The Edmond Sun

August 13, 2012

At farmers markets, home cooks see produce not offered to chefs

Joe Bonwich
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

WIRE — Even before chef Anthony Devoti opened Five Bistro about six years ago, he was cultivating relationships with St. Louis-area farmers. You might expect, then, that he gets the pick of the crop when he buys local produce.

You’d be wrong.

“There are some things they just won’t sell me at the restaurant,” Devoti said as he browsed booths on a recent Saturday morning at Tower Grove Farmers Market in St. Louis.

For example, Devoti said, some growers sell specialty tomatoes and other heirloom vegetables only at the market. That contrasts with the early days of his restaurant, when some suppliers would approach him because they wanted him to introduce foods and preparations to his customers.

Now, however, many of those items have become familiar to home cooks. The farmers can sell them at a higher price to consumers than to chefs.

“It’s also really helped them that virtually everybody (in the restaurant business) keeps getting more and more local,” Devoti said.

Most of the produce he buys at the market is for his family, but he also browses the stands for inspiration for recipes that may make the seasonal menus at his restaurant.

For example, he grabbed a couple of containers of yellow plums, some elegantly formed ball squash and some pale carrots, as well as more standard items such as beets, corn and pickling cucumbers.

Everything is just so vibrant right now, he said.

“If you come to the market every week, these people will get to know you and your tastes,” he said. “When they have something new, they’ll say, ‘Here, you have to try this.’”



A CHEF’S TIPS FOR GOING TO MARKETS

Chef Anthony Devoti of Five Bistro offers these suggestions for shopping at farmers markets:

• Arrive early if you’re looking for unusual produce or for items that probably will sell out quickly, such as berries, squash blossoms and fruits at the beginning or end of their seasons.

• Before you buy, make a circuit of the market to evaluate quality and prices.

• Ask questions. Farmers may offer advice on preparation and recipes, and they’ll get to know you if you come to their booths regularly.

• Sign up for email lists and make note of vendors with Facebook pages and other social-media communications. Many sellers provide product lists before they arrive at a market.

• When you get home, keep it simple. Take advantage of colors, shapes and textures, but limit the amount of ingredients that you use so that seasonal flavors take center stage. Simple techniques such as roasting are often the best for highlighting vegetables’ and fruits’ natural flavors.



ROASTED BEETS

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh beets, leaves and most of the stems removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh rosemary, thyme or sage

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash beets; place on one or more sheets of foil, sorting them by size. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a sprig of rosemary, several sprigs of thyme or 3 or 4 sages leaves to each sheet of foil; wrap foil loosely around beets.

Roast beets, checking for doneness after 30 minutes. Beets are done when a paring knife slides in and out with little resistance. Larger beets will take longer to cook than smaller beets.

Per serving: 65 calories; 3.5g fat; 0.5g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1g protein; 7g carbohydrate; 5g sugar; 2g fiber; 60mg sodium; 10mg calcium.

Note: These beets can be used for many different dishes: roasted beet salad, pickles or roasted beet soup, for example. Always peel roasted beets used in soup; for other dishes, peel the cooked beets if desired. Leaving the skin on will give the beets a more earthy flavor and contributes nutrients and fiber. The older (larger) the beet, the tougher the skin.

Recipe from chef Anthony Devoti of Five Bistro.



CORN AND TOMATO SALAD

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 ears fresh corn

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks, or 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Directions:

Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grill. Remove the husks from the corn, rub each ear with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill corn until slightly browned. Let cool, then cut off the kernels.

Mix corn kernels, tomatoes and vinegar in a medium bowl; let sit for a few minutes so the vinegar soaks in. Add parsley, the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste; toss together.

Per serving: 220 calories; 18g fat; 2.5g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 3g protein; 13g carbohydrate; 6g sugar; 2.5g fiber; 20mg sodium; 30mg calcium.

Note: Serve salad by itself, or with fish, chicken, beef, lamb or pork, or mix into fresh greens. Corn and Tomato Salad can be made a day in advance; add the parsley just before serving.

Recipe by chef Anthony Devoti of Five Bistro.



PLUM CHUTNEY

Yield: about 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds ripe plums, halved and pitted

1/2 onion, sliced thin

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 pinch dried red pepper flakes

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the bay leaf. Nestle the pan in a large bowl of ice water, stirring occasionally until cool. Serve chutney with pork, chicken, duck or game or on toast.

Per tablespoon: 30 calories; no fat; no protein; 7g carbohydrate; 7g sugar; no fiber; no sodium; 2mg calcium.

Recipe by chef Anthony Devoti of Five Bistro.



QUICK PICKLES

Yield: About 16 servings

Ingredients:

2 pounds pickling cucumbers or sliced cucumbers, or one recipe Roasted Beets (see recipe)

1 cup champagne vinegar

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup sea or kosher salt

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons pickling spices

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, optional

1 pound onions, peeled and sliced

3 large sprigs fresh dill (more to taste if using cucumbers)

Directions:

Place vegetables into one or more sealable containers; nestle the containers into a bowl of ice water. Set aside.

Combine vinegars, 1/2 cup tap water, salt, sugar, pickling spices, red pepper, if using, and onions in a large pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add dill; let cool to room temperature.

Pour vinegar mixture into the containers. Close containers and remove from ice bath. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours or preferably for 3 to 5 days. Pickles will keep for 3 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container.

Per serving (made with cucumbers): 80 calories; no fat; 0.5g protein; 19g carbohydrate; 15g sugar; 1g fiber; 650mg sodium; 15mg calcium.

Per serving (made with beets): 105 calories; 2g fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1g protein; 21g carbohydrate; 16g sugar; 1.5g fiber; 680mg sodium; 15mg calcium.

Recipe from chef Anthony Devoti of Five Bistro.