Tag Archives: farmers’ market

What a Meat Market for Lamb Sausage Marinara

Here in Washington, DC most of the vendors at our local farmers’ markets sell produce. In the winter, they sell veggies that they have been able store after the winter growing season – things like carrots, potatoes, turnips, beets, onions, apples, cider and radishes. During early April you can really feel the energy and anticipation of the produce vendors building. They are planning, seeding, and quite a few are able to offer spinach and other fresh greens that they grow in their greenhouses.  The spring crops should be rolling in to our markets very soon.  I can’t wait!

While the winter vegetables are delicious, I also enjoy the meat vendors at the market this time of the year.  They offer things I can’t get at my local supermarket, and I like learning about the way the animals are raised.  In my last visit, I picked up some delicious lamb sausage.  I already had some preparation ideas, but I overheard the farmers teaching other customers about the different cuts of lamb meat and recommending ways to cook it.  So don’t be shy to experiment with new items at your local market, folks there can help make it easier.

Lamb Sausage Marinara

Serves 4

2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 – 1 1/2 pounds lamb sausage
1 onion
1 green bell pepper
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can of tomato sauce
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Cut the sausage into bite-size pieces.  Saute in skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Once it is very slightly browned, set aside.
Dice onion and bell pepper.
Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot, and add diced onions and peppers.  Lightly saute.
Add sausage.  Cook, stirring occasionally for another two minutes, or until vegetables are softened.
Add tomatoes, sauce, and paste.  Stir.  Add spices and stir again.
Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Serve over pasta – we liked it with whole grain spaghetti.  It also reheats well.


Filed under Lamb, Pasta

Farmers’ Market Tips

This weekend I volunteered at a local farmers’ market.  It was a great way to get to meet some local farmers and I was able to enjoy a sunny day here in DC.  After watching the patrons and answering questions, I realized some tips to make the most of a farmers’ market experience might be helpful to my readers.

Come Prepared.  Bring your own shopping bags and cash.  Most markets are not equipped to accept credit cards, although that is changing.  Also, try to be considerate of the vendors and bring smaller bills.  Don’t count on vendors to supply you with bags, especially if you live in a jurisdiction that is regulating the use of plastic bags.

Scope, Then Buy.  I recommend doing a little reconnaissance when you first hit the market.  As you walk through you will notice similar items from more than one vendor, but with different prices and sometimes different quality.  More than one farmer could be selling tomatoes, but one may be certified organic, and more than one farmer could be selling brown eggs, but one may be $1 cheaper.  Because groceries will be stacked on top of each other, you may want to shop for the sturdiest stuff (think potatoes or melons) first.

Taste Test.  Most vendors will offer sample tastes of their products.  Sample strategically to try and broaden your palate and be adventurous.  Some farmers have recipe and preparation suggestions, too.

Talk to Strangers.  Take the opportunity to learn how to prepare something new.  Most farmers are happy to talk about their goods, their farm, or how they prepare the product, and if they are too busy with other customers, you’ll likely get advice from others in line.

Timing.  Hit the market early if you want a less crowded experience and your pick of the freshest goods.  For a more bustling or energetic scene, hit the market at its midpoint.  For bargains, keep in mind that farmers often slash prices about an hour before closing.

Think Beyond Veggies.  Many markets are inviting a wide variety of vendors to participate.  You may see flowers, yarn, baked goods, cheese, meat, preserves, pasta sauce, and many other things.  Local musicians, jugglers, and other entertainers may also be present at your market.

More on Bargains…

Embrace the rejects.  The less attractive produce and sometimes be cheaper, and can make a great sauce or can be hidden in a casserole.

Pay for flavor.  No matter how you consider it, I think ten bucks is a lot to pay for cheese.  I splurge on stronger or more pungent varieties that add big taste in small doses.

How do you find a local farmers’ market?

The resource I have found most helpful is searchable database of farmers’ markets of the US Department of Agriculture.


I have also found useful information about markets from the private organization, Local Harvest.  http://www.localharvest.org

In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, many markets are run by the organization FreshFarm Markets.


Happy Shopping!

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Cleveland Rocks

This is an overdue post on a recent trip my husband and I had to his hometown of Cleveland.  We had a terrific time and enjoyed some great food.

