Happy Earth Day! Ithaca Farmer’s Market and “Earth Day” Salad.
If you were to ask me to list some of the defining moments in previous years that helped fuel my growing passion for all things food-related, in the top 3 would probably be my first trip to the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. When I lived in Ithaca for four years as an undergrad at Cornell, I only discovered the market later in my college career…but I tried to make up for lost time. I actually remember getting up early on a Saturday morning when my roommates were all still asleep, just so I could go down to the market and get some fresh vegetables before I started all my work for classes! It was the IFM where I first saw and tasted an heirloom tomato — it was a Striped German. The sweet taste, luscious, dripping juice, and brilliantly marbled yellow and red color is imprinted permanently in my memory. My time in Ithaca also began my devotion to organics; not only did the Ithaca Wegman’s have a good selection of organic produce (this was in the late 90’s, and our supermarket back home for sure did not have any organic produce), but all of the farms coming to the Farmer’s Market were selling organically grown produce. My family always had a modest kitchen garden growing up, but there was no farmer’s market anywhere close to us — the availability of all these new foods to try was just so incredibly enriching!
Fast forward about 10 years: after graduating, living in a few different states, working at a few different jobs, meeting and marrying B — and cooking all the way — I am back in Ithaca, and couldn’t be happier. Besides being just a gorgeous place to live (as they say, “Ithaca is gorges”), we’re blessed to have a real abundance of farms (not just vegetable farms: fruits, meats, eggs, poultry and dairy products as well), local artisans, bakeries, etc. in the area, many of which come to the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. While the Market has only been back now for a few weeks, in the spirit of Earth Day today, I’ve taken a few photos that I thought I’d share with you of my trip around the market!
The IFM is held in a covered, open-air pavilion right at the bottom tip of Cayuga Lake (one of the Finger Lakes.) Here we are at the entrance to the Market — this was opening day, the first Saturday in April (as you can see, it was quite rainy and dreary!)
Last weekend was much nicer! Lots of people out enjoying the beautiful spring weather in the back of the Market pavilion, right on the lake.
The IFM web site tells me there are 165 vendors that come to the market — I believe it; it’s quite large. In addition to the agricultural vendors, there are many local craftsmen and women, artists, and a great variety of food stands. Composting and recycling is, as expected, a big deal.
Besides the expected produce vendors, many of the winemakers from the Finger Lakes region come to the Market, as well as an interesting mix of vendors that sell things like maple syrup and honey.
Some of my favorites are the bakeries. Finger Lakes Flatbread has a portable wood-firing oven that they use to make great artisan loaves, pizza, and focaccia right at the market. We love their multigrain sourdough.
Another one of my favorite vendors is Kingbird Farm: along with organic herbs and vegetables, they also sell organic, grass-fed meat, poultry and eggs. This past weekend, they had RAMPS!!! Ramps are tiny wild leeks, and maybe you’re not as excited about these as I was, but I’d never had them before and had read about how great — and short-lived — ramps are. The girl who was tending the Kingbird Farm booth with her dad told me excitedly how they had picked “bunches and bunches of them in our woods — they were just everywhere!” Lucky girl.
You’ve already seen the radishes — but how about another picture? They’re just gorgeous. I love the one on the top left that’s kind of all wonky and twisted.
This was the first weekend there were flowers at the Market — in the height of summer, there are stands selling drop-dead gorgeous bouquets of wildflowers, as well as potted plants and herbs. Pansies were out in full force last weekend!
I can’t wait to experience the Market in peak harvest season this year, and I’m really enjoying discovering the local food resources around here that I didn’t have time to explore when I was here in college. How about discovering some of the local food producers in your area? Here are some web sites (for those of us living in the U.S.) that I’ve found to be really useful, whether I was living in a metropolitan area like Boston or here in Ithaca:
- Local Harvest – search by state for organic farms, CSAs, farmer’s markets, and more
- eatwild.com – directories by state of grass-fed meat producers
- pickyourown.org – directories of PYO farms by state
In honor of Earth Day today, and to celebrate the Farmer’s Market in general, I’m making us this “Earth Day Salad” using (almost all) ingredients from the Ithaca area. (I say “almost all” because I did use a few pantry items for the vinaigrette.) It’s a salad for early spring in Zone 5, using what I’ve gotten at the market lately: chunks of beets, celery root, jerusalem artichokes, and Adirondack Blue potatoes are are roasted and tossed, while still warm, with an herb vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette, I used the minced ramp bulbs, as well as the chervil and chives since that was what I had picked up from the Market. The warm roasted root vegs are then tossed with some red leaf lettuce from Ludgate Farms, along with the chopped green tops of the ramps. I then topped the salad with some crumbled goat cheese from Lively Run Goat Dairy (just north of us in Interlaken), and finally a poached egg from Kingbird Farm.
We had this salad last night (have to get those pictures!) and we’ll be having it again tonight. Happy Earth Day!
“Earth Day” / Early Spring Salad
Makes 4 small salads, or 2 main-course salads
If you can’t find ramps, you could substitute a nice spring onion. I used ingredients that are at the market right now for us, in Zone 5 — but this is just a template; you can use whatever is local and in-season for your region.
1 small handful of jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium celery root (celeriac), cut into 1-inch chunks
3 medium beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 pound small new potatoes (I used Adirondack Blues), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small bunch of ramps, rinsed and roots trimmed off
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (I used chervil and chives), plus a little more for garnishing
1 head of red-leaf lettuce, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2-4 organic eggs (depending on how many servings you’re making)
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Lay the chunks of jerusalem artichoke, potato, celeriac, and beet on a baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use your hands to toss the vegetables around on the sheet, making sure they all get coated. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, until they’re browned and tender.
While the vegetables are roasting, make the vinaigrette: first, cut off the white parts of the ramps and mince them — you should have about 1 tablespoon. Place these in the bottom of a large bowl with the dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and a good pinch of coarse salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, then drizzle in the 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and continue whisking until emulsified. Add the 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
When the vegetables are done roasting, place them while they’re hot into the big bowl with the vinaigrette, and toss to combine. Have the lettuce and ramp greens ready to go, but don’t add them to the bowl yet. Set aside while you poach the eggs.
Bring water to a simmer with a little splash of white vinegar in a large skillet. Carefully slide in as many eggs are you’re poaching, and let them gently simmer for 3 minutes. While the eggs are simmering, toss the lettuce and ramp greens with the roasted vegetables (I use my clean hands) to thoroughly coat. Divide the salad among the plates and top with the crumbled goat cheese. When the eggs are done poaching, slide one onto each salad.
Sprinkle a little more coarse salt and pepper over each salad, and garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs.