Farmers Markets

Apple Cinnamon Almond Coffee Cake

Wide Market Shot I think Mother Nature is playing tricks on me.  For the last few weeks, there have been sporadic Spring like days sprinkled in among the Winter doldrums that have DC in its clutches.  These days are nothing more than cruel, cruel teases and make me long for April and the start of the market season.  While I have enjoyed finding the number of farmers markets available year round, I'm itching for robust markets filled with the bounty of Spring and Summer.  With this in mind, I headed over to the Arlington Farmers Market a few Saturdays ago.  Convenient for DCers without a car, the Arlington Farmers Market sits adjacent to the Arlington Courthouse metro station.  I had heard it was one of the bigger farmers markets in the Virginia part of the DC metro area, so I was looking forward to a wider selection of vendors.  As with most markets open during the Winter, the Arlington Farmers Market didn't have a huge selection of producers.  But all of my old familiar buddies were present and I was told the market (as expected) grows during the Spring and Summer. 

Blue Ridge Dairy Sign A lot of the same producers from Dupont Circle's Sunday market are at the Arlington Farmers Market on Saturdays, which was a pleasant surprise for me.  Not only was I able to get my Greek yogurt fix from Blue Ridge Dairy, I was also able to pick up a loaf of Ten Grain Bread from Atwater's bakery.  I was happy to see there wasn't a line at either booth and I was able to chat for a bit with both vendors.  As promised previously on this site, Blue Ridge Dairy had adjusted their pricing on some of their products also available at Whole Foods.  Not only that, I was able to speak with one of the employees about taking a tour of Blue Ridge Dairy farm sometime in the next few weeks.  Considering my almost unhealthy love of cheese, the prospect of seeing the cheesemaking process made me giddier than a teenage girl on Prom night.  Blue Ridge was also having a sale on their fresh mozzarella, something I couldn't resist.  

Red Apples Toigo Farms had a vast selection of apples, which reminded me that I was still in the grips of Winter (not that the howling cold wind wasn't enough of a reminder).  Even though I was in the middle of a Winter pity party, the apples were delicious looking.  I asked which variety would be good for a pie or pastry and was directed towards the Stayman apples.  Again because there wasn't a line, I had the chance to talk briefly with them about their farm and farming practices.  Located in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, Toigo Farms uses the integrated pest management system typical of a lot of chemical adverse fruit farms in the area.  Using nature's own predatory system, the integrated pest management system introduces the natural enemy of pests that threaten orchards to offset the need for pesticides.  I was also told that during the Spring and Summer, Togio Farms offers plums, berries, cherries and even pears.  They also grow several varieties of tomatoes, including heirloom, that they use for their own lines of pasta sauces and salsas.  As lovely as the apples were (I picked up a half dozen of the stayman variety), I really wanted it to be Spring already.

Smith Meadows Meats I needed both eggs and meat, so I went in search of the protein portion of the market.  I was happy to find two of my favorite local meat vendors, EcoFriendly Foods and Smith Meadows Farm at the market.  Like at a lot of the booths that day, there wasn't a long line at either vendor.  I talked briefly with one of the employees at Smith Meadows Farm about making short ribs, something I'd never done before but was curious to try.  He assured me that short ribs were one of the most forgiving cuts of beef to cook and worked well with just about any flavors.  He also told me about the Smith Meadows Farm farm day, scheduled for May 16th this year.  The family decided to open their farm to the public for this first ever event, which will include a walking tour, catered lunch, cooking demonstrations and tours of the 1800s farm house that is now the Smithfield Bed and Breakfast.  When I asked what brought about the idea for the farm day, I was told the Pritchard family wanted to let it's customers see how their foods were being raised and prepared.  The family's commitment to sustainable agriculture and preservation of the land and its natural resources also led to the decision to provide this fun yet educational opportunity.  The event costs $50 for individual adults ($90 per couple), $25 for children ages 6 to 18 and free for children under 5.  To register for the Smith Meadows Farm Day, go to their website.  As I thanked the vendor, I once again thought "Great, another reason I wished it was Spring already."

To attempt to offset my Winter blues, I decided to go home and make a quick but seasonal coffee cake highlighting the flavors of the Stayman apples I bought.  Although the main recipe is from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything", I tweaked it a bit to use the apples for a lovely brunch or breakfast treat.

Apple Cinnamon Almond Coffee Cake (adapted from Mark Bittman's Quick Coffee Cake)

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup almonds (or walnuts or pecans)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
2 medium Stayman apples (or other baking apple), diced

Apple Almond Coffee CakePreheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan and set it aside.

Make the strudel topping by combining 3 tablespoons of the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, sugar, all of the nuts and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.  Add 3 tablespoons of the cold butter and using your hands, meld all the ingredients together until you get a mealy type texture.  Set this aside and go on to make the batter.

Sift together the remaining flour, salt, sugar and baking powder, along with the remaining cinnamon.  Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients.  Once again using your hands, combine everything together until you get a coarse meal texture. Add the eggs and milk and stir until combined. 

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and then sprinkle half the streudel topping on top.  Top with half of the diced apples and then pour the remaining batter over them.  Top with the remaining streudel topping and apples.  Bake for at least 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

NOTE:  You can also make this in a springform or tube pan.  If you do, you can reduce the baking time by 20 minutes.


Dupont Circle Farmers Market

Market Sign In my pursuit of Winter time farmers markets, I've shied away from the behemoth that is the Dupont Circle Farmers Market for several reasons.  One of the biggest reasons is because the market is always so crowded, it's hard to get your bearings straight.  When I go to a farmers market, I like to take my time and survey the offerings carefully before deciding on what to buy.  No matter what time you go to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market, there are a lot of people trying to navigate around a small patch of land.  This also makes it harder to have conversations with the vendors about their products, as they are running around trying to attend to the hordes of Sunday morning market goers.  Another reason I have spent most of the Winter steering clear of the Dupont Circle Farmers Market is because it's so well known, it really doesn't need any more publicity (as evident by the above mentioned crowds).  A number of the markets I've visited since November have been ones I had never known about before I started writing for DCFoodies.  I have enjoyed discovering the many markets around the DC area and highlighting them for others to discover.  Writing about the Dupont Circle Farmers Market just seemed a bit redundant and I was more inclined to explore other markets instead.  But last Sunday, I decided to head out again to my old and familiar market stomping grounds in search of lesser known vendors.

I arrived around 11 in the morning to be greeted by a glut of people spilling out onto the street.  The crowd was waiting in line for their turn at Bonaparte Breads, a local bakery with a Parisian feel.  Known for their French breads, pastries and desserts, Bonaparte Breads has become a wildly popular vendor at Dupont Circle.  Their baguettes have been a favorite of mine to use for stuffed chicken salad sandwiches, a hit at picnics and various other romantic attempts to eat outdoors.  Their Opera Torte, an almond sponge cake with layers of ganache and buttercream, is the quintessential French pastry and one of their best sellers at their Savage Mill cafe location.  Unfortunately, by the time I got to the market, they had already sold out of their baguettes...and most of their other offerings.  That was when I was quickly reminded you have to get to Dupont Circle early if you want the best selection.

