Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Farmer's Market Finds and a Recipe for Garlic Green Beans!

Hi Friends:

We're well into July and I have a serious case of summer love...for farmer's markets! What's the big draw you ask? Read on.

  • Fruits and veggies are usually only hours from the fields and often organic.
  • I can support local farmers.
  • It's good for the environment as there is no packaging and shipping saving natural resources.
  • Inspiration! I can try new foods and find new cooking ideas.
  • There's more than fruit and veggies available; many markets have eggs, meats, baked goods, jams, flowers and even crafts.
  • It's a great way to connect with the community.
  • And the number 1 reason: TASTE! Eating seasonally offers the freshest, truest flavors.
With that said, take a look at some recent offerings at my local market:
cherries and blueberries
green garlic
beets (Yes, I like them!)
fresh bread
mushrooms galore!
pattypan squash
Time for a crepe break!
I couldn't pass up the fresh green beans and here's how I intend to use them:

Sauteed Garlic Green Beans (for two)

1/2 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste

In a 12 inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add green beans, season with salt and pepper and cook tossing occasionally until spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic; toss and cook for an additional minute.
Add water and continue to cook until water has evaporated and beans are bright green but still crisp. Add soy sauce and toss to coat cooking for another minute or two.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

green_beans_fresh_cooking_recipe _sesame_seed
If you've never been to a farmer's market, here's a few tips: bring a big bag for your purchases, go early for the best selection, cash is best and don't be afraid to ask for a taste or suggestions on how to use a food! What's your favorite farmer's market find?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A San Francisco Treat...Make that Treats!

Hi Friends:
Georgia’s was on the move again last week, this time hitting the west coast. For what? To eat and shop our way through San Francisco, CA while visiting some great friends. Take a look at the sights and tastes that inspired us!

First up, a trip to the Saturday morning market at the Ferry Building on the bay for some homemade oversized fig newtons, donut muffins and pluots. Yummy.
While there we found a stand devoted to mushrooms. Check out all of these varieties!
We also stopped at the can’t miss Cowgirl Creamery for easily one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in recent years. Their grilled cheese special of the day is not to be missed and be sure to ask for extra homemade bread and butter pickles, they are delish!
The market is home to many local artisans who come out on Wednesdays and Saturdays to sell their handmade jewelry, clothing and woodwork. We could have snapped something up at every booth.
Next up, as we made our way down The Embarcadero, we stopped in at TCHO, a chocolatier that calls San Francisco home and boasts some of the most delicious dark chocolate around. tcho_chocolatier_san_francisco
Moving right along our next step was, of course, the world famous Boudin Bakery for a Sourdough bread bowl filled with Clam Chowder.  
To wash it down we sampled the local brew Anchor Steam and it was such a delight. Boudin, you never disappoint.
All this walking, eating, sightseeing and shopping left us in need of a serious caffeine pick-me-up, so we swung by Buena Vista for one of their famous Irish Coffees.
Named the “Best Irish Coffee in Town" by the New York Times, Buena Vista boasts that their establishment perfected Irish Coffee. We took their word for it and gladly partook in the spiked, caffeinated delight.
Last stop - the famed Ghirardelli Square because we couldn’t end our day without one last taste of San Francisco, chocolate style.
We took a lap around their mix-and-match candy bar and picked up a few of our favorites including the luscious pumpkin spice caramel square and peppermint bark square before departing for home.
Liz, Sameer and San Francisco: thanks for your hospitality, history and great food. We will most certainly be back!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cherry Crisp and other Baked Fruit Desserts!

Hi Friends:

Yes, it's hot and humid; but there's no better way to use summer fruit than in cobblers, crisps and crumbles or maybe you would prefer a buckle, a betty or a slump! These simple desserts have names that are hard to keep straight, but are just variations of fruit baked with dough, batter and/or other dry ingredients. Here's a breakdown of the formulations:

Cobbler: fruit topped with a crust made from  pie pastry, cookie dough or biscuit dough and baked.

