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Mar 21, 2018
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Stocking Up on rabbit

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

110911_rabbitOver an epic dinner at Salt last weekend, casual conversation turned into a discussion on sourcing wild rabbits – and whether one could legally eat wild urban rabbits.

I later discovered that Local Harvest Grocery actually sells whole frozen rabbit, which rendered the entire discussion moot. And come to think of it, seeing as how that dining party consisted of three teachers and one writer – not a one remotely skilled in urban hunting (or any sort of hunting for that matter) – the point was probably already moot.

Cooking rabbit is not as tricky as you might think. Although rabbit certainly doesn’t taste like chicken, there are a lot of similarities in the preparation methods of the two, making them interchangeable in many recipes. Use rabbit in your favorite cacciatore or fricassee. Oven-roast it whole with some lemon, garlic and rosemary. Bread it with seasoned Panko and sauté it in a cast iron skillet with a little Dijon mustard. If you’re hesitant about a gamy taste, turn the rabbit into a ragout and ladle it over orecchiette. And if you’re looking to bulk up your charcuterie skills, the lovely lapin can even serve as a tasty base for pâtés and terrines. For even more ideas on how to work with rabbit in the kitchen, click here.

We never did determine the legality of hunting wild rabbits in the city. Luckily, with Local Harvest right down the road, no one has to.

— Photo of Eleven Eleven Mississippi’s braised rabbit by Greg Rannells

Stocking Up on the key to quick winter chili

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

110211_chiliI recently read a blog that listed products of convenience no self-respecting foodie should have in his repertoire. Such items – which the author dubbed as “cheats” – included jarred pasta sauce, frozen dinners and, of all things, dried bean medleys. Clearly, the writer is unfamiliar with the products from Kimker Hill Farm.

The folks from Kimker Hill in St. Clair, Mo., are fixtures at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, where they routinely offer beautiful seasonal produce. During the off-season they sell dried bean medleys, including an especially tasty one made specifically for chili: Denise’s Chili Bean Medley.

After a good overnight soak, all this mixture of kidney, pinto, black and other beans needs is a nice, slow simmer on the stove before being added into your favorite recipe. In my chili I use beer, ground turkey and plenty of spice, but this bean medley is especially delightful if you’ve got a vegetarian at your table; it provides so much color and texture, no one will miss the meat.

The indoor market season doesn’t officially kick off until later this month. Until then, you can find Denise’s medley at Local Harvest Grocery in Tower Grove for $6.59 for a one-pound bag. If having an easy, locally produced and nutritionally sound dinner on the table makes me a cheat, I think I’m in good company.

Stocking Up on mushrooms

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

102611_mushroomHere in Missouri, we’re pretty much in mycological Mecca. We’re accustomed to seeing morels on many a menu around town in the spring. You might, however, want to mix it up a little and move mushrooms onto your mid-fall market list.

If you’re lucky, you’ll still be able to find some mushroom farmers at local markets. Nicola Macpherson routinely sets up shop at the Maplewood Farmers’ Market and offers a wide range of fungi. Sautéed criminis make a hearty topping for creamy polenta and give a chewy texture to lasagna. Roast some bite-sized mushrooms, toss with a little olive oil and lemon juice and skewer with a chunk of Parmesan for an easy appetizer. Continue on with the cheese pairing by folding Gruyère and sautéed shiitakes into a fluffy omelet. A quick mixed mushroom fricassee should provide enough umami to satisfy even the most dedicated carnivore.

Cooler weather may signal a good time for mushrooms, but it also brings an end to the outdoor farmers’ market season. Several area markets have already shuttered for the season, Maplewood and Ferguson wind up at the end of October, and Clayton and Tower Grove hang on until November 5. But worry not: A few area markets offer monthly indoor shopping opportunities, with plenty of local artisan products on hand to sustain you through the long winter ahead.

