Mirepoix -- From the French, a mix of aromatics that provide the savory foundation of a recipe. From The City Cook, a periodic report on things that have been collecting on my desk.
I'm just back from a two-and-a-half week trip to Italy. It was all-holiday and it was wonderful. My husband and I rented an apartment in Florence for the first two weeks and then spent four days in Rome on our way home. We had rented the apartment before, about five years ago, so we knew we could count on a fully equipped Italian kitchen, plus a huge window that overlooked a flowering magnolia tree in the next door garden of the Palazzo Antinori.
I'm going to write more in the coming weeks about the experience of shopping in the local mercatos, fornos, and alimentaris (i.e., open air markets, bakeries, and little neighborhood food shops) and especially some new things I learned about buying olive oils and vinegars. In the meantime I'm still unpacking, forcing myself back to the gym after all that gelati, and dealing with the wall of work that inevitably greets us after a long vacation.
When we left New York for Italy it was still chilly. But coming home, we found spring had assuredly arrived, and that means local produce is on its way.
- On June 5 New Amsterdam Market will begin its schedule of weekly markets every Sunday (except July 3, September 4 and November 27). The outdoor markets are held, rain or shine, at the Old Fulton Fish Market at South Street and Peck Slip in Lower Manhattan. Their roster of vendors is bigger and better than ever; see the Market's website, NewAmsterdamMarket.org, for a detailed list plus directions to the market.
- Those New York City Greenmarkets that are only held during the spring and summer are beginning to open. This year there will be 54 Greenmarkets located throughout the five boroughs, with more than 230 farmers and fishermen participating. Visit GrowNYC.org for all the details, including which markets have textile and rechargeable battery recycling sites, which accept EBT/food stamps, and where you can do compost drop-offs.
- A heads-up on Greenmarket shopping: prices can vary from market to market just as prices can vary from one grocery store to another. Last summer I happened to visit the huge Greenmarket at Union Square the day after I had shopped at a much smaller one in my neighborhood where I had bought several quarts of sour cherries. In my neighborhood, the cherries were $3.00 a quart; at Union Square they were $5.00. Different farmers, same quality, but huge price difference. So if you've got the time, and especially if you're buying a large quantity of something to freeze or can (as I was going to do with the cherries), shop around because it can make a big difference.
- Many of New York's CSAs are still accepting applications. You can check out ones near home or work at Just Food, or if you live outside of New York, visit LocalHarvest.org where you can search for CSAs nationally by zip code.
- Increasingly CSAs are offering much more than fruits, vegetables, and eggs. This season the much-loved Flying Pigs Farm, which sells its glorious pork products year-round at Grand Army Plaza and Union Square, launched its first CSA. It has since become fully subscribed but they have plans to do another one later in the summer so check in with them either on their website or at Facebook.
- Another new meat and poultry CSA is Local Roots, which is based in Brooklyn's Windsor Terrace neighborhood. They're still accepting members for the 2011 summer season and offer half and full shares in duck from Hudson Valley Duck Farm and beef from Grazin Angus Acres. This CSA also offers bread from Orwasher Bakery and monthly deliveries of grains, beans and flour from Cayuga Pure Organics. Their membership deadline is May 23rd. Visit LocalRootsNYC.org for more information.
Fresh Ideas For What To Cook
With all the great ingredients coming into our Greenmarkets and CSAs, there's still the inevitable conundrum of "what's for dinner?" If you need some inspiration, here are two of my favorite places to visit:
Food52.com. I love the community of cooks that have come together at this site edited by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. They recently did a competition called "The Recipe You Want To Be Remembered For" and I was intrigued by some of the choices (e.g.,bubblegum marshmallows). And equally stumped by how I'd answer that question. If you cook often for friends and family, it would be interesting to ask others what they love most of what you make for them.
Saveur.com. The website for the magazine with the same name, Saveur.com is generous with recipes, including ones from the current newsstand issue. The May 2011 cover story is "Secrets of Mexican Cooking" and many of the recipes are on the website. But I'm turning to their collection of 22 artichoke recipes to make tasty use of the two huge and gorgeous artichokes I bought a day ago at Whole Foods. Having just come back from Rome where we ate artichokes daily, I'm nostalgic for the deep fried whole carciofo alla giudia, a specialty of Jewish Roman cuisine, although I'm more likely to do Saveur's recipe for Braised Veal Breast with Artichokes, leaving the crispy carciofo as a flavor memory.
James Beard Award Winners
A final bravo to two authors who are friends of The City Cook and who have shared their passion and expertise in our podcast series.
Paul Greenberg won for Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, in the "Writing and Literature" category.
And Mark Bitterman, author of Salted: A Manifesto On The World's Most Essential Ingredient, With Recipes, in the "Reference and Scholarship" category, although this makes it sound like a chemistry treatise -- it's not -- it's lively and very engaging, just as Mark is in his interview with us. See our links.