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Market Report

September 16, 2014 - Radio Kitchen - Market Report

Apples are the September specialty crop.

Right about now we are seeing a very detectable transition from summer to autumn, especially in the markets.  On the one hand there is amazing abundance, but on the other some items are going out of season for the year, so you may have to move fast for some of your favorite things.

I love eating melons all summer long, and I love buying them from my friend Billy Caulk of Pine Grove Farm.  By now, in mid-September, the cantaloupe are on their last legs.  So you'd better move fast.  But honeydew, Juan Canary, the Snow Leopard honeydew plus the small French Charentais are still around.  Amazingly, watermelon will be with us for quite a while.  Bill has some unusual offerings:  there's a sweet orange flesh watermelon called Tendersweet; a yellow seedless called Amarillo; Sweet Gem, a small round sugar baby; Sangria, an old-school seeded watermelon; and Sweet Polly, a big old icebox seedless melon in the classic style.

One thing I've seen a lot of are tomatillos.  These cute little guys, wrapped up in a papery outer husk, are a staple of Mexican cooking.  They may look sort of like tomatoes, but they are actually more closely related to gooseberries.   They have a very pleasant bitterness that sets off the sweetness of regular tomatoes.

It's also a great time for squash, since the thin-skinned summer varieties are still available, as are the small pattipan types, and the thick-skinned winter varieties are coming on-line.    

We're seeing all sorts of cabbage out there, and I think that is worthy of a show in its own right.

Tomatoes will be around for a little while longer, and it might be a good time to stock up and can some sauce for the winter.  Smaller cherry tomatoes seem to be in very good supply, and they are as sweet as candy.

I stopped by the stand for One Straw Farm and talked with owner Joan Norman about some of her tomatoes.  She showed me the strangest looking tomato I've ever seen:  it was the size and shape of a sweet potato.  She calls it her "Tony" tomato after her neighbor who gave her the seeds.  Apparently it is great for making sauces, with all its delicious pulp.

She has a great assortment of small tomatoes including Romanita, a sweet little yellow pear shaped number, and Black Prince, a dark tomato with an intense earthy flavor.

Peppers are still here in abundance.  She had a dramatic black pepper, some nice purple ones, plenty of green bells turning red (a perfect time for eating them, she mentioned) and my absolute favorite, the Lipstick pepper.  This little long orange pepper is the sweetest pepper I've ever tasted.  I took it home and had it raw in a salad with tomatoes.      

Eggplants are still around.  Joan gave me an easy recipe for "Eggplant Hash": skin the vegetable, and cut it up into small 1/2" cubes.  Boil them for 10 minutes and then pour them batch by batch into a fine mesh strainer.  You'll want to press them down and get rid of all the water you can.  After that, sauté them in oil with onion and garlic until they brown.  You can improvise with this dish, adding potatoes, peppers and whatever herbs and seasonings you want, but Joan likes the simplest preparation.

Finally, friends of One Straw Farm know that they have never been able to grow carrots...until now.  Joan found a variety called Bolero that germinates far more easily than any carrot she's ever tried.  These six inch long blunt cigar shaped carrots are wonderful.  Congratulations, Joan, it's been a long time coming.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.