Saturday, July 13, 2013

To Market To Market!

this morning i woke with the usual enthusiasm and excitement that is typical of a saturday.  not only does saturday mean that my husband is home from work for all of us to enjoy for two whole days, but it also means that i will be going to the market to see what my treasured friends and farmers have harvested for my family!  because we are a family that goes with the FLOW (fresh, local, organic - most of the time, and whole) and eats with the seasons, summer is always chock full of our favorite farm fresh treats.  saturday mornings are the best!

as i dressed for my trip up hudson street to our local west village market at abingdon square, i began to fantasize about what i might find at this time of year.  Cucumbers, greens, herbs, radish, cherries, beets, perhaps the end of the sugar snaps from the farther upstate NY farmers, field tomatoes from the jersey farmers, many varieties of squash, freshly dug potatoes and much more.  I checked my computer to see if Dave from Muddy Farm sent his usual email last night detailing what he will be bringing to market today. he also treats us to the wanderings of his most hysterical brain.  i truly appreciate a farmer with bizarre sense of humor who is also not afraid to talk politics, religion and philosophy on the same page.  you can get on lots of farmer's mailing lists and they will happily let you know what they will be bringing each market day. it's a wonderful way to plan your weekly menus and start the creative juices flowing.  there is that word again....flow. it's a great word because it suggests constant movement which is how a healthy body operates. living, breathing organisms require vibrant, living, growing nourishment with living, nutrient rich foods to support the constant flow of cellular growth.  life, death, repair.  cycles. breathing in and out.  food being grown according to that flow, in harmony with nature. that is how we attain and maintain a healthy balance and a happy life.  our food source is our fuel source. our energy force and our life force.  freshly grown and properly grown is how we need to source it!

my first stop is always with my friend and favorite farmer nevia who is the owner at bohditree farm. her daughter uni is usually with her and my daughter sylvia has been working with them on saturday mornings.  they allow sylvia to help them with setting up the stand and restocking the vegetables as they are purchased.  two hours of work gets sylvia a bag of vegetables of her choice.  sylvia is 8 years old and working is very important to her right now.  she is starting to recognize her efforts as having value and the need to put her efforts to good use is a real feeling of pride and accomplishment...not to mention the fact that her mama worked the greenmarkets 25 years ago and she wants to follow in mama's footsteps!  the other nice thing about the kids putting their hands on useful "tasks" within our community is that they feel a connection and responsibility to the neighborhood and create a social bond with their neighbors within the context of offering & selling healthy food.  helping out at a local greenmarket is a golden opportunity for any child to participate in a socially conscious and connected role as helper in their community.  not to mention the fact that they also learn great math skills by weighing food and attaching value to it.  the adding, subtracting, making change and interacting with customers is a huge plus for self confidence!

from nevia i purchased 5 lbs. of kirby cucumbers to make pickles.  our family loves pickles and we really enjoy the process of lacto-fermenting the pickles ourselves and watching how they take on their exciting flavors.  these pickles are also loaded with enzymes, vitamins and probiotics.  i take much pride in knowing that my children are maintaining proper gut health just by eating pickles with their meals and snacks.  we are just finishing up 2 jars of garlic dill with jalapeno spears and 1 jar of tarragon chips.  i bought 3 different types of herbs from nevia today and we will be experimenting with new pickle flavors based on those herbs: shiso leaf, purple basil and more tarragon - my personal favorite.  the brine will be very simple.  filtered water, celtic sea salt, herbs, garlic, a spice perhaps and the cukes.  after 3 days we will taste and they will probably be done after 5.  they will keep indefinitely in a cool place but i doubt they will last very long. we tend to also give these quart jars to friends as gifts when we go visiting.  we will also ferment some chinese long beans today.  i love fermented dilly beans and this will be my take on that.  i plan to do them with Shiso leaf, one clove of garlic and a nice piece of ginger.  that takes care of the kirby cucumbers and the chinese long beans -- the long beans were originally purchased with the intent of accompanying tonight's monkfish dinner.  i generally like to saute and blister the long beans in rendered bacon fat and serve with smokey chunks of bacon lardons.

