks it up, etc, etc., by the end of the day it’s essentially a tomato water balloon. Not good.
  2. Usually farmers are happy to let you taste berries. However, if you taste a berry and like it, take the box you picked the berry from. Don’t get a new box and don’t add more berries to the box you have.
  3. Accidental Locavore Fresh CornThe Locavore’s pet peeve at any market: shucking corn. It makes a huge mess and nothing else. If you take it home shucked, it loses moisture and flavor (and you’ve got nothing to grill it in, one of the best and easiest ways to cook corn). The way to see if an ear of corn is going to be good is to look at it. It should look fresh and moist, not dried out. If you are a corn shucker, try picking one or two ears that look good to you, take them home un-shucked and see how they compare to the ones you made a mess with. My history shows a 98% success rate just going for the good-looking ones.
  4. One of the charms of any farmers’ markets is the pace. Give yourself time to wander through and see what’s available. Talk with the farmers, they welcome your appreciation of their hard work. In return, they will be happy to help you pick out the best stuff, find something that may not have been put out yet, take special orders, or save you something if you can’t get there early, and often give you tips on how to prepare it.
  5. Remember, all this beautiful food is really labor intensive. It’s planted, weeded and harvested, primarily by hand. Trust me, these guys work hard, harder than you or I. If prices seem higher than at a big supermarket, be thankful you have access to the remarkable taste that only comes from something being picked that morning, at the peak of flavor. Not to mention the variety. Even at the best stores, you never see twenty different kinds of eggplants or forty varieties of tomatoes. Accidental Locavore Mushroom Guy
  6. Even if you are in a rush, hand them the money. If you’re in such a hurry that you feel the need to leave the money on the counter, leave it right in front of them so they don’t have to reach across to get it (or worse, someone else picks it up). And if you’re in that much of a hurry, chill (and stop shucking that corn).
  7. Would you leave an empty coffee cup or other garbage on the counter at Tiffany’s? Then why do you think you can do it at a Greenmarket? Because it’s outside??? All vendors have trash cans, usually behind the counter, just ask nicely and they’ll toss your trash.
  8. If you want cheap prices, to be able to run in and out, grab a handful of plastic bags and toss money on a counter, go to a supermarket (and use the self service line), but then don’t complain that the veggies don’t taste good.  When you go to a farmers market, you should be looking for a more personal experience, a slower pace, an interaction with the people who spend their lives bringing us great food to eat.
  9. And if you want to see if a tomato can actually be a water balloon, just do the one thing that’s universally despised by farmers everywhere…shake your bag in their face…

Don’t say you weren’t warned! Did I miss anything?

 

 

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Watermelon Agua Fresca

by Anne Maxfield on July 10, 2014

Accidental Locavore Watermelon in MazatlanWatermelon has always been a summer staple and rightly so. Cold and refreshing and simple to prepare, it was just a matter of time until people had to start messing with it – witness the hundreds of watermelon and feta salads that have popped up in the past couple of summers. This year, however, it seems like the trend is to drink our watermelons. The Accidental Locavore had the first watermelon agua fresca at Café el Presidente earlier this spring, on a night that was so cold and rainy summer seemed like a mirage. It was delicious, light and refreshing (and the shot of silver tequila didn’t hurt). Just before the Fourth of July weekend, I saw this recipe on Food Republic and gave it a try. It’s really simple, a little messy, and totally worth it! Makes a little more than a half-gallon.Accidental Locavore Watermelon Agua Fresca

  • 16 cups cubed seedless red watermelon, about a 12″ watermelon’s worth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • Club Soda or seltzer
  • Vodka or silver tequila (optional)
  • Lime slices, for garnish

Combine the watermelon, water, sugar and mint in a blender; purée. Pour through a coarse strainer into a large container.

Stir in lime juice. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours. Shake container well before using.

To serve, fill a tall glass with ice, add a splash of vodka or tequila (if using), fill about 2/3 with the watermelon mixture, top with club soda and garnish with lime. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: All our weekend guests loved this, with and without the alcohol! Because it holds more, I started to use my food processor to make this. Big mistake! Sticky liquid everywhere, plus it doesn’t purée it well enough. Use a blender and be prepared to make it in batches. You might want more lime juice than it calls for, taste it and see. My watermelon was about 12 pounds and was 12″ in diameter. Definitely give this a try, especially when seedless watermelons are on sale!

