It’s hard to see the light at the end of the proverbial culinary tunnel when you have trudged through snow to do your grocery shopping more times than you care to count, and the produce awaiting you on the supermarket shelves isn’t exactly perking up to greet you.
It can easily seem like infinite hurdles lie between you and a delicious, nutritious meal in colder months: a lack of fresh produce (leading to a lack of inspiration in the kitchen), numbing cold, windy weather (leading to a lack of desire to even leave the house) and the irresistible urge to grab a slice of pizza on the way home from work…can be overpowering.
However, if you have been trying to beat the winter kitchen doldrums and just need a little enticing, the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket, on Carroll between Smith and Court streets, is featuring some new vendors and specialty items that won't be around for much longer. There are plenty of excellent reasons to take a trip to the market, and the available produce will not disappoint.
In fact, this is a great time of year to be supporting your local farmers. While you are busy counting down the days til April, farmers are busy sowing trays upon trays of the lettuce, spring onions, chives, spinach and chard that you will see at the market in 6 - 8 weeks. Farmers make less income in colder months, yet they must shell out big bucks to purchase supplies like seeds, potting soil and new drip irrigation. Here are some highlights from our local market, and some recipes for putting it all together. Happy cooking!
Omega 3 Eggs
Two new farmers have joined the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket in the past month or so, both selling very tempting and healthful items. You can’t miss Feather Ridge Farm’s stand – it’s now the first tent closest to Court Street on Carroll Street. Feather Ridge’s big attraction is eggs (they also sell whole chickens).
Their very affordable fresh eggs are delicious, with pleasing orange yolks. The hens are “free running,” meaning they are cage-free, but are raised under a barn. A dozen large eggs will run you $4.50 and a dozen of their “Omega 3” large eggs costs $5. All the hens are raised on a diet of soy, corn, flax and alfalfa; the “Omega 3” hens are fed extra flax seed (each egg gives you 350 mg of the über-healthy fatty acid). These are high quality eggs.
You can still purchase eggs from several other vendors, some of which do raise their hens free-range/grass-fed. Arguably, though, it’s nice to have another egg vendor. Now you can stroll leisurely to the market after brunch, instead of sprinting there at 9 a.m. in order to beat the other fresh egg fiends. Start your morning with some Omega 3 eggs (see recipe below).
Sublime Sour Pickles
The second new vendor is Divine Brine. Featuring a bevy of pickled deliciousness, including five kinds of whole and sliced pickles and several chutneys and relishes, Divine Brine is filling a void. While Divine Brine’s various pickles are all incredibly crunchy and satisfying (from wasabi to horseradish dills), the Sublime Sours are notable because they are the only pickle they market that is fermented.
Fermentation results in a tangier, more tongue-tingling flavor, and more importantly, imparts the healthful probiotics conjured in the fermentation process. This time of year, when we’re trying to fend off a friend or partner’s cold, we should all be eating more fermented foods: cheaper than healthcare! Why not pack a couple of these with your weekday lunch?
Frozen Fishkill Farms heirloom tomatoes and peaches
Moving on down the line, there is the double tent belonging to Fishkill Farms. While this farm still serves up beautiful butternut squash and other hearty root vegetables, their unique offering of frozen treasures from midsummer are truly worth the trip: conveniently packaged zip lock bags of frozen heirloom tomatoes, peaches, currants and bell peppers only cost $5 each, or two for $8. Frozen vegetables are arguably the most nutritious form of preserved vegetables -- vegetables are frozen immediately following harvest, resulting in very little loss in nutrients and flavor.
Use Fishkill’s frozen tomatoes to enrich a tomato soup or homemade pasta sauce; throw their peppers into your next batch of chili and remember what it is to eat chili; or reinvigorate your favorite muffin or scone recipe with some peaches -- mmmm, summer.
Fishkill Farms also offers whole “soup chickens,” also frozen, for just $12.
Hot ground sausage
Dipaola Farm, a familiar presence at the market, recognized and loved for its free grilled sausage samples (a cure-all for those Sunday morning pre-brunch hunger pangs) does sell some of the most delicious sausage around. Better yet, Dipaola's turkeys are free-range and antibiotic free. I favor their hot ground turkey sausage for pastas and egg scrambles (see recipe below).
