21 June 2011

Farmers Market Etiquette

Enfant Rouge Farmers Market Paris France

Tables of fresh lettuce all in a beautiful, towering stack, bundles of radishes still damp from their morning under the faucet, wooden quart boxes overflowing with ripe, red, fragrant strawberries, globes of fresh mozzarella cheese and jars or jewel colored jams are just a hint of what we find at the Farmers Market each week.  It's also a large part of Four Corners Creamery and Prochaska Farms weekly work load. 
Les Halles Farmers Market, Paris France

There is something special about the Farmers Market, a way to connect a person to the food we eat, a sense of community, the anticipation and surprise of what we might find to take home this week and for me personally, a bit of mystery as to what we will be eating fresh this week!
Saline Tuesday Evening Farmers Market Saline Michigan

I thought I'd share a few insider tips on how to make the Farmers Market vendors your very best friends and get the best selections for the week!

  • TRUST; trust that your vendor is bring the very freshest, ripest,  finest product he has to offer!  Look for the busiest vendors, they usually have a good reputation that you can build on.  Ask them to pick the "best" of the selection for your and they gladly will! 
  • KNOWLEDGE; know approximately what should be in season and what to expect this week.  All climates are different and unlike the grocery store, farmers will have only what they have grown and is ripe that week.  
  • QUESTIONS; Be clear when asking questions about pesticide use, production, handling etc, and be conscience of the farmer's time as Farmers Market hours are usually limited.  Often you can ask to visit the farm or facility if you'd like more information. 
  • BAGS; I always bring at least 2 bags; one for dry stuff and one for wet stuff.  I never take the wooden or plastic boxes on display, they are too bulky and cost the farmer.
  • TOUCHING; I just don't do it!  This is not the grocery store that has product and produce sitting on the shelves for weeks.  Fruits and vegetables are picked ripe and sold in a short time from the farmer.  Customers handling them for 6 hours will ruin tomatoes, berries, lettuce etc.  Cheeses and breads are also fragile, not to mention, do I want to purchase food that 100 people have had their hands on that morning?  I expect the best and if I don't get it, I won't buy from that particular farmer again.
  • NEGOTIATING;  I have read many articles in magazines encouraging negotiating/asking for a price break with farmers and am always flabbergasted at this notion.  I feel as the value for the asking price is always very fair, if not downright cheap.  The cost involved in getting a farmer to market is quite extensive; labor to pick and wash, cost of space at the market, gas in driving large trucks full of product, time and extras like bags, signs, etc. Also, depending on the availability of produce, the farmer is competing with everything from backyard gardeners to huge stores like sams club.  There is no level playing field in farming.  If I come across the last head of napa cabbage, I am giddy that I got there before it was gone for the week!  I don't ask for a discount.  I'm not sure where people got the idea that it's acceptable to bargain with a farmer over a 50 cent pepper or $3 watermelon....Would your employer ask you for a discount on or negotiate your paycheck?  It's the same concept.  Walking 10 feet in a farmer's shoes has me gladly paying $3 for a quart of fresh strawberries.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF; The Farmers Market is the one place you can really have fun with food, enjoy the weather & your community.  You can bring your dog (check out this gal dressed up) and your  children, ride your bike and have a coffee and a multitude of tasty treats!  You can feel great about shopping locally and bring home a beautiful bouquet!      
We really love bringing Four Corners Creamery cheeses to many farmers markets in the area and have met so many lovely people, we feel very grateful that they purchase from us each week and enjoy what we make for them!  I think it's particularly special that they have chosen our cheese for their supper table.  It's being there in spirit!
Main Street Farmers Market loot! Blissfield Michigan

18 June 2011

Kafta Spice Recipe

For those of you that attended the Grilling Class at The Market this week and wanted the spice blend for Lamb Kafta; here you go:

1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
Plenty of Salt & Pepper

Blend all and it should make enough seasoning for 1 pound of ground lamb!  Enjoy!

17 June 2011

Rose Petal Jam

Rose Petal Jam...it sounds so romantic, so European and so quaint.

For 2 years I've held onto this recipe and finally took the time to make it!  I feel like this is an autumn recipe with the apple jelly being the base of the jam, but all of my reddest roses are blooming now!  I only have some pale roses that bloom through the fall and I really wanted this jam to be red in color. 

I used an English rose which is quite fragrant and prolific, just what the recipe called for.  I didn't spray them this Spring, for this recipe and the fact that it has been too rainy or cold to spray effectively.  In fact, I hand picked worms off of my David Austin...how repulsive is that?! (I wore gloves!)  According to the recipe, I chose fresh blooms that were fully open and nearly ready to fall.
When removing the tough white ends, I found it easiest to grip and pull off the entire blossom and use a very sharp knife to slice off the ends.  I then but the petals into a colander and shook it a bit to remove any bits of icky. 

{Gelee de Pommes et Petales de Rose; recipe from Anne Willan}

Apple Jelly
3 lbs very tart apples, I used granny smith 
1 1/2 cups sugar

Scrub apples and quarter, only removing the stems.  Put in large, heavy pot, just cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook an hour or so until apples are very soft and falling apart.  Let cool about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cheesecloth lined mesh sieve or colander set over a bowl.  Let drain without pressing on fruit or jelly will be cloudy.  Leave undisturbed about an hour.

Rose Petals

6 cups rose petals, with white tips removed
3 cups water, boiling
1 cup sugar
juice of  1 lemon

Put the petal in a large bowl and cover with boiling water just to cover.  Cover and let steep until cool.

Measure out 2 cups of the apple juice and add 1 1/2 cups sugar in large pot.  Bring the juice to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.  Boil over high heat until jelly reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Should take about 20 minutes.  Skim any foam off as you go.  Let cool about 5 minutes then add the rose petals and their liquid aslong with 1 cup sugar and the lemon juice.  

Heat mixture to boiling over high heat and boil until reaching 220 degrees on candy thermometer.  Let cool about 5 minutes and fill sterilized jars and seal.  Can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

 Yes, this was a bit of work.  I let my apples drain and rose petals steep and cool overnight, since I did not have a full day to put this together directly.  Yes, it is fabulous and tasty, beautiful and delicate!  SO worth the time and energy!  I love it paired with Four Corners Creamery Fresh Chevre!

13 June 2011

The Possibilities of Strawberries

Pierre LOVES Strawberries!
 Yesterday took John, Pierre and I to the family farm just a couple miles away from our home.  My brother has planted acres of strawberries in the last couple years to sell at Farmers Markets and also to fill his CSA customers weekly boxes.  He is always generous to allow us to share his bounty too! 

This week is beautiful strawberries!  It took me only about 20 minutes to pick this huge basket full and begin to indulge in springs finest fruit!  This year we are making conserve (a concentrated jam without added pectin) strawberry shortcake, Verrine with  lemon balm and bowl upon bowl or sliced strawberries with raw sugar!
A dirty but fulfilling job!
I tried a new shortcake recipe that we really enjoyed.  I'm not much for the "biscuit" type shortcake and I detest those weird sponge things at the grocery store (with a 12 year shelf life) so the experiment continues, but I think this recipe is a keeper! 

3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons self rising flour (you can make your own easily; 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt)
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 stick butter
2 Tablespoons raw sugar or demerara sugar

Mix flours together and cut in the butter until mixture resembles crumbs.  Mix in the sugar until dough just comes together.  Using your hands, form into a log, wrap with plastic and refrigerate about an hour. 

Cut dough into 6 chunks and roll out each one into a thin circle about 4 inch round.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees until lightly golden and just firm.  Remove from parchment immediately and place directly onto serving plates with a large spatula. 

Instead of whipped cream, I beat together a carton of mascarpone cheese with a couple tablespoons powdered sugar and a 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest.  Beat until smooth and spread evenly onto shortbread or drop a nice dollop along side your fresh strawberries.
I can't wait until you see the verrines tomorrow!  I brought back all of our yogurt containers from France JUST for these delightful desserts!  (Yes, there was much eye-rolling in security)

10 June 2011

Little Pierre Update

I thought I'd share a bit about Little Pierre today.  Pierre is now 9 months old and full of energy and love! 

This is his spot in the Living Room, which affords a view of the driveway and kitchen.  Pierre can monitor all movement and bark accordingly.  
 We are just now able to capture a "still" Pierre.  Terriers have a lot of energy!
 We are having fun with dog ice cream!  I am always amazed at the products available for dogs!

He has an invisible fence in our backyard, so he's able to run and play at whim!  Pierre has made friends with the neighbor dogs, so there is much activity to keep him busy!    Pierre has experienced his first vaccinations, a string eating episode, his first bee sting and 2 doggie parties! 

Otto and Pierre are now friends, they often play together and the cats love Pierre's dog treats!  Otto keeps Pierre groomed and in line!

When Pierre is unsupervised, he occasionally gets himself in trouble.  It absolutely amazes me how much stuffing little cat toys contain!

We do love having a summer afternoon read and nap together!

08 June 2011

Disgusted with the "new" food pyramid

"What the hell!?!"  has been running through my mind for the last couple days after reading an article in the Cheese Reporter (an industry newspaper) regarding the "new" food pyramid the government has released. 