I traveled on in search of lunch ideas for the week and hit upon Twin Springs Fruit Farm.  Like a lot of Winter Squashfarms in the area, Twin Springs Fruit Farm is not a certified organic farm.  I spoke briefly with one of the employees and learned they use a minimal amount of pesticides and only when absolutely necessary.  The pesticides they do use are organic in nature, thus reducing the use of harsh chemicals for their crops. For more stubborn pests, Twin Springs turns to mother nature for assistance by doing a controlled release of "predator bugs".  These predator bugs help to control the population of harmful pests without chemicals.  I asked what then becomes of the predator bugs and was told they either move on or die off and do not harm or effect the crop in any manner.  There was a bounty of Winter squash (some of the last of the season) amongst their tables, so I decided to pick up a red kuri squash to roast for later.  I also picked up a few red and yellow onions with the intent to caramelize them for something (in my world caramelized onions solve all the world's ills).

As I continued along, I stumbled upon a meat vendor I hadn't really noticed before, Cedarbrook Farm.  Located in West Virginia, Cedarbrook Farm is a certified organic farm that specializes in both raising free range animals and growing a wide variety of vegetables.  Their motto, "no hormones, no preservatives and no fillers" pretty much says it all.  Offering almost every pork product imaginable, Cedarbrook Farm also offers eggs from free range hens.  As was the case with a lot of the vendors, I wasn't able to speak with the person manning their stand because of the glut of people clamoring for everything from shoulder roasts to lard.  While trying to decide if I wanted to buy anything from them, I briefly spoke with a lady in the line.  I asked her if she'd bought anything from them before and she smiled, nodding profusely.  "I just adore their ribs.  When the weather gets warm, I love to throw them on the grill with a hoison sauce marinade."  I tucked that idea away for the upcoming Summer but opted not to buy anything from them this go round.  

Everona Dairy Cheeses While I will freely admit I stopped at my old familiar favorites, Blue Ridge Dairy and Atwater Bakery, I also happened upon another vendor I hadn't really noticed before: Everona Dairy.  Unlike some of the other stands, I was able to freely chat with the lady handing out cheese samples at the stand.  I asked for recommendations for a cheese that would work well with a ravioli.  Almost instantly, she reached for their Cracked Pepper Piedmont, an aged sheep's milk cheese.  Everona Dairy, located in the Piedmont region of Virginia, has won awards for its Piedmont cheese, including the 2005 American Cheese Society's best Farmhouse sheep's milk cheese.  The cracked pepper cheese had a nutty undertone to it, reminiscent of a finely aged parmesan.  The cracked pepper added a kick to the softer tasting cheese, making it perfect for a pasta dish.  I picked up a pound of the cheese with the intent of making a ravioli with the roasted red kuri squash.  However, after making a pizza the previous week, I decided to try my hand at a calzone using a homemade olive oil dough from one of my favorite cookbooks, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Roasted Winter Squash, Carmelized Onion and Mozzarella Calzone
1 lb pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
1 medium sized red kuri squash, roasted
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 large onions, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the red kuri squash in quarters and remove the seeds from each section.  Lightly salt and pepper Finished Calzone each section and place in a roasting pan.  Roast for approximately 45 minutes or until the flesh is soft.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven immediately after the squash has finished roasting.Once cooled, scoop the flesh out of the skin and place in a bowl.  Whip together the flesh until it's a smooth texture.  

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions and let them sit for 45 seconds.  After that, continuously stir the onions as they slowly start to brown and caramelize.  Continue to cook them, stirring constantly, until the onions are fully caramelized, about 20 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the onions to cool.

On a floured surface, roll out half of the dough into an oval shape.  Place the dough on a baker's peel lightly dusted with cornmeal.  Smear one half of the dough with half the roasted squash and then top with half of the cooled onions.  Place a few slices of the fresh mozzarella on top and fold the other side of the dough over the filling.  Pinch the edges to make sure the filling doesn't ooze out during the baking.  Shimmy the calzone off of the peel and onto the stone.  Bake the calzone for 20 to 25 minutes or until it's golden brown.  Repeat this process with the second half of the dough. 

The Dupont Circle Farmers Market is held every Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm (during the Winter), but make sure to come early for the best selection.  Its located on the circle between Massachusetts Avenue and Q Street in the heart of Dupont Circle.


Ricotta, Mushroom and Shallot Pizza

Blue Ridge Dairy Products I took away quite a haul upon my first visit to the Falls Church Farmers Market (a testament to how much I enjoyed the market I suppose).  One of the best finds in my humble opinion was Blue Ridge Dairy.  I will shamefully admit I had never tried anything from Blue Ridge Dairy before.  Although they sell their products at several markets I frequent (including Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle), there is usually quite a line around their stand…and I hate standing in lines.  But after one taste of their Greek style yogurt, I fully understand people’s willingness to stand in queue waiting for a tub of the stuff.  It’s texture and taste are far superior to anything Fage could ever produce and there isn’t a trace of graininess to it. 

Since it was my first time trying Blue Ridge Dairy, I opted to get a small sampling of their products.  Besides the aforementioned yogurt, I also got some of their fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.  The intent was to make a lasagna, but laziness and hunger took over on Wednesday (and a desire to watch Top Chef, which for the record pissed me off).  In the interest of time, I opted instead to make a quick pizza using the ricotta cheese and portobello mushrooms I got from the market and some shallots and garlic from my CSA share.  The resulting meal was more of a rustic hearth bread but just as delicious.  Since I hadn’t made the pizza dough ahead of time, I got the brilliant idea of calling Matchbox to see if they sold their dough.  Sure enough, they did!  I picked up a pound of it after work and headed home to throw together my own personal pan pizza.

Ricotta, Mushroom and Shallot PizzaFinished Pizza
1 pound pizza dough
¾ cup ricotta cheese
4-6 shallots (depending on size), sliced
1 large portabella cap, sliced julienne style
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven.  If not, use a nonstick baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with a small amount of salt and pepper.  Set aside. 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic, cooking until they are browned and softened.  Make sure to stir this mixture regularly to prevent it from burning.  Add in the sliced mushrooms and cook for an additional three to five minutes, or until the mushrooms soften.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Roll out the dough to the desired thickness and place on a baker’s peel sprinkled with corn meal.   Top with the ricotta cheese and the mushroom and onion mixture.  Shimmy the pizza onto the pizza stone (or place it on the baking sheet) and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dough is a golden brown. 


Falls Church Farmers Market

Market Signs On Saturday morning, with a biting cold wind whipping against my face, I headed to the Falls Church Farmers Market for the first time.  I didn't even know this market existed until a reader mentioned it on my post about the Takoma Park Farmers Market.  I will be eternally grateful for that tip because I thoroughly loved this market.  From the fresh crepe stand to the booth of hot coffee, this market had a true communal feel.  All of the market vendors were nice and more than willing to talk about their wares and how to prepare them.  I found some new gems and was pleasantly surprised to see some old favorites.  And considering the number of vendors present during the Winter, I have a feeling this market is hoping during the Spring.

Upon first walking into the market, you're greeted by the smells of freshly brewed coffee from Hondo Coffee Company, a local coffee company with global ideals.  Hondo Coffee Company partners with Project Honduras, an organization created to better developing countries through the means of self sufficiency as opposed to reliance of foreign aid.  The Hondo Coffee Company gets their beans from farms in Honduras who strictly adhere to a no pesticide/fair worker wage policy.  Their mission is to not only provide their customers with the finest coffee but to assist third world countries in responsible and sustaining development. 

Cavana Homemade Fresh Pasta Hondo's next door neighbor was an unassuming little stand with a large banner proclaiming Homemade Fresh Pasta "For People With More TASTE Than TIME".  The vendor, Cavanna Pasta, had a table laden with fresh pastas (from fettuccine to taglierini), homemade sauces (including a delectable looking porcini ragout) and pre-filled raviolis in an assortment of flavors (including pumpkin, porcini and artichoke).  The woman manning the stand was bundled up to the hilt but was still smiling, laughing and offering serving suggestions.  Based in Richmond, Virginia, Cavanna Pasta can also be found at farmers markets in Arlington and Alexandria year round.  Cavanna Pasta also holds the distinction of being voted best pasta by Richmond Magazine in 2006.  I picked up a pound of their fettuccine with the intent of making an easy but delicious alfredo sauce to accompany it.

Atwater Bakery Stand As I walked along, I was happy to see some familiar faces, including Cibola Farms and Atwater's Bakery.  I have a slight obsession with Atwater's 10 Grain Bread (I've spent more time than is probably healthy trying to recreate it in my own kitchen), so I was particularly thrilled to see their familiar row of breads encased in a glass display.  Although the 10 Grain Bread beckoned me to buy a loaf, I opted for the San Francisco sourdough with the intent to turn them into croutons for a soup I had in mind for the week's lunch.  A favorite from my trips to the Takoma Park Farmers Market, Smith Meadow Farm, also had a booth at the market.  I told one of the ladies at the stand I wanted to make a beef stock and she provided me with four pounds of beef soup bones and bone marrow.  As we were calculating the cost of my purchases, I saw they had homemade chicken stock from their very own stew hens, so I added that to the pile.  Although I didn't need it for this week's meals, I knew I could freeze the stock for later use. 

At this point, my market bag was getting rather heavy (and I really felt guilty because my boyfriend Rick was carrying it).  But there was still quite a few vendors left to visit, which surprised me considering it was Winter.  I spotted an unfamiliar meat vendor that, oddly enough, was also a bakery.  Valentine's Country Bakery and Meats had a wide selection of beef, pork and poultry products, as well as a whole other section devoted to breads, pastries and even free range eggs.  I decided to get a pork Boston butt for a slow roasted pork dish I had been planning to make since watching this mini featurette on the DVD Desperado.  Do not ask me why there is a cooking lesson on a movie DVD...just trust me that it's an exceptional recipe to make. 

Rainbow Chard I decided to round out my visit with some lovely mushrooms and a green of some sort.  I first stumbled upon the mushrooms at the Mother Earth Organics stand.  They had a good selection of 'shrooms, including some beautiful portabellas and shiitakes, both of which are great for pasta dishes.  As I was selecting my mushrooms, the vendor asked how I liked my camera, a Canon Rebel XTi.  What began as a simple mushroom purchase happily turned into a discussion on the pros and cons of dSLR cameras.  I immediately decided to throw them into my alfredo sauce, along with a rainbow chard that had caught my eye at Potomac Vegetable Farms.  PVF was first started by the Newcombs back in the mid-60's.  Federal government employees with no farming experience, the Newcombs started the farm with the intent to grow organic produce responsibly.  Now almost five decades later, Hiu Newcomb continues to manage the farm her and her now deceased husband Tony started.  Although no longer certified organic, PVF still adheres strictly to organic farming procedures but have opted out of the sometimes complex and time consuming certification process.  I picked up a bunch of their chard, along with several pounds of potates (for a hearty creamy potato soup for the cold week ahead) and a vibrant bunch of flat leaf parsley.  Heading out, I looked longingly at the crepe stand but the fairly large crowd around it and the lack of feeling in my fingers nixed the idea of a ham and swiss crepe.  Instead, I went home and made a quick but delicious lunch of sauteed mushroom and rainbow chard fettuccine alfredo.

Sauteed Mushroom and Rainbow Chard Fettuccine Alfredo
1 lb fresh fettuccine, cooked and drained
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs (preferably free range since they are used raw in this recipe)
1 bunch rainbow chard, cut into thin ribbons
1 package crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Finished Dish Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta.  While waiting for the water, slice up the mushrooms and the chard and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat up the olive oil on high.  When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms making sure they form a single layer on the bottom of the pan.  Allow the mushrooms to cook for four minutes, but do not stir them!  After the four minutes have passed, sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper and then toss them to coat.  Add the chard and continue to saute until it has wilted.  Set it aside. 

In a warm bowl, add the heavy cream and the eggs, whisking until combined.  Add the cheese and a good grind of fresh pepper.  Whisk again until the cheese is completely incorporated into the egg and cream mixture.  Set this aside.  Salt the boiling water and add the pasta, cooking for two to three minutes.  Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water.  In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the cheese/cream mixture until well coated.  Add the mushrooms and chard and toss again to incorporate.  When serving, feel free to top with some additional cheese. 

The Falls Church Farmers Market is open year round with Winter (January 3 through April 25) hours running from 9 am to noon.  The farmers market is located in the city hall parking lot at 300 Park Avenue.


Takoma Park Farmers Market

Market_sign_with_arrow A few posts ago, I lamented the end of a majority of the farmers markets in the DC metro area.  I mentioned the names of markets I believed were still going to be open during the leaner Winter months.  In response, someone told me about the Takoma Park Farmers Market.  Honestly, I knew nothing about this market or its hours, so I did a bit of searching online.  I found out it wasn't too far from Shaw and it was open on Sundays.  So last Sunday, I headed out to take a look at what the market had to offer. 

It was cold...not just a little cold but COLD.  Vendors were huddled into their jackets, dressed up like Ralphie's little brother from A Christmas Story.  Immediately when I walked into the market were several large tables filled with apples, carrots, potatoes, Winter squashes and various other fruits and vegetables.  One of the people at the stand was explaining the "Seconds" boxes of carrots and onions to an older woman.

"These look a bit sad," she said, fingering the carrots.

"Well that's why they're called seconds.  They're still good but they just look a little funny," he responded.

"Well, they're on sale, so I'll take 'em.  Who cares what they look like when you cut 'em up and put 'em in a roast.”

Yellow_and_orange_carrots These are the exchanges I love at markets.  Not just the obviously odd comments about the aesthetic quality of the produce, but the exchange between farmer and consumer.  Try asking the produce employee at Safeway about the quality of the carrots in their department.  I picked up both yellow and orange carrots (not from the "seconds" bin mind you) and both a red and yellow onion and continued through the market.

I have been looking for a local farmer that sells milk straight from the farm for a while.  Imagine my surprise to find one right there!  J. Wens Farms and Dairy sells whole milk, heavy creams and various other flavored milks (including chocolate).  They also usually sell eggs and cheeses but none were out during my visit.  There was quite a crowd around their table the entire time I was at the market, so I wasn't able to get anything from them this trip.  I do, however, plan on going back and buying some of their milk and heavy cream for my baking (I see more scones in my future).

Smith_meadows_meats As I was walking away from the J. Wens Farms and Dairy stand, I stumbled upon Smith Meadows Farm.  I had always bought meat from the grocery store before I moved to DC (there are not a lot of farmers markets to choose from in Charlotte, NC).  My very first experience with local raised meats was Cibola Farms from the Dupont Circle Farmers Market.  Since then, I always try to get my meats straight from the farms. 

Smith Meadows also had a great selection of poultry (including whole young chickens), beef, pork, eggs, lamb and veal.  After speaking briefly with one of the employees at the stand, I learned they raise their animals in a free-range environment free of chemicals.  Their small table sign summed up their philosophy best:  "to raise animals in a healthy, environmentally sustainable manner."  I had never cooked with lamb before, so I picked up a package of their ground lamb on a whim.

I was pleased as punch to see Keswick Dairy at the market.  I was also quite surprised considering I also knew they had a stand at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sunday.  According to the poor woman standing in the bristling cold at the stand, Keswick runs several stands on Sunday at various markets in the DC area.  Keswick also sells some of their cheeses through local CSAs, including mine, Star Hollow Farm.  As always, there was a nice selection of flavors of feta, so I opted for the Italian Herb one, not having a clue as to what I was going to do with it.  In fact, it's still in my refrigerator waiting for me to decide its fate (and it's still just as fresh).  I was also pleasantly surprised to see Atwater Bakery, one of my absolute favorite vendors at Dupont Circle, at Takoma Park.  I am addicted to their 10 Grain Bread (so much so, I am feverishly trying to recreate it at home), so it's nice to know I have more than one location to get my fix.

Boston_lettuce A beautiful display of greenery caught my eye as I was heading down the aisles of the market.  I sauntered over, with the intent of only looking and taking a few photographs.  Chesapeake Greenhouse had a good variety of lettuces and green mixes, the most prominent being their Boston lettuce.  Their sign proudly stated "locally grown, pesticide free", two of my favorite phrases in the world of farmers markets.  I asked for a bag of the Mesculin mix, even though I was very tempted by the vibrant and crisp looking Boston lettuce. 

Before heading home, I couldn't help but stop by a stand filled with all manner of baked goods.  There were scones, croissants, huge pies, granolas and various strudels, ot name just a few of their items.  Everything looked so good, but I wasn't sure if it was because they really were that tasty or if I was suffering from "hungry man eyes" (you know the phenomenon...everything looks as if Julia Child herselfBeef_empanadas_takoma_kitchens made it because you're starving).  All of these goodies belonged to Takoma Kitchens, a bakery in Hyattsville.  Their Rich Cream scones looked thick and flaky but still sturdy enough to endure multiple dunks in milk (if you're into that sort of thing) and their breads looked just as good as Atwaters.  But what really caught my eye were their selection of empanadas (beef, chicken and vegetable).  I am of Hispanic descent, so I know my empanadas…and love them dearly when done properly.  That, however, is the key:  when done properly.  I was skeptical that a bakery could really make a flavorful empanada, but opted to give it a chance.  I bought the beef empanada and was surprised to find that it was actually rather tasty (not as good as what my family could make, but still quite good).  The dough was sturdy enough to handle all of the filling but still tender.  And the beef was nicely seasoned, although not too spicy (some prefer their empanadas to cause their taste buds to melt off...I am not one of these people).  Even better?  Their beef came from their stand neighbors, Smith Meadows Farm!

I decided to use the lamb in a rustic pot pie I had formulating in my head that weekend.  It was cold outside and I could think of nothing better to counter the weather than a hearty pie filled with meat and veggies.  I opted to forgo a regular pie crust and to instead try phyllo dough.  You can call it lazy but I will call it culinary innovation.

Final_lamb_pot_pie Lamb Pot Pie
1 lb ground lamb
3 large carrots, diced
1/2 lb potatoes, cubed into bite sized pieced
1 large onion, diced
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup all purpose flour
10 sheets phyllo dough
1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water for egg wash
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch pie pan and set it aside.

Brown the ground lamb over medium high heat until cooked through.  Drain it out and set it aside.  In a clean pan, melt three tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the carrots and potatoes first.  Cook for a few minutes before adding the onions and continue cooking until the vegetables have softened.  Add the broth and the heavy cream and continue stirring.  Slowly add in the flour and stir to ensure no lumps form.  Continue to cook until the mixture thickens and then add salt and pepper to taste.  Add in the cooked lamb and stir until it's evenly distributed throughout the vegetable mixture.  Remove from the heat. 

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and with a pastry brush, thinly paint a sheet of the phyllo dough.  Place another sheet over the buttered sheet and continue this process until five sheets are stacked together. Place this stack in the bottom of the pie pan.  Cut off any excess that hangs too far over the pie pan.  Repeat this process again with the remaining five sheets, forming the top crust. Spoon the lamb and vegetable mixture evenly onto the phyllo dough.  Place the top crust over the mixture, tucking the dough into the mixture (so an indention is formed around the pie).  Again, cut off any excess dough that hangs too far over the pan.  Using the cleaned pastry brush, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pie is golden brown and puffed up.

The Takoma Park Farmers Market is located at the corner of Laurel and Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland.  The market is open every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm, year round.


Winter Squash Two Ways

Bounty_of_squash In case you've spent the last few weeks locked inside embroiled in a Guitar Hero marathon jam session, I should point out it's getting cold around here.  With the cold comes a shift in the types of produce available locally.  As I walk through the farmers' markets now, I see a lot more apples, onions, potatoes and turnips.  Don't get me wrong, I love apples (in fact, one of the recipes below feature apples) but nothing is more versatile than Winter squash.  Abundantly available during the infinite season of tubers (also known as Winter), Winter squash comes in over 20 varieties and can be cooked in a surprising number of ways.  From savory (soups, pastas, even pizzas) to sweet (cookies, pies and cakes), Winter squash is the go-to food for the Winter.  Even better, Winter squash is in abundance at local farmers' markets this time of year.

