This is not a Stephanie Willis post, but I understand any confusion.
Until recently, I lived on Capitol Hill. Eastern Market and its array of butchers, bakers and produce stalls was a mere five minute walk. I've always enjoyed Stephanie's write ups of area farmers' markets, but it was academic. Check out the Tacoma Park market! You have to see the vendors at the Falls Church market! Yes, yes, Ms. Willis, but why should I wade through the masses at the Dupont Circle market when I have everything I need in my proverbial backyard?
Well, I've moved. While Eastern Market still isn't too much of a hike, it's no longer a pleasant stroll away. All of the sudden, Stephanie's farmer's market posts have a new found importance. And to no surprise, Stephanie has covered my new local farmer's market, FARMFRESH's H Street market.
Shopping at farmer's markets is a no brainer for grilling. The meat and veg is (or should be) as fresh as possible, the quality is higher and you can often find things Safeway and Harris Teeter just don't carry. And when you're cooking hot and fast on a grill, you want high quality products because there's not much between you and the natural flavor of the product - or at least there shouldn't be (i.e., go easy on the marinades).
With no recipe in mind, I headed out to the H St. market in search of inspiration. What I came away with was smoked pork chops. Smoked Tamworth pork chops, in fact. David Ober from Cedarbrook Farm is the H St. market's pork guy. His white board product menu is a Gray's Anatomy of the pig. Ober's smoked pork chops - a cross between ham and pork loin - was the item that stopped me. I've certainly had my fair share of ham (the smoked meat of the back leg), but smoked loin (the tender meat from the back of the pig) was a new one for me.
The H St. market might be one of the smallest markets I've visited in a while, but the few vendors that showed up brought quality products. To go with the chops, I grabbed bunches of fresh asparagus, young garlic and arugula flowers, the pale green and purple ends of our president's favorite leafy vegetable.
Before heading out, I made a final stop at Robb Duncan's Dolcezza Gelato. With flavors like mojito, strawberry tequila and Meyer lemon vodka, I wasn't sure if Duncan was going to card me, but I'd happily submit to a blood test for a sample of his desserts.
As long as I'm trying new things, I picked up one of the latest offerings from Brooklyn Brewery: Local 2. Like its predecessor, Local 1, the beer is a Belgian style strong ale sold in a large 750 ml bottle. Unlike its processor, Local 2 is brewed with honey and orange peel, creating a gently sweet ale that works great with the pork (and the juniper crust I added).
Last weekend was the first market of the season. Next weekend, the vendors' ranks grow with the addition of an Amish butcher. I'll be interested to see what he brings - provided I'm not checking out another Stephanie Willis recommendation.
Juniper Smoked Chops with Young Garlic and Asparagus
(makes two servings)
2 smoked pork chops
1 bunch asparagus (about 12 pieces)
1 bunch young garlic (about 8 stalks)
1 bunch arugula flowers
2 tbs. juniper berries
2 tsp. black pepper corns
2 tsp. tarragon leaves
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, crush the juniper berries and peppercorns. Dice the tarragon and mix in the with juniper and peppercorns. Rub the mixture into the meat of the chops, making sure to cover both sides. (Note, I did not add any salt to the chops. The smoked pork was already salted and didn't need any more.)
Drizzle the asparagus and garlic with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Because the chops are smoked, they're basically cooked. So you only need to put them on the grill long enough to form a crust on the exterior.
When the grill is ready, place the chops directly over the hottest spot and the vegetables off to the side. After three minutes, turn the chops and move them to a cooler spot. Turn the garlic and asparagus, and move to the hot spot to char. Cook for another three minutes and pull everything off the grill. Trim most of the green off the garlic, which is edible, but on the tough side.
Plate the chops and grilled vegetables, and finish with fresh lemon juice and spicy arugula flowers overtop.