As you know, I’ve had several forays into farmers market cooking. It is usually sporadic, however, and often involves potatoes. They keep well and need nothing more than olive oil. But lately I’ve been seriously lagging, mostly because all the farmers markets close at five. Five! Unless I make it there on Saturday or Sunday, well, than it’s off to Whole Foods, or – even lazier – my corner grocery store for pesticide laden produce from California.
I’m a bad person. I know!
Anyway, in an attempt to redeem myself I signed up for a cooking class with the owner of Home Cooking NYC, Jennifer Clair. The menu was composed almost entirely of farmers market goodies, save the lemon, sugar, salt, and flour. Hmm, maybe the butter too. But really, it was a very small percentage wasn’t fresh from the stalls.
Jennifer is extremely knowledgeable. In contrast to my last cooking class, which was long on knife technique and short on instruction on high quality ingredients, Jennifer was all about getting the best stuff. She talked about the meaty wonderfullness of heirloom tomatoes, the robust flavor of fresh garlic, the dense nutritional value of farro (an “uber grain” she called it), the merits of salt, and the demerits of processed food, how to store various fresh herbs, and the importance of choosing sustainable fish and humanely raised meat.
In short, she imparted a gold mine of information about how to cook and eat healthfully. She agrees with Michael Pollan on many points, including the fact that Americans devote a too small percentage of their budget to food. “I spend most of my money on food,” she said. As someone who enjoys paying $4 for an heirloom tomato so she can bite into like an apple, she was definitely telling the truth.
So what goodies did she demonstrate? Check out these photos of the fresh ingredients before they were whipped into munch-worthy shape by Jennifer:
Fresh Tomato, Fennel and Corn Relish over tilapia fish. Lightly floured and tossed in a non-stick pan with olive oil, tilapia is an easy cook – it holds together well and is always a good choice for the cook who is conscientious of depleted fish stocks.
Roasted Ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, bell peppers, thyme, tomatoes, basil, and – a untraditional addition which really amped up the flavor – kalamata olives, all spooned over farro. A great choice for this time of year, ratatouille brings together a bounty harvest of mid-summer flavors. It may be a “peasant dish” but it tastes like royalty.
Magret duck with a summer fruit compote. Seeing that the Columbia farmers market near me has no chicken, but has duck, I was grateful for this recipe. It combines savory duck, with sweet fruit in a way I didn’t think possible. It wasn’t quite as good as the duck from Bobo in the West Village, but that is a really, really high bar. You can also try the compote over chicken or pork, or mix it up with other fruit, even apples. Tasty!
The empanada and the peach pie met, fell in love, and had a little bastard child called “hand pie.” It’s got it’s momma’s good looks and it’s daddy’s money, and it’s flaky, buttery crust encases a sweet fruit filling that will knock you out. Did I mention it was yummy?
The end result was a family-style lunch that was just the right amount of filling, and good conversation with other aware foodies from NYC and Connecticut.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t reproduce her recipes here, well, a. it doesn’t do them justice, and b. I don’t want to steal her thunder! I highly recommend Jennifer’s classes. Find more here, including private lessons in the home and lessons in her home kitchen in the Hudson Valley.
P.S. It’s National Farmers Market Week!