The categorization of squash as Winter and Summer squash is a bit of a misnomer.  Summer squashes are mainly found in the Spring and Summer, but their name is derived from their short storage periods.  Winter squash, on the other hand, can be stored for months after harvested (if kept in a cool, dry place), making them ideal for use during the Winter.  Summer squashes are usually harvested before fully ripe, giving them a softer rind and lighter colored flesh. Winter squashes have a tougher rind, making them more conducive to storing for long periods of time.  And almost as if mimicking the colors of Fall, the flesh of Winter squash come in rich yellows and oranges.  The varieties of Winter squash are broken into five main groups:  Acorn, Delicata, Spaghetti, Butternut and True Winter Squash.  Subtle differences in flavors among the varieties of Winter squash allows cooks to use them in an assortment of recipes.  To illustrate this point, I present to you Winter Squash 2 ways.  For the savory side, a delicious stuffed acorn squash and for the sweet tooth, a roasted butternut squash cheesecake.  All of the ingredients for the stuffed acorn squash were purchased at the Dupont Circle farmers' market (except the sausage, a lovely whiskey fennel I picked up at Eastern Market).

Finished_dishStuffed Acorn Squash
2 large acorn squash
2 large shallots, diced
1 large granny smith (or another tart variety) apple, cored and diced
1 pound of sausage
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Carefully cut each squash in half (the rind is tough, so use a good, sharp knife and be prepared to flex some muscle) and place them face down in a nonstick roasting pan.  Roast for at least one hour or until the flesh has softened.  Set the squashes aside and allow them to cool.  During the squash cooling period, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and saute the shallots and apples until softened.  Remove the shallots and apples from the pan and squeeze the sausages out of their casings and into the pan.  Cook the sausage fully and then add in the apple/shallot mixture.  Add the thyme, salt and pepper and cook for another five minutes.

When the acorn squashes have cooled, carefully scoop out their flesh while preserving their “casing”.  Add the squash flesh to the sausage mixture, stirring to incorporate it evenly.  Spoon the sausage mixture back into each acorn squash casing (there will be more than enough of the sausage mixture to evenly stuff all the acorns) and serve!

Finished_cheesecake Roasted Butternut Squash Cheesecake
For the filling:
4 eight ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs
½ cup whipping cream
1 ½ cups roasted butternut squash flesh, whipped

For the roasted butternut squash flesh:
1 butternut squash, halved with the seeds removed
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

For the crust:
8 tablespoons butter, melted
25 to 35 Vanilla Wafers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place the Vanilla Wafers in a food processor and pulse until pulverized.  Combine the melted butter and Vanilla Wafers in a bowl.  Press the mixture into a greased 9 inch springform pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, checking to make sure the crust does not burn.  Set the crust aside while you make the filling.

Cut the squash in half and place in a roasting pan.  Brush the halves with melted butter and sprinkle with the pumpkin spice and brown sugar.  Roast the squashes for approximately 45 minutes or until the flesh is tender.  Allow the squash to cool before scooping out the flesh.  Whip the flesh until no longer lumpy with a whisk and set aside.

Combine the cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch in a stand mixer and cream together on low until the mixture is smooth.  Increase the speed to medium and add in the vanilla, eggs, squash flesh and the cream.  Continue beating until the batter is smooth and creamy.  Pour the batter into the springform pan.  Place the pan in a water bath (a large shallow pan filled partially with hot water) and bake the cake for an hour.  After an hour, gently shake the springform pan to see if the center jiggles.  If the center does jiggle, continue baking for another ten minutes.  Check again to see if the center jiggles and if it does, continue baking for another ten minutes.  Repeat this procedure until the cheesecake no longer jiggles in the center.  Be careful not to burn the top of the cheesecake by rotating the pan in the oven each time you check the center.  Once finished baking, remove the springform pan from the water bath and allow the cheesecake to cool completely.  Refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight) before serving. 


Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Ginger Soup

Veggies_at_the_market Let’s face it - this time of year is difficult for lovers of fresh, local produce.  A majority of the farmers markets are closed, save for Dupont Circle, Eastern Market, Penn Quarter (until December 18th at least) and the one in Arlington; there are only so many things you can do with potatoes; and what the hell is this odd looking tuber thing in my CSA box?  Believe it or not, there are still plenty of fruits and vegetables in season in the metro DC area.  And I’m here to help you not only find them, but turn them into delicious, hearty meals. 

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest farmers markets open year round is the FreshFarm market at Dupont Circle.  Open every Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm (the starting time switches to 10 am in January), the market is a wonderful source for local produce, meats and dairy products during the colder months.  In  December, you can find an assortment of potatoes, turnips, onions, carrots, beets and a variety of greens (from arugula to kale).  While there are fewer vendors at the market during the winter, there are still more than enough from which to choose. 

Carrots_at_the_market Next Step Produce is a family-run farm in Charles County, Maryland that can still be found at the farmers market during the colder time of year.  The husband and wife team of Heinz Thomet and Gabrielle Lajoie use organic farming techniques to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers that they sell not only through Dupont Circle Farmers Market, but also through a CSA in Vienna and directly from their farm.  You can sign up to receive weekly lists of their harvested vegetables and place an order with them by a specified day.  Arrangements are then made for the customer to pick up their order.   Heinz and Gabrielle are also committed to teaching others about the benefits and techniques of sustainable agriculture.  They offer people the chance to work on their farm, located just 50 miles outside of Washington, DC to learn the principles of responsible and conscientious farming. 

The Farm at Sunnyside is another year round vendor at the local farmers markets, thanks to their four season farm production method.  Like Next Step Produce, The Farm at Sunnyside is a strong proponent of sustainable agriculture and using farming techniques that preserve the land for future generations.  Located in Rappahannock County, Virginia, this certified organic farm sells in season vegetables, tree fruit and eggs from free range hens.  Owned by Nick and Gardiner Lapham, the Farm at Sunnyside also operates a CSA (however, they are currently not accepting new subscribers) and sells their produce directly to restaurants in the Virginia, Maryland and DC areas.  The farm’s idyllic location (at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains) also makes it a favorite farm visit destination for Virginians.  You can find their products at Dupont Circle year round and at Penn Quarter Farmer’s Market until December 18th. 

Onions_at_the_market I stopped by both Next Step Produce and The Farm at Sunnyside recently and picked up some carrots, sweet potatoes, celery and onions.  Along with some garlic and thyme from my own CSA box, I decided to create a curried carrot and sweet potato ginger soup for my week’s lunch.  Because all soup requires a stock or broth of some kind, I opted to use the abundance of vegetables from my CSA to create a vegetable stock for the soup.  This is the perfect time of year to create vegetable stocks because there really is only so much you can do with carrots, celery and onions.  You can then freeze the stock using freezer bags, a freezer hearty container or in ice cube trays.  And since it’s winter, you will need a lot of stock for the many, many, many soups and pot roasts one inevitably makes when it turns cold.

Vegetable Stock

1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves (the only item I did not get locally)
Freshly ground pepper
6 cups water

In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a low boil.  Reduce the heat and allow the stock to simmer for one hour.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Strain out the vegetables and herbs and store the stock for later use.

