To Market…To Market… We Go

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Some say things aren’t looking good for Ann Arbor. Pfizer, its largest employer and taxpayer, is leaving. The local auto industry is down-spiraling. Add to that the harsh climate and weather, and well, you get the picture. Luckily, we still have the farmer’s market. A visit here reminds me that amid the fiscal woes of our area, life goes on, and in brilliant color too.

 

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This time of the year is always fun. While it’s officially fall, we can still indulge in summer’s last flourish with sugar-sweet tomatoes, crispy bell peppers and juicy raspberries. One of my favorite stalls is run by the Merkel family. They’re the only vendor who carry Asian produce, like bitter melon, japanese eggplant and bok choy, to name a few. There’s also the vendor I like who carries special varieties like chioggia beets and french fingerling potatoes.

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Wherever you are, I hope you’ll get yourself to a local farmer’s market soon.

And, if you want to learn more about buying from and supporting local farmers, check out these sites:

Eat Well Guide

Sustainable Table

Chez Panisse Foundation

 

Tomato Envy

 

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A trip to any local farmer’s market this time of year is sure to be a treat. I love love love the end of summer here when the tomatoes are at their peak. Red, yellow, orange, green, — you name it, it’s all good. Combine that with the abundance of fresh, green herbs and you’ve got a party. Seriously, if I was a tomato vendor, I’d totally wear one of those crazy velour sweatsuits with “Juicy” stitched on my bum.

I’ve made quite a few dishes using tomatoes this past week, I hardly know where to start. First, is a dish that any respectable francophile should have in their repertoire – the omelet. It’s gotta be soft, billowy and luscious. I was told by one of the waiters at Eve, in Kerrytown, that they super-whip the eggs so they’d have the soufflé-like texture – and they cook their omelets on med-low heat. So, here is my omelette with chives, parsley and fresh goat cheese:

Omelette aux fines herbes et au fromage de chèvre

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To make this you’ll need:

5 really good, free-range eggs

1 Tbl milk or cream

1 heaping Tbl each – parsley and chives, finely minced

fresh goat cheese, sliced or broken into smaller pieces

sea salt

black pepper

cherry tomatoes – to be placed alongside your omelet

DIRECTIONS:

Whip the eggs, milk/cream, salt and pepper with a wire wisk until thoroughly combined – up to 2 minutes. Then, blend in the herbs. Pour the egg mixture into a preheated, preferably non-stick skillet. Cook uncovered on medium heat. As it’s cooking, use a spatula to lift the edges up slightly while tilting your pan to allow mixture drip to the corner of the pan. This helps to evenly cook the omelet. Repeat until the egg mixture no longer runs to the edge. At this point, place the goat cheese along the center of omlette and delicately flip one side of the omelet over. Slide onto a plate and cascade your cherry tomatoes on top and next to the omelet. Serve thick slices with the tomatoes. Bon appétit!

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Next up, we’ve got a dish that I prepared last night. It took me about 20 minutes to get this onto the table. How ’bout that, Rachael Ray?! Anyway, I bought some baby Yukon potatoes that I boiled (unpeeled) in salted water. When they were done, I drained them and then tossed them with some olive oil, sliced green onions, minced parsley and salt+pepper. Next I thinly sliced a baguette and smeared some leftover goat cheese. I drizzled a little olive oil and hit that with some S+P and put them under a broiler for a minute. I purchased some salmon from Bello Vino and seared them on med-high heat.

To plate the dish, I placed some lovely green lettuce and halved, cherry tomatoes on the plate. Sprinkled that with some S+P and olive oil. The warm potatoes were next and the salmon placed on top. I garnished with the goat cheese croutons and voilà!

Saumon sur pommes de terre Yukon

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At last, we have a dish that I never tire of making or eating. It’s such a simple, summer salad that I picture myself sitting across from Hemingway at a Paris café, eating this salad and chatting about Picasso’s legacy. Just kidding. But really, do I need to say more?