i also purchased sour cherries.  this is a personal favorite of mine. i can eat these all day long.  today i will set aside half of the quart plus that i purchased for raw eating and then pit & stew the other half as a topping for tonight's dessert of raw vanilla maple ice cream i made yesterday.  see how i skipped to dessert already?!  i have raw vanilla maple ice cream on the brain today.  what else did i buy and how will i use it....i found those sugar snap peas i was after.  my son henry adores these simply steamed with a drizzle of either olive oil or more than a drizzle of melted raw butter and lemon sea salt from cyprus.  talk about a gift!  we have a specialty store downstairs from our apartment, called the meadow, that sells fine sea salt, flowers, chocolates and bitters.  a very cool place for a foodie to live above, i confess.  i also purchased 4 lbs of assorted summer squash.  my favorite is a variety called avocado squash.  it looks like the inside, buttery flesh of an avocado and has that same, buttery, sweet flavor.  it can be sauteed, steamed, fried, seared, shredded and made into cakes, sliced thinly and eaten raw with just olive oil and sea salt or whatever you desire.  squash is versatile and forgiving.  it also makes great soup!

lacinato kale and sungold cherry tomatoes also found their way into my market bag this morning.  the kale will be chopped roughly and sauteed in coconut oil. i will add course ground sea salt and eat plainly and simply, savoring each flavorful bite.  that is what is so powerful about this food we buy at the farmer's markets -- it is so fresh and full of vital energy that we need not do much to it to make it an unbelievable experience.  each ingredient is a star that deserves to be showcased in it's full beauty and splendor.  i do not recommend tossing this type of food into a pasta all at once, creating a dish that does not sing the praises of each individual ingredient.  I usually go with the four ingredient rule but i prefer three when i can.  from PD & E seafood i happily purchased $20 worth of monk fish which will be our early dinner -- when my husband and the kids get back from the pool in about half and hour. that's $5 in fish per person plus veggies and assorted aromatics, seasoning...i reckon that will add up to $6.75 per person for the best tasting, freshest dinner ever.

i predict that my greenmarket haul from this morning will feed us all week.  a little here, a little there.  a meal. a snack. etc.  i didn't even mention some of the other vendors today who were rockin' their peaches, nectarines, melons, corn, lettuce, etc.  there was so much to choose from that it could have been a crazy race to see how much i could spend and carry.  but instead i will pace myself by enjoying a few things that are at peak right now and also by fermenting and putting up some others that we can enjoy beyond it's season in a different state.  the summer is a time of seduction and endless variety but we are able to bring all of that diversity and deliciousness from the markets and farms to our Family2Table with intent and creativity. our mission, to design plates that nourish the body, feed the soul and celebrate each individual ingredient which is as special and unique as each individual member of our family.  enjoy!

Friday, July 5, 2013

I Heart Burgers

july fourth has come and gone, but it did not leave without stamping it's indelible mark on me.  the backyard BBQ tradition of burgers and dogs left me feeling nostalgic and all a'buzz about  one of my favorite foods....the burger.  when i think back on my life there is almost always a good memory that somehow involves a burger.  sitting at the counter of seymour's luncheonette in flushing, queens eating a burger and drinking an egg cream.  laughing with my dad at the candlelight diner in commack over a twin burger deluxe - that, by the way was two burgers with fries and all the fixins - and yes, i could put it all away by the time i was 9 years old. i will never forget enjoying a juicy, rare cheeseburger and a cold pint at the corner bistro in the west village at 1am after a gig with my band and on the very morning of the day i got married.  like a good friend,  a delicious burger has always been there when i needed it.

the burger is a simple, yet complex dish.  it can involve many different ingredients but usually takes the same "form." the patty. it can be a convenient hand-held sandwich or it can stand alone on a plate, sometimes on a lovely pile of well dressed greens or properly prepared grains. sometimes it's not even called a burger when there is no bun but a chopped steak!  imagine can be served hot, straight off the grill, out of the broiler or crusty and seared off of a cast iron skillet or griddle -- but sometimes it makes it way into lunch boxes, bags and tiffins as a cold, day old delicacy to be dipped in tasty condiments like ketchup (tomato sauce in our house), dijon mustard, pickled relish or eggy house made mayo.  honey mustard, chili mayo, herb mayo, caper & dill pickle mayo -- aka tartar sauce, russian dressing, vinaigrette, vegetable & herb puree, tapanade, salsina, ranch dressing, caesar dressing, blue cheese mousse, demi glace...i think you get the idea.