Soup_1 Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Ginger Soup

1 large onion, diced
3 cups cubed sweet potatoes
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons curry powder
3 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until tender (about five minutes).  Add the sweet potatoes and carrots and cook for two minutes.  Add the paprika, curry powder and ginger and stir to make sure the spices mix in with all of the vegetables.  Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the Dutch oven and allow the mixture to cook for 35 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the salt and pepper and allow the mixture to cook for another 5 minutes. 

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.  Working in batches, pour some of the soup into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.  Repeat the same steps until all of the soup has been blended. 


Penn Quarter Farmers Market

Front_sign After work on Thursday, I headed over to the Penn Quarter Farmers Market to pick up some items for a Thanksgiving side dish I had in mind.  To say that it was cold was an understatement (even in mittens, my hands were freezing), but my friend James and I braved to cold nonetheless. 

The Penn Quarter Farmers Market, part of the FreshFarm Market organization of farmers markets in the DC metro area, was established in 2003 and is a stone's throw from the National Mall.  I have frequented the market several times before because of its close proximity to my office and its hours (3 pm to 7 pm), but usually only during the high growing season.  At its busiest, the Penn Quarter Farmers Market has 18 food vendors, ranging from fruits and vegetables to meat and dairy.  Visitors of this market tend to enjoy the convenience of its location to their offices and the hours (like myself), which means they can pick up something fresh from the farm for dinner that night.  I use it as a market to supplement what I am scheduled to receive in my CSA box or to pick up a nice loaf of bread or a pastry from The Bread Ovens at Quail Creek Farm for that evening.  This time, however, I had an express mission to find the remaining ingredients for my stuffing for a Thanksgiving potluck dinner.

I don't usually put mushrooms in stuffing and had no intentions of doing so until I stopped by the Mushroom Stand.  Run by Ferial Welsh, the stand sells mushrooms grown in Chester County, Pennsylvania that are certified organic. The Mushroom Stand only sells mushrooms from Phillips Mushroom Farms and Mother Earth Organic Mushroom Farms which are not mass produced mushrooms from huge agribusiness conglomerations and their quality speaks for themselves.  Even though it was biting cold, Ferial was kind enough to offer me suggestions for mushrooms that would compliment a savory stuffing.  She handed me a sample of a maitake mushroom, telling me it had a mellow, woodsy flavor that would work well in a stuffing.  I had never even heard of a maitake mushroom, let alone tasted one, so I was a bit skeptical.  However, she was dead on in her recommendation.  Not only did it have a refined, earthy taste to it, it wasn't overly chewy like some mushrooms can be - even when cooked. I tweaked the recipe I had in mind a little in my head and continued on in search of bread.

Quail_creek_farm_stand The busiest stand by far at the Penn Quarter Farmers Market is the Bread Ovens at Quail Creek Farm.  Located on the Potomac River in West Virginia, The Bread Ovens at Quail Creek Farm use no preservatives or unnecessary additives in their breads, pastries, cookies and scones.  If you are anything like me, this is a big selling point, as I am a label reader.  If I can't pronounce it, it doesn't go in my body.  I have spoken with various workers at the stand on several occasions about their baking process and their ingredients and have always received the same information.  Their flours come from local millers and their yeast is fresh from breweries in their area (if only I could get in on some of those ingredients).  When I asked which bread would work well as a stuffing, one of the guys pointed to a huge boule (and by huge, I mean it could also double as an ottoman) that I was almost convinced served as an anchor for the entire bread stand.  This would definitely be more than enough bread to create a stuffing for a Thanksgiving meal (or a small army…which sometimes actually describes my family Thanksgiving dinners).  Just as I was getting my change back, the crowd began to swell, so I high tailed it out with my ottoman sized bread.

Penn_quarter_market My final stop was Cibola Farms, a vendor I know quite well from my visits to Dupont Circle Farmers Market.  Cibola Farms is a meat purveyor that sells bison, poultry, pork products and goats (yes, I said goats).  On my first visit to Cibola at Dupont Circle, I spoke with one of the workers for about 20 minutes about their farm processes and slaughter methods.  Their animals are not caged but are instead allowed to roam and graze on actual grass.  Rather than using chemicals or overworking the land with heavy machinery, Cibola Farms uses their hogs and goats to maintain the grass for grazing.  After that very informative discussion (I will spare you the details of their slaughter methods, but trust me when I say they are humane), I have been a regular customer.  I have tried everything from their bison (a slightly sweeter meat than beef but with its own strong flavors) to their pork sausages.  And it was their sage pork sausage that I had in mind for the stuffing.  I picked up a package and called it a day.

On Saturday morning, I gathered the onions, apples, fresh sage and celeriac from my CSA box, along with the bread, sausage and mushrooms from the market and decided to make a small test batch of the stuffing.  My family takes their stuffing very seriously (an entire Thanksgiving meal was ruined once because a family friend had the audacity to show up with dressing, not stuffing…big mistake), something that has been ingrained in me.  Although I won't be able to make it to Georgia for a family Thanksgiving, I will not show up to a potluck dinner with mediocre stuffing.  And since this was a recipe I was making on the fly, I had to be sure all the ingredients worked well together.  I was amazed at how well the celeriac, the root of celery, worked along with the mushrooms and apples, giving a sweetly subtle depth to the heartier flavors in the stuffing.  A perfect addition to any Thanksgiving dinner.

Stuffing_better Sausage, Apple and Mushroom Stuffing

2 loaves of quality white bread, torn into bite sized pieces
1 large onion (or 2 medium sized onions), diced
1 celeriac (the root of the celery), peeled and diced
2 apples (whichever apples are in season in your area), diced
32 ounces vegetable or chicken stock (preferably homemade), warmed up slightly
1 container maitake (or shiitake) mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh sage
1 pound sage pork sausage
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Grease a large casserole dish and set it aside.  Spread the bread pieces out on cookie sheets and bake them in the oven 5-10 minutes or until slightly golden.  In a large skillet, brown the sausage and then place it in a very large bowl (the bowl must be big enough to combine all of the ingredients).  Add the onions, celeriac, mushrooms and apples to the same skillet, season with the salt and pepper and cook until softened.  Add the onion mixture to the sausage and then slowly start adding the bread cubes.  Thoroughly incorporate the bread cubes into the other ingredients before adding another handful. 

Once all of the bread has been added, toss in the sage and give the mixture another good stir.  Pour in a portion of the stock and then stir it into the bread mixture.  Continue this process until the bread mixture is moist but not a soggy mess.  Pour the stuffing into the casserole dish, cover it with aluminum foil and bake it for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil from the stuffing and continue baking it for another 10-15 minutes or until it is golden brown (but not burnt).


Turkey Time: With All These Options Why Buy Frozen?

Thanks_goodeatsroastturkey_lg With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, some of you have probably already selected the bird for your holiday feast.  Who am I kidding?  Some of you more dedicated foodies probably picked your bird soon after it was hatched and tracked its growth all season long!

