Lovely Saturdays

I brought a visitor to market with me this weekend – my Mom! My parents were visiting and I showed my mom around downtown.  She loved it! It makes me really happy to share the places I love with the people I love. The weather was a little dreary but we still had a great time walking around.

I had a great Saturday last weekend as well… I have been feeling like this lately:

*letter pressed post card created by Moxie House and available at FIG Central.

Let me tell you about last weekend…

Last Saturday I went down to Central Market as usual. My intent was just to run down and get some veggies, make my way home and get some house work done. Instead I ended up spending all afternoon downtown enjoyably wasting the day.

The day started off pretty gloomy and rainy. By the time I was ready to leave the house it started clearing up so I decided to take my chances and walk downtown. It turned out to be a beautiful day! The sun came out – it felt so good! We have been having so many rainy days lately it was nice to be outside as the summer days are turning into fall.

I wandered in and out of a few shops along King and Queen Streets. I stopped in Fig central and Party Perfect, Zanzibar, Festoon and a few more places. I like to go in and out of the downtown shops from time to time just to see what’s new. I usually don’t end up buying much but it’s pretty fun to look at all of the odds and ends that are hidden inside.

Market was hustling and bustling. All the vegetables are starting to change. The bounty of summer is becoming the harvest of fall. Which is ok with me, it just means warm comfort foods will start being made in my kitchen. For a few short market days, you can get the last of the summer veggies and the first of the fall veggies at the same time.

I bought my last box of local multicolored cherry tomatoes last week, along with my last bunches of local basil with giant leaves. I didn’t find any of them at market this week. I am sad to say good-bye to some of my favorite ingredients but happy to start buying squashes again.

There is a pepper boom right now. Everyone has homegrown peppers. One thing that I love about the homegrown peppers around here is that they are always a mixture of colors. The yellow peppers are always yellow and green, the red and red and green, and the green are green and purple! Peppers are also really cheap right now (3 for $1!) so I bought a bunch and decided that I am going to make stuffed peppers this week.

I made a very welcomed discovery while inside market… there is a stand that carries local garlic! I can’t believe I haven’t noticed it until now. I always wanted a steady source of local garlic at central market. Occasionally, the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative carries local garlic, but it sells out quickly and it’s not there all the time. I was really happy to find that Rafiki’s Deli had a special table dedicated to garlic from Promised Land Farms.

I chose to two varieties to try: Artichoke and Siberian. They are both really fragrant. I definitely notice a difference between the local garlic and the varieties imported from California and China. There is so much more flavor! One thing I can not understand is why we import garlic from so far away – It seems really silly when you think about how much it must cost to ship it that far.

I was meeting Janeen for lunch and I decided to wait outside for her since the sun was shining. I sat looking at market alley wishing that someone would put some tables out there…

They already block off the entrance so cars can’t drive down here. And what a prefect place for tables! You would be able to get food inside of market and sit outside, enjoying your lunch in the fresh air. It would be awesome! A restaurant could even take over that area. I would love to have a good lunch with a lunch-time beer outside.

We had lunch at Spring House Brewery’s TapRoom. Which is inside, but there are a lot of big windows so at least it was sunny and bright.

We tried the Mango IPA and Braaaiiins (pumpkin ale). The mango IPA was fruity but not too sweet. I thought it was going to be too flavored for me but it was delicious, a really nicely balanced fruit beer.

I always like a good pumpkin ale, so I was hoping Braaaiiins was a good one. Spring House’s version of pumpkin beer tasted like pumpkin pie, nice and spicy with a hint of nutmeg. Not my favorite pumpkin beer (more on that one at a later date), but I have to say, Braaaiiins is pretty solid. It will probably be my beer of choice whenever I go into the TapRoom this month.

This was my first time eating lunch at the TapRoom. I’ve had a few bar snacks there at night like the pulled pork quesadilla. I was never disappointed with the bar food so I assumed lunch would be pretty good. I had the split pea and ham soup and a garden salad. Both were good and the basil balsamic dressing on the salad was excellent.

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A rainy day experiment at central market

I went down to central market really late yesterday. I don’t really like going later in the day because a lot of the items I want are sold out. However, sometimes going late pays off and you get a bunch of good deals. Some of the vendors will throw a few extra veggies in your market bag because they want to get rid of things before they pack up and head home. You often get half price bread if there is a lot left and it is nearing 2pm. You can talk to the stand holders a little bit longer because they are not as busy. I guess it is pretty nice and relaxing to show up late sometimes.

