Jason Doty, the pastry chef at Bluff City Coffee, also does all of the cooking at home for his wife and three children. He loves incorporating fresh, local foods into his recipes. Doty shops at both the Cooper-Young and Downtown farmers markets each Saturday. "I'm like a kid in a candy store," he says.
His usual purchases, which he describes as his guilty pleasures, include J. Brooks coffee, fresh ground flour, fresh fruit, Wolf River honey, Delta pecans, a loaf of bread and flowers for his wife.
He plans his meals in advance and shops for proteins first. "I like Newman Farms pork and seafood from the Gulf," he says. While Doty shops with weekly meals in mind, he believes it's important to be open-minded about specials. "Newman Farms might have a great special on sausage one week. If so, I'll change my meal plan."
Once he has proteins, Doty starts shopping for side dishes. "Right now kale and arugula are perfect for sides. There are some vendors who sell premixed cooking and salad greens that will last in the fridge. I can buy tomatoes or mushrooms and have a salad in 2 minutes."
When buying veggies, Doty notes that the first week they appear at the market they may not be as good as the next. He says the middle run is usually the best. "It's like the old restaurant adage: 'Never be the first or the last customer.' "
For new ideas Doty talks to the farmers. "They've been farming a long time and they often have great ideas and easy recipes to share," he says.
Kate Lareau, who is the communications coordinator for Advance Memphis, is also an avid farmers market shopper. This year, she and a friend are sharing a Community Supported Agriculture membership at Downing Hollow Farm in Olive Hill, Tenn., between Memphis and Nashville. In CSAs, members pay a fee and get a share of the food items produced each week during the season.
"This is my third time joining a CSA," says Lareau. "Since it's been harder for me to get Downtown lately, I thought it would be good to try a CSA at the closer and less-crowded Cooper-Young market. I love that Downing Hollow includes things from other providers, and I like that they have eggs if you need them."
Lareau and her husband have two children under the age of 6, and even though one of them is practically a vegetarian, she says they still don't put away mass quantities of food.
"I think it's a good idea to split a CSA with another family -- it's just more realistic and affordable. Also, you just have to realize that at the beginning and end of seasons, there are lots of greens. So you do have to plan a bit to use them all," she says.
To extend the life of her greens, Lareau washes, dries and wraps them with a dry paper towel before bagging them and putting them into the fridge. "It takes a few minutes, but then you're done and there's really no further prep required," she says.
Joining a CSA has encouraged Lareau to eat more vegetables than she would have otherwise, and she likes supporting a local farm. Although she pays up front, it is a part of her weekly grocery budget.
Memberships in CSAs run from about $200 to $500, depending on the length of the season.
Lori Greene, who runs Downing Hollow Farm with her husband, Alex, says CSAs are the small family farm's lifesaver.
"It can keep you afloat. If you are growing things that are already guaranteed and paid for by the members, you aren't losing that crop if, say, your regular farmers market customers decide they are tired of eating greens," she says. "We have 25 members right now, but want to go up to 50."
Laura Goodman-Bryan also has a CSA membership with Downing Hollow Farm.
"I like having first dibs on the produce even if I sleep in," she says, since her items are always there, ready for her to pick up.
She was very methodical about picking her farmer. "I spent a year shopping the market. At the end of the season, I asked myself which farmer I bought from every single week. In my case, it was Downing Hollow Farm, so I joined their CSA."
In addition to shopping at the Cooper-Young market, Goodman-Bryan also regularly shops Downtown.
"They were the first and I'm very loyal to the market and a number of the vendors there," she says.
On occasion, she'll get a midweek fix at the Memphis Botanic Garden. "I encourage folks to try out several markets," she says.
Goodman-Bryan utilizes several strategies when shopping at a market, and then later at home.
"I try to have an idea of what's in season, which you can get a really good feel for by going to the market regularly, but I don't usually plan my meals. Planning too much makes me miss opportunities," she says.
Chatting can be an integral part of the shopping process. "Ask the vendors what they recommend this week. You can learn a lot. Also ask the vendors how they would use a certain product. Most of them have some pretty good ideas," says Goodman-Bryan.
As tempting as the produce may be, Goodman-Bryan tries to limit herself to what she can eat or put up within a week. By trying different things, she can see what holds up in the refrigerator and what doesn't. She also brings plastic containers to protect anything fragile she may purchase.
There are hidden gems within the produce. "Look for something funny, something you've never seen before, and try it. I have a battered copy of "The Victory Garden Cookbook" that is a great resource," she says.
Giving yourself extra time when you come home from the market to tend to your produce is crucial. "It makes a big difference," she says. "Extra fruit like blueberries and strawberries can be frozen. Salad greens need to be washed, spun, gently wrapped in paper towels and placed inside of a plastic bag. Make sure you put veggies in the crisper drawer and don't smush them."
Keep herbs in a glass jar on the counter.
If something wilts, don't worry. "I find that many things that wilt can be perked back up. I throw them in a big bowl of water and let them soak overnight," says Goodman-Brown.
Most important, give back. "If you're at the stand of a vendor you like and a new customer comes up, give the vendor some praise. Help the vendors you like develop new customers! It's good business and good karma," she says.
Here are two recipes from pastry chef Jason Doty that he says are easy to make and make use of what is available now at area markets.
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 lb. (4 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk
1/2 cup locally sourced honey
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. milk or water, for egg wash
For the glaze:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup locally sourced honey
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 400. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Combine the buttermilk, honey, and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough may be sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough ¾- to 1-inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter and place on baking sheet.
Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done.
To make the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, honey and vanilla. When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes, and drizzle each scone with 1 tbsp. of glaze. Sprinkle some uncooked oats on the top, for garnish. The warmer the scones are when you glaze them, the thinner the glaze will be.
Yield: 14 large scones
Strawberry Pie Bars
For the crust and topping:
Zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
For the strawberry filling:
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
6 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest and granulated sugar. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until all of the sugar has been moistened. In the bowl of a food processor, add the lemon sugar, all-purpose flour and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and continue to pulse until the pieces of butter are no larger than the size of peas, about 10 to 12 pulses.
Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture to use for the topping and put it in the refrigerator until needed. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar, sour cream, flour and salt until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the sliced strawberries. Spoon the mixture evenly over the crust and make sure all of the strawberries are in one layer and not sitting on top of one another.
Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly over the filling. Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool for at least 1 hour before cutting.
Yield: 18 bars
Source: Commercial Appeal
by Stacy Greenberg