Seasons by the Sea: Get to Know Your Farmers

If I can hit two farmers markets over the weekend, I’ve got enough bounty to last through the week
A couple of stops at farmers markets, such as this one in Springs, can be enough to stock the kitchen for the week.

Visiting local farmers markets is one of my favorite pastimes. Sometimes I only have time to cut a quick swath through them. Shiitakes from David Falkowski, a nice piece of striped bass from Alex Fausto of the Seafood Shop, and perhaps some blossoms from Keith Pierpont. If I can hit two farmers markets over the weekend, I’ve got enough bounty to last through the week.

Remarkably, while the East Hampton Farmers Market is only in its ninth year, the number of vendors has grown to 23. There are now 15 farmers markets from Hampton Bays to end of the North and South Forks. You could shop on a Thursday in Montauk or Riverhead, and Fridays or Saturdays at most others. The Southampton Farmers Market is open on Sundays.

On the rare days I have time to dawdle and sample and chat, I always look for Kate Plumb, former president of Slow Food East End and founder of the East Hampton Farmers Market, located in the Nick & Toni’s parking lot in East Hampton, open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays. She introduces me to new vendors and always has tips on what I should try.

The most fun is sampling and getting recipe ideas. Sang Lee Farm sells bags of pre-cut vegetables to stir fry, a genius idea. The folks at Balsam Farms always have creative suggestions. David Falkowski of OpenMinded Organics suggested sauteing shiitake mushrooms with baby leeks with a little dried Thai chili pepper to accompany some quickly seared sea scallops. Within hours, I was making and enjoying just that. To stave off our hunger pangs as I cooked, my guests and I nibbled on some warm Atlantic Mist cheese from Mecox Bay Dairy on some of Anke’s Fit Bakery’s rosemary and black olive flatbread. While I am already a fan of Wolffer Estate’s wines, the new Summer in a Bottle rosé was simply smashing with this homegrown feast.

Have you ever tried the Gula Gula empanadas made by Luchi Masliah? Did you know Arthur Wolf of Smokin’ Wolf in East Hampton smokes the pork for her pulled pork, mango, and sweet potato empanadas? Try dipping these into her mint, parsley, and cilantro sauce. Ann Harper of Raw Oasis Foods has a chipotle cashew cheese dip that is also quite remarkable with the breakfast empanada.

The longest lines are always in front of Horman’s Best Pickles. The array of pickles is staggering, and you could probably stand there for an hour sampling bread and butter pickle chips, horseradish, mustard, super hot, and more. Make sure you try the Bloody Mary mix, you’ll never buy supermarket bottled concoctions again.

It would take too long to describe every delicious item and flower and soap from the markets, but here are some of my favorites. Everyone I know who has tried Arlotta Food Studio’s olive oils and vinegars ends up buying several bottles. Mario Pecoraro is always on hand with tasty ideas. This past weekend he suggested a drizzle of Arlotta’s blood orange-infused oil on steamed asparagus. I use the basil oil on fried egg sandwiches with a slice of tomato. The fig balsamic vinegar goes in all of my salad dressings with a tiny bit of minced garlic.

It’s fun to buy honey from different countries — the rich chestnut of Italy and fragrant lavender of France — but I always like to have local honeys on hand, to use every day and give away as gifts. East End Apiaries has a nice seasonal selection of wildflower honeys.

I am not a gluten-free person but I can’t resist any of Anke’s Fit Bakery’s cookies and flatbreads; the oatmeal ginger is my favorite. Blue Duck Bakery always has a nice selection of breads at the farmers markets, but you can’t beat its baguette for simple perfection.

Some other favorites are the Southampton Soap Company’s gardenia and spiced bay rum soaps, and Long Island Livestock Company’s lanolin-based skincare products.

Have you ever tried Dennis Doherty’s True Blue Estate Coffee? Yes, it’s pricey at $40 per pound, but this coffee is from the first certified organic coffee plantation in Jamaica and it’s worth it!

Besides fruits and vegetables and flowers and baked goods, Slow Food’s 15 markets throughout our area have it all from salts to goat cheese, yarns to salves, fish, pickles, sorbets, and wine.

An oft-heard mantra of local farmers and fishermen is “Know where your food comes from. Get to know your farmer and fisherman.” Not only should you support and get to know them, you should spend a little time chatting them up. You will get recipes and ideas and maybe even the occasional discount.

One of the greatest gifts America has given (back) to itself is an appreciation for the farmers, fishermen, artisanal bakers and brewers, cheese makers, vintners, and beekeepers of this country. We are fortunate to have so many on the East End of Long Island. Let’s support their hard work. See you at the markets.
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