 

 

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Is This the Best Bagel in New York?

by Anne Maxfield on July 7, 2014

Accidental Locavore Black See BagelsThere’s been a lot of hype recently about a new bagel shop that’s come to the Big Apple, so when the Accidental Locavore found herself face-to-face with Black Seed Bagels in the new Brookfield Place food hall, research beckoned. Black Seed is supposed to be a hybrid between New York and Montreal bagels, hand-rolled and baked in a wood-fired oven.

Unfortunately, late in the afternoon, there were no everything bagels left, so I grabbed a sesame for Frank and a poppy seed for myself. A bit pricy at $1.50 each, but certainly less expensive than the crazy $2.25 at the Culinary Institute.

Accidental Locavore Brookfield PlaceThese bagels were smaller, with a bigger center than the now over-sized bagels we’ve become used to. Perfectly toasted, with some cream cheese, my first bite struck me as quite salty, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just what strikes you early in the morning. It was nicely chewy and not overly sweet (always my issue with the late H&H). It’s easy to see the hand-rolled qualities and there was a big difference, visually, between the sesame and poppy seed varieties, however neither one of us got any hint of smoke from the supposed trip through a wood-fired oven.

With two shops, location-wise they tie Murray’s (generally my favorite bagel), but is it worth it to schlep to Elizabeth Street or the World Financial Center, now known as Brookfield Place (unfortunate name for quite a lovely spot)? That would depend on how far you’re willing to travel, invest, and possibly, wait in line. The better option is to do what I did and stroll into a virtually empty Brookfield Place and just mosey up to the counter. If you have time to sit and enjoy them there you’re rewarded with a great view of the Hudson and some other interesting eating spots, but more about that in a later post.

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Crushed, Smashed, Squished

by Anne Maxfield on July 3, 2014

Accidental Locavore Smashed PotatoesOr, three ways to take your aggressions out on unsuspecting root vegetables…
Maybe it was the thought of moving, but somehow both the Accidental Locavore and her husband decided it was time to rough-up a few root vegetables. Here are three easy ways to do it, all of them simple enough to add your own touches, and good enough to leave as-is. I used a potato masher to smash and crush, however a pan, bowl or fist will work as well. All serve two generously.

Accidental Locavore Crushed BeetsCrushed Beets
• 1 1/2 pounds beets (about 3), washed and trimmed
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• Mint leaves and dill for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the beets on the foil, drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Seal up the packet and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes until they are very tender. When they’re cool enough to handle, rub the skins off with a paper towel. Crush the beets.
While the beets are roasting make the vinaigrette. Mix the lemon zest, juice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil together in a large bowl and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the beets and cook until browned, about 5 minutes a side. Put them in the bowl with the vinaigrette, toss to coat, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with mint and dill, serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Smashed Potatoes With JalapenosSmashed Fingerlings With Jalapeños
• 2 pounds small fingerling potatoes
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• ¼ cup Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
• 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
• 4-8 slices pickled jalapeños, coarsely chopped (depending on your heat tolerance)
• Parsley or cilantro
Preheat oven to 450°. Toss potatoes with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until golden brown and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then lightly flatten.
Meanwhile, whisk vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes, jalapeño and parsley or cilantro and toss; season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or room temperature.

Squished Baby Potatoes
• 8-10 small, red new potatoes
• Olive oil
• Salt & pepper
• 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°. Put the potatoes in a pot, with water to cover. Salt the water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain. When cool enough to touch, squish them flat – just flatten until the edges break a bit but they are still in one piece. Toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until crisp outside and soft inside, about 40 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: While we tossed everything in olive oil, I was reading a recipe for potatoes tossed in melted duck fat, so that will probably make an appearance in the next batch. The smashed potatoes were a little tough the next day as potato salad, so probably better to eat them warm or room temp. Grilling any of these would be an interesting idea (and lead to a cooler kitchen). How do you like to abuse root vegetables?

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