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Archive | June 13th, 2009

Griffin to Go: A Morning at the Farmers Market

Griffin to Go: A Morning at the Farmers Market

Cucumbers at the Pearl Farmers' MarketMuch has been written about the new farmers market at the Pearl Brewery, including quite a few words by myself.

Since its opening last month, there has been some honest criticism about the shortage of vegetable vendors and the lengthy lines to purchase fresh produce from some of those who are there.

Yet Saturday morning, I may have stood for 40 minutes in line to purchase corn, leeks and pickling cucumbers from the Oak Hill Farms people, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed meeting my neighbors in line and discussing what we were going to do with all those treats once we were served.

A few mentioned grilling corn, a true summertime favorite . Others were hankering for the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes, bursting with a flavor and an acidity that you just don’t get from those in the store.

I brought up a recipe I tried several weeks ago in which you baked leeks in a mint-flavored cream (check our recipe file).

Cooking DemonstrationSquash, so prevalent at many of the booths, would be perfect in anything from salads to sautés.  And their blossoms can be eaten, too, as Zocca chef Chip McMullin demonstrated at the cooking booth. He removed the hairs from the outside and the stem from inside before filling it with a seasoned goat cheese mixture.

Johnny Hernandez of the chef’s table, MesaLegre, and the catering company, True Flavors, spoke of his new restaurant, set for a spot near the River Walk extension. It will be called La Gloria and will offer his take on Mexican street foods, which we can’t find too often in San Antonio. He hopes to have it open before the end of the year.

This was my third visit to the market, and I have been surprised to see how it has grown from its first preview.

Organizers have said they want the weekly market to be about more than luscious freestone peaches that dripped juice down your chin or bunches of beets with fresh greens still attached. It should be about more than the natural meat vendors, the honey farmer, the bread bakers and the seasoned nut sellers.

It’s meant to be a community center, a place where people congregate on a Saturday morning to celebrate what the San Antonio area has to offer, whether it be bunches of fresh dill, live music or the gorgeous new extension of the River Walk.

Many of the people there Saturday seemed to get that. They had dropped by after their morning run or they were taking their dogs for a walk. For some it was merely a place to enjoy a cup of coffee and a breakfast taco.

I heard a number of comparisons, good and bad, to farmers markets in places like San Francisco and Santa Fe. The difference, we should remember, is that those markets have been open for years, whereas the Pearl’s has been open for four weeks. Yet it also shows that the people of San Antonio are not the food hicks the national media would have use believe. We have standards, and we long for the day when our farmers market reaches that level.

Riverwalk expansionThe thermometer started climbing early and showed no signs of going in the opposite direction, so tables in the shade were at a premium. That’s where my colleague Nick Mistry and I encountered 2-year-old Isabella Gilliam and her brother, Tristan, 4, enjoying cheese danishes with blueberries in the filling.

A even cooler spot is the walkway of the Full Goods building that leads to the market. Giant fans — Big Ass Fans, actually, if you want the maker’s name — kept the air moving. It was there, we met Tessa Bodnar, who was visiting the market for the first time. She had with her two granddaughters, Sydnie Bodnar, 11, and Amelia Meissner, 7, with their dog, Murphy. All three enjoyed themselves.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it,” Tessa Bodnar said.

Short trips to Melissa Guerra’s culinary shop and a slammed Texas Farm to Table, with great music outside and air conditioning at a high crank inside, rounded out a full and flavorful morning.

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Recipe: Leeks With Cream and Mint

Recipe: Leeks With Cream and Mint

Fresh Leeks from the Pearl Farmer's Market

Fresh Leeks from the Pearl Farmer's Market

This lively recipe comes from a favorite recent cookbook, “Roast Chicken and Other Stories,” and uses the fresh vegetables from the farmers market.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
8 leeks, about thumb thickness, or 3 large leeks, trimmed washed and cut diagonally in 1/2-inch slice
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into thick slices
4 sprigs of mints, leaves only, chopped
1/2 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring cream to a boil and simmer to reduce by one third.

Cook the leeks in fiercely boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Drain well.

Divide leeks and tomatoes evenly into 4 lightly buttered ramekins or oven-proof dishes.

Add the mint and garlic to the reduced cream and season with salt and pepper. (The cream will reduce slightly more during baking, so be sparing with the salt.) Ladle cream over the leeks and tomatoes.

Bake for 20 minutes or until top is scorched with golden brown flecks.

Adapted from “Roast Chicken and Other Stories,” by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Barcham.

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Griffin to Go: Feasting at Folklife Festival

Griffin to Go: Feasting at Folklife Festival

img_9760The kids dancing with glasses on their heads were cute. The booths with handmade baskets and Polish pottery caught our eye more than once. And the air-conditioned inside exhibits were blessed relief from the sweltering temperatures.

But let’s face it, the Texas Folklife Festival is about eating. At least to me, it is.

Several hours after leaving the UTSA HemisFair Campus, I’m still full. But I’m glad I ate every bite.

img_9709My camera-toting colleague and live-blogger, Nicholas Mistry, and I also enjoyed talking with most everyone we met at the various booths, including Susie Tolman with her painted eggs at the Czech booth; Chip Liu, who wrote out SavorSA in Chinese caligraphy for us; or Robin Pate at the Chuckwagon Gang’s booth, where coal-topped Dutch ovens were filled with steaming hot gingerbread. (On Saturday, the latter group promises free tastes of apple pie.)

img_9747James and Marieta Baer were full of ways to modify the recipe for their Wendish group’s celebrated noodles. The traditional method is to serve the noodles in a chicken stock with parsley on top. But if you prefer beef, use beef stock. Add a touch of onion or celery, even some fajita seasoning, if you like it spicy. (For the basic noodle recipe, check our recipe file.)

Now that’s a true melding of cultures, which is what Folklife celebrates each year.

I just wish some of the booths had had all of their food ready when we passed. We missed trying a few dishes  because they simply weren’t there.

But we did enjoy the finely diced chicken with chiles and coconut that makes up the Guamanian kelaguen as well as that booth’s grilled chicken skewers with a healthy dose of fresh ginger in the seasoning.

A poppy seed kolache and a Pilsner Urquell at the Czech booth was most welcome, as was the shaded table offered to some weary wanderers.

We also heard people rave about the anticuchos at the Peruvian booth, the pupusas at the Salvadorian booth and the spice-sprinkled Luling watermelon from the San Antonio Men’s Garden Club, among others.

img_9813I cannot sing the praises high enough of the men who tend the grills at the various booths offering meat on a stick. This extends from Baldemar Garza grilling perfectly seasoned, tender fajitas for San Alphonsus Catholic Church to Richard Gonzales preparing shish kebabs for St. George Maronite Church’s Lebanese booth. (And, no, I did not see a woman working the grills. I think they’re too smart for that.)

Recipe hunters should be on the lookout, because a few groups were more than willing to share their recipes, from bread to wine. One was Theda Sueltenfuss, who offered her recipe for homemade sauerkraut, which Nick dubbed “German kimchee,” as well as free samples. (Check our recipe file for the recipe).

The heat, though, must be acknowledged. Though a few booths handed out paper fans, all they did was stir up more hot air. So, drink plenty of water — or the Lebanese booth’s cooling mint tea — and stay out of the sun as much as you can. At least one booth benefited from the heat in an unexpected way: at the East Texas Yamboree, the warm yam pie tasted as if it had just been removed from the oven. It was so good, my inner Homer Simpson was calling for a second slice.

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Recipe: Wendish Noodles

Recipe: Wendish Noodles

img_9747This dish has long been a favorite at the annual Texas Folklife Festival.

3 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour

Mix eggs, water, salt and flour to form a dough. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Shape into 5 balls and roll thin. Let dry and cut with a sharp knife. Drop into boiling water or chicken stock or desired liquid. Season to taste.

At the Wendish booth, the cooks use a chicken stock base and sprinkle dried parsley on top for those who want it.

From the Texas Wendish Heritage Society

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Recipe: Sauerkraut

Recipe: Sauerkraut

photo9It’s easy to make your own sauerkraut, but the cabbage dish won’t be ready overnight.

12 pounds cabbage (about 6 heads)
1/8 cup salt (pickling, not iodized), or to taste
4 teaspoons sugar, optional (see note)

Remove outer leaves of cabbage heads, cut into halves or quarters, remove core. Shred cabbage with knife.

In a plastic or glass container, mix cabbage with the salt and sugar. mix well and let stand until the cabbage wilts and makes its own juice. Hold cabbage down (under its juices) with a plate or rock, or fill a strong plastic bag with several inches of water, seal and place on top of cabbage. Let it ferment for several days to several weeks; this will vary with the temperature — it takes longer in cold temperatures than hot. Sample periodically.

The kraut can be eaten right out of the crock, but it will not keep too long. It can be put into a bottle and placed in the refrigerator for quite some time. Or, to keep it longer, heat kraut to simmering — do not boil. Pack warmed kraut in bottles, making sure that juice covers the top. Seal. Put jars in hot water bath and bring to a boil. Cook 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts. Cool and store in cool, dark place.

Instead of canning the kraut, you can also freeze it in plastic bags. Do not heat, just pack directly from crock.

Note: Sugar does not have to be added, but it does give a sweet edge to balance the tangy nature of the kraut.

Yields about 4 1/2 quarts.

From Theda Sueltenfuss

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