Apparently many producers seem quite satisfied because cheese is actually pictured....are you kidding?

My food rant begins.  The USDA is responsible for creating the food pyramid in the USA and distributing its propaganda throughout our schools, doctors offices etc.  This new pyramid was created at the urgings of Michelle Obama and her crusade to curb obesity.  While the goal is a good one, the essential leanings of the government concerning food has gone "science project" versus "victory garden".  I am consistently disappointed in the USA's quest to isolate certain vitamins/minerals/compounds and then try to recreate them in synthetic form and advertise them to us to consume instead of endorsing WHOLE, REAL, FRESH FOOD!!!

Every scientist around the world concurs that they do not fully understand the human body's ability to process and draw nutrients from real foods.  They cannot figure out why the "supplements" don't work as well as the real thing.  Or that many foods with high concentrations of potentially "harmful" compounds (remember the egg debacle with cholesterol) are really not bad for your overall health.

WHY are you having a fit over all of this, you may ask?  Because now they are messing with my CHEESE!  :)  The USDA is recommending that people keep cheese in their diets as long as it is "low-fat or no-fat".  The USDA is also approving soy milk as dairy.  Huh....bean juice is dairy because the producer has ADDED calcium?  (I am not against soy milk and could care less about who likes it, or if you drink it and the whys)  Anyway you slice it, soy milk is not dairy, period, it is soybeans.

On the low-fat/no-fat dairy issue.  Milk has fat.  In order to make cheese, you want that fat so the milk makes a curd....it's how cheese is made.  Did you know that processed cheese can contain up to 51% "non-dairy" components and it's USDA approved as cheese?  So, all the no/low fat cheese no longer has the amounts of proteins, vitamins and minerals we come to expect from natural cheeses...it's just filler folks.  It's also all about the calories according to the USDA.  Of course it is, but what about educating on smarter calories to consume?   

I think most people would be absolutely mortified by the amount of "all-natural" added flavors and ingredients that are available on the market, approved by our government.  As cheese makers, we get publications each month on "how to make your cheddar more cheddar-y" or "what to add to your ice cream to make it creamier and cut the fat content" and yes, they are "all natural". 

Now please tell me, how can Michelle Obama promote a new food pyramid with low fat food and look at herself everyday and believe she's doing the right thing with her influence to the USDA?  Wouldn't it be MORE effective, healthier, economically feasible to just encourage people to eat whole foods?  Cripe-you don't even have to know how to cook to eat vegetables and cheese and still be healthy!!!!! 

I'd rather have obese, healthy people in this country than  thinner folks that are living-on -processed, full-of-fillers food!  

Thanks for letting me say my bit....I'm going to make apricot tarts now with BUTTER, CHEESE, FRESH FRUIT, raw sugar and unbleached white flour....how unhealthy is that?!  To think my own government supports non-dairy whipped topping as an appropriate substitute to cream and that comes in a twinkie...but, as long as I'm watching the calories....    

New Cookbooks and Recipes! Radicchio Salad

I'm sure you've gathered that I might have a slight addiction to purchasing cookbooks.  Borders sends out these 50% off coupons that I HAVE to use...really.  Lately, I have been obsessed with books published by Phaidon.  The photography is incredible, the food, fresh and simply prepared, seasonal cooking and small stories about locations and traditions of the area. 

The Aylward family was in need of a new propane grill, badly.  This week amongst the mosquitos and 90 degree heat, I purchased a lovely 5 burner Brinkman and here we are.  (PS: It's worth the $20 bucks they charge to put this baby together....who writes these instructions????)

Last evening, I was hankering for a grilled salad with our Italian Sausage...and radicchio fit the bill.  Not everyone is as fond of this slightly bitter vegetable as I am.  My brother, the farmer, wouldn't even try it and John pretended to like it because I didn't make any other side dishes except a baguette. 

I personally thought it was delicious!!  The recipe from the book just called to grill the radicchio with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I threw in my own twist which really gave a bit of dimension to this dish and served it warm...which is fun and different!


1 head fresh radicchio, cut in 6 wedges leaving a bit of core on bottom of each to hold together on grill
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
1 ripe peach, sliced thinly
1/4 pound aged goat cheese, I used Four Corners Creamery aged goat log, you can also use Bucheron

Preheat grill on high and let get up to temperature.  Cut up radicchio and toss with oil, salt and pepper liberally.  Grill each piece about 3 minutes per side until slightly browned and barely crunchy.

Place in shallow bowl and top with slices of peaches and crumbles of goat cheese.  Add another drizzle of your best quality extra virgin olive oil, additional salt & pepper to taste and toss lightly!  The sweet and bitter, the salty and sweet, the tang and creamy of goat cheese.  I'm so glad I didn't have to share much of it!!!

