Market Monday: Exploring a Virginia Farmer’s Market

It was so hot this weekend visiting the Virginia Meads that even the chocolate nor the doughnut sellers decided not to go the farmer’s market in Falls Church this weekend. There are 50 vendors at the market during the height of the season, so there were plenty of other vendors did show up, giving us plenty to choose from among the tomatoes, peaches, berries, cheeses, baked goods, organic meat producers and flowers that braved the 90-degree temps at 9 a.m.

imageWe arrived when it was a few degrees cooler at, oh 86 degrees a little before 8 a.m. By the time we left, it was too hot to even consider making any more decisions.
The stories of most of the vendors are fascinating. There’s the baker from Paris, Bonaparte Breads, of Savage, Maryland, who had exquisite pastries. The pane au chocolate were perfect, but she had selections that included multi-berry tarts, a blueberry and peach tart, quiche, almond croissant and lots of beads. I think standing in the sun for this alone was worth it.

Then there was Chris’ Marketplace, sellers of the most divine crab cakes. Chris Hoge, chef and owner, has been written up in Saveur, Gourmet and the Washingtonian. A fisherman who has worked the entire East Coast and down into the islands, says his secret was a sauce that accidentally fell into a plate of crab. The resulting seasoning was so perfect that is the reason for his success, he said. He’s got a second business going as well, making sopas from a traditional Mexican corn. He didn’t have any samples this weekend.
My sister-in-law Jenna picked up a bottle of wine from North Gate Vineyard, based in Loudoun County, Virginia. We talked wines, including Presque Isle Vineyards. it is a small world. Owned by Mark and Vicki Fedor, North Gate became a fully licensed Farm Winery in 2007. They produced their first grapes in 2002. An interesting dry wine they suggested was the Rkatsiteli, (you pronounce the “R”), which originated in the Republic of Georgia. A crisp white, it would be delish in the summer.
In addition to the fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers, we appreciated the prepared foods, which solved the dinner problem before I had finished my second cup of coffee. Cold Pantry Foods had a half-dozen types of frozen pizza to buy. The owners, Bob and Carol Vogel, started in business by selling pestos. But pesto is a limited product – so they use the pesto in all of their pizzas, which have a broader appeal.
We finished at a stop at Cavanna Pasta, which had a super array of homemade pastas. If I wasn’t traveling to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, I probably would have brought a cooler full to take home. We settled on the sausage tortellini and containers of homemade vodka sauce and a ragu.

 

imageAmong the other highlights were Sexy Vegie, out of Baltimore, which offered lots of hummus along with salads. I bought a beet and apple salad, which would have been great topped with some local goat cheese from a nearby vendor (Sexy Vegie is vegan). Alas, I left before I could enjoy it, but I’m hoping to recreate it later this summer.
Finally, I will get to taste the wares of Stachowski Brand Charcuterie, from the D.C. Metro Area, because Jenna bought some lamb sausage to bring to Erie at the end of this week for my father.

 
While hot, this was a great way to get a taste of this region of Virginia and have an easy dinner at the same time. Kudos to the folks in Falls Church.
Erie, are you listening?
With all of the bounty of the region, why is it so hard for Erie County to coordinate this effort. I would think as part of the Health Department war on diabetes and obesity, this could be a worthwhile project.
I am in Philadelphia this week watching the Democratic National Convention and will post more from the other end of our state.
In the meantime, this is one of my favorite summer recipes that was inspired by Martha Stewart.

Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad

3 ears of cooked corn, kernels removed
2 cups sliced grape, cherry or other small tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced red onion or 2 green onions, sliced
1 avocado, seed removed, and diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
1/2 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes with lime juice and salt and allow to sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the juices. Add remaining ingredients and serve.

 

Stay cool. Eat local.

 

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

I’m Jammin’ With Scones

scone with jamspThe appearance of rhubarb on the market is just the start of my summer love affair with jams. I’m too lazy to do the hot-bath method, preferring quick jams that immediately satisfy my need to create.

Last summer I discovered the delightful mix of strawberry and rhubarb together, especially if the rhubarb was chopped so that the texture didn’t get in the way of the flavor (my opinion). Still, strawberries had the starring role. The rhubarb was there to balance the overwhelming sweetness. As I experiment more with flavor, I find I like more complexity and the ability to taste the fruit and not so much the sugar.

A bag of half-eaten cherries made me wonder if the same magic could work with rhubarb. Cherries aren’t in season here yet, but they will be in July. But the markets are filled with fresh cherries from California, and, I bought a bag. Alas, they were hidden in the back of the fridge and were pushing their past-prime time.

Serious Eats provided the recipe road map, but the recipe included pectin and had a whole lot of sugar. So I cut the sugar in half, eliminated the pectin and added both fresh and ground ginger to add some heat to the sweet. Because I don’t use pectin, I allow it to simmer until it reaches the desired thickness. The end result is something that is as magical on a scone as it is paired with cheese, particularly creamy cheeses such as brie.

Once I had this delightful jam, I needed something that was equally delish to eat with it. I’ve been experimenting with scones, with some success, but so far this King Arthur Flour Cream Tea Scones has been consistently good.

Rhubarb Cherry Jam

6 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1 1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 small orange
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

In a medium-sized heavy pot, add rhubarb, cherries. sugar and orange and cook over medium to medium-low heat until the sugar melts and the fruit starts to give off juices. Increase the heat (not high) to bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to thicken, being careful to stir and scrape the bottom so it doesn’t burn. This is why a heavy-bottomed pot is so important for jam. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes. You can test it by taking a spoonful out and drizzling it on a cold plate. If it is very runny, it isn’t done. Remember it will thicken as it cools. Remove from heat and stir in gingers. Once cool, place in clean glass jars (2 to 4, depending on size) and refrigerate.

 

Cream Scones

The key to these scones is the freezing step. The colder the fat, the more steam escapes in baking and the fluffier it becomes. 8 scones.

2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
(or 3 cups unbleached white flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half (cream will be richer)
1 to 2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing on top
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top

Line a 9-inch cake pan with a round of parchment or foil (coat foil with butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking).

Whisk together dry ingredients. When whisk in vanilla paste. Gradually stir in the cream, stirring just until the dough comes together. There should be no flour in the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be slightly sticky, but not terribly.

Pat dough into the cake pan. Use a knife to cut 8 pieces. Start by cutting in half, then cut those pieces in half until you have 8. Freeze for 15 minutes or overnight.

Heat oven to 425 degrees about 20 minutes before baking. Remove scones from freezer at this time.

Turn scones out of the pan (here is where the parchment/foil help). Peel off parchment/foil. Then turn right side up and gently break the scones into the 8 pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (not needed, but it speeds cleanup). Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the scones are brown on top and not sticky in the middle. This may take a little longer if your scones didn’t defrost on top of the stove (mine took about 18 to 20 minutes because I had frozen mine overnight).

Serve warm.

These are best eaten within a couple of hours of baking. So you can choose to only cook the number you want and return the rest to the freezer.

 

Marnie Mead is a freelance writer and blogger with a love of food, travel and adventure. Reach her at marnie@marniemeadmedia.com.