Stocking Up on cider season

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

101911_ciderHad your fill of apples already? Then it’s time to move on to apple cider and hit up the gallon jugs we’ve spotted at several booths around the markets recently. But don’t just grab a cup; break out your pitcher and bring some of that sweet cider into the kitchen.

Most ciders are tangier than pure apple juice, making them perfect for both savory and sweet applications. After sautéing pork tenderloin, use a little cider to deglaze the pan and you’ll have a tasty, piquant sauce. Add just a touch into an autumn vinaigrette, then drizzle it over a salad of radicchio, fennel and walnuts. For a double punch of fall flavor, use cider to poach some local pears.

In many parts of the world, cider refers to an alcoholic brew, but sadly, the only ones for sale at area markets are decidedly family-friendly. Solve this problem by making mulled cider. Heat the cider along with a little sugar, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add a little (or a lot of) apple brandy and settle in for a cozy night.

Apple cider has a relatively short shelf life, even when refrigerated, so plan ahead. It freezes well, however, as long as you use a sturdy container and leave some room for expansion. That way, you can have a taste of autumn all year round.

Stocking Up on pie pumpkins

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

101211_pumpkinsUsually at this time of year, it’s a cinch to snap up local pumpkins, both those of the cooking and decorative varieties. Crops, however, are a bit delayed this year due to the killer heat of last summer. We have seen some around at the local markets, so grab them while you can.

Pie pumpkins, often called sugar pumpkins, are smaller than the type used for jack-o-lanterns and have more of that tasty flesh. Halve the pumpkin, scrape out the guts (save the seeds!), then roast the halves cut-side-down at 350 degrees for around an hour. Scoop out the pulp and purée it before using in any number of applications, sweet or savory. Pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread are pretty standard. Try pumpkin soup, pumpkin flan, even pumpkin soufflé.

If you prefer, you can peel the small pumpkins, then dice the flesh and steam or stir fry it. The nutty flavor pairs well with curry. Sautéed, pumpkin is a perfect foil for creamy goat cheese in a quesadilla or salad.

Don’t let the pumpkin seeds go to waste. Rinse and dry them well, then drizzle with olive oil and salt and roast at 350 in a single layer for about 15 minutes. Use them to top a salad or make a brittle, perfect on top of cinnamon ice cream. For plenty more ideas on how to use up that pumpkin, click here.

Stocking Up on Greenwood Farms

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

100511_greenwoodIf you have spent any time around the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market over the years, you’ve certainly come in contact with the Atkinson family, who runs Greenwood Farms. Their pork products are outstanding and are only outweighed by the quality of their customer service.

Unfortunately, the Atkinsons recently announced that they are scaling back their farming operations. The farm fell victim to rising costs of fuel and feed and an unfortunate realization that time and talent aren’t always enough to make an enterprise economically viable. They had planned to stay at the market until the end of October, but an email sent last week said that October 8 will be their swan song. No more smoky bacon, sweet grass-fed beef or free-range chickens. The Atkinsons, pioneers in the raw milk industry, have already shut down their dairy production and are no longer making milk or cheese.

Regular customers will surely miss the products from Greenwood, although the family will continue to run the farm for their own food. So stop by the booth on Saturday to say goodbye and to pick up a few things. The market will not be the same without them.

Stocking Up on butternut squash

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

092811_ButternutOne of the first foods my daughter enjoyed as a baby was butternut squash. Now she’s 10 and has moved on to more sophisticated fare (her current obsession is with cheese from the Basque region), so whenever those elongated vegetables start showing up around local markets, I can’t help but feel a pang of nostalgia.

Judging from the plethora of butternut squash available at local farmers’ markets, I’d say that the time is now. Be sure and look for squash that’s firm and unblemished, and remember to peel them before using. This can be a bit unwieldy given their shape and texture, so use a sharp vegetable peeler and watch those fingers! Another option is to roast the squash before peeling. Slice them lengthwise, then drizzle with a little olive oil and roast, cut-side-down, at 400 degrees until tender. This can take anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes, depending on the size.

