In Season: Summer at the market

Stock up on fresh produce at the farmers’ market at the Tel Aviv Port and catch a glorious sunset.

By NERIA BARR
August 29, 2012 14:49
Polents

Polenta. (photo credit: Dan Peretz)

Only a couple of weeks before the High Holy Days and after the summer vacation, the days are getting shorter and the sunsets more and more beautiful. Just the right time to go to the market – but not just any market. The farmers’ market at the Tel Aviv Port is the perfect place for stocking up on the best ingredients available in Israel and enjoying a glorious sunset.

Shir Aloni-Halpern, one of the entrepreneurs who started the farmers’ market, says that as a former food editor, she used to get frustrated seeing food articles in foreign magazines. “I used to say, ‘Why can’t we have wonderful fresh produce sold straight from the farmers like they do in markets in Europe?’ I knew there were growers out there who sent their wonderful produce abroad, while we were getting chilled produce from supermarket refrigerators.”

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She and her business partner Michal Ansky started looking around Israel for growers who were willing to go the extra mile and try growing special vegetables and selling them directly to customers on the same day, without any middlemen.

They started in the open market at the Tel Aviv Port twice a week and quickly added the covered market, which is open Monday to Saturday, offering the best produce, as well as food stores, restaurants, sandwich and pasta bars. The covered market has turned into a haven for food lovers and connoisseurs who are looking for alternatives to industrialized, mass-produced food, as well as home to a couple of Tel Aviv’s greatest eateries.

The following recipes were given to us by chefs and shop owners who provide fresh food at the covered farmers’ market in the Tel Aviv Port.

MEDITERRANEAN PANTRY SALAD

This is an easy-to-make salad that comes in many versions, all of which are popular in Italy and Spain and are perfect for warm nights.
Courtesy of the Primo delicatessen stall



✔ 3 artichokes a la Romana, halved (Ponti)
✔ 6 pieces of anchovy (Ortiz)
✔ 2 Tbsp. wine vinegar (Ponti)
✔ 50 gr. kalamata olives, pitted and halved (Cuquillo)
✔ 1 chili, thinly sliced
✔ Lettuce hearts, cut into strips
✔ 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
✔ 12 small capers in vinegar (Ponti)
✔ Parmesan cheese

Place artichokes, tomatoes, lettuce and olives in a bowl. Add a few thin slices of chili to taste. Season with black pepper, a little salt and vinegar, toss and sprinkle with capers. Before serving, drizzle with a few drops of olive oil, arrange anchovies on the top, and grate some Parmesan cheese. Serve in the middle of the table.

SUMMER BALLERINA PASTA
Courtesy of chef Oren Goldwasser, Pasta Fiori.

✔ 500-600 gr. fresh basil “ballerina” pasta from Fiori
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ 2 cloves garlic, sliced
✔ 4 thin slices of chili pepper (red or green)
✔ Mixed mushrooms (from the Marina mushroom stall)
✔ Handful of parsley leaves
✔ 1 lemon
✔ Salt and pepper
✔ 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
✔ 2 sage leaves

Boil a pot full of water. Add a pinch of salt. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes.

Strain the pasta and save some of the cooking water.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet.

Sauté the garlic in the skillet and add chili, sage and mushroom. When golden, add 1⁄2 a ladle of the cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Pour the strained pasta into the skillet, add the Parmesan and mix until the sauce covers all the pasta.

Divide into serving plates, grate a little lemon zest over each plate, drizzle a few drops of the best olive oil you have on each serving, and sprinkle some parsley leaves. Top with a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.

CREAMY POLENTA

The Kitchen Market is an innovative restaurant on the second floor of the farmers’ market. Chef Yossi Shitrit serves modern international cuisine that is influenced by French cuisine but is much lighter and has many other influences from Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. The Kitchen Market is also home to courses in raw food and vegan cooking.

Shitrit says polenta can accompany many dishes, including fish and vegetarian dishes.

✔ 1 cup cornmeal
✔ 1 cup milk
✔ 1 cup cream
✔ 1 clove garlic, minced
✔ Zest of 1 lemon
✔ Salt to taste
✔ 2 tsp. truffle oil (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a pot and cook over low heat, mixing constantly until mixture becomes soft and creamy. Serve on a plate, topped with your choice of fish or vegetable stew.

CRISPY POLENTA

Add 1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese and 200 gr.

butter to the basic cooked polenta. Spread on a baking sheet a couple of centimeters thick. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, cut the cooled polenta into cubes or fingers and dip in flour, then egg and then bread crumbs. Fry on both sides until golden.

OKRA WITH LABANEH AND CHICKPEAS
Makes 4

Tapas in the Market is a fun-filled place located at the entrance of the farmers’ market. The fashionable tapas bar offers a wide selection of small dishes, some typically adapted from the Barcelona cuisine and others created by local chef Barak Aharoni.

Diners are invited to sit around the open kitchen and enjoy watching the cooks prepare the delicious tapas or sit outside, enjoying the sea breeze. Aharoni is known for his fresh and robust Mediterranean cuisine. He likes to use seasonal produce purchased at the market and prepared in front of diners.

In the following dish, he fries the fresh okra, giving it crispness and maintaining the vivid green color and fresh taste.

✔ 2 Baladi eggplants
✔ 20 leaves of fresh mint
✔ 1⁄2 Tbsp. dried mint
✔ 1 garlic clove, minced
✔ 1 kg. labaneh
✔ 2 cups sour cream
✔ 1⁄2 cup cooked chickpeas
✔ 1⁄2 green chili, chopped, seeds removed
✔ 11⁄2 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Salt
✔ 200 gr. okra
✔ 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
✔ 1 onion, sliced
✔ 1 tomato, chopped
✔ 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped
✔ 1⁄2 chili, seeds removed, thinly sliced (optional)
✔ Juice of 1⁄2 lemon

Roast eggplant over open flame or in the oven. Roasting over open flame gives the eggplant a unique smoked taste, so try to use a grill or a gas-stove top. When ready, peel and remove the stem. For added smoked flavor, keep 1⁄2 of the burnt peel and chop separately.

Coarsely chop the cooked eggplant.

In a bowl, mix labaneh and sour cream.

Add the cooked eggplant, burnt peel and chili. Add the minced garlic and both kinds of mint. Mix and add the chickpeas.

Mix again. Add olive oil and salt and taste.

Cook the okra carefully. Chop off the top of the okra stem, but not all of it.

Heat an iron skillet and add 1-2 Tbsp.

olive oil. In a bowl, mix okra, onion and zucchini and pour into the skillet. Toss.

Keep cooking until browned slightly and tenderized but not too soft.

In a separate bowl, mix together the chopped tomatoes, mint, chili, olive oil and lemon juice.

Remove okra from heat and add to the tomato mixture. Season with salt.

To serve: Arrange the eggplant-labaneh mixture on each plate and top with the okra. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil over each dish.


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