a great burger can be made from grass fed beef, pastured meats like lamb, turkey, pork, veal, venison, elk, bison, wild boar, wild salmon, tuna, organic beans, seeds & nuts etc.  fish burgers are amazing and we ate them all the time as kids. our mum called them salmon croquettes and we enjoyed them with spaghetti and tomato sauce.   the burger possibilities are endless really because guess what.....the best burgers are the ones you grind yourself. kidding.  if you have a kitchen aid, the grinder attachment is a must have.  if you don't have a kitchen aid there are a few inexpensive table top grinders that will do nicely.  i still have a hand crank grinder that attached to the end of a table just like my grandmother sylvia used to make her famous chopped calf's liver.  can i tell you something else...burgers are fun to play with.  organic fresh or dried herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables are all ways to make the burger stand up and receive the applause it deserves. you can even combine your ground meats for a more interesting flavor and nutrient dense burger.  For example, we here at chez duff do something fun with our burger in that we grind grass fed beef, beef liver, beef or bison heart and bacon all together to make an outrageously delicious amalgam of savory meat and fat and cook it just right -- medium rare in my humble opinion -- we also cook our burgers very often in bacon grease for even more smokey goodness.  of course there is not as much ground liver in the mix as there is heart because liver is very strong in flavor.  but this is a great way to get liver into your kids or even adults who have an aversion to liver but are in need of the very essential nutrients that liver provides.  it also reminds me of a dish i used to do in a restaurant where we would sear a sushi grade tuna steak that had foie gras inserted into the center of the steak -- which is basically an unground burger with liver in the middle.  it was beautiful!

playing with your burger ingredients will allow you to find the perfect blend you prefer and will help you to explore the possibilities.  for instance, building your perfect burger could be as easy as dried sage in ground turkey meat and searing in a pan or grilling on the BBQ. top with a good quality, organic ketchup or homemade fermented ketchup and you're good to go. or, you could be that person who goes for what we call "burger with the lot." i am married to an aussie and discovered this burger while cooking at a mulberry street restaurant dedicated to australian cuisine.  burger with the lot is a perfectly cooked patty of the protein your choice on a bun, topped with......melted cheese, bacon, a slice of pineapple, thinly sliced sweet red onion, roasted beet root slices - can be fermented or pickled,  dill pickles and a fried, sunny side up egg.  did i forget the ketchup?  i am sure there are a few of you who are making a face right now as if this sounds like the weirdest most not tasty burger ever but i implore you to try this combo.  not only is it delicious but it is fun!  the egg on the burger is one of the best treats ever.  as a matter of fact a fried egg in butter on top of anything is just plain awesome!  try it next time you make pizza...holy runny yolk yum!

some of my favorite burgers are oregano crusted lamb burgers stuffed with feta cheese, sage crusted turkey burger, spicy pork burgers with chipotle mayo, wild salmon burgers with tarragon or with dill mayo, tuna and basil burgers with wasabi mayo, grass fed beef & bison heart burgers with curry pickled red onions and raw cheddar.  playing with the condiments is always a fantastic idea to zing things up without muddying the flavor of the protein.  people always ask me what i put in my meat and i say...meat.  i do not do onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, etc.  i save that for meatloaf and let the burger speak loud and clear.  i tend to gussy up the condiments or get wild with my toppings.  herb roasted vegetable puree is a lovely touch on a burger -- a ratatouille that will not slide off.   sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, sprouts, sauteed greens, raw cheeses plain and melted, cooked and raw onions, sliced avocado, guacamole, cole slaw, dried tomatoes, raw tomatoes, oil & herb cured think i like tomatoes?

major important reminder: do not cook grass fed meats on a very high flame or high heat.  you can start these burgers on a high-ish flame to get some color on them but them reduce the heat or find a cooler spot on the grill and cover to finish.  grass fed meats cook differently than grain fed meats and you do not want to ruin this beautiful, nutritious product.  If you would like to learn more about grass fed meat cooking i suggest reading any of shannon hayes' wonderful books -- or searching out her blog at   now get thee to the greenmarket and pick up some quality grass-fed, pastured, organic or wild caught protein and build those burgers.  simple or fancy your burgers will get the Family2Table with an energy that has raised generations of healthy, happy folks who hold the burger in high esteem and continue to build life long memories around the culinary tradition of good eating.  enjoy!