April 01, 2015 by
Like the old saying goes, “March came in like a lion but left like a lamb”. The beginning of the month was still in the grip of Old Man Winter, but the weather, especially this last weekend, was what Spring is all about: Sunny, warm, breezy, and not a little colorful.
Here in Austin, the middle of March is taken up with the annual craziness that is SXSW. While I normally don’t participate (I remember the good old days when it was just about the local music), this year was different. I participated in a panel on food & heritage long with Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, Kay Marley-Dilworth of ATX Food News, and Annette Priest, founder of Revel Insight. (Here is the Storify link).
As well as doing the SXSW panel, I also recorded a podcast with Cecilia Nasti of Field & Feast on Croissants.
After my SXSW was over, however, Husband Steve’s was just beginning; he’s the music guy. So, since he wasn’t home much during most of the festival, I didn’t do too much cooking this month. Hence, I didn’t do my usual amount of shopping.
So, sadly, I have no new recipes to share this month. Just some really lovely photos.
Sunday, March 1. Mueller Farmers Market
It was cold. Very cold. Also cloudy and damp.
As my friend Kelly Ann and I watched the ducks swim on the pond at Mueller, I wondered how they could stand it.
Ducks on the pond on a very cold day.
We had to park a ways out from the market stands because not only was the market open, but the Thinkery (the new Austin Children’s Museum) was in full swing.
The dragon at The Thinkery. His eyes glowed.
While I normally enjoy the walk from the further lots (it is very pretty), that day was an exception.
A tiny bit of Spring peeking through the gray.
Normally, the market is outside in the open. This day, it was under the dome. It helped a little.
The crowd was lighter than I’ve seen at previous market days. Of course, the cold no doubt kept many away. Others were huddled closer into the stands near the space heaters.
As is my usual routine, I sought out my favorite produce vendor, Johnson’s Backyard Garden. I may not always buy the bulk, or any, of my produce from them on a given visit (I like to try others, too), I simply like to go and take a look anyway. Their displays are beautiful and their produce, most of the time, is fantastic.
Parsnips at Johnson’s Backyard Garden
Turnips at JBG.
First sign of Spring produce. Artichokes. JBG.
Cabbage and rainbow chard. JBG.
Had to stop by the Austin institution that is Texas French Bread for some sourdough wheat. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out on something great.
Texas French Bread’s stand. Simplicity.
Even though I set myself a limit on how much I’ll spend on any given visit, if I impulsively decide to visit Countryside Farms, I know the limit will be crossed.
Their meats and charcuterie are excellent and unique. And, one of these days, I’m really going to indulge in some of their rillettes, pates, and mousses. But for now, I’m going to stick with the old stand-bys: chicken, sausage, and bacon. And, occasionally, lard and marrow.
Countryside Farms. European-style, unique, and slightly pricy, meats and charcuterie.
K & S Seafood was a vendor that hadn’t seen before. They generally sell at Cedar Park and Barton Creek Farmers Markets according to their Facebook Page.
I decided to try some Black Drum, a fish neither Steve nor I had ever tried before (at least not knowingly). The fish that I bought had been caught the previous Thursday, cleaned, filleted, and kept on ice. So, even though by this point it was 3 days old, it still had a nice oceany smell to it. However, the lady working the stand did tell me that I needed to cook it within the next 24-48 hours.
I’m not sure if it’s the way I cooked the fish (simple pan searing) or what, but we decided we didn’t care for it. There was really no flavor and the texture was almost plastic-like.
I can see using the drum bones to make stock, though. The flavor would be mild enough to take seasonings well and not overpower.
K & S Seafood. I felt bad for the lady working the stand. She had a space heater, but having to constantly plunge her hands into ice to pull out the seafood had to have been torture on a day where the wind chill was in the 30’s.
Now, I know that all sorts of studies have warned against drinking alcohol to keep warm. But, when you’re confronted with a cold, damp, and windy day, and you’re presented with a table full of mead that you’re encouraged to sample for free, I’d like to see you say “no” and walk away.
Meridian Hive Meadery‘s samplings were the highlight of the trip. I tried 4 excellent samples and finally landed on the Huajilla as my choice. Not too sweet and a little dry, I think it will be lovely in the late spring, early summer, or mid autumn.
The meadery opened in Austin in 2012 and is open for tours and tastings (check the website for details).
Mead tasting? Yes, please.
From the lovely folks at Meridian Hive Meadery.
Now, on to my purchases for the day:
Huajilla Mead from Meridian Hive Meadery. Slightly sweet and dry. It’s going to excellent in the summer.
Sourdough Wheat from Texas French Bread; Black Drum from K & S Seafood; Turnips from JBG; Chicken and Bacon from Countryside Farms
Thursday, March 12: Boggy Creek Farm
With Steve’s SXSW already starting and me getting ready for a crazy few days that included a much-anticipated visit from my oldest (long-term) friend Michelle, I took it easy at my monthly visit to Boggy Creek Farm.
Compared to my visit to Mueller, the day at Boggy Creek was almost balmy. By that I mean, the sun was actually out. At least a little. It had been raining for several days prior to my visit, so things were a little messy at the farm. Nothing terrible – just puddles and mud.
Spring again trying to peek through.