After they’re roasted, it’s a snap to peel them. As far as serving, roasted butternut squash is fine as a side dish on its own, but the possibilities multiply when you purée it. Think about a filling for ravioli, a spicy fall soup, or a creamy, vegetarian pasta sauce. You can also substitute squash for pumpkin in any bread, tart or pound cake recipe, or make it a meal for any little ones who have just made the transition to semi-solid food.

Stocking Up on apples’ savory side

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

092111_applesThis time of year, you can certainly take your pick of apple varieties around town. Each market has a wide range from which to choose, from Honeycrisp (firmer and crisper than most with a sweet, tart flavor) to Braeburn (a juicy flesh and a tart-sweet flavor) to good old Red Delicious (a juicy, crisp texture and a less acidic, sweet flavor). Be sure to ask, though, especially if you’ve got a certain use in mind. If you’re used to supermarket apples, you’ll have to get used to a few blemishes. But rest assured, what these apples lack in looks they make up for in taste.

We traditionally think of apples for dessert and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s apple pie, apple crisp, apple cake and a buttery tarte tatin is the perfect end to a French meal. But this beautiful fall fruit also has a number of savory uses. Roast some of the less sweet varieties alongside potatoes and onions as an accompaniment to roast chicken. Grill thick apple slices and then tuck them next to grilled sausages. Their crunchy texture stands up well to citrusy salad dressings and thick slices of sharp cheddar. Apple sauce is a snap to make, too; serve it alongside some pork chops and dust off your best Peter Brady impersonation.

Most area markets continue on through October and farmers should have plenty of apples on hand until then. So go ahead, stock up!

Stocking Up on damson plums

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

091311_damsonplumsIf little Jack Horner was lucky, the plum that he pulled from his Christmas pie was a damson from Lori Murray’s Orchard. Murray had some of the small amethyst-colored fruit on sale last weekend at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. They’re smaller and darker colored than the more widely known Santa Rosa variety – slighter more sour too – making them an ideal candidate for baking.

They’re best put to use in preserves or jams. You can follow the recipe for regular plum jam, but since damsons have a high natural pectin level, you’ll probably be okay with just plums and sugar (unless you want a really stiff texture). Most recipes that feature the Santa Rosa variety can easily be adapted to use damsons as well, though you may have to add in a wee bit more sugar. Be sure to taste the damsons first to assess their sweetness, then have fun baking plum tarts, cakes and clafoutis. Damsons have a number of savory applications as well, serving as a fine base for salsas and conserves. Grilled plums are great served over ice cream and can even serve as the base for a sauce to accompany full-flavored proteins.

Murray was fairly certain she’d have damsons on hand at the Maplewood Farmers’ Market this week, but you’ll have to get up early if you wait until the weekend.

Due to the seasonal nature of our area markets, supplies may vary from week to week.

Stocking Up on cucuzza

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

090711_gourds“What …” squealed my 10-year-old daughter, “… is that thing?” She had noticed a pile of squash at the YellowTree Farm stand at last week’s Maplewood Farmers’ Market. But these were no ordinary squash. Some reached nearly three feet in length and their sinuous shape more closely resembled a snake than a zucchini.

Farmer Justin Leszcz good-naturedly told us that they were cucuzza, a type of edible gourd with a very mild taste, somewhat similar to other summer squash. He recommended peeling them and scooping out the seeds before use. An intact stem nourishes the gourd, technically keeping it alive for up to a week.

I also learned that the squash tends to soak up whatever other flavors are present in a dish, which makes it a good base for quick braises. Sauté them lightly with onions and garlic, then add some stewed tomatoes and chicken broth. They’re perfect as a topper for whole-wheat pasta. In fact, we saw a similar dish at Stellina Pasta Café over Labor Day weekend.

Leszcz was fairly confident that he would have some cucuzza on hand at this week’s market, although that is no guarantee. Either way, check out his booth, since YellowTree always offers produce that is out of the ordinary.

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