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Watermelon Granita,The Recipe

GranitaWhoa, it’s hot! And humid! You know you are on the East Coast in the middle of summer when walking outside causes your glasses or sunglasses to fog over. OK, enough complaining about the heat (did I mention it was hot?). Time to do some thing about it. While perusing the Collingswood Farmers Market last week, we spotted some amazing looking watermelon. They were rather large Sugar Babies but still small enough that they wouldn’t take up the whole fridge. We grabbed one and cut into it as soon as we got home. It was sweet and juicy! We cut half for snacking, but I knew that with just the two of us we would never finish the second half before it went bad. I decided that the rest would be used for my very first attempt at making granita. I was a little concerned that it would be a pain, but it was so easy!

Granita is the fancy Italian way to say shaved ice or fruit slush. But, there is nothing fancy about making granita. I used 2 ingredients in this recipe, watermelon and lime juice. You could probably add some sugar or honey, but this watermelon was so sweet I didn’t need anything else. And, if you want to make this a granita margarita, I won’t mind. Just wait until after the granita is finished and add the alcohol to the serving bowl of granita as alcohol will keep your fruit juice from freezing all the way through.

 

Watermelon Granita,The Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Desert
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • ½ Watermelon, the sweeter the better
  • Juice from 1 lime, add more for more pucker power
Instructions
  1. Cut watermelon into chunks, removing the seeds if it's not seedless
  2. Juice the lime
  3. Add the watermelon and lime juice in batches into the blender and use the liquefy setting to make watermelon juice
  4. Pour the juice mixture into a glass 9x13 pan
  5. Place pan in the freezer
  6. Freeze for 1-2 hours
  7. Take a fork and scrape the frozen areas towards the center, breaking up the chunks
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you have a pan full of ruby red crystals
  9. Scoop into a bowl for your self (and your family if they insist) and the rest into a sealable, freezeable container to be left in the freezer.
  10. The granita will remain in crystal form unless you take it out and leave it on the kitchen counter and let it melt. Enjoy!

 

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Saving Money on Produce at the Farmers’ Markets

I hear all the time that Farmers’ Markets are so expensive. At one time, I thought the same thing. Over the years, I have changed my mind and now think that not only do I get a better value for my money at the fm, I actually save money!

Here are a few tips to help you save money at the Farmers’ Market:

Avoid the non-produce booths- I love the artisanal booths at the markets. The bread, cheeses, bath products, gourmet salts, and baked goods booths have amazing products! However, if you are on a tight budget then you will want to window shop only. These booths are usually run by the artist/baker/creator and when you have a little extra pocket money I highly suggest you use it to support these independent local artists. The products sold at these booths are high quality and rightfully deserve high quality prices.

Take a lap- Look around at all the different booths offering the produce you are interested in before making a purchase. In general the prices will be comparable, but sometimes a farm is producing more of an item than expected and the price will be a bit lower because of it. Note prices and quality and comparison shop. If one stand has great prices on kale but expensive carrots, buy the kale there and find another stand with a better deal on carrots. By taking your time and checking the prices and quality first you avoid buyer’s remorse.

Buy items that are in season and grow in your area- Currently blueberries, peaches, kale, chard and summer squash are in season in my area. Because those items are so abundant with all the farms at the market, the prices are lower. Since I live in New Jersey, there are not many farms producing pineapples around here. Even so, there is a booth at my local market that always has a few pineapples for sale but they are expensive. If I compare prices on blueberries at the fm to the grocery store, the fm’s prices are cheaper, however the grocery store has better prices on the pineapple and a better selection. Buying “in season” saves you money but it also means fresher, healthier produce. Produce that is shipped to grocery stores is often harvested earlier so it can withstand the long distance shipping experience. Local produce is likely have retained it’s nutrients because it’s picked/harvested closer to being ripe. This means you are getting more nutrients for your dollar. And the nutrients you get from in season produce often correspond to your bodies needs during that season. For example, winter crops include citrus fruits which are loaded with Vitamin C, something that helps boost your immune system which needs to be at it’s best to combat all the colds going around during that time of year.