Peeking around the corner at the farmhouse.
Larry Butler’s creations. As I’ve said before, his Smoked Dried Tomatoes are legendary.
Farm eggs, and wares from other local producers.
Lovely eggs from Boggy Creek’s resident chickens.
The big wood box of sweet potatoes.
First of the Spring head lettuces: Frisee.
Baby celery. I bought it mostly for the leaves.
After I bought my produce and sausage, I did what I always do, take a little stroll around the farm.
I think this is cabbage. I really need to ask next time.
Looking over the last of the winter produce. Carol Ann told me the early spring produce was starting to come in, too.
And, of course, there were the grande dames and lords of the farm, the chickens and roosters.
I noticed that they were all running around loose and I wondered what was going on. Carol Ann told me that because of the rains, the coop was muddy, so they let the chickens and roosters out so the coop could be cleaned and dried. She said that they all normally get to run loose after the farmstand is closed for the day, but and exception was made and they were let out early.
Needless to say, I stayed longer than I had originally planned.
The nesting boxes were dry, so the chickens could at least escape from prying eyes there.
This one was very determined to get into the pecan she was pecking at.
Looks like the king and his court.
So, my purchases for the day:
Pork Chorizo from Peaceful Pork
Frisee; Baby Celery; Brassica Salad; Sweet Potatoes
Sunday, March 22: Hope Farmer’s Market.
This was the best day yet. Spring warm, sunny, and SXSW was finally over.
A lovely day to be at the market.
The wisteria starting to bloom.
The fountain at Plaza Saltillo. Hopefully, the city will get it working again.
A little sidewalk art.
Hope isn’t a large market, so I generally see a lot of the same vendors I see at other markets. Some seem to be exclusive to this one.
Of course, Johnson’s Backyard Garden was there. And, as usual, their stand was glorious. The only sour note was their romaine lettuce. While I did end up buying a bag, I really had to search for one that wasn’t already beginning to brown.
Dandelion Greens at JBG.
Rainbow Chard at JBG.
Early harvest Romaine Lettuce. JBG.
Beets. I didn’t buy any; I just like the way they look in photographs. JBG.
Oranges. So much better than grocery-store bought. JBG.
Yard to Market Co-Op was a vendor I’ve not seen or noticed before. I just took a quick look at their website and it looks like Hope is the only farmers market they attend.
I will say their produce looked amazing (especially the dino-sized rutabaga) and the eggs were so fresh they looked like they came out of the hens that morning.
I’ll most definitely need to seek them out first next time I head to Hope Market.
Yard to Market Co-Op. This is the first time I’ve seen them.
The largest rutabaga I’d ever seen. I bought it.
The greens at the Co-Op stand.
More kale. Co-Op.
And, yes. I stopped by Countryside Farms again. I was hoping for another chicken. They were sold out; so, I settled for some Merguez.
Charcuterie at Countryside Farms.
As I was leaving, I decided to take the long way back to the car and admire some of the East Austin mural art. It seems to be one of the few signs left that this area was a thriving Hispanic & African American community. Sadly, like most other medium-to-large cities, people from the older neighborhoods are being priced out in the name of progress.
Zoot Suiter immortalized.
I’m not sure if the name on the gas tank is the rider or the artist. Or both.
Mary’s face here kinda reminds me of the “restoration” of the Ecce Homo Fresco in Spain.
Once again, I headed home with my purchases.
Purchases, Part 1: Eggs and Rutabaga from Yard to Market Co-Op; Merguez from Countryside Farms
Purchases, Part 2: Rainbow Chard; Dandelion Greens; Flat Leaf Parsley; Romaine Lettuce; Oranges. JBG.
Since I don’t have any recipes this month, I thought I’d give you a tutorial on how to wash and store your fresh greens. This can apply whether you buy your greens organic at the farmers market, farmstands, or the conventional produce from the grocery store.
All produce has the same thing: dirt. Dirt you have to wash off. Whether it comes from the ground or other people, it has to be washed off. This is especially true with leafy greens. Dirt tends to get into the nooks and crannys of the stems and leaves, and, if you don’t wash them properly, at best, you’ll end up with grit in your food.
And sometimes, bugs. Yes, bugs happen.
So, here is the tutorial in pictorial form:
Begin by trimming the greens. I just generally cut off the woody parts of the stems. You can eat, compost, or toss these out. It’s up to you.
The trimmed greens, Rainbow Chard in this instance, in a (clean) sink full of cold water. It needs to be cold. Gently agitate the greens to wash off the dirt. If necessary, pick up the leaves individually and rub off the dirt, pick our bad leaves or tear out bad spots on the leaves. If you want to refresh older greens, you can fill the sink with cold water and ice.
After taking the greens out of the water, shake off some of the excess and place it the basket of a salad spinner. As you take the greens out of the water, try not to stir up any of the dirt that sinks to the bottom.
After the excess water has been removed, lay the greens in a single layer (a little overlap is OK) on paper towels. (I buy the thicker “shop towels” from the hardware store). Now, carefully roll the leaves up in the towel and place the roll in a large zip bag, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. This will help keep the greens simultaneously dry yet still keep them from drying out.
I hope this was useful.
See you in April.
Well, at the end of the month.