Yesterday was dreary and rainy so there was still a lot left at market by the time I arrived. Hurricane Irene was moving up the coast and I think many of the regular market goers stayed in. I did notice a surprising amount of hustle and bustle in the market area even though it was pouring outside. Millersville University has been bringing their new freshman class into the city the weekend before school begins for the past two years. There were MU tour groups entering and leaving market getting a glimpse of downtown Lancaster. I enjoy seeing them out in the city. I actually really wish they brought me in to town when I first arrived at Millersville. It took me a while before I discovered the greatness of downtown Lancaster. Venturing out of campus wasn’t really encouraged or advertised when I attended school as an undergrad. I’m happy they are making more of an effort to introduce new people to downtown. It is a great place to visit and spend your time. I like it so much I decided to call it home.

I was really pleased with my shopping trip. I didn’t buy a ton of stuff but I went home feeling like I got a great amount of veggies for a great price. I feel like that every week when I buy lemons and limes that are 3 for $1.00 and then I see then in the grocery store at crazy prices, like lemons for $.89 each!

I decided to have a sandwich for lunch from Delgiorno’s Italian Specialties.

I chose the “Laundry List” sandwich. I also picked up an iced Chai from Mean Cup and was lucky enough to find a table to sit at and eat.

As I sat and enjoyed my lunch, I wondered how much all of my veggies would cost at the grocery store. Was I really saving money by shopping at market? I certainly know that the veggies are higher quality. Even if I wasn’t saving that much money, I knew that I was getting better, mostly organic, homegrown stuff. I would probably pay more for it anyway. I decided to figure out the math and see if I was really saving money.

Here’s what I got:

From Sweet Annie Produce: small red onions, cucumber, parsley, and a little piece of thyme (all homegrown, organic) – Total $5.00

From Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative: Bok Choy, yellow wax beans, green heirloom beans, purple pepper (all homegrown, organic) – Total $7.50

From Meck’s Produce stand: red, yellow, and green peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, jalapenos (all homegrown), cilantro, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, sweet onion (not homegrown) – Total $11.20

My grand total from market was $23.70!

I went to Giant to price the veggies. The total for all of these veggies if I purchased them at the local grocery: $30.97!

So it was a comparable difference. I definitely think I am getting a way better bargain at market. This was kind of a light shopping trip for me this week. I usually purchase a lot more things like eggs, bread, and tomatoes. I will probably do another comparison with some of those items next time.

I would also like to add that I did notice that Giant was carrying some local produce. As you walked in the door, they were advertising tomatoes, zucchini, and green peppers that were all from Lancaster county – nice to see!

 

Cool Cucumber Soup

I have been really hungry for soup lately but it has been so darn hot outside that I don’t really want to make something hot to eat. I came up with this cold soup that is actually inspired by a soup that I made up last year when I had a ton of extra corn. I’ll share both recipes with you and you can try them both!

Cool Cucumber Soup:

4-5 ears of corn

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature

4 oz. creme fraiche (it usually comes in 8oz. containers)

handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

2 medium sized cucumbers

Before we start, I would like to share a handy tip: Place the corn on a baking tray or a large round dish on top of an inverted bowl. You will catch all of the kernels and they wont go flying all over the counter top. I usually cover the inverted bowl with a damp paper towel, just in case I hit it with the knife. You don’t need the bowl if your tray or dish has low sides. *not the best picture, but you get the idea.

Bring the 3 cups of stock to a boil. Remove the kernels from the corn and place them into the boiling stock. Turn the heat down to medium so your soup is at a simmer and add the garlic, butter, salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each). Let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and seed the cucumbers. To remove the seeds, cut the cucumber down the middle and run a spoon down the center of the cucumber, it will dig out all of the seeds.

Cut one cucumber into small cubes and set aside.

Take the other cucumber, cut it into chunks and put it in the food processor (you could also use a blender but you might have to work in batches). Add the cilantro to the food processor with the cucumber.

Ladle out about half of the corn kernels and liquid from the soup pot into the food processor. Pulse the mixture until no cucumber chunks remain. Pour the cucumber-corn mix back into the soup pot with the rest of the corn and stock. Add the small cubes of cucumber, heavy cream and creme fraiche.

Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Place it in the refrigerator to cool down. This is a great dish to make ahead of time. You could eat it warm or at room temperature, but it is really refreshing cold, especially on a hot day.

and the soup that inspired it…

Creamy Corn Soup

4-5 medium sized ears of corn, kernels removed.

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded

3 cups chicken stock

handful of fresh cilantro

8 0z. creme fraiche

2 tbsp. butter

salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the garlic, jalapeno and corn kernels over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and watch as you are sauteing, you are not trying to caramelize the onions, just saute until they are soft. Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Blend the soup with a hand blender until smooth. You’ll have to ladle the soup into a blender and work in batches if you do not have a hand blender.

Mix in the creme fraiche, cilantro, and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want to add a little smoky surprise or a little extra kick- you can add 1 tsp of smoked sweet paprika. For a thinner soup, add more chicken stock. I usually eat this one hot, but it is probably good cold as well.

Pickle Success

The other day, I decided to make some pickles…. I just threw some salt and pepper in a pot with water and brought it to a boil. I stuffed some sliced cucumbers, dill, and garlic in a jar. I poured the hot water into the jar and stuck it into the refrigerator. The next day…

PICKLE FAIL!

Ugh – They were gross… really, really salty. I definitely thought about my method a little more before I tried again.

Needless to say… my next batch was very well thought out. Here’s how I made my brine:

3 cups water

1 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp whole black peppercorns

I got my cucumbers from the Lancaster Farm Fresh stand at central market.

One jar included pickling cucumbers, dill, and smashed garlic cloves.

Another jar included a sliced lemon cucumber, sliced small white cucumbers, smashed garlic, and dill.

The last little jar included the left over pickling cucumbers and some sliced red onions.

I boiled the brine and poured it over the cucumbers in each jar. I screwed on the lids and left them in the refrigerator for at least one day…

…PICKLE SUCCESS!

I am proud to say that these pickles came out splendid! I think the small white cucumbers made my favorite pickles. The pickles with pickled onions were Dan’s favorite. He suggested making relish out of them, which I think is a great idea. The pickle and onion mixture would be a great topping for a hot dog, perfect for summer.

Washington Boro Tomato Festival

One of my favorite things about summer is tomatoes. You really can’t get anything better than a late summer tomato. They always have amazing color and flavor that just can’t be matched any other time of year. My favorite place to get tomatoes is the tomato barn in Washington Boro, Pa.

I went for a ride the other day to pick up their famous Jet Stars. They claim to be “the sweetest tomatoes on earth” and I believe them. They are sweet, juicy and that bright red that reminds me of the fourth of July. I love seeing the tomatoes and other veggies all lined up together in the barn. I couldn’t help taking some pictures.

I always end up buying the “seconds” tomatoes. They aren’t perfectly round and they have some lines across the bottoms that I guess make them less desirable. I kind of like the messed-up look to them and for some reason I think they taste better. They look like a lot of heirloom varieties that grow in all funky sorts of shapes. They are also cheaper… you get a big flat box for $5!

I am going to use most of them to make sauce and salsa… I think they have character.

I noticed that the Tomato Festival was this Saturday! So of course I had to go, it’s one of my favorite events of the summer. There is something about eating a tomato sandwich on a grassy hill across from the Susquehanna river that makes it taste like no other tomato sandwich that you could ever make at home.

 

Jet star tomatoes, squishy white bread, lettuce, onions, mayo = the tomato festival sandwich.

I don’t know how I love these so much. I don’t normally eat squishy white bread or mayo… it must be the magic of the river or something.

Lancaster Central Market

It seems fitting to begin this blog with a post about Lancaster Central Market. The market is my main source veggies. I avoid buying produce in the grocery store as much as possible because I have this great source of local foods right near my house. I go down to the market at least once a week and I usually base my dinners on whatever is in season.

The market is at its peak right now with fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farms of Lancaster. I’ve been lucky to go more frequently since it is summer and I have my weekdays free.

I chose some yellow wax beans for a pasta dish from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative today. I love this stand! It always has great food. They only operate from spring to fall but everything they have is local and organic. I also picked up some green tomatillos and jalapenos because I bought a bunch of Jetstar tomatoes earlier in the week from the Wahsington Boro Tomato Barn (more on Jetstars tomorrow). I have a plan to make fresh salsa later.

One of my staple items that I always pick up is a dozen of free range eggs. I love how bright yellow the yolks are and I think they taste better.  I was tempted to buy the duck eggs that I saw at the Farm Fresh stand but I wasn’t too sure about it…maybe next week.

Some of my favorite flowers are coming into bloom right now. I was happy to see the sunflowers this morning.

I decided to take a bright pink and red bunch of zinnia home with me to brighten up the kitchen.

It was a great morning at market!