Sunday, 19 April 2015

Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta

Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta
Me and my son asking: "Mamma, what are you doing?" 

That I am a huge fan of the Farmers Market on the Terrace is very well known by all my friends and acquaintances here in Dubai,as well as by the readers of this blog. And also the other members of my family, who hesitated for a while before joining me on my Friday morning visits to the market (I like to go early to avoid the crowd and choose the freshest produce), are now regular visitors, having found good "personal" reasons to go, apart from being with me. And in fact, while I get the fresh,  organic, locally grown vegetables for the week, my son, too young - and too active - to enjoy shopping with me from the farmers, loves running and jumping in the garden, playing with a lovely white cat always present at the market and always looking for a stroke, as well as tasting honey from the Balqees stall and bread from Baker & Spice; my husband appreciates having a post-shopping breakfast in the garden with one the delicious items prepared by Baker & Spice's cooks (with the Spinach and Egg English Muffin being his favorite).

Since they decided to come with me every single Friday, I started to fully enjoy my mornings at the farmers market. Not having any hurry to come back home to spend the rest of the day with my family, now I can start my weekly visits wandering along the market to see what vegetables are available and if there is any new produce or something I am not familiar with; then I can take my time to stop at almost all the stalls and buy different products from different farmers (as everybody should do to support as many farmers as possible, and to pick the best from any of them), talk with the farmers and ask about vegetables I don't know (I have tasted many new things during the last months), chat with friend and fellow bloggers. When the haul is finally in our car's boot, along with few freshly baked loaves from Baker & Spice and, when I need, some delicious extra virgin olive oil from Astrea, I can head to the garden, where husband and son are already enjoying the breakfast and the sun, and calmly sip my coffee on a bench before the final stop of the morning: the cooking demo area where every week  a guest chef shows how to prepare delicious dishes with the products from the market.
My weekends couldn't start better!
Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta

So when Baker & Spice, the organizer of the Farmers Market on the Terrace, kindly invited me to do a cooking demonstration at the market I felt  at the same time surprised and honored.
Surprised because I am not a chef, or a professional cook, and not even a popular personality in the food scene or in the blogsphere, but just a regular shopper at the farmers market - and a food blogger for passion - who loves eating well, in all senses, and is obsessed with the origin and quality of the ingredients and foods arriving to my table.
Honored because being invited by the people who, with passion and indubitable effort, have created this unique-in- Dubai place which contributes to the well being, and well eating, of many families in the city, means that they appreciate my passion for healthy and tasty recipes as well as my love for the market, for the produce I can find there and for the "brave" farmers of the desert who work hard to bring us the freshest and tastiest organic products that the land can offer. And it also means I would share the stage with chefs and food experts whose work I particularly appreciate, like Suzanne Husseini or Gabrielle Kurtz just to name two regular guest chefs at the market!
I must confess that at the beginning I was a bit scared; it wasn't much the idea of cooking in front , and for, many people to make me nervous, but that of speaking - in English of course, that is not my mother language  - while working.  But then I thought: if I've been asked to do it means that someone else thinks I can do it.  So I said "yes" and I'm very glad I did.
Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta

Last Friday morning was a really well spent morning: I enjoyed cooking  and seeing many people tasting what I made, but what I liked the most was talking whit those people and answer to their questions about ingredients, preparation techniques, cooking tips and more.  I hope that the people who attended the demo enjoyed the morning as I did and, most important of all, went home with some new ideas on how to use the amazing vegetables that the Farmers Market offers.
What I did? Pasta, in particular three different sauces for three  different shapes of pasta. I chose to make pasta first of all because I am Italian and pasta perfectly represents our culinary tradition, then because pasta and vegetables are a winning combination, both on the nutritional and the taste point of view:  a plate of pasta with vegetable is a complete, balanced and satisfying meal.  Not to forget that pasta is universally loved and prepared.

Here are the recipes of last Friday's cooking show at the Farmers Market on the Terrace.
Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta
Pasta salad with mixed summer vegetables, herbs and pine nuts

Pasta salad with mixed summer vegetables, herbs and pine nuts
serves 4
320 - 400 g fusilli (or another short pasta)
2-3 ripe plum tomatoes
1 large aubergine, seed removed and cut into small cubes of 0,5 cm
1 medium yellow pepper, seed removed and cut into small cubes of 0,5 cm
2 zucchini