Warm weather, cool breezes, the farmers market. . . does life get any better? In addition to the bounty of summer produce, the highlight of my trip to the West End farmers market this week was a stop at the On the Gourmet van. Upon returning home, I whipped up some roasted eggplant dip (recipe included below) and other Mediterranean treats with market finds.
Sugar Baby Watermelons and Baby Tomatoes at Westmoreland County Farms
Is it just me, or is this summer flying by? Not only that, but the weather here in Washington, DC has been unbelievably beautiful. Can it really possibly be August in Washington? I can stroll down the street without breaking a sweat- a rarity in summertime Washington.
The weather has made shopping at the farmer's market all the more enjoyable. I headed off to the Alexandria West End Farmer's Market Sunday morning, basking in the gorgeous day. I've said it before, but this time of year is fantastic for fresh produce.
Westmoreland County Farms had an abundance of produce including multiple colors of heirloom tomatoes, white sweet corn, and lots of peppers. Most notably, large red peppers were $1 each. I bought several in hopes of roasting them, but they've all somehow been used up. Have I mentioned that I love red peppers?
Okra was available from several vendors. I'm ashamed to admit that I have yet to try okra (Can I blame it on being a northern girl?). I've only ever seen it sold in frozen packages at the store. Fresh okra is enticing, and I welcome any suggestions on how to prepare it.
One of the best stops Sunday was the On the Gourmet van. Ramona, of Houndstooth Gourmet, first introduced me to this van full of gourmet and specialty food products in this post at her blog. Situated at the end of the West End market, On the Gourmet offers both local and imported gourmet food items including cheeses, olive oils, jams and spreads, crackers, ice cream, and sparkling drinks. This variety of products, many locally produced, makes a wonderful addition to a farmer's market offering mostly produce items.
A few weeks ago, I bought delicious Chesapeake Bay soft shell crabs from On the Gourmet and wrote about it here. The crabs had already been cleaned and were ready to cook, which made the purchase all the more appealing. This week, the van is featuring fresh lamb cuts.
During this visit, I sampled a few cheeses and a tasty black olive spread.
Libby, of On the Gourmet, was very helpful and patient in answering my questions about the different cheeses available.The most appealing cheese was Chevre, literally "goat" (in French) cheese. She carried two varieties from Firefly Farms, a Maryland Farm which also sells at some farmers markets in the area. The most interesting one was the Buche Noire, a chevre rolled in ashes and then aged to develop a rind. In the hopes that this description doesn't seem obvious, the chevre had a rich smoky flavor accented by the smooth creamy texture and flavors of the cheese.
We ate it plain with whole wheat crackers- which was delicious- but I'm tempted to try this recipe from the Firefly Farms website for Buche Noir with cherry tomatoes.
My in-laws joined us for dinner Sunday, and I wanted to make something summery and refreshing. Given all the peppers and tomatoes at home, it seemed best to making several Mediterranean small plates including: caprese salad (tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella), lemon thyme grilled chicken, and Greek salad.
And of course, the recipe I am sharing here for Roasted Eggplant Dip.
Now, I can't take much credit for this one since this recipe is adapted from the Barefoot Contessa. I adjusted it a bit by adding some lemon, fresh oregano, and red pepper flakes. This gave it a little kick.
- 1 medium eggplant, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1 large red pepper, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1/2 medium red onion, diced into 1 inch sections
- 1/2 large lemon, juiced and cut into sections (reserve juice)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 TB olive oil
- 4 sprigs fresh oregano
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like a lot of spice)
- 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
- 1 TB tomato paste (I substituted boiled fresh tomatoes)
- reserved lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the eggplant, red pepper, onion, and lemon wedges with the garlic, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly on a foil lined baking sheet and place in the oven.
Roast for 40 minutes, turning one time during roasting.
Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool. Place in a food processor with reserved lemon juice, tomato paste, and additional fresh oregano (if desired). Pulse a few times until a slightly chunky consistency is achieved.
Serve with toasted pita bread (brush with olive oil, dust with salt, then toast in a 400F oven). Enjoy!
I have submitted this to the Farmer's Market Report at To Every Meal there is a season here.