2058 East 4th Street

Owned by Top Chef and local-boy-made-good Michael Symon, this is one of the hottest spots in town.  The menu changes regularly, but his signature dish is a hanger steak and fries.  Since it was my first time, that is what I ordered.  The steak was cooked exactly to order (really) and was very tender and flavorful.  The potatoes are fried in bacon fat and sprinkled with salt and a bit of rosemary.  They were the perfect consistency.  They have a balanced wine list with a range of prices (both bottle and glass) and both traditional and edgy pairings.  The wine list is maintained electronically, which I think is great and each table is provided with an IPad to see the selections.  A cool touch, but only if it is working.  We initially had a dud, and were delayed in ordering our drinks.  One more note…I had heard a number of negative things about the service there, so I was steeled for it, but it wasn’t horrible.  The hostesses needed some more training, but our waiter was friendly if not super attentive, and the water steward kept my glass filled and our food was brought to us promptly and as ordered.  You do need reservations if you want to go, so plan ahead.

Velvet Tango Room
2095 Columbus Road

This is like no place else in Cleveland.  You must go to this bar if you want to the best cocktail in town. It was not obvious from the street and looked a bit dingy, but it was a different atmosphere inside.  We were greeted at the door and asked if we wanted a table and to check our coats.  We chose to sit at the bar to watch the bartenders work.  The place has great acoustics – you can hear the live jazz/blues music, but still have a quiet conversation with your companion.  The menu is a bit overwhelming with a lot of explanations and history for each drink, don’t be deterred, though.  And, you can also just tell the bartender what you like (or don’t) and they will mix up something special just for you.  I had a Bourbon Daisy (bourbon, lemon juice, grenadine, sugar with orange and cherry garnish) and a Sazerac.  My husband enjoyed a Sidecar and a glass of Scotch.  We were warned in advance of the prices (plan on $16 a drink), so the bill didn’t ruin our good spirits when we ready to leave, and we found the splurge worth it.

West Side Market
Corner of West 25th and Lorain

Cleveland’s oldest market is sure to have what you are looking for, and for the right price.

The market is full of ethnic diversity with items I’ve never seen anywhere else and there are a number of counters run by families who have been there for generations.
It can get crowded on the weekends, especially in the morning, but I find it best to go earlier in the day before some vendors sell out of the best stuff.

Seven Roses Delicatessen
6301 Fleet Avenue

In the heart of Cleveland’s Slavic Village, this neighborhood grocery store is worth the trip.  It is in a beautifully restored 19th century building with floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves, a pressed tin ceiling, and even lace curtains in the windows.  I love the perogis and we always bring back several dozen.  But, they have all kinds of other delicious Polish treats to take home or you can grab a table and eat there.  Don’t be concerned if you are greeted in Polish or can’t read the labels, the staff is friendly and willing to help.

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Farmer’s Market Casserole

I know I am not alone in this, but I sometimes go a little overboard at the farmer’s market.  Everything looks so good, and I buy too much.  Then, a few days later I’m doing a mad scramble in the kitchen concocting dishes to use up our goodies before they aren’t so good.

This happens to people who have their own gardens, too.  Wes, I’m talking to you.  I really like garden gifts, but I understand that sometimes you can’t accept any more tomatoes.

This casserole is just my latest attempt to enjoy all the local produce that I can.  You can easily modify this recipe to use up what you have on hand.  Plus, the effort is basically chopping vegetables, so you can still enjoy the last bit of nice weather.

Farmer’s Market Casserole
Serves 4 to 6

2 potatoes, parboiled, then peeled and sliced thinly
2 very small and onion Vidalia onions, sliced thinly
garlic, minced, to taste
2 tomatoes, sliced
fresh basil leaves, to taste
2 zucchini, peeled and sliced
olive oil for greasing and drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste
3 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

I rubbed the inside of a 9 x 9 baking dish with olive oil and layered the bottom with the potato slices.  I lightly drizzled the layers with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

Then, I added the onion slices and sprinkled a bit of minced garlic across the top.

I added tomato slices next and laid whole basil leaves on top of the tomatoes.  I was generous with the basil because we have so much.  Other herbs would be nice, so use what you like.

Zucchini was the next layer, and I also drizzled this with olive oil and added a bit more salt and pepper.

I finished with another layer of tomato slices.

And no casserole of mine is complete if it isn’t topped it off with cheese.  We had some Mexican queso fresco that I wanted to use up, but other cheeses would be great here, too.

I covered it with foil and placed the casserole in a 350 degree F oven for about half an hour. If you want to finish cooking now, remove the foil, raise the temperature to 425 degree F, and bake for another 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and it is nicely browned on top.

If you want to serve the casserole later, remove from oven, and let it cool.  Then, leaving it covered with foil, keep in refrigerator until ready to finish cooking.  When you are ready, pop it the preheated 350 degree oven, still covered in foil.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F, and bake for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and it is nicely browned on top.


Filed under Vegetarian

To Market, To Market…

I’ve been jonesing for fresh spring produce, but it is still a bit early here in the DC area. Relief will come soon, though. We are planning a trip down to Texas next week when I’ll get to raid my parents’ garden and eat things that we won’t get here for a few more months. In the meantime, I thought perhaps I could somewhat satisfy my craving by visiting a farmer’s market and seeing what they had on tap.

You can find a farmer’s market in your area by visiting the US Department of Agriculture’s website. http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/
I decided to investigate a market that I had not yet seen on our side of town. (Yep, even out here on the east side…) Well, it is was rather slim pickings with one farm represented, but they were friendly and they brought some good stuff. It was mainly the tail end of winter vegetable harvest, but I know more is on the way.
Check out some of what I got…
I believe the variety of winter spinach I got is Bloomsdale; it is dark-green and crinkled, not like the pointed, smooth-leafed kind I usually see in bags at the supermarket. I felt it would not keep that long, so I wanted to use it right away.
I sought inspiration from Jacques Pepin, (Shout-out to fellow fan and friend, Andrea!) and decided to make a potato and spinach galette. The word galette denotes a flattish, disk-shaped pancake. It has garlic flavored spinach sandwiched between panfried potatoes. (It reminds me a bit of Potatoes Anna that my brother loves, so I will post that recipe another time in the future.)
I made this galette as a side dish with meatloaf (which I turned into sandwiches this morning with vidalia onion slices, see above), but it is hearty enough to be a main course with a green salad or could be included in a brunch. You want to use a nonstick skillet or omelet pan (make sure they are oven-safe) or a cast-iron skillet as I did.
Here’s the how-to…
Potato and Spinach Galette
1 pound spinach
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
garlic, to taste (my husband and I usually like more garlic than the average person so I won’t trouble you with our measurements, but you want to start with at least 1 Tbsp)
salt and pepper
If you plan to bake the galette right away, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. I removed the stems from the spinach and threw away any leaves that were wilted. I also needed to thoroughly wash the spinach. The crinkles were pretty sandy.
I washed and peeled the potatoes, then sliced them thinly with my mandolin. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) I washed the slices, drained them, and patted them dry with paper towels.
In the 10-inch skillet, I heated 1 Tbsp of the oil with the butter until hot. I added the potatoes, and seasoned them with salt and pepper. Saute over medium high heat until all slices are coated with oil and butter and they are becoming transparent. I kept stirring to move the potatoes, but next time I might put the potato slices into the skillet in two batches. I transferred them to a plate and put them aside so I could use the skillet for the spinach.
Put another tablespoon of oil in the pan, add garlic and quickly add the spinach. The garlic will cook really fast and you don’t want to burn it. I added a little more salt and pepper and sauted until the spinach was wilted. It was not more than 2 minutes. Take it out of the skillet and set aside.
I then turned off the heat, but I didn’t take the skillet off the burner. Add the last tablespoon of oil, and arrange a layer of potato slices across the bottom of the pan. Make two layers of potatoes, using half of the slices. Spread the spinach across the potatoes, and then cover it with the remaining potatoes. You could can prepare the dish up to the point several hours ahead. Just cover the skillet and keep in refrigerator. I wouldn’t recommend making it more than 6 or 8 hours ahead of time, though.
Put the skillet in the 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. With the dark, cast-iron skillet, this wasn’t necessary, but you may want to put the skillet back on the stove top after baking. If you put it on a burner over medium high for 2 or 3 minutes you can ensure the bottom layer is browned.
Once done, invert the galette onto a large plate and cut into wedges. This picture doesn’t really do the dish justice. I promise to work on my picture-taking if you take my word that it looked as good as it tasted, and we enjoyed it.

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Filed under Potatoes