Friday, August 01, 2008

Something Fruity, Something Fun

Amazingly sweet nectarines from Reid's Orchards

Yesterday was the Towson Farmer's Market and the usual suspects were there selling their wares. It's interesting to watch because known quality farmers, like Martin's and Reid's sell through their large stock of produce fairly quickly and by 2pm there's hardly anything left.

The biggest problem with going ballistic at the market is that you have to process all the ingredients into usable form. Not such a big deal when you've got a brigade of prep cooks to do all the work, but when it's just you and a paring knife, it can be quite daunting. With next week's menu looming on the horizon, it was time to get to work.

Reid's Blueberries destined for jam.

It's a known adage that the more you do business with a purveyor, the better the service and the better the prices. This remains true with the modern-day local farmer. After a year of sourcing from them, I get better deals than the average shopper. Of course, I'm buying more than the average shopper but it's always thrilling nonetheless. I don't know why it seems more thrilling than with other aspects of business, maybe it's the very close and personal interaction, but I'm always excited about the product and the prices.

In the back of my mind, I've got an idea to live as old timers once did and try to source everything in season and process what we want to enjoy year round. A simple pint of blueberries seems painfully paltry, but the entire flat seems just about right. With that flat of blueberries, I can make up a batch of jam that will last a year, bake off a couple of pies, make a couple of tarts and do some tests making blueberry soda this week after extracting the flavor out of the berries.

Yellow Peaches from "The Orchard"

Outside of the house is a peach tree. Just one. And an apple tree. These two comprise what I lovingly call "The Orchard." Odd as may seem, I've never actually eaten the peaches because the deer eat them before I can remember to get around to harvesting them.

Not this year.

I went out today and just started pulling them off the tree. Some are close to ripe, the rest need a few more days to ripen. But soon, I shall have a sampling of our own homegrown peaches. Hopefully there will be enough to make a small jar of jam and maybe a small pie.

The Terrine Test

There's a part of me that's determined to make that Strawberry Mint Terrine for next week's menu at The Spro. The problem is: I can't get strawberries locally because they're all gone. But I'm determined to see what it tastes like and see if it's worth it. So, after securing some not-so-local strawberries from a produce supplier, we were off and running.

It's a relatively simple recipe of strawberries, blueberries, mint, oranges, grapefruit and gelatine. Just mix and pour into a mold and chill. It's chilling now so we'll see what happens in a few hours. If it's really good, I'll put it on the menu. If not, it gets deep sixed.

Pate Brisee in the works

While the jam was cooking off and the terrine was being made, we did a different preparation of Pate Brisee. This one is more suitable for either sweet or savory dishes (there's no sugar) than the other recipe. After it has some time to rest and relax in the refrigerator, we'll see how it works.

2# all purpose or cake flour
1.5# butter
1z salt
4 eggs
2z whole milk

Anson Mills Farro Piccolo

And lastly, just a quick shot of this very pretty-looking Farro Piccolo from Anson Mills. It's for the Tabbouleh on Tuesday's menu.