This Week at the Smart Markets Oakton Farmers' Market

It will be chilly at the market this week, but almost all of our vendors should be on hand for you.

This Week at our Oakton Market
Saturday 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Hosted by Unity of Fairfax Church
2854 Hunter Mill Rd.
Oakton, VA 22124

Dear Shopper,

You will indeed be “dear” if you show up this week. We will show up, but we will be very cold; all we can hope for at this time is that the wind chill is accommodating.

Only Uncle Fred will not be with us, as he has had plans for some time to be out of town. He will be back for Super Bowl weekend.

And as far as I know, everyone else will be there, including Max Tyson of Tyson Farms and his own truck that is now up and running again. That’s unless our friends in the countryside get slammed Friday by another snowfall. None of them expects that to happen, though.

James Byers will return with his wonderful cheeses. Please feel free to ask him about organic dairy farming and anything you ever wanted to know about cheese-making. He is so interesting and informative, and you will soon realize why he has to charge what he does for his cheese. I can attest after using both his Colby and his Cheddar this past week that the cheese is wonderful: smooth and a little nutty, not overly salty, and creamy when melted into soup or on top of a frittata. And it has much less water in it. Depending on the recipe, you can probably cut back on the amount you use and still get the flavor you anticipate.

I also used the Trickling Springs butter this week for the first time in a real buttercream frosting, which I rarely make. I ended up using about four ounces less of that, too. These organic products will always be more expensive than their non-organic, mass-produced counterparts, but because of the flavor inherent in grass-fed dairy products and the small-batch production methods used for the butter and cheese that limit the moisture content, you get good value for your money.

Stock up on Celtic Pasties! I did last week. Nyall will have Beef & Guinness, Cottage Pie Style, Mango Chicken, Late Thanksgiving, Breakfast, Spinach & Feta, and Cheese & Onion.

I hear that Kylie will indeed bring hot chocolate this week, and I can also attest that her marshmallows are lovely and melt beautifully in your own hot chocolate. It is amazing even to me what the absence of unnecessary ingredients can do for the simplest of foods. They taste like they are supposed to, even if you haven’t been around long enough to understand what that is! You younger folks will just notice that they taste better.

See you at the market -- bundle up!

From the Market Master

I often write about the kind of pantry you need in the summer to take advantage of the first asparagus of the spring or the arrival of heirloom tomatoes. But the January issue of Southern Living magazine reminded me that I have not addressed the winter pantry, which may be even more important at this time of year. Those special finds at the farmers’ market are fewer and farther between, and once you get them home the weather may hamper a return outing to the grocery store for additional ingredients just when you have been inspired to hit the kitchen.

Southern Living has some suggestions for the Southern cook, which to some extent all of you are since you are living in Virginia, and it focuses on healthy staples to “Build a Better Pantry.” Here are some of their suggestions and some of mine, several of which overlap.

Good canned tomatoes should always be on your shelf along with garlic, onions, fennel, and carrots in your larder. A quick, tasty, and healthy tomato sauce is only 30 minutes away if you have those ingredients on hand. Beans are another item I always have on hand in the winter, and except for emergency situations, they should be dried. Almost all canned beans contain sugar or a preservative that we do not need to be eating. Grits or hominy are also part of my winter pantry; stone-ground grits and hominy have many nutrients that prevent stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. As a side to soak up gravy or sauce, they are more filling and better for you than pasta.

Sweet potatoes and winter squash can be considered pantry items because they store well in a cool, dark place and can be bought and kept on hand for everything from appetizers to desserts. Southern Living also suggests buttermilk, which lasts in the refrigerator lots longer than regular milk and adds fewer calories and great flavor to baked goods that often come out of the winter kitchen. Biscuits, cornbread, and pancakes come to mind.

Nuts such as pecans, almonds, and walnuts are great for smart snacking and to add good Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids to winter salads and dredges and your own granola.

Just as in summer, even without the fresh tomatoes and summer salad greens, good olive oil and red wine vinegar are a must. I have been moving toward using a good pure olive oil (my favorite is Berio) all the time for sautéing, a medium-priced extra-virgin oil for many dishes that benefit from the flavor boost, and a really good extra-virgin oil for that last-minute drizzle. Red wine vinegar shows up in lots of winter stew and winter greens recipes.

Maybe because I know I will have more reasons and opportunities to use meat and vegetable stocks in the winter, it seems easier to get around to making large batches and freezing those lovely aromatic stocks in 2-cup containers. These are like gold in the pantry; their intrinsic properties are worth so much more than their going rate. They can make everything you make so much better and better for you. Just look at the ingredients on the cans or boxes of even the high-end broths and stocks. Save meat from soup bones and chicken parts and freeze what you do not use right away to add to the chicken pie or vegetable-beef soup that you create to get family and friends through a cold snowy weekend.

I am sure I have forgotten some things, but with these few items there are endless possibilities for cooking up a storm or cooking though one, if necessary, without having to step outside into one.

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