To Market, to Market A Sunday feast celebrates local farmers’ bounty.

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Farmers Dinner

Before Sandra Lawler ran the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar, she ran Feast, a tiny restaurant in Mount Vernon. Her simple, rustic menu was sourced almost entirely from local farms and producers. The relationships she built with purveyors put her in a good spot to be tapped by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts to oversee its food and beverage operations—a post that requires her to seek local vendors for grand events like Artscape, the Book Festival and Light City, as well as visit farms and producers to vet their wares.

Sandra Lawler in her kitchen.
Sandra Lawler in her kitchen.

Lawler’s friends (I count myself among them) saw the closing of Feast with mixed emotions. We miss the restaurant, but can still gather around the chef’s table for one of her frequent soirees, which always include the best provender Maryland has to offer.

Anticipating the summer season, Lawler recently invited a few of the market vendors for a Sunday lunch from her home kitchen. The meal was Lawler’s showcase of what can be made with summer’s bounty.

We started with an appetizer of hummus and sliced watermelon radish (chickpeas, by the way, can be found at Thomas McCarthy’s stand at the market). Next came scallion pancakes, and a salad topped with peach wedges and sliced duck, drizzled in fruit vinaigrette. Lamb ribs with fig glaze were served on a creamy, aromatic pillow of cauliflower and parsnip purée. Nearly all ingredients are available from the farms represented on the guest list. The table was even decorated with fresh-cut flowers, which can always be found at the Sunday market.

The downtown market, in its 38th year, quarters 48 farms each week, along with about an equal number of food stalls and vendors of prepared treats. There are also around 40 tables selling crafts and curios in the bazaar section. Lawler has been shopping at the market since she moved to Baltimore in 2002. “There’s nothing like strolling the market on Sunday and planning your meals for the week based on what’s available,” she says.

This style of shopping is decidedly different from the market’s early days, says Pam Pahl, proprietor of Pahl’s Farm in Woodstock, among the market’s first vendors. “We used to sell a lot of large quantities of produce,” she says. “People would can and freeze.” Today, she says, shoppers are more interested in “trendy” foods like exotic greens and heirloom tomatoes. “We couldn’t give away kale before,” she laughs. “Now it’s one of our most popular items.”

The Pahl family includes (from left) Jnnifer and husband, Wayne Early, a retired Baltimore City police officer, and her mother, Pam Pahl.
The Pahl family includes (from left) Jnnifer and husband, Wayne Early, a retired Baltimore City police officer, and her mother, Pam Pahl.

Chicken Run

Pahl Farm, Woodstock
pahlsfarmmd.com

Pam Pahl “married the farm” in 1991 when she married Les Pahl, who died 12 years ago. Their four children are the sixth generation to work the land—Les’ grandparents sold produce at Lexington Market in the 1930s, says Pam. While the farm has always grown vegetables and fruit—including cantaloupe, watermelon and raspberries, as well as cut flowers—the family has recently gotten into eggs and meat. Jennifer, who’s most involved with the latter, likes to tell the story of her first chickens. In high school, “I was called to the office,” she says. The only farm girl at her Catonsville high school, she was asked to help collect a brood let loose as part of a senior class prank. “I didn’t know anything about chickens,” she says. “I guess they figured I lived on a farm, so I would know what to do.” She helped to box up the fowl and ended up taking them home. Now Jennifer raises laying hens and the occasional meat chickens as well as goats and ducks.

Libby Longendorf, left, raises a glass with Carrie Buppert and husband, Jesse Frasure.
Libby Longendorf, left, raises a glass with Carrie Buppert and husband, Jesse Frasure.

All Hands on Deck

Buppert’s Doran’s Chance Farm, Marriottsville
bupperts.com

In 1951, Carrie Buppert’s grandfather, who worked as an administrator at Bethlehem Steel at the time, bought 100 acres in Marriottsville “to get the family out of the city,” says Buppert. She works on the farm with her father, Joe, as well as a cousin and an uncle. Her brothers pitch in on weekends, and when the seasons demand extra hands.

Though her grandparents, Doran and Helen, were more hobbyists, the farm became a serious enterprise when her parents shifted their careers (her father was a master carpenter, her mother a nurse) to full-time farming. Buppert, 36, joined her parents full-time on the farm in 2014, after working as a teacher and researcher. When she met her now husband, Jesse Frasure, her brothers teased her. “They said I didn’t date him, I recruited him as a farm hand,” she says. Now Frasure works in the farm’s apiary making honey (only enough for the family at this point).

Officially called Doran’s Chance after its founder, the farm has been taking its produce to the Baltimore market since 1979, a year after it opened. Look for bags of fresh corn, greens and tomatoes, potted perennials and hanging baskets. “The asparagus disappears within minutes,” says Carrie. Doran’s Chance also operates a CSA, with about 100 members in 2016.

Grilled duck breast on greens with sliced peaches.
Grilled duck breast on greens with sliced peaches.

Tomato Lovers

Zahradka Farm, Essex
thezahradkafarm.com

Passing the food, from left, George Zahradka, his wife, Libby Longendorf, and Carrie Buppert help themselves.
From left, George Zahradka, Libby Longendorf, and Carrie Buppert help themselves.

