Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Farmers’ Market Has Your Labor Day Party Needs

August is nearly over and Labor Day weekend is upon us.  The summer has flown by as usual and the children have all returned to school.  Most people will probably attend some sort of end of the summer “last hurrah” celebration this weekend.  Farmers’ Market is just the place to buy supplies.  Our meat vendors can provide hot dogs, hamburgers, and brats for your grilling needs.  Heck, why not go all out and purchase some steak?  Of course, you can find a wide variety of cheese for those burgers or to cut into chunks for a cheese tray.  Many kinds of pie, cookies, and other sweet treats can be purchased for dessert.  Fresh fruits and vegetables abound; no Labor Day celebration would be complete without sweet corn and watermelon.
I, too, will be celebrating this weekend as I attend the out-of-state wedding of a college roommate.  Normally, leaving the farm during the height of produce season is impossible.  However, I am blessed with great family and friends who are willing to pitch in and help so that I am able to make the trip.  I will be sending trusty representatives to fill in for me at Farmers’ Market.
It has been a very busy week trying to make sure I have everything in order before I leave.  Not only do I have to have my produce picked and ready to go, I am doing the flowers for the wedding, so I need to cut them Friday morning as well.  I will make up centerpieces in antique blue mason jars on Saturday morning before the wedding.  I grow an assortment of old-fashioned cut flowers such as zinnias, cosmos, gladiolus, and various varieties of celosia, all of which will be used in the arrangements.  Back in May when we first discussed the flowers my friend specifically mentioned that she would like a lot of sunflowers.  So, I did a special late planting, which I knew should be at their peak for the wedding. 
Last week between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, thanks to my new rain gauge, I know that we received over four inches of rain, an incredible amount for the end of August.  When I went out to inspect my field Friday morning, my heart sank as the one thing affect by all of that rain was my sunflower patch.  They were all knocked over and laying on the ground.  As luck would have it, though, they were not broken off at the base, but rather just bent over at the roots.  With the help of some tomato stakes, fence posts, and bailer twine, in just over an hour I had them standing upright once again.  They are doing well and there is no sign of the near disaster.  They will be beautiful at the wedding.
            For those who need to take a side dish to a Labor Day cookout, there are many easy recipes, which when made with fresh interesting vegetables from Farmers’ Market, will make you look like a gourmet cook.  Fresh dill in potato salad kicks it up a notch.  Fresh basil with colorful heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella is quick and tasty.  Here is a super easy bean salad recipe that is great because it can be made up the night before and kept in the refrigerator.  I have so many good fresh things at my finger tips right now, but not much time to actually cook them, so quick and easy are the key words for me when trying recipes at this time of year.  This recipe (allrecipes.com) calls for Romano Beans, which are flat-podded Italian style beans.  Regular green beans are a fine, if somewhat boring, substitute; trying a different type of bean certainly makes the dish stand out.
Romano Bean Salad
·          1 lb. fresh romano or green beans, trimmed
·         2 garlic cloves, sliced
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         2 fresh mint leaves, torn
·         Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
·         2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
·         2 mint leaves for garnish

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook uncovered until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, and set aside in a large bowl. Smash garlic, olive oil, mint, and salt using mortar and pestle. Pour vinegar and half of olive oil mixture over beans and toss well. Transfer beans to a re-sealable freezer bag. Pour remaining olive oil mixture into bag, squeeze out all air, seal and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. Remove beans from refrigerator, top with fresh mint and serve.

Market Goes Back to the Fairgrounds

The county fair is over.  The rides and food trailers are gone and the trash is cleaned up.  The animals have been sold or taken home.  Blue Ribbons now hang proudly in many Muskingum County homes.  And so, the Farmers’ Market will return to the Muskingum County Fairgrounds this Saturday.  In addition to fresh produce, you will once again be able to shop from various meat, cheese, baked goods, craft, and other vendors.
This past Saturday at market I had a few friends helping me sell my vegetables and their young daughters were playing with a dollhouse on the sidewalk behind the booth.  It reminded me of how much I loved to play with dollhouses as a child, mostly due to the fact that my uber-talented grandmother made elaborate doll houses for us.  In addition to the large Victorian mansion she built, there was a smaller dollhouse that she designed as a country General Store.  This general store was complete with things such as a mail counter, little sacks of flour, miniature cans of soup, and a wide variety of little crates and barrels filled with fake fruits and vegetables. 
I would set up the store perfectly—pyramids of the tiny soup cans, crates of apples, baskets of green beans—but there was one object that I always set off in the corner of the store behind everything else.  It was a miniature burlap sack filled with some sort of dark purple vegetable.  Not knowing what these things really were, my dollhouse customers never purchased any of what I now know to be eggplant.
Eggplant was not a vegetable that we ate at our house when I was growing up.  I think this was also true in a lot of other households in this area because many customers do not know what to do with eggplant.  So, like my dollhouse people, they admire its beauty, but walk right on past the display without making a purchase.  If you have never tried eggplant an easy dish to start with is Ratatouille.  This traditional French dish is perfect for this time of year because it utilizes so many of the fresh vegetables that are available right now.

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups small diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant, skin on
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 cup diced zucchini squash
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a large 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggplant and thyme to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the green and red peppers, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes. Stir well to blend and serve either hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Farmers Market to be Held at Third Street Location Again This Saturday

Saturday is the last day of the Muskingum County Fair and the Zanesville Farmers Market will once again move from its home at the fairgrounds to Third Street between Market and Shinnick Streets.  This venue provides a nice change of pace for vendors and customers alike.  Vendor spaces are taken on a first come first served basis downtown, so without the usual assigned spots, a vendor will likely end up next to someone new.  This allows for more conversation and camaraderie among the vendors.  Customers seem to enjoy the change of scenery as well.  Last week many people commented on how much they enjoyed shopping at the market’s downtown location.
            The county fair always comes right as produce season is reaching its peak.  With so much picking to be done, it is hard to squeeze in time to attend the fair. However, I wouldn’t miss going to the fair at least once or twice, no matter how much work is stacking up at home.  Monday night I convinced some of my friends to participate in one of my favorite events of the fair—the 5 P’s contest.  This event includes games such as pizza eating, pie eating, and potato peeling contests.  I thought I stood a fair chance at the potato peeling contest, where the winner is determined by who can peel the most potatoes in ten minutes.  No fancy potato peelers are allowed; just good old-fashioned paring knives.  Consequently, due to hasty peeling methods, one of my friends gouged his hand with his knife.  One of my less competitive friends put down her knife to come to his aid, but as I’m rather ashamed to admit, I kept right on peeling away.  Alas, even my lack of compassion did not help me to place in one of the top three slots.
            The end of the county fair marks the beginning of the school year.  The children seem to go back to school earlier and earlier, with most area schools starting just a couple of days after the fair is over.  When the hustle and bustle of the school year begins, it is easy to forget about shopping at Farmers Market.  However, as I already mentioned, this is the time of year when the produce is the best and most abundant.  So please take time to come and shop on Saturday mornings.  Also, don’t forget that there is another opportunity to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables in the middle of the week at the Wednesday Farmers Market in the Welcome Center parking lot on Fifth Street from 3:00-6:30pm.
            Here is a light and healthy recipe to try as you are feeling guilty about over indulging in fried treats at the county fair (from The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook.)

Steamed Summer Squash with Warm Leek Vinaigrette
·         2 green and 2 yellow patty pan squash (or 2 zucchini and 2 yellow crookneck squash)
For the vinaigrette:
·         2 Tbsp. olive oil
·         1 leek, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
·         1 Tbsp. vegetable stock
·         1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
·         1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
·         ½ tsp. salt
·         ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper

Trim the stems off of the summer squash.  Cut in half, then cut the halves into ½ inch slices.  Set aside.  To make the vinaigrette, in a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leek and sauté until soft, 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vegetable stock, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Cover and keep warm.  Meanwhile, in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket, bring 1 inch water to a boil.  Add the squash, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 min.  Transfer the squash to a warmed serving dish.  Add the vinaigrette and toss gently to mix.  Serve immediately. 


Farmers Market Moves to Third Street for the next Two Weekends Due to Fair

            This week the Muskingum County Fairgrounds will be transformed as it prepares to open the 167th annual Muskingum County Fair, which takes place August 11-17.  As a result, the Famers Market will relocate for the next two Saturdays, August10 and August 17, to North Third Street in front of the Freight Shops.  The hours will remain the same, 9am-Noon.
            It always feels a bit like going back in time to the heyday of Downtown Zanesville as the farmers set up their tents and tables along the North end of Third Street.  The Freight Shops, as it is now known, refers to the Belt Line and New York Central Freight House.  Built in 1917, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  For two weekends in August each year, it is good to once again see a crowd in front of this historic depot.  It also takes me back to the days of the Zane Trace Commemoration when, I remember as a child, watching a pie eating contest on the platform at the north end of the train station.
            As you attend the fair next week don’t forget to stroll through the horticulture building, which is the building typically used by our market vendors every Saturday, to take a look at some of the finest fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, arts and crafts, that Muskingum County has to offer.  As I pick vegetables and flowers to take to market on Saturday, I will keep my eye out for the perfect specimens to submit as fair entries.  Perhaps a few of them will be nice enough to win blue ribbons.
            Between Farmers Market and the Fair, it is clear that Zanesville and Muskingum County is still deeply involved in agriculture.  Local farmers greatly appreciate the community members who come out to support both events. 
            This week’s recipe was sent to me by my friend Shannon Hill.  It is adapted from a recipe at www.smittenkitchen.com

Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups bread, cut into cubes
2 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add the bread cubes and stir so that they are evenly coated with oil. Cook cubes, tossing frequently, until toasty on all sides, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are toasted, add the tomato mixture and cook them together, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the basil. Pour into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm with a big green salad.