Farm Fresh

071213_farm_fresh1The Maryland foodie’s hallmarks of summer used to be a proliferation of snowball stands, then tomato stands, then stands for silver queen corn. In the past few years, the demand for healthy, organic and local food has popularized a new culinary staple of summer in our state: the farmers’ market.

It starts right now and continues until the end of August. Make the most of local Maryland bumper crops of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can visit a local farmers’ market almost every day of the week. It’s where you will find artisan breads, organic herbs and vegetable plants, along with a weekly array of home-grown items, fresh flowers, crafts and wines. Homemade baked goods (even gluten-free) are featured at many farmers’ markets and are usually from “made-from-scratch” recipes. Some markets feature farm-fresh eggs from chickens and ducks and heirloom tomatoes. I love the Tuesday afternoon hours of the Pikesville and Kenilworth farmers’ markets. Look for Calvert Gifts at Kenilworth for gorgeous, delicious heirloom tomatoes.

Photos by Justin Tsucalas

Photos by Justin Tsucalas

Having a party or Shabbat dinner? Plan your menu after visiting a market. July 20 is Tu B’Av, a.k.a. Jewish love day. Why not invite a bunch of singles to your Shabbat lunch? Ask each one to bring a three-minute Jewish food story for fun conversation.

Become a savvy farmers’ market shopper by following the tips below. For a list of all Baltimore City and County farmers’ markets go to

How to successfully navigate a farmers’ market:

  • Bring cash, preferably $1 bills in a fanny pack.
  • Take a walking inventory of the entire market to compare prices before making purchases.
  • Bring a sturdy tote bag, or better yet a canvas shopping cart with wheels (empty egg cartons work well to transport berries and figs); don’t forget a cooler for the drive home.
  • Don’t be shy; ask for a taste before buying, and ask the farmers’ favorite recipes for their produce.

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped shallots or red onion
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons sliced sun-dried tomatoes, softened
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, optional
scant 1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place cleaned string beans in a large saucepan. Fill with enough water to cover beans and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Drain and let cool. In a bowl, stir together shallots, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and oil. Pour over green beans. Scatter pine nuts on top. Cover and refrigerate at least a few hours or overnight. Serve cold. 8 servings.

2 14-ounce cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
lemon juice to taste
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
3 leeks, white portion only, chopped
3 green or other colored peppers, cut into strips
6 asparagus spears, cut into pieces
1⁄2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
4 10-ounce cans of vegetable or Oriental broth
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh parsley, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
6-8 ounces thick sliced fresh mushrooms
salt & pepper to taste
3 5-ounce packages saffron-flavored yellow rice*

Sprinkle some lemon juice on the artichokes and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute onions until soft. Stir in tomatoes, leeks, artichokes, peppers, asparagus, peas and 1 can of broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Stir in remaining cans of broth, garlic, parsley, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Add rice, stirring well. Simmer, covered, over low-medium heat for about 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, before serving. 6-8 servings.

*You can substitute 12⁄3 cups long-grain rice and 1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric for packaged yellow rice.

1 pound carrots, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Splenda
1 clove finely minced garlic
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or powdered curry
1⁄2 cup raisins

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add carrots and continue to boil until just tender, about 3 minutes. Rinse with cold water, drain and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, Splenda, and garlic. Add cumin, cinnamon, ginger, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir in carrots and raisins and toss all together with dressing. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. 4-5 servings.

1 prepared 9- or 10-inch pie crust
1 small package of crumbled goat’s cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 large Vidalia onions, halved and sliced
3 medium-to-large Maryland, Jersey or heirloom tomatoes, sliced
grated Parmesan cheese

Bake pie crust according to directions to lightly brown. Cool. In a large
fry pan, heat olive oil and butter. Add sliced onions and caramelize them, stirring often. Sprinkle goat’s cheese on bottom of pie crust. Place onions on top. Layer tomato slices over onions. Sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. 8-10 servings.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Simply Delicious

071213_simply_deliciousMove over hamburgers. Out of the way, hot dogs. There is something new to bite into — and it has nothing to do with meat.

Jennifer Polt, a stay-at-home mom who recently turned vegan, this summer debuted Sound Bites crackers and granola. Selling the product at the Towson farmers’ market on Allegheny Avenue from 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Thursday, she said Sound Bites is a healthy, naturally dehydrated food made from organic and locally grown ingredients.

Founder and chief producer, Polt started the company to “give people a healthier choice no matter what kind of diet they eat.”

On a recent visit to the market, Polt had a line of customers curious about her bites. Many took a taste of the crackers, which come in flavors ranging from onion to caraway to zucchini flax to walnut.

Polt’s new career really began over a decade ago, when she was in her 20s. She worked tirelessly in multiple cake, bread and cookie bakeries and said, “I would eat pretty much anything.”

However, a little over a year ago, Polt’s diet took a drastic shift, and she became a raw vegan. The diet forced her to “create interesting things” for her husband Rich and sons Sam and Ethan to eat. Her crackers “come out of my own personal journey.”

But even nonvegans seem to really like the product.

Customer Michele Miller called Sound Bites snacks “simply delicious. My body thrives on all of those vitamins and enzymes.”

Vicki Kordell, another customer, said she enjoys the “freshness and flavor. It’s a guilt-free snack.” Kordell has visited the market each week to buy more crackers.

Polt would like her company to be socially conscious, too. Days after its founding, she partnered with Apex Food Company’s Honey Bee Restoration Project, which seeks to combat the rapidly declining honeybee population in the Baltimore area. In addition, Polt purchases all of her products from a local farm company, Baltimorganic.

She said she also sees the company as a vehicle for sharing memories from her childhood through food.

“The crackers bring me back to Jewish holidays as a child,” Polt said, something her raw vegan lifestyle has generally prohibited her from savoring.

“Even though I’m now restricted on what I can and cannot eat, the crackers give this new diet a sense of warmth and help invoke a lot of the same feelings, emotions and memories,” Polt
explained. “Whether people are on similar eating paths as I am or not, my crackers have universal appeal.”

Do you want to try Sound Bites? Visit or email

Justin Hayet is a JT intern —