By Sylvie Bigar
The other day in Union Square, it was sunny but I could already feel the changing season in the air. The Greenmarket, which just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, is thriving. As is the case every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the scene is dotted with white aprons and coats; chefs were shopping.
In late summer, the star of the market is undeniably the tomato. Tomatoes come in all colors and shapes, from the green zebra variety to yellow, orange and even purple. And like the fruit itself, the prices vary greatly.
As he was devising his menu at the market, Jacques Gautier, chef/owner of the new Park Slope Latin restaurant Palo Santo, bought a variety of heirloom tomatoes to make a simple multi-colored salad with basil. He then chose some pungent green tomatoes for a salsa verde, instead of the usual tomatillo.
One of the best end-of-summer offerings is corn, including the bicolor sweet ear from Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstown, New Jersey. Costing 50 cents per ear, or six for $2.75, it’s so sweet all it needs is either a grill or a pot filled with boiling water. After a few minutes, they are ready to eat, with or without butter. Damon Wise, chef de cuisine at Tom Colicchio’s Craft restaurant, makes
“Greenmarket Corn,” a cream of corn made with the kernels cooked in their own corn milk. “I actually write ‘Greenmarket Corn’ or ‘Greenmarket Onions’ on the menu because I know they’re good, and I want people to notice them and eat them,” said Wise.
Are those delicate yellow flowers displayed from Windfall Farms in Montgomery, NY, sunflowers? Not quite. These flowers are not only edible they are delicious. Called squash blossoms or zucchini flowers, they can be found on many fancy menus, but home cooks easily stuff them with either cheese, meat or any leftover veggie mix. Sauté with olive oil, and you have a delicious and sophisticated dish.
Gramercy Tavern’s new pastry chef, Nancy Olson was on the hunt for produce. When asked what she was searching for, she responded: “Everything!” “Blueberries, raspberries, yellow plums.” She uses both Italian and yellow plums in a luscious warm plum bread pudding served with spiced plum sorbet and yellow plum sorbet.
One of the largest and most inviting stands, Paffenroth Gardens offers baby fennels, celery root, all matters of squash, turnips, and sunchokes. I discovered the sunchoke, also called Jerusalem artichoke, on one of my gourmand birthday journeys at Craft and now cook it often, as a lighter alternative to the ubiquitous potato.
Next door, packs of blueberries were being whisked away on a huge dolly. “Are you buying for a restaurant?” I asked the young woman who is clearly doing the picking. “Yes,” she answers with finality. “May I ask which one?” “Well, no.” she replies. After she departed with half the farm stand, I gave the farmer an interrogative look. “JG” he whispered. It took me a few seconds to realize he meant Jean-Georges.
Around the corner was Marc Canora, chef at Hearth in the East Village. “I get all my produce from the Market,” he said while examining the various kinds of eggplant. He described a Wild Alaskan Salmon he serves with eggplant three ways, “a purée of black Italian eggplant, a crunchy salad made with marinated white and purple eggplant, and the baby Asian kind I serve grilled.”
Some Restaurants That Buy Their Produce At The Greenmarket
652 Union St.
Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY 11215
43 East 19th St.
New York, NY 10003
42 East 20th St.
New York, NY 10003
Trump International Hotel
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023
403 East 12th St.
New York, NY 10009