In summer, farmers’ markets flourish in cities, and on Market to Table we’ve barely scratched the surface.
We would have preferred to make our new television series in the summer, but the exigencies of scheduling Fibe TV1 camera crews demanded that we shoot in February. Exhaustive research revealed that of the hundred or so farmers’ markets that abound in and around Toronto in summertime, a mere six exist in winter. Since we had to deliver six episodes to the network by the end of March, that’s how the six got chosen. I mention this only because viewers have asked me why I didn’t go to this or that favourite market of theirs. If, or I should be positive and say “when,” we get renewed, we will be sure to insist on shooting when these other markets are open.
The advantage of my first six choices for viewers is that whatever time of year they watch the show, and it will be on Bell Fibe TV1 video-on-demand service for up to three years and available 24/7, they can be sure their chosen market is open for business. Fibe TV1 has fabulous HD resolution. And now the shows are also available on YouTube.
One of the first markets we checked out, back in the Fall of 2015, was the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market, where the amazing Marina Quierlo runs a tight ship with great enthusiasm. Marina led me to a presentation she and others, whom I would meet later, had co-authored for a conference on public markets held in Barcelona, Spain. Other contributors included Anne Freeman, who manages the Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market, and Cookie Roscoe, of The Stop Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns, who were both equally helpful in getting our series off the ground.
There’s no doubt, their study says, that public markets help build cities and re-vitalize communities. Local markets strengthen and preserve local food cultures and provide a valuable outlet for locally grown food. They add value to the public realm and complete the streetscape. Operating in public spaces, they bring together a broad and diverse population and increase economic impact on their communities. Apart from providing economic opportunity, they help link rural and urban economies.
When we shopped at local markets at the end of July, we were delighted to be able to buy the last of the locally grown strawberries and the first of the local peaches. Clay Eborall, whose family stall at the St. Lawrence Farmers’ Market has been an outdoor fixture on the corner of Jarvis and The Esplanade for years, picked the peaches himself the day before. Meanwhile, at the Loblaws supermarket, all the fruit was imported, strawberries from Florida and California and apples from Chile and New Zealand. While it’s nice to be able to get fresh fruit year round, it seems criminal that when our own local produce, grown less than 100 kilometres away and far better tasting for being freshly picked, just isn’t available at the big chains. I’m sure they have a good excuse: “Supply chain… blah, blah, blah,” but I’m not interested. Another good reason to shop at farmers’ markets.
Growing up in London (England, that is) I lived very near the Portobello Road, which although famous as an antique market has a section of flourishing fruit and vegetable vendors, who push their traditional barrows out every day of the week, and fight for space on Saturdays with the antique seeking crowds. During those years, I don’t believe I ever went into a supermarket. Another favourite spot was Borough Market on the South Bank, near the restored Globe Theatre. When Shakespeare was appearing and writing at the theatre, Borough Market was already old. It’s been there a thousand years. London has nearly a hundred markets, creating 3,000 jobs and serving eight million people annually.
Barcelona, where the study authors made their presentation, has 43 markets, with 2,500 vendors serving a million people and Turin, Italy, has 43 open air markets, six covered markets and 300 farmers commute into the city every day.
A casual dinner was planned last week and as it was a Thursday, it was easy to run over to Dufferin Grove, where Jens at Marvellous Edibles offered me the first crop of tiny new potatoes, red ones and long yellow fingerlings. For dessert, I spied fresh gooseberries, not the bright green ones of my youth, but a lovely red colour instead. Angelos at Country Meadows Organics added home made yoghurt. A week later, we bought tiny green gooseberries, much more tart, but full of flavour. The fresh peaches are in season and we buy them by the basket, to eat as they are, the juice running down our chins, or pitted and sliced up with ice cream. Next week I’ll make a pie or crumble with them, but this week the cooking effort goes into the gooseberries.
Flipping through my English cookbooks, for where else would one seek a gooseberry recipe, I come across Nigel Slater’s elegant solution in Kitchen Diaries II. The result: Jen’s gooseberries, lightly poached for no more than 10 minutes with a bare tablespoon of sugar and a few drops of water, and then served still warm with Angelos’ silky Greek style goat and cow’s milk yoghurt. The berries were so yummy, they almost didn’t make it past the taste test in the kitchen.
by Nigel Slater, Kitchen Diaries II
While gooseberries make an excellent ingredient in crumble, they are delicious lightly stewed and served with thick yoghurt, crème anglaise or vanilla ice cream.
- Gooseberries, 500 g
- Sugar, white about a TBSP
- Top and tail fresh gooseberries and rinse thoroughly.
- Still wet, put into a stainless steel pan, add a TBSP of granulated sugar and a TBSP of water, if needed.
- Simmer gently for no more than 10 mins, or until the berries burst out of their skins.
- Allow to cool and serve with your choice of topping.
But a week later, I’m looking forward to a crumble and like our friend Tessa Bramley’s simple recipe from her wonderful slim volume, Traditional Puddings. She calls for elderflower, but that’s unobtainable in North America, so I just leave it out and add a squirt of lemon juice instead.
by Tessa Bramley, “Traditional Puddings”
- 3 oz / 30 g / 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
- 8 oz / 225 g / 2 cups cake and pastry flour
- 3 oz / 30 g / 1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into chunks
- 1 oz / 55 g finely chopped blanched almonds
- 450 g/ 1 lb gooseberries
- 5oz / 140 g / 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
Preparation and cooking
- Top and tail the gooseberries and rinse thoroughly.
- Still wet, mix them thoroughly with the sugar in a bowl. Add the pinch of salt and lemon juice.
- Spray the inside of the baking dish with vegetable spray and pour in the fruit mixture.
- Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, add the chilled chopped chunks of butter and mix in well until it has the texture of sand. Add the chopped nuts and a pinch of salt and mix in well.
- Beginning at the outer edges, to prevent the juice rising up the sides, spoon the topping evenly over the filling. Press it down with the back of the spoon and then make a cross hatch of lines with a large fork. This helps make the top crisp.
- Bake at 200°C / 400°F for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is crisp and golden brown. Serve hot or cold, with fresh whipped cream, crème anglaise or a scoop of ice cream.
NEWS UPDATE: My fully illustrated e-book, Market to Table: The Cookbook started as a project for novice cooks, but after I was picked to host a cooking show featuring food bought at farmers’ markets, developed into a more complete collection of the recipes from the series, including some from guest chefs on the show, as well as those from my well-read foodie blog. It is easy to read, divided into chapters that cover the main mealtimes of the day, and into recipes that are concise and guaranteed to work. Most recipes are accompanied by an entertaining story. Brilliant young Chef Dan Frenette, who now hosts the TV series, has written the Foreword and contributes to the book.
Categories: Market to Table