Opening Day at the Farmers Market: Dinner and a Couple of Recipes
The setting for the market, Ashlawn Farm, is gorgeous, and there’s never a time when we’re driving up to it on the winding road that’s edged by stone walls from revolutionary times that I don’t get excited. And when we round the last curve in the road and see the farm stretched out in front of us with the vendors’ white awnings sparkling in the field, it’s all Michael, my husband, can do to keep me from jumping out of the car before he pulls it up the drive.
Then there’s the ritual first stop at Farm Coffee, where Carol Dahlke, who, with her husband, Chip, owns Ashlawn Farm, roasts mostly organic and mostly fair-trade coffee beans in small batches and mans the espresso machine at the coffeehouse. Armed with a cappucino, we face the day’s biggest decision: whether to go to Bobby’s TALK Seafood to buy fish or to Michael Newburg’s Fall’s Brook Organic Farm Stand to buy his greens, which are exceptional. It’s a really big decision because both stands sell out fast. Michael and I could split up and cover both bases, but, for me, that defeats one of the points of the market: the chat. I love talking to everyone who brings his best stuff here and, on the first day of the market, you don’t want to miss a word – there’s so much catching up to do.
So yesterday, I stopped at Bobby’s first and got big, fat scallops and steamers, had a good chat and then got to Michael’s, only to find that he was already sold out of his mesclun. Drats! But he had his spicy mix, which includes baby mustard greens and a bunch of Asian lettuces, so life was still worth living. Strawberries, rhubarb and basil from Roses Berry Farm, and tomatoes (hothouse, but surprisingly good) and beets from Scotts Orchards, then all that remained was for my husband to have his usual hotdog, which Irene, from Four Mile River Farm, where they grow and butcher their own beef, grilled for him just the way he likes it: super charred.
If only it hadn’t gotten chilly last night, we could have eaten outdoors and it would have truly felt as though summer had started. Opening the windows didn’t help make everything seem summery, but tasting the farm-fresh food sure did.
Here are the recipes for two of the dishes we had last night: Scallops with Beet and Tomato Salsa and Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler.
SEA SCALLOPS WITH BEET AND TOMATO SALSA
It’s pictured at the top of this post. I’m sorry that this isn’t a real recipe – I just put everything together and only thought to write it all down when it was too late – but nothing in the dish has to be so precise that you can’t just play around with it for yourself.
Makes 2 servings
For the salsa:
4 small beets – roasted, peeled and cut into small dice
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 scallions, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Good olive oil (you could use a mix of olive and walnut oil)
Splash of sherry vinegar
Salt (I used fleur de sel) and freshly ground pepper
Minced fresh herbs – I used lots of chives, Greek oregano and thyme
Mix the beets, tomatoes, scallions and oil together and set aside while you make the rest of the dish. Right before serving, add the vinegar and season with salt, pepper and herbs.
For the salad:
2 handfuls of mixed greens
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Good olive oil
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
Have everything ready and toss it together right before serving.
For the scallops:
4 strips of bacon
Good olive oil
10 fat sea scallops
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 medium-thick slices tomato
Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet until it’s crispy, lift it out of the pan onto a plate lined with paper towels, cover with a double thickness of paper towels and drain. When cool, coarsely chop the bacon. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
Add about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat until the oil is very hot, but not smoking.
Pat the scallops dry, season with salt and pepper and cook them, 2 to 3 minutes on a side, until they are golden on the outside and still opalescent on the inside.
While the scallops are cooking, put two slices of tomato side by side in the center of each of two dinner plates; season with salt and pepper and drizzle ever so slightly with oil.
Toss the greens and put them right behind the tomatoes. Put the scallops on top of the sliced tomatoes. If you’d like, you can moisten the scallops with a little of the bacon-oil mixture. Make sure all the ingredients are in the salsa, give it a last stir and spoon it over the scallops. Sprinkle the salsa with the chopped bacon and you’re ready to go.
I really like the slight crunch I got by making the topping with a little cornmeal. If you’re not as crunchophilic as I am, just replace the cornmeal with all-purpose flour.
Makes 6 servings
For the fruit:
1 pound rhubarb, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the topping:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons; 3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
1/2 cup cold milk
Lightly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (very optional)
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8-x-8-inch pan – I used a Pyrex baker – and place it on a lined baking sheet.
For the fruit: Put all the ingredients in the baking pan and stir them around. Give them a couple of stirs while you’re working on the cobbler topping.
For the topping: Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse the machine on and off until the mixture resembles coarse meal – it’s okay to have some largish clumps, so don’t overdo it. Still pulsing the machine, add the milk. Stop mixing when the dough forms big, soft curds.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of wax paper and, working with a light hand, gather it together gently. Give the fruit one last stir, then pinch off pieces of the dough and put them on top of the fruit. Neatness doesn’t count here nor does covering the fruit completely or evenly.
Slide the cobbler into the oven and bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling up around it. Allow the cobbler to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. While there’s something wonderful about having anything warm, I think the cobbler tastes better at room temperature. Of course, there’s no reason not to have some warm and some more cool.
If you don’t mind your cobbler being a little soggy (it’s never bothered me), you can cover the leftovers and keep them at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight.
Here’s the cobbler almost ready to come out of the oven.