Libby Longendorf met her husband at the downtown Baltimore farmers’ market. She was working the table for a friend’s business—the Catonsville-based Breadery—and felt a soft ping on her arm. “I’m wondering, ‘Where are these green beans coming from?’ Green beans and cherry tomatoes.” She looked over and saw George Zahradka, the fourth-generation farmer of his eponymous family farm in Essex, at the next stand. “He was throwing produce at me.”

Longendorf, it turns out, loves tomatoes, and happily traded in her massage therapy practice to become a farmer’s wife. (Surprisingly, she says, her husband doesn’t appreciate massages.) The Zahradka Farm sells its heirloom tomatoes, microgreens and variously hued cauliflower and broccoli to dozens of

local restaurants, including Woodberry Kitchen, Charleston and White Oak Tavern in Ellicott City, as well as at the Sunday market. Z Farm, as it’s called, is also known for its bicolored sweet corn, strawberries and melons.

Zahradka’s great-great-grandmother came to the U.S. from Bohemia (a region in what is now the Czech Republic) more than a century ago, and her son put down roots in Essex. The farm, at 90 acres, leases another 90 from Baltimore County, and has two large hoop houses and seven greenhouses. Longendorf started up the farm’s CSA, which counts about 400 members in summer and 300 in winter.

 

Farmers DinnerGrilled Duck Breast with Greens and Raspberry-Peach Vinaigrette
Serves 4

Assorted greens in a variety of flavors and textures can be found at many of the market’s stands. While baby mustard greens may be too harsh on their own, they work nicely when mixed with baby spinach and baby romaine or mild tatsoi. This salad is delicious topped with duck from Pahl’s Farm.

2          duck breasts, skin on, approx. 0-12 oz. Each

Salt and pepper to taste

¼         to ½ lb. fresh baby greens

For the vinaigrette:

¼         cup fresh raspberries

½         peach sliced (can use canned peaches)

2          tablespoons orange juice

2          teaspoons Dijon mustard

1          tablespoon sliced shallot

1/8       cup olive oil

Cook the duck breasts. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Score the skin of duck breasts and place them skin-side down on the hot skillet. Salt and pepper the flesh side of the breast (you may want to use a splatter guard). Cook about 8 minutes, or until skin is deep golden. Remove from heat and turn breasts over. Let sit for 10 minutes or longer.

Make the vinaigrette. Place raspberries in a pan with a splash of water. Heat until raspberries melt, about 10 minutes. Add sliced peach and heat through. Remove peach slices and set aside. Mixture should be sweet. If not, add a bit of sugar or honey. Whisk orange juice with mustard and shallot. Whisk in olive oil. Gently fold in raspberry mixture.

Assemble salad. Wash and dry baby greens. Toss with the vinaigrette to lightly coat, and portion on dinner plates. Slice the duck breasts diagonally about ¼ inch thick and fan out over greens. Drizzle a bit of the dressing over the breasts and top with sliced peaches.

Lamb Ribs with Fig Glaze
Serves 4

The mild winter may reward us with higher yields from local fig trees. Hills Forest Fruit Farm and many other vendors, including Buppert’s Doran’s Chance and Zahradka, have a fig tree or two, so ask the farmer. Springfield Lamb Farm of Kent County offers ribs that are rich and layered with fat—3-4 per person should suffice.

Farmers Dinner2          lamb ribs

8-10     fresh figs

Oil

1          large garlic clove

Salt and pepper to taste

Place lamb ribs on a rack in a roasting pan with ½-inch water in the bottom of pan. Cover and steam in 325° oven for about 1½ hrs. Stem 8-10 soft figs, slice in half and place on an oiled baking sheet. Roast 20-30 minutes. Smash a large garlic clove and sauté in a small pot. Add roasted figs and a splash of water. Simmer, stirring mixture until it becomes spreadable. When ribs are tender, slice and brush with fig glaze. Return ribs to 450° oven and roast until brown, about 10-15 minutes. Serve on cauliflower and parsnip purée (below).

Cauliflower and Parsnip Purée
Serves 6-8

Cauliflower and parsnips are typically available in the early market season and then again in the fall. Feel free to experiment with any root vegetable or hard squash.

2-3       parsnips, peeled and sliced

1          head cauliflower

¼         cup good olive or grapeseed oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Nutmeg (optional)

Remove leaves from cauliflower head and place in pot surrounded by parsnips. Fill halfway with water, cover and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain half the water and purée vegetables with an immersion blender. Add olive or grapeseed oil to desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste (a touch of nutmeg is nice, too).

Farmers DinnerScallion Corn Cakes
Makes about 16 3-inch cakes

Scallions—spring onions—call them what you will—they are available pretty much all season and can be mixed into pancake batter for a great side dish. As you complete each batch, cover with waxed paper and keep warm in a 170° oven.

1          cup cornmeal

½         cup flour

1          teaspoon sugar

2          teaspoons baking powder

¼         teaspoon sea salt

2          eggs

1¼       cup buttermilk

2          tablespoons olive oil

¾         cup scallions, thinly sliced

Olive oil or butter for frying

Combine dry ingredients. Mix eggs, buttermilk and oil. Fold into dry ingredients. Let batter rest for 10 minutes before adding the scallions. Fry in small dollops (for about 3-inch pancakes).

Published in the May/June 2016 issue of STYLE.

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