For those of you who are still searching for that ideal turkey, however, we're happy to provide you with a pretty extensive list of options.  Last year, Ramona walked you through the essentials of selecting a bird for your Thanksgiving feast.  If you didn't read it then, take a few minutes and check it out.  Once you've got a better handle on what you're looking for, check out the list below to find the purveyor that works best for you.

We found that prices can actually vary significantly from farm to farm and even between the farm and retailers for the same turkeys, so you may want to take convenience into consideration as you make your choice.  Is it Img_1095 worth a twenty-minute (or more) trip to save a dollar or two per pound?

Once you've made up your mind, do yourself a favor and call to confirm the details - you may even be able to place your order over the phone right then and there.  That way, you'll maximize your chances to get a turkey that is roughly the size you want.

If you've got any questions about what we've found, feel free to leave a comment and we'll do our best to resolve them for you.

Enjoy...and save a drumstick for us!

Washington-Area Sources for Fresh Thanksgiving Turkeys:

Local Retailers:

Capitol Hill Poultry
Eastern Market's new East Hall
7th Street between Pennsylvania and North Carolina Avenues, SE
Washington, DC  20003
(202) 544-4435
Cost: $2.79 per pound with a $10 or $20 deposit

One of the two poultry vendors at Eastern Market, Capitol Hill Poultry can be found at the far end of the temporary East Hall.  They'll be bringing in fresh Maple Lawn turkeys in sizes from 10 to 30 pounds for pickup on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  They require a deposit or $10 or $20 depending on the size of the turkey you order, and your best bet is to stop in to fill out the request form in person.  Alternatively, you can call in your order at the number listed above.  At roughly a dollar more per pound than Maple Lawn is charging for on-site pickup, this is a pretty minimal markup to get your bird right on Capitol Hill.

Let's Meat on the Avenue
2403 Mt Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA 22336
(703) 836-6328
Cost: Local = $3.25 per pound; Eberly organic turkeys = $5.45 per pound

Boutique butcher Stephen Gatward's Del Ray shop will be selling both local and organic turkeys and will be taking orders until Thursday.  He expects most of the birds he brings in will be between 10 and 14 pounds, but the earlier you order the better your chances of getting the size you desire.  His local turkeys are free-range, raised without steroids and hormones.  The Eberly birds come from Pennsylvania, and they are the same organic turkeys that Balducci's is selling.

Market Poultry
Eastern Market's new East Hall
7th Street between Pennsylvania and North Carolina Avenues, SE
Washington, DC  20003
(202) 543-7470
Cost: $1.99 per pound

The second vendor at Eastern Market, Mel Inman and son are selling local turkeys from Hillside Farm and Eastern Shore for $1.99 per pound in weights ranging from 8 to 28 pounds.  They'll be taking orders through next Sunday.  If you've always wanted a fried turkey but worry about your fire insurance, they will also be selling fried turkeys up to 14 pounds for $1.99 per pound plus a $30 frying charge.  To order a fried turkey, stop in and pay the $30 as a deposit and place your order before next Saturday.

Organic Butcher of McLean
6712 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, VA  22101
(703) 790-8300
Cost: Natural = $3.49 per pound; Organic = $4.49 per pound; Local = $6.99 per pound

Offering two size ranges (8-13 pounds and 13-18 pounds), the Organic Butcher of McLean will be bringing in three different types of turkeys for every taste.  If you want a local turkey, you'll need to get your order in by the 24th.  For an organic bird, you should be able to walk in purchase one right up to Wednesday, the 26th.  Very convenient for anyone whose Thanksgiving plans end up coming together at the very last minute!

National Retailers:

Balducci's will be offering all-natural turkeys from New York's Plainville Farms for $2.59 per pound and organic turkeys from Pennsylvania's Eberly Farms for $3.99 per pound.  They also have several oven-ready and pre-cooked options available.

Marvelous Market has one option for your holiday turkey: a maple-thyme roasted turkey breast for $69.99.

Trader Joe's will be offering brined all-natural turkeys for $1.79 per pound and Glatt kosher all-natural turkeys for $2.29 per pound.  Both will be delivered fresh (not frozen) to their stores, who are keeping sign-up sheets.  Stop in to pre-order.

Whole Foods has natural free-range turkeys for $2.49 per pound and organic turkeys for $3.49 per pound.  Check out their "Holiday Table" section for a wide range of oven-ready options and ask in your local store if you want to know the provenance of their turkeys.

Local Farms:

Ayrshire Farm
c/o The Home Farm Store
1 East Washington Street
Middleburg, VA
(540) 687-8882
Cost: 10-12 pounds = $135; 14-16 pounds = $165; 18-20 pounds = $180

By far the most expensive option out there, Ayrshire Farm's turkeys are "Free-Range, Certified Organic and Certified Humanely-Raised and Handled Heritage Breed."  They are "produced without hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers.  Our birds are free-ranging with full access to the outdoors and are fed 100% certified organic feeds without animal by-products."  If you live in Hunt Country and Middleburg isn't too far a drive for you, this is certainly a top-quality option.  You can order by phone or online (email orders@homefarmstore.com) and pick up in store from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Wednesday the week of Thanksgiving.  They require a non-refundable $50 deposit to hold your turkey.

Eco-Friendly Foods
3397 Stony Fork Road
Moneta, VA  24121
(540) 297-9582
Cost: $3.85 per pound<

Eco-Friendly will be bringing their locally and humanely-raised turkeys to the Courthouse and Dupont Circle farmers' markets next Saturday and Sunday, respectively, but you need to pre-order to pick one up.  You can pre-order online by emailing letsmeat@ecofriendly.com with your name, phone number, email address and the approximate weight range you'd like.  You'll also need to pre-pay a $40 deposit, payable via Paypal.

Fields of Athenry
38082 Snickersville Turnpike
Purcellville, VA  20132
(540) 687-3936
Cost: $7.25 per pound

"Truly all-natural, free range, broad-breasted birds" are offered by Fields of Athenry, in weights from 15 to 35 pounds.  You can order via email by filling out this form and sending it to MElaineBoland@aol.com.  Be sure to include a credit card number for the $40 deposit.  You can pick up your bird onsite on Monday 4-7 PM, Tuesday or Wednesday from 9 AM to 7 PM.  A word to the wise - the Organic Butcher of McLean has indicated that some of their local turkeys, which will be selling for $6.99 per pound, may be coming from here.

Jehovah-Jireh Farms
7033 Ed Sears Road
Dickerson, MD  20842
(301) 874-6181
Cost: $3.79 per pound

Jehovah-Jireh will be offering pastured turkeys in weights ranging from 10 to 18 pounds for pickup onsite the week of Thanksgiving.  You can arrange to pick up your bird on Monday or Tuesday from 1 to 7 PM or Wednesday from 9 to 5 PM.  They can't guarantee a specific sized turkey, so you may want to show up as early as possible to improve the odds of getting just what you want.

Maple Lawn Farm
11788 Scaggsville Road (Route 216)
Fulton, MD  20759
(301) 725-2074
Cost: Hens (smaller) = $1.95 per pound; Toms (larger) = $1.75 per pound; Smoked = $4.50 per pound

Maple Lawn Farm provides free-range turkeys to a number of local retailers, but you can't beat the price if you're willing to pick them up on site.  Even with the $3 per bird 'drawing charge' - the charge to clean and prepare your bird for cooking - you're still saving a dollar or more per pound relative to what you'll pay if you buy from a retailer in Washington.  Pickup is available Monday through Wednesday from 7 AM to 5 PM, and you can email your request to maplelawnturkeys@comcast.net.  Check out their site for ordering information.

Springfield Farm
16701 Yeoho Road
Sparks, MD  21152
(410) 472-0738
Cost: Natural broad-breasted white = $2.75 per pound; Pastured broad-breasted white = $4.00 per pound; Pastured heritage or broad-breasted bronze = $5.75 per pound

Springfield Farm raises several breeds of turkeys, including a few of the more prized heritage breeds.  If you're looking to try a taste of classic Americana, these turkeys promise deeper, richer flavors than your average roaster.  To order in advance, you can call or email - just be ready to drive north of Baltimore to pick up your turkey next Saturday and Sunday.  Added bonus: the world headquarters of spice giant McCormick is located in Sparks!  No word on whether they offer tours or free samples, but it's something else to do while you're up there.

Want to see if there are other sellers that might be more convenient to you?  The Maryland Department of Agriculture offers a more comprehensive list of Maryland farms selling turkeys directly to consumers at http://www.mda.state.md.us/md_products/md_turkey_farms.php.


Bloomingdale Farmers Market

Farmers_market_sign One of the many benefits of living in the Washington, DC area is its proximity to many farming communities.  Farms abound in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, giving the DC area an abundance of opportunities to shop for locally grown, largely organic, produce, meats and dairy products.  Through farmers' markets, community supported agriculture (more about that concept later) and farm stands within driving distance of the District, it's easy to find healthy, quality food at a price that doesn't resemble our national debt.  One such option is the local farmers' market and luckily, DC has many to choose from on almost any given day of the week. 

On Sunday, I decided to trek over to the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, on R and 1st Street NW, conveniently located next to the Big Bear Café.  Although a relatively new market, Bloomingdale has grown exponentially over the last year, bringing in new vendors to meet the demands of the growing neighborhood.  Robin Shuster, the Bloomingdale Farmers Market manager, has been working hard to add a variety of sellers to the market and her efforts have been successful.  The market now has sellers of all meats (beef, lamb, pork, veal and even goat), cheeses, vegetables, fruits and breads and pastries!

Keswick_creamery_2 A new vendor to the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market is Keswick Creamery, a dairy farm located in Newburg, Pennsylvania that is committed to raising their cows in a humane and organic fashion.  Their cheeses are made using the freshest of ingredients and the result is in the amazingly sharp flavors of their cheeses.  Their cheeses include cheddars, fetas (including my favorite – their Italian herb feta), bleu cheeses and a pepper jack they lovingly call Dragon's Breath.  In addition to their hard cheeses, Keswick sells yogurt, Quark (a German style cream cheese), whole milk ricotta and a soft cheese of fresh herbs called Bovre. 

As I walked along the market, my eyes were immediately drawn to a lovely display of shiitake mushrooms.  Dennis from Greenstone Fields Farm had a nice little haul of these earthy beauties, along with a big silver tub full of fresh rosemary.  The rosemary was so fragrant, I could smell it the second I came to the stand.  Dennis said the log grown shiitakes were probably the last for the season, so I grabbed a big container, along with a bunch of the rosemary. 

Shiitake_mushrooms The mushrooms and rosemary would make great additions to an idea for a chuck roast that was forming in my head.  And thanks to Robin's efforts, I could pick up said chuck roast right there at the market.  Truck Patch Farms not only has a slew of vegetables (including brussel sprouts, a variety of greens, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes to name a few), they also sell beef.  Huge chunks of beef might I add.  The smallest roast I could find was over four pounds and FRESH!  Truck Patch, like Keswick Creamery, treats their cows in a humane manner and provides a grass fed, natural diet for them. 

Chez_hareg_breads_2 I added the roast to my lovely pile of purchases and then decided it was time for some breakfast.  With that in mind, I headed to the lovely ode to carbs that is Panorama Artisanal Bakery.  I will freely admit my almost slavish devotion to breads, pastries and pretty much anything made with flour.  But the sight of the croissants, danishes and beautifully dark loaves of pumpernickel stopped me.  Sadly, I only stopped because I couldn't decide what I wanted to devour first.  The variety of loaves and pastries that were available was impressive, especially for an outdoor market.  Even better?  Panorama had an assortment of sweet brioches…something I haven't seen in a bakery since my childhood in Germany.  The cheese Danish I purchased was flaky without being delicate and had a subtly sweet filling.  The perfect breakfast snack for such a lovely Fall day.

The lovely roast was the center of my attention when I got it home.  I've played around with variations of pot roast for years and find mushrooms, rosemary and wine to make a lovely sauce compliment to any beef.  The recipe I devised was simple, allowing for the freshness of the ingredients to take center stage.  The result was a tender roast marinated in a rich, woodsy sauce.

Shiitake Mushroom Pot Roast

4 lb chuck roast, boneless
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, sliced
1 container shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, finely diced
32 ounces beef stock (preferably homemade)
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Finished_roast_2 Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Pat the roast dry and sprinkle it liberally with salt and ground pepper.  Place it in the Dutch oven and brown the roast on both sides for about three minutes each side.  Remove the roast from the Dutch oven and allow it to rest on a plate.  Add the garlic to the Dutch oven and sauté it for about two minutes before adding the onions.  Sauté until browning and then toss in the mushrooms.  Stir the mixture until the mushrooms have softened.  Add the red wine and the beef stock and then place the roast back into the Dutch oven.  Sprinkle in the rosemary and allow the broth to come to a boil.  Once boiling, remove the Dutch oven from the stove and place it in the oven.  Bake the roast for 2 ½ to 3 hours, depending on the level of doneness you desire.  When the roast is cooked, remove it from the oven and take it out of the Dutch oven.  Place the Dutch oven on the stove over medium high heat and add a tablespoon of cornstarch slowly into the broth.  Stir consistently in order to reduce lumps.  Allow the sauce to boil down to a thick gravy consistency.  Serve the roast with the gravy, which should have lovely bits of mushrooms and onions, on top!

Although the Bloomingdale Farmers Market is still relatively small (especially compared to Dupont Circle and Eastern Market's offerings), it is a welcome addition to the LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale/Shaw area of DC.  The market will remain open until the weekend on November 22, just in time for Thanksgiving.  The market is open every Sunday, rain or shine from 10 am to 2 pm.