03 June 2011

Camembert; a whole new world of grilled cheese!

What is it about melted cheese that we all love so much?  Is it a memory of childhood?  I know it isn't economic, both the richest and poorest folks I know love a grilled cheese sandwich.  During the winter months, The Boulevard Market sells a small raclette burner, a small tray that holds a slice of raclette cheese with candles underneath to melt it.  They sell like hotcakes, it's a puddle of melted cheese!  It's fantastic and decadent!

Many years ago, we started grilling a whole Camembert cheese.  Its life changing.  It can be 90 degrees outside and a white crusty round of melted cheese has the ability to drag everyone out of air condition to partake and enjoy!

The execution is so simple! 

Brush a bit of olive oil on the rind of a Camembert cheese.

Place on grill that has been preheated to high.

USE A TIMER!  5 minutes on one side, flip and cook an additional 4 minutes.

Use the edge of your knife to scrape off the top layer, or cut the cheese and smear on fresh bread.
I serve my grilled cheese with fruit marmalade or fresh fruit if it's in season.  Pears and apples go especially well with Camembert and you don't need a bit of bread! 

02 June 2011

Southwestern Chicken Salad

I had been waiting for that first 90+ degree day to whip up this favorite salad of ours!  Last Sunday was it!  John and I worked outside and soaked up the sun, relaxed with family and caught up on naps.  It was a blissfully calm day in our hectic lives.

I so enjoyed smelling the Russian Olive bushes blooming their hearts out and listened to every bee in a 5 mile radius hum a tune while collecting their pollen!  Those shrubs are forever horrid and dangerous, yet gracefully beautiful with the most intoxicating perfume that tempts you into keeping them around.
You may enjoy a "before" shot: 

We spent our day cleaning away all of the dead branches (piles and piles of the thorny buggers) trimming the weeds and all of the dead pine branches.  A previous owner really over planted this portion of our yard.  20 or so spruce and pine trees as well as the hedge of Russian Olives and some apple trees.  20 years later, with little sunlight penetrating the ground, the pines and hedges needed a massive makeover!  After shots will be coming soon-helps build anticipation right? 

For supper we needed fresh, fresh, fresh and cool, cool, cool!  I decided to make a family favorite.  John loves Mexican food, I love avacados and lime juice, the girls love crispy tortilla strips and salsa.

This is another of those "non-recipe" type salads...I just throw it together, using whatever is on hand.

The dressing is the very best part!  1/2 and 1/2, bottled Catalina or French dressing and fresh salsa!
I used romaine lettuce, drained black beans, crispy tortilla strips, cilantro, tomatoes, avacados, and chicken that I marinated in lime juice and chili powder.  Oh, and some cheese-of course!

Layer all of your ingredients and drizzle on the dressing!  So good, so refreshing on a hot day and very filling with the beans and chicken!

01 June 2011

Grilled Pizzas

Over the last 5 years we have had a house full of teenagers every weekend and during the summer-ugh!  They have literally eaten us out of the house!  John and I just leave the house since we get so tired of them crowding up the kitchen!  We don't mind (most of the time)as long as they clean up after themselves!

Everyone's favorite lunch and supper is grilled pizzas.  I love them because they are made outside and it limits the mess in the kitchen.  The kids love them because we have a ton of different toppings to fit each persons tastes and they are SO quick! 

I also love this recipe for the fact it makes a good size batch and I can throw the remaining dough in the freezer for another day.  Just take out in the morning and leave on the counter.  Risen and ready to be rolled out by 6pm! 

Grilled Pizzas
1 1/4 cups hot water
1 pkg quick rise yeast (I use 1 tablespoon instant yeast-no proofing!)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups all purpose flour

If using any yeast but instant, mix hot water & yeast in mixing bowl and let sit about 5 minutes until foamy.
Add olive oil, salt and 2 cups of flour.  Attach dough hook and mix on low until completely combined.  Add remaining flour and let mix until ball forms.  Allow another 2 minutes of kneading.  Let rise until about doubled.(15 minutes for instant yeast, 45 for active dry)

Heat grill to between medium and high (so technical eh?) and start rolling out dough.  I smear a BIT of olive oil on the counter and roll a small ball of dough into an 8 inch circle.  Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Place dough oil side down on grill.  Allow about to cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown, flip dough and add toppings immediately. Close grill lid and cook about 4 additional minutes or until cheeses are melted.  Watch carefully so you don't burn your crusts!  Adjust heat as necessary or pizza away from any hot spots.  Enjoy!

Toppings are endless!  Go with what you love!