Category Archives: North Market

Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a Greek phyllo dough pastry traditionally filled with spinach and feta cheese. It can either be made as a large pie or, as I prefer, triangles. I started with a recipe from the Food Network, but over the course of several batches refined both my technique and the recipe.

1 package frozen phyllo dough (read the instructions for thawing time)
8oz spinach
4 large scallions, sliced
Generous handful of parsley
1 lb Swiss chard
8oz feta cheese
1 egg
1 stick butter
1/2 cup olive olive + 1 tablespoon
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

I bought the feta from the Farmers Market, the spinach, scallions and eggs were from the Greener Grocer. The Swiss chard was part of my Wayward Seed Farm CSA which started this week. I used the chard because I didn’t have enough spinach, but actually thought that it gave the flavor an added dimension, so next time I would use it deliberately.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Wash and dry the greens. Saute them in a large pan, with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. I used my wok as there is plenty of space to keep moving them around. It is best to add the toughest parts first. I started with the chard stems, then added the chard leaves and finally the baby spinach. You should cook them until completely wilted, and then transfer them to a strainer. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can. In the same pan, with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil,  saute the scallions until soft.

Put the greens, scallions and parsley in a food processor with salt, pepper, a squeeze lemon juice and a little freshly ground nutmeg. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. Put in in the fridge to cool. While the are chilling you can crumble the feta, and melt the butter with 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Add the crumbled feta and the egg to the green mixture, stir until combined  and your filling is complete. I changed the ratio of spinach to cheese from the original recipe. I think 3:1 has a lot more flavor than 4:1.

Take the phyllo out of the package and spread it out on your work surface. It is important to keep it from drying out, so any phyllo that you are not using should be kept covered by wax paper or saran wrap and a damp towel. Cut the dough in half lengthwise so that you have long strips. Brush the top strip with the butter and olive oil mixture (I love my silicon pastry brush) and then place some filling in the corner. Fold the corner over so that you have an off center triangle point at one end. Keep folding this triangle over until you get to the end of the strip. It’s like folding a flag. Brush the next sheet with the butter mixture and fold your triangle in a second layer of dough. I found that the second layer made a big difference to the appearance and durability.

Place on a baking sheet (I lined mine with a silicon mat or parchment), and brush the top with butter. Keep making triangles until you have run out of filling or dough. I made over 20 with half a packet of dough.

Bake them for approximately 25 minutes until they are golden brown. They are best eaten when still warm from the oven. Serve as an appetizer or snack. If you want to make them a little bit ahead of time, and then bake them just before your guests arrive make sure you keep them covered so that they don’t dry out and crack. You can also freeze the unbaked pastries.

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Filed under North Market, recipes, Vegetarian

Yellow Oyster Mushrooms

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the morning with Jim Rockwell, from Toby Run Growers, at the North Market Farmers’ Market. I was preparing samples of Jim’s shitake and oyster mushrooms for the shoppers who braved both the disruption of Park Street festival and the rain. For those of you who didn’t see these beauties, I wanted to share some photos.

The shitakes were good too, but I was captivated by the yellow oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are so called because the shape is reminiscent of an oyster, but some people also think there is a similarity in flavor. They come in a wide variety of colors from gray to pink. At home, our mushroom logs sporadically produce brown and blue oyster mushrooms. Jim grows his mushrooms indoors, mostly on sawdust and therefore does not need to use any chemicals in the process. The question of the day was whether they needed to be washed before use – Jim says no.

I wanted to prepare the mushrooms as simply as possible so that people could really taste their flavor. I sauteed them in a mixture of butter and olive oil with a touch of salt and they were delicious. The smell of the mushrooms cooking had a slightly eggy aroma that reminded me of omelettes. They were so good that even after spending the morning cooking them I wanted to take a box home for lunch. At home, I sauteed them with some garlic scapes and used them as an omelette filling. They would also be good as an accompaniment to a steak, on a pizza, or on toast points.

Jim also sells his mushrooms at the Worthington Farmers Market.

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North Market Apron Gala

When I volunteered for the North Market Apron Gala Mary told me that I would be assigned the role of ‘Apron Fairy’. She assured me that it would be fun. All I had to do , she informed me, was hand out stickers to the best aprons, oh, and wear a set of wings. Dressing up is not my forte. Halloween costumes fill me with dread and the last time I appeared in public as a fairy was in the 1970s (see exhibit A).  But, I love the North Market and if supporting the market meant wearing wings, so be it.

As a not-for-profit organization, the apron gala is an important annual fundraising event for the North Market. It’s a big event and the fierce competition between the vendors ensures that there is a fantastic spread of food. At the last minute I was asked to be a food judge as well. [I’m learning (a little slowly perhaps) that one shouldn’t always say yes to these requests] Of course, I said, I’ll be walking around anyway, I can handle both.

It was harder than I expected: crowded market, sticking-out-wings, trying to juggle a camera, pen, list of foods, stickers, plate, fork, glass as well as trying to make sure I didn’t miss any of the best aprons and that I tasted all of the food (there was A LOT of food) in time for the winners to be announced.

Despite the ‘pressures’ of being the apron fairy and a food judge, the gala was fun. I saw a lot of friends, ate  wonderful food and enjoyed working with my fellow judges Walker Evans (Columbus Underground) and Brian Wilson (Senior Development Chef at Bob Evans). Sadly I didn’t have time to watch any of the Edible Columbus cooking demonstrations, but I did try one of Tricia’s appetizers radishes with butter on bread.

As apron fairy I picked 12 of the best aprons that I saw during the evening. I tried to select the people who had made their own aprons, or obviously put a lot of thought and effort into their aprons. The winner was chosen by audience applause. The winning aprons were the ‘spill baby spill’ couple, who received loud cheers for their topical BP themed aprons.

At the same time I was apron spotting I was also trying to make sure that I tried all of the appetizers, main tastes and desserts. The appetizer course was the mostly hotly contested and the judges deliberations were lengthy. The winner was the Candy’s shacks panko crusted deep fried shrimp with mole sauce and orange. Other strong contenders included the Omega crawfish bread, Taste of Belgium waffle with buffalo mozzarella and Hania’s mielone (chicken croquettes with a cheesy center).

The winning main taste was the buffalo and foie gras slider with duck fat fries from North Market Poultry and Game. It is the one dish that people have not stopped talking about since the event. Mine looks somewhat squashed. That may or may not be because I had to snatch it out from under someone’s approaching hand. Pretty – no, a deserving winner – Yes.

For a much better picture of the winning slider I refer you to Columbus Foodie. Becke was also gracious enough to give me her Pure Imagination Chocolatier dessert (below) as there were none left for me to judge. Unlike other food judging competitions, the judges don’t get a preview or have samples set aside, so I was lining up for waffles and chocolate cups just like everyone else. The winning dessert was the bananas foster from Omega, and the winning display was the Greener Grocer, neither of which, sadly, I have pictures of.

This was the 14th annual apron gala. Its a great event for a special place. If you value the North Market and want a chance to try foods from all of the vendors, enjoy an open bar and have fun with friends I encourage you to plan on attending the 15th apron gala next year. I’ll be there, with or without wings.

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Filed under Columbus, judging, North Market, special events

Cooking with Basi Italia’s John Dornback

I will admit that I have a big soft-spot for John Dornback, the talented chef and owner of Basi Italia. Johnny was the chef for our last two Slow Food open air dinners and as well as cooking up delicious food in far from ideal circumstances (a folding table in a windy field), his enthusiasm helped to make each event both relaxed and fun. When I lost my job last year, I went to Basi for a commiseration dinner with a friend and Johnny insisted that both my dinner – and a strong drink were on the house. It was an act of kindness that made the world seem a much brighter place.

Basi, is a tiny Italian restaurant hidden in an alley in Victorian Village. Once you find it, you are rewarded with great food, a cosy atmosphere and in the summer one of the best patios in Columbus. From the first Monday in June you can enjoy the patio at lunchtime too.

Johnny was a last minute stand in for the North Market cooking class last week, but as we sat down to a class of bubbly and a beautiful  plate of hors d’oeuvres you would never have guessed that he had only been given 24 hours notice.

We started by learning a dish that is one of of Basi’s most popular. The zucchini appetizer is so beloved that I don’t think they will ever be allowed to take it off the menu. It is a simple dish with but its one of those simple dishes that really works. Whenever people talk about Basi they invariably mention the zucchini appetizer.

If you want to try replicating it at home, here’s what you need: matchsticks of zucchini (these are cut by hand at the restaurant), sliced almonds, lemon juice (ideally meyer lemon juice when, and if you can find it), olive oil, salt, parmesan and fresh flat leaf parsley. The secrets are to use plenty of olive oil and to toast the almonds in the olive oil to flavor the oil before you add the zucchini. Once you get some color on the almonds, you add the zucchini to the pan and keep tossing it in the oil. You are just trying to warm the zucchini and not saute it, so it really doesn’t need much time. Probably the biggest pitfall is overcooking the zucchini. Salt to taste, toss in lots of chopped parsley and serve with parmesan. Johnny used sheets of thinly sliced parmesan but shavings would work fine too. The zucchini appetizer was well paired with a New Zealand blended white.

The main course was a salad, although the word salad seems insufficient to describe it. Steak, roasted corn, roasted vidalia onions, jicama, avocado, gorgonzola, green godess dressing, romaine, roasted cherry tomatoes and roasted fingerling potatoes. Lots of flavors but they were surprisingly harmonious on the plate. The roasted ingredients can be prepared ahead and then reheated just before you assemble the salad. The heat of the roasted ingredients wilts the lettuce and the jicama adds some crunch to the salad. Because there was oil on the roasted ingredients the dressing, made with pureed roasted shallots, cider vinegar, poppy seeds and honey, was almost oil free.

Johnny gave us a lot of advice on cookings steaks. Most importantly making sure that you bring the meat to room temperature before you try to cook it as this is key to getting a good sear. He used a spice rub (fennel seed, brown sugar, oregano, basil, mild chili and red pepper flakes) which also helped with the sear, and you could hear the ooos and aahs as people tasted it. Johnny used a large piece of sirlion and seared it for four minutes on each side before transferring it to a 450ºF oven fro 5-7 minutes. As well as bringing it to room temperature before you cook the steak, its also important to let it rest before you serve it. Johnny cooked the steak instinctively but also gave advice to those who rely on meat thermometers: Don’t forget that it will keep cooking after you take it out of the oven, so take it out before it reaches the desired temperature.

Dessert was a pineapple brulee with tiny meringues, and a buttermilk sauce. The sauce was made with a simple syrup infused with mint and ginger whisked together with buttermilk. Mint and pineapple is a fantastic combination and it was a light and refreshing summer dessert.

It was a great class, Johnny’s informal style of cooking with a focus on quality ingredients and simple flavors is both accessible and inspiring and his passion for cooking and life is infectious.

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Filed under classes, Columbus, North Market, recipes, salads, Vegetarian

Spring Quiche

It’s been a long time since I made a quiche, and I’m not sure what first inspired this one, but it seemed to be a good use for the various spring vegetables that have been collecting in the fridge. I did some searching through cookbooks and online to check on the proportions of cream to egg, and found that many of the quiche recipes seemed unnecessarily complicated, and that opinions varied about blind baking the crust. When I found this simple Jane Grigson parsley quiche recipe (via Nigel Slater) it seemed the perfect starting point, and I was happy to err on the side of simplicity.

I preheated the oven to 350ºF but increased the temp to 375ºF during cooking as it didn’t seem hot enough. For the pastry I was using a larger flan dish so I increased the quantity. I used 160g of all purpose flour, 75g salted butter, 1tsp powdered sugar, 1 small egg, a pinch of salt and 1tbsp of water. I rolled it out into a thin sheet and placed in into the removable based greased flan dish.

I substituted the chopped onions in Jane Grigson’s recipe with a mixture of Wayward Seed baby leeks (125g) and foraged ramps (200g) and sauteed them until soft. Raw ramps have a very potent flavor, but cooked they have a mild but distinctive leeky-garlicky flavor. I spread this mixture into the unbaked pastry shell.

Then I made the rest of the filling(again increasing the quantity but keeping the proportions) 375ml of Snowville Creamery heavy cream; 3 beautiful 2Silos eggs, salt and pepper, 3 tbsp of finely chopped parsley and 2tbsp of finely chopped chives from the garden, some grated lemon zest, salt and pepper. I poured this mixture over the leek and ramp base.

On top I placed some Anderson’s asparagus, which I had blanched for 1-2 minutes. I cut the fatter spears in half lengthwise and left the skinny ones whole. Then I dotted Lake Erie Creamery chevre between the asparagus spokes and  baked the quiche for 40 minutes, until it was set in the middle.

The pasty was light and crisp without being crumbly and didn’t suffer for not being baked blind. A basic quiche recipe is extremely versatile with different fillings and served with a salad or two makes a perfect al fresco lunch. I served it with lettuce mix from Combs Herbs a homemade balsamic dressing.

Sources for most of the ingredients were the Greener Grocer, the North Market Farmers Market and Curds and Whey. You can get a preview of Jane Grigson’s Good Things, and read her introduction on google. I highly recommend any of the books written by her, or by her daughter Sophie Grigson.

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Filed under British foods, Food Writing, North Market, recipes, Vegetarian

Risotto Style Pasta

I first read about risotto style pasta in Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist Column in the New York Times last November. Since then we have fallen in love with this method of cooking pasta and made it in many variations. I have been meaning to write a post about it for months.

Slowly adding stock to the pasta, as you would arborio rice gives you a wonderful creamy, yet cream free sauce. Just like risotto it is extremely versatile and wonderfully comforting. I like it best with gemelli or penne and found that the orechiette have a tendency to stick together.

I had some beautiful local asparagus from Anderson Orchard that I bought at the North Market farmers market last weekend. My favorite preparation for asparagus is grilling it, but yesterday I was in a pasta mood, so I used half of it for risotto.

I also used some of my foraged Hocking Hills ramps, and some Wayward Seed baby leeks from the Greener Grocer. The stock was made from duck wings from North Market Poultry and Game. Other ingredients were, onion, pasta (bronze press pasta works best to hold the sauce), a little lemon zest and juice, parmesan, salt & pepper and olive oil. I would have probably added a little white wine if I had some open.

If you don’t have a favorite risotto recipe, here is a Nigel Slater recipe for leek risotto that could easily be adapted.

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Artichokes – Three Ways

Last week I saw a tweet from the Greener Grocer saying that they had ‘mama and baby artichokes’. I have a hard time resisting baby vegetables, but I have never cooked artichokes before, and have to admit that I was intimidated. A couple of days later Heidi Robb’s post on roasted artichokes appeared in my google reader. I was intrigued but found the instructions, in the abstract, confusing.

On Saturday morning I was tentatively eyeing up the artichokes at the Greener Grocer and I asked Colleen (Greener Grocer Manager, Slow Food Columbus Leader, Friend and Neighbor) if she would teach me how to cook artichokes. So it came to be, that we spent Sunday afternoon experimenting with artichoke recipes. I was surprised how few of my cookbooks included artichokes, but I found enough to start with. The main sources we used were: Peter Berley’s Flexitarian Table and James Peterson’s Vegetables.

Artichokes are the bud of a perennial thistle and and you can see the beginnings of the thistle flower inside. The spiky part at the bottom is the inedible choke. As James Peterson said, the first person to eat an artichoke must have been both inventive and brave. We had two of the huge ‘mama’ artichokes and nine of the babies to play with. We decided to boil one of the large ones to eat in the traditional way (following James Peterson’s advice); roast the other large one (following Heidi Robb’s recipe) and braise the baby ones (following Berley’s method).

To boil large globe artichokes you need a large non-aluminum pot. Slice the stem off at the base so that it will sit on a plate (you can peel, boil and eat the stem). Trim off any small leaves clinging around the bottom of the artichoke and any thorns. Put the artichokes in the pan with enough cold water to cover them completely and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Put a plate or a smaller pan lid on top of the artichokes to hold them down under the water, but do not cover the pan. If they are not fully submerged (of if you use an aluminum pan) they will discolor. Put the pan on a high heat until the water comes to a simmer, then turn it down and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until the artichokes are done. This depends a lot on the size. You can test them by inserting a paring knife into the base (It should slightly resist) or by pulling off a leaf and seeing if the flesh comes off easily. Peterson did not specify salting water, we felt that it should have been.

Drain them upside down in a colander, serve on a plate with a dipping sauce (butter, vinaigrette, hollandaise, aioli), some lemon and another plate to discard the leaves. We used some melted home-made butter as our dipping sauce.

To eat the artichoke you pull the leaves off one by one, dip them in your chosen sauce and scrape the flesh off with your teeth. We found this to be somewhat zen like and enjoyed chatting as we took turns plucking off the leaves. Once most the leaves have been plucked, the inner-most leaves are very flimsy and can be discarded. Underneath is the inedible choke ( the bristle-y part) which can to be scraped off with a spoon. This reveals the meaty heart which can be cut with a knife and fork.

The instructions for roasted artichokes are much easier to understand with an actual artichoke in front of you. For people who don’t like to waste food, discarding the top third of the artichoke off was hard, but we followed the instructions to the letter with good results. Having halved the artichoke and dispensed with the choke, each half is cut into four, tossed in olive oil and roasted with garlic.

The caramelization adds an interesting flavor dimension and you don’t need any sauce. You still end up scraping the flesh off with your teeth as the tops of the leaves are tough. We enjoyed this preparation but there was something more satisfying about the traditional method of gradually peeling the leaves off the globe them one by one.

Next were the baby artichokes, easier to eat and prepare because you don’t have to worry about the choke. These are immature buds that grow higher up on the same stalk as the ‘mamas’. To prepare them you trim the stalk (and peel it if it feels woody), cut the top third off the top of the artichoke and remove any tough outer leaves. We learned that we should have removed more than our instincts suggested. Artichokes oxidize amazingly quickly, so you need a cut lemon handy to rub them with as soon as they are cut.

The method was: heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet over a medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the artichokes, garlic cloves and sprigs of fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add white wine, cover and simmer gently until the artichoke stems are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and raise the heat. Boil uncovered for 2-3 minutes until the juices have thickened and plate. Season with salt and pepper.

I would adapt the braised artichoke recipe if I made it again, and instead of using white wine alone as the cooking liquid, I would use half wine / half stock or water, or I might try adding some tomatoes and onions. I like the flavor of wine in cooking, but in this instance the effect was too bitter.

Now that I have overcome my artichoke anxiety – what else should I try? I would love to experiment with some more artichoke recipes.

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