Oeuf poché sur feuille de laitue avec pain grillé à la tomate

Poached egg on lettuce leaf with tomato on grilled bread

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To make this salad, you’ll need:

fresh green lettuce

good, free-range eggs

1 garlic clove

the best tomato you can find

baguette

balsalmic vinaigrette (1 small shallot, finely minced + 1 part balsalmic vinegar + 3 parts extra-virgin olive oil, S+P)

fresh ground black pepper

fleur de sel or any nice sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

Toast or grill your baguette slices. When they are done and while they are still warm, rub the cut side of the bread with the raw garlic clove. — This is something I learned from my friend Carmen. It does wonders to plain bread — trust me.

In a small pan with lightly boiling water, add a dash of vinegar to the water. Then, add your eggs one by one. The vinegar is supposed to help preven the egg whites from thinning out too much.

After two minutes, the eggs should be ready. Their centers should still be soft and a little jiggly, like an oeuf mollet.

To plate the dish, place the poached egg on the bed of lettuce. Using the tip of your knife, slice through the yolk and open the egg a bit. Drizzle the vinaigrette all over – be careful not to over-do it.

Place some fresh slices of tomato, sprinkle good S+P and you’re practically rubbing shoulders with Hemingway.

Bon anniversaire Pierre!

Last weekend, we celebrated Pierre’s 31’st birthday. Here’s his birthday lunch:

a classic BLT

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What can I say – you can’t go wrong with good bread, good slab bacon, crisp lettuce and heirloom tomatoes. I used my homemade mayonnaise (made w/fresh eggs from my friend Flo’s chickens) and a lovely dijon mustard. I bought several bottles of this moutarde from our last trip to France. They come in these beautiful glass jars that can be used as drinking glasses once the mustard is finished. How clever is that?

That’s why I’m slightly obsessive — (is that an oxymoron??) about these particular jars. Plus, they’re not sold here in the States. So, I find myself hoarding them like WWII rations. I once caught someone going to the fridge and just helping themselves to it without asking me. They turned around and saw my eyes were glaring at them and I was grinding my teeth. Then I flat out just snarled “What are you doing?”

Anyhoo, I like to cook my bacon in a preheated cast iron skillet. I like the bacon to have very crispy edges but still have some tenderness to it. I put the sandwich together and served with a chilled glass of lemonade.

For the birthday dinner, we went to Palio’s in downtown Ann Arbor. We tried to get a table upstairs on the balcony but it was jam packed due to the UM student move-in. We ended up with a nice booth next to the window. The windows were decorated with shelves of wine bottles – charming. We ordered some chianti and started with this caprese salad:

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The tomatoes were rather lackluster and the balsalmic vinaigrette was far too acidic. I think they forgot to season the tomato and lettuce, which is unfortunate because the fresh mozzarella just tasted bland next to the bland tomato. There’s usually fresh basil in this salad but sadly, not this time. I much prefer my own tomato stack:

Tomates au fromage de chèvre à la vinaigrette de ciboulette

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This baby is made using yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, sandwiched between fresh goat cheese. I drizzled some chive vinaigrette (1 part red wine vinegar + 3 parts olive oil + dijon mustard + finely minced fresh chives) on the tomato stack. I finished the tomatoes with freshly ground black pepper and fleur de sel.

Thanks to to my friend Mrs. Ellen G – for the awesome chive plants. I love them!

Now, back to the birthday dinner. Pierre ordered the linguine with alfredo sauce and I ordered the pan-fried white fish with pistaccio and pinenut crust. They were both pretty satisfying dishes. I should note that like most Italian restaurants that I’ve eaten at here in the Midwest, this is American-Italian food, not authentic Italian by any stretch of the imagination. The food at Palio’s was typical – overcooked pasta completely drenched in sauce. Not that it’s such a bad thing. It is tasteful to me. But it can’t compare to dishes I’ve eaten in Italy or even in NYC and California. These were our dishes:

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Now, for dessert, we ordered a panna cotta with coffee crème anglaise and what else — tiramisù. Here’s Pierre with his birthday dessert. Make a wish!

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And finally, a birthday portrait of Pierre – Bon Anniversaire!

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