Crisp: fruit topped with a mixture of butter, sugar and flour then baked; topping often includes nuts.

Crumble: just like a crisp, but usually includes oats. (An English term)

Buckle: fruit mixed with yellow cake batter and baked.

Betty: fruit combined with buttered bread or occasionally cake crumbs and baked. Crumbs are usually layered with fruit instead of placed on top as in a crisp.

Slump: fruit is topped with biscuit dough, covered and baked so that biscuits steam. Also known as a grunt.

Firm fruits like apples, pears, peaches and plums work well in these desserts as the topping is less likely to become soggy. But, by adding a little more cornstarch (the preferred thickening agent) to the filling, you can easily take advantage of the season's berries!

Personally, I'm a big fan of crisps that call for a little spice and nuts to create a flavorful, crispy topping. I've used the following recipe to make a great mixed berry crisp and decided to try it with sweet cherries which are in season right now. Tart cherries, so perfect for baking, are hard to find so I added a little lemon juice to balance the sweetness. I know fresh sweet cherries are best eaten out of hand, but give this a try. 

Warm Cherry Crisp
(adapted from The Best Recipe)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Ingredients for the topping:
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2" pieces
3/4 cup pecans, sliced almonds or other coarsely chopped nuts

Mix flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and incorporate by rubbing butter and dry ingredients together until mixture looks crumbly. Add nuts and toss to distribute evenly. This may also be done by pulsing ingredients in a food processor until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Chill topping for 15 minutes.
flour_ cinnamon_brown_sugar_food_processor
Ingredients for the filling:
1 3/4 pounds dark sweet cherries or 24 ounces frozen
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Toss filling ingredients together and pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole or an 8x8 baking pan. 
Spread topping evenly over fruit.
Bake crisp at 375 degrees in the center of the oven for 40 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue baking for a few additional minutes until the fruit bubbles and the topping turns a deep golden brown.

cherry_crisp_vintage _plate_dessert

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream of course!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes!

Hi Friends:

As many of you know, it's green garlic/garlic scape season! If you're unfamiliar with these goodies, green garlic is the young version of the garlic plant that we're all familiar with. Scapes, the curly "flower stalks," appear after the first leaves in a young garlic plant. Take a look at these pics from my local farmer's market!
Green Garlic
Garlic Scapes
What I like best about young garlic is the mellow garlic flavor and that every part of the plant is edible, the bulb, the stalk and the yummy scapes! Now, what to do with them. Green garlic can be used everywhere you use regular garlic, but why not just grill them. Slice the garlic vertically, dress with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until tender turning until you have a little char.
Scapes are great grilled, too, or sautéed in butter, but nothing beats garlic scape pesto. Toss the pesto with pasta, use as a sandwich spread or dip for veggies and crackers or add additional olive oil and drizzle it over chicken and beef. Give this simple recipe a try:

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts (walnuts or almonds work, too!)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Put scapes and nuts into the bowl of a food processor or use a blender. Pulse to chop and blend.
With machine running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth and creamy. 
When blended, put the mixture in a bowl and fold in the cheese and season to taste.
Yum! Note: You can change the ratio of scapes, cheese and nuts to balance the garlic flavor to suit your taste. Consider trying different cheeses; pecorino romano or asiago also work well. 

Garlic scape pesto will keep for a week in the fridge or for a couple of months frozen. If you plan to freeze it for later, leave the cheese out and fold it in after thawing. Float a little olive oil on top of the pesto and press some plastic wrap onto the surface before storing to preserve flavor and freshness.

Want more ideas? Chop scapes into salads, add to stir fry dishes, salsa, hummus or guacamole. Use in soups or as a topping for pizza. 

Don't miss out! Find green garlic and garlic scapes at farmer's markets and supermarkets now before they're gone. Store in the fridge wrapped lightly in a damp paper towel and plastic until ready for use.