NYC Farmer's Market Inspiration: What a Little Freshness Can Do For You.

Manhattan is an island that slims down as you travel from North to South.  Indeed all city streets  seem to converge towards the place where Bowling Green station, Battery Park, and the Ferry Terminal all come together. It's the also the place where the NYC financial district ends or begins,  depending on your perspective. Stand on your head, and you will see what I mean.  I've had the pleasure while visiting downtown customers of viewing New York Harbor in all its majestic beauty, peaking out in amazement from corner offices in downtown high rises.  From some of these offices, on clear and sunny Autumn days,  you can get a 270 degree view of  Lady Liberty,  bridges and collection of lily pod islands that dot our beautiful city and its harbor.   Let's stop here though . This is a cooking blog, and not a casting call for travel channel.

The other day was I was returning from a customer meeting in Lower Manhattan , I came across a farmer's market. I told my colleagues, that on the way back I would have to stop there.  I did. With less than twenty bucks, I picked up some great Jersey tomatoes , similar to beefsteaks , probably three pounds worth . I also purchased some really fresh eggplant.  Then I made my way back to the office, happy happy, very proud of the garden goodness sitting in the paper bags I was carrying up Broadway.  Was it my satisfied sense of primitive hunter instinct that was fueling my inner euphoria, or am I just out of place in NYC ?

The ingredients served me well. The eggplant made its way directly into a dish shown below. The farmer's market spirit instead inspired the other two dishes.   A different variation on the tomato sauce played  a key  culinary role, and made two dishes come to life.  So let's start with the sauce. It deserves attention.

"Bare" Tomato Sauce 

A barely prepared tomato sauce is one  that is not cooked up front but added to a dish. Here we have used it the baked Candele dish and also , as  fast base sauce for warm bruschette.

The recipe is simple. All you will need is a blender.

1 lb ultra ripe tomatoes, cut into large pieces , squeeze out excess water
1 pint of ripe grape tomatoes (shriveled and sweet)
Fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme 
2 garlic gloves
1 medium  shallot
EVOO, Salt only (no pepper)
Water as  needed (I used about 1/2 cup )

I have already talked about keeping grape tomatoes in your kitchen well stocked. Buy a few packs, let then ripen, then shrivel. Their relatively thick protective skins will ensure that most of  them do not go bad and will naturally dehydrate. I always keep a few packs in my pantry .

The sauce is easy. Toss all ingredients in a blender,  and the puree.  Done. That was easy !

2 day old Crusty Bread Bruschetta

Warm Fresh Tomato Bruschetta and Spicy Charchuterie Platter

The centerpiece for this starter platter was the warm brushetta. This was a warm brushetta. To make it I used slightly stale country bread, and cooked in a small batch of sauce for no more than two minutes.  Then topped with a light sprinkle of pecorino cheese.  Some Arthur Ave establishments might offer you something similar as an appetizer, but it is usually done with pepper freselle. This take is different. The two day old bread is cooked for a few minutes in very fast , and fresh sauce, not just topped with a blast of overcooked tomato sauce.

The platter included also   Prosciutto imported from Iowa (La Quercia brand, surprisingly good),  red pepper pecorino cheese and sliced spicy chorizo sausage..

Roasted Farmer's Market Eggplant 


2 lb of eggplant, Italian preferred
3 cloves garlic , thinly sliced 

Roasted Chinese Eggplant


Not much to do here too. Dice the eggplant,  Toss with EVOO, S/P, garlic , Then bake at 400 F. Occasionally toss the eggplant with a wooden spoon.   Move eggplant to a serving bowl. Top with your favorite crumbled goat cheese.

Candele  al Forno Con Patate : "Pari a Pari"

The Farmer's market euphoria caused this dish to come to life. Very Pleased to report that the fan club was blown away , and that on my end, my fears of failing this dish , for a second time were unfulfilled.

This is a baked pasta dish that is very peasant friendly .  The "pari a pari" signifies that all ingredients are added to the cooking tray at the same time, and they are all uncooked, pasta and tomato sauce included

Candele al Forno con Patate : "Pari a Pari"
If you like the crunchy parts of baked ziti dishes,  then this dish is for you.

1 1/2 lb of  Candele pasta  (source: Cosmo Alex Pisano - Mamaroneck)
1 1/2 small potatoes , sliced
Bare Tomato Sauce (see above)  as needed
Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
1-2 tablespoons dry oregano  (Imported only)

The hardest thing here is perhaps finding this specialty pasta.  De Cecco produces a good quality Candele pasta. Here's what they look like in their package. De Cecco Website.


In a baking tray, layer  sauce, potatoes,  Candele, sauce, pecorino cheese.  Repeat this until your tray filled to the top. If necessary crack the Candele to appropriate lengths so that they fit that tray . Note the pasta is not pre-boiled. It is used raw; so is the tomato sauce.  Add a few cups of water to the bottom of the tray, covering about 1 inch in depth.  Cover the tray with a sheet of heavy aluminum foil. Bake for at least 40 minutes.  The pasta and potatoes will cook in their own steam. After 40 minutes test the pasta to see if hit has become tender.  If that is the case, remove the foil and bake for a few more minutes to get some crispness on the top layers.  Serve piping hot. No pun here, but Candele are are strong as basement pipes. When cooked al dente, good imported Italian Candele pasta are strong little fellows.

Who says that starch with starch can't be wonderfully flavorful ?

Salute !


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