Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New York Green Market Watch

At the moment there are several vendors still selling last Autumn’s apples (Mutsu and Winesap winter best), but I’ve overdosed on apples after a long winter of them. I saw strawberries from a farmer from South Jersey about a week or so ago but this Saturday there were none. The best seasonal food so far is rhubarb, ramps, asparagus and some spring garlic (Keith’s organics has baby racombole – so sweet and tasty, lovely in a simple stir fry or in a risotto or instead of scallions in scallion pancakes!) Nettles and a few other early leafy greens are to be seen but I think in the next few weeks we should see a real explosion at the market. Once I get a new camera I promise lots more pictures.

I love sour and there is almost no better sour fruit in my mind then rhubarb (sour cherries being my most favorite). So who needs strawberries anyway? Rhubarb seems to always be playing second fiddle to strawberries and I think it’s time to let rhubarb bask in its own singular glory. At the same time that you are shopping for asparagus to make your risotto from yesterdays post you might as well pick up some rhubarb for dessert.

Rhubarb Crumble

Chop 4 cups of rhubarb into roughly 1” sections, add 3/4 c-1 ½ cups sugar* -(I like it sour so I use less, but this is a good range – try a cup and then vary it as you see fit) and 2 T unbleached all purpose flour and toss it together until the rhubarb is well coated, put into whatever baking dish you want to use (it should be able to accommodate 2 quarts). Place 1 cup walnuts (or pecans or even almonds in a pinch) in a food processor and process until it is ground but still has a few chunks of nut to give it texture. Add 1-cup whole-wheat flour, 8 T raw cane sugar (like Demarrara or 6 T brown sugar and 2 T white sugar), 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t salt and mix, using your hands incorporate 12 T unsalted butter a few tablespoons at a time. This mixture is very moist. Spread it over the rhubarb and bake in the middle of a 375° oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling and thick around the sides. I love to serve this with unsweetened whipped cream or with a few tablespoons of crème fraiche – go ahead and add some sugar if you like it sweeter and, depending on how sour the crumble, this might be a good tack for those at your table who prefer their crumble sweeter.

*From an urban local/organic guy who wants to maximize the amount of farmer grown produce, I would be inclined as a New Yorker to want to make this dish with maple sugar and maple syrup – but that would produce a much more expensive dish. As an experiment this weekend I will buy local maple sugar and syrup and make this dish again and see how much more expensive it will be. For now I use cane sugar, trying to avoid the stuff from Florida, which, from what I understand, is a bad place to grow sugar cane and the result is that even though it’s labeled “organic” (under the Bush administration this term and the USDA’s logo on a product don’t mean as much as they used to), I still have concerns about the methods of farming used and the impact on the environment.
Brown sugar as much as I love it seems to be a pretty stupid idea. Let’s take refined, bleached, processed sugar and then add back the good stuff we stripped away. Why not just forgo brown sugar and refined sugar all together and use raw, organic, unprocessed, sugar? The result can some times be more rustic, but it’s never failed me and if you want a finer texture pulse it a few times in the food processor – this way you can have one bag of sugar that serves two purposes. Also, buy local butter. A good resource in Manhattan is Saxelbycheese.com. Ann and Benoit are dairy geniuses and have a wonderful selection of local cheeses, not to mention cream, milk, eggs and yes, butter!

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