At $8 a pound, you may not come running to Carroll Street for fresh lettuce. But, Jersey Produce Farm’s pile of hand-picked, robust salad greens are hard to resist. I filled a plastic shopping bag half full for just $6 – a sufficient amount for my Sunday Oscar’s party for 10 people. Try my latest favorite: green lettuce and escarole salad with pears, feta cheese and a homemade creamy dressing (see recipe below).
These gorgeous, multi-pronged clusters of tall ivory mushrooms with deep brown caps are just one variety amidst an array of fungi available at Madura Farm’s stand. Mushrooms impart incredible flavor and texture to any dish, and the friendly staff will help you select the right mushroom for your meal. Piopinis are excellent in risotto; Maitakis (or King of the Woods) are perfect for adding depth of flavor to pasta sauce.
Grazin’ Angus Acres’ beef is thankfully in season year-round. Steak, brisket, pot roasts, stew meat, short ribs… why not crank up the oven now, when you could use the extra heat in your apartment? Grazin’ Acres farmer Chip recommends combining his ground beef (grassfed!) with Cheryl Rogowski’s dried black beans to make a mean chili (and of course, you’ll want to throw in Fishkill’s frozen peppers to get an instant flashback to the taste of harvest time. See recipe below).
Dried black beans
Rogowski Farm’s stand, usually manned by farmer/owner Cheryl Rogowski, () waits like an old friend for you at the corner of Smith and Carroll streets. Still bringing quality, flavorful, sustainably grown produce (spinach, parsnips, onions, fingerling potatoes – to name a few), Rogowski Farm also grows amazing dry beans, available at $4/lb. Soak a batch of these overnight or throw them directly into your next pot of chili! Why not use a parsnip or two?
Believe it or not, time is running out for many of the winter pantry staples – the last of the fingerling potatoes made their appearance at the market this week.
Spring is, perhaps surprisingly, just around the corner. Take the next few weeks as an opportunity to try out some of these outstanding winter market items. You’ll no longer suffer from winter culinary-itis, guaranteed. And the farmers will thank you for bracing the cold (and snow), once more.
Carroll Gardens Market Chili, 6 - 8 servings
1 medium or large onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package Fishkill farms frozen bell peppers
1 package Fishkill farms frozen heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 14.5 oz can diced or crushed tomatoes (preferably organic)
1 parsnip, chopped (optional)
3-4 medium potatoes, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
1 14.7 oz. can Annie’s spicy organic chili (my secret ingredient, but optional)
1 bag Rogowski black beans, pre-soaked overnight, water drained
1 can kidney beans
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Sautee onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Toss in parsnips, carrots and potatoes; allow to simmer and soften slightly for 5-10 minutes. Toss in frozen and canned tomatoes and frozen peppers; turn up heat to medium until simmering. Add in Annie’s chili, beans and spices. Allow to simmer on medium heat for at least 30 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the better the flavor will get. Be sure to stir occasionally so chili doesn’t stick to bottom of pot. Adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and cornbread!
Omega 3 Egg scramble with spicy turkey sausage and Piopino mushrooms, 4 servings
1 small onion or 2 shallots (or combination)
¼ lb. Dipaola’s hot turkey sausage
1-2 clusters Piopini mushrooms, chopped (could substitute here with other Madura Farms mushrooms)
6-8 eggs, whisked with black pepper
*Spinach, rinsed and chopped (optional, but a great addition)
Salt to taste
Sautée onion/shallots in olive oil over medium-low heat in a sauté pan till translucent. Add in sausage: you’ll need to crumble it into the pan by hand. Stir often until sausage is browned and cooked thoroughly – about 10 minutes. Add in mushrooms, stirring until mushrooms are coated in oil (the sausage will have created some; add more olive oil if needed to prevent mushrooms from sticking to pan.) Add spinach now if you like; allow to wilt. Add in eggs. Reduce heat to low, and cook slowly if you like a fluffy, velvety egg scramble. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt when serving.
Greenhouse lettuce and escarole salad with pears, feta cheese and radish, 4 - 6 servings
½ lb. greenhouse lettuce (from Jersey Produce Farm), washed and chopped
1 head escarole, washed and torn
3-5 radishes, sliced thin
Crumbled feta cheese (your choice on quantity)
1-2 pears, sliced thin lengthwise, then chopped
Combine lettuces, then sprinkle with pear, radish and cheese.
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Ground black pepper, a good amount
Whisk together ingredients. If too vinegary, add more mayonnaise. Toss with salad.