Buy only what you are capable of consuming or storing- When the booths are brimming with crisp and colorful produce, it’s easy to get carried away. I’ve been guilty of overbuying and subsequently heart broken when some produce went bad because I didn’t get to it. In my experience, the produce I buy at farmers’ markets generally lasts longer than supermarket produce. How much longer depends on where you live, when I lived in Florida it was maybe an extra day or two, in New Jersey I usually can get an extra week. That being said, I try to only buy what I need for the week. If you are planning on canning or freezing then you should still keep in mind how much you are capable of canning/freezing and your storage capacity before purchasing. Throwing produce away is like taking money and putting it down the garbage disposal.

Along the same lines, keep in mind how soon you plan on preparing each item and how fresh that item looks. For example, if you plan on preparing broccoli the day you are buying it, you may feel satisfied with a cheaper bunch of broccoli that may be a few days old and spending that savings on a basket of peaches that are freshly picked that you will be consuming all week

Make a meal plan and create a list to avoid impulse buys-  Each week I create a meal plan for the week. I start by determining what is in season. Epicurious has a great resource for this here. Many farmers’ market’s websites also list this information. After building my meal plan I create a shopping list that I take with me to the market. Sticking to the list helps me save money and reduces waste. I don’t use this as an excuse to not go out of my comfort zone though. If I see an item that I have not tried or have been wanting to get my hands on, I see if I can swap it with another ingredient. If not, I will check with the person running the stand to see if the item is expected to be back next week. If so, I will build it into the plan next week. If not, I will usually splurge on it. I try to give myself wiggle room but by constraining myself to the list 90% of the time I usually stay on budget!

Go closer to market closing- This tip is risky! Most farmers don’t want to return from the farmers’ markets with a lot of produce unsold. So, sometimes you can find great deals at the end of the day. There are two risks to this strategy. First, the produce you are looking for is gone. Corn season is big here in New Jersey and at a local market, a local farmer pulls up a truck of corn on Saturday morning and there is a line at that truck all day. When it’s gone it’s gone. Second, the items that are left are not the “pick of the litter”. But, you may get a smoking deal on produce that is still fresher than you may find at the grocery store.

 

What tips do you have to save money at the Farmers’ Market?

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Item Spotlight: Blueberries

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So, confession time. Until recently, I have never been a blueberry fan. *GASP* I didn’t dislike them, I  just didn’t seek them out. I have a few reasons for my ho-hum reaction to the little blue fruit. First of all,  I really never even had a real blueberry, at least one that was not in a muffin until I met my husband (who loves them) eight years ago. Second, I lived in Southern California for most of my life, there were not a lot of fresh blueberries growing in that area. Blueberries were always bought at the grocery store and seemed waxy and lacking real flavor. Then, we moved to New Jersey and everything changed.

“It’s blueberry day,” Keith said. Is that a government sanctioned event? Who declares it “Blueberry Day” in the state of Jersey? So, off we went to the Trenton Farmers’ Market to pay homage to fruit. We picked up 4 flats of blueberries, that I had to admit looked plump and juicy and cost us less than 2 from the grocery store. Then as we were driving around looking for farm stands, we happened on Wells’ Blueberry Farm, a pick your own farm.  There were blueberry bushes everywhere! It was a lot of fun and in the end we brought home over 5 pounds of blueberries! After getting them home and washing and drying them, I tried a few. WOW, the flavor was unbelievable! A perfect example of how eating locally and seasonally can change the way you see food.

Interested in picking your own blueberries? Go here.

Where are they grown: Blueberries are native to North America. In the U.S., Maine and Michigan seem to be the highest producing blueberry states. There is also considerable commercial acreage in New Jersey, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Oregon and Washington also produce a lot of blueberries.

When are they grown:  The season starts in Mid-April for the southern states and moves later as you go north. The season ends in late September.

How to store: Freshly picked blueberries can last up to two weeks in the fridge. Store unwashed in a covered container. Water will cause mold quickly on stored blueberries, so you wash as you are ready to eat. They can also be frozen for up to a year. To freeze, wash and dry thoroughly, spread blueberries out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Once they are frozen, transfer to a freezer appropriate container (sealed freezer bag or airtight freezer safe jar).

How to prepare:

  • Pop those puppies straight into your mouth!
  • Add to yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta, or creme fraiche
  • Make jam/ jelly/ preserves
  • Make a blueberry balsamic reduction for meat
  • Pancakes
  • Muffins
  • Dehydrate and add to trail mix
  • Dip in chocolate or yogurt and freeze for a sweet snack in the hot summer months
  • Make a blueberry simple syrup and add to coctails and lemonade
  • Make wine? My grandma used to make a super strong blackberry wine, I bet blueberry wine would be dangerously good!

What do you do with blueberries?

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Item Spotlight: Courgette Flowers

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If you’ve never had Courgette Flowers (aka Zucchini Blossoms) before but you’ve seen them at a farmers’ market, you probably had the same reaction I did. Wow, those are pretty, I wonder what they are, what they taste like and what you do with them! This curiosity usually leads me to purchase and experiment. So a few weeks ago, when I saw them at the Trenton Farmers’ Market that’s exactly what I did. Pineland Farms had a small bowl of them at their corner stand and I couldn’t resist the bright yellow and orange flower. So we grabbed 8 blossoms, a small container of fresh ricotta from a roadside farm stand, some scapes and mushrooms from the Collingswood Farmers’ Market and got to cooking! The recipe is here. We really enjoyed them stuffed. We tried them raw, just to see what they taste like. Bleh, didn’t taste like much, but not in a good way like iceberg lettuce. Definitely something you are gonna want to cook before eating.

What are they: They are the flowers of the zucchini bush. There are both male and female flowers. The female flower is generally attached to the baby zucchini, while the males just have the stem attached. I’ve only ever seen and cooked with the male flowers but have been told that stuffing the female flowers and cooking them still attached to the baby zucchini is really good as well!

When are they “In Season”: Basically anytime the zucchini is in season, the flowers are too. Generally, May to August is the peak season. We have been told by several local farmers that they don’t bring many to the farmers’ markets because people don’t know what to do with them. So, if you don’t see any available for sale at the market, ask at any booth that carries zucchini. They will probably be happy to bring a few bunches with them next week.

How to prepare them: 

  1. Bread and fry the flowers
  2. Stuff the flowers with cheeses and then fry or bake them
  3. Remove them from their stems and chop them into most any Italian dish

How to store them:  They really don’t store well. We’ve had the best success if we prepare them the day we purchase them. If you do need to store them, they should be refrigerated in a sealed container.

Price:  We’ve purchased them for 4-5 for a dollar. Because they don’t store well, we’ve scooped up the farms remaining flowers at the end of the day for an even lower price. I usually use 4 blossoms per person.

 

 

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Crispy Courgette Flowers: the recipe

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Crispy Courgette Flowers
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Crispy mushroom and ricotta stuffed courgette blossoms. The Langill's are not huge onion fans so we often use diced garlic scapes in place of onions. Feel free to leave them out or replace them with onions if you can't find them. If you come across scapes at the market, pick a few up and give them a try!
Ingredients
  • 8 Courgette Flowers
  • 1½ t Coconut Oil (you can use Olive Oil as well)
  • 2 Garlic Scapes, diced
  • 1 t Garlic, minced
  • 2 Mushrooms, diced (baby bellas or crimini)
  • 1 t Basil, juliened
  • 1 t Oregano dried or chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3 T Ricotta
  • Olive Oil for drizzling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Grease a 8 x 8 or larger pan, glass seems to work better than metal for this recipe
  3. Soak the courgette flowers in cool water
  4. Melt the coconut oil in a pan over med high heat
  5. Add scapes and garlic to pan, cook until fragrant
  6. Add mushrooms to pan, cook until soft
  7. Add basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste
  8. Cook mixture for a minute and remove from heat
  9. In a small mixing bowl add ricotta and cooked mixture
  10. Drain the flowers
  11. Open each flower gently and stuff with mixture.
  12. Helpful note: Take a sandwich bag and cutoff one corner, fill the bag with the mixture and use it to stuff the flowers.
  13. Place the stuffed flowers in a greased pan
  14. Drizzle with olive oil
  15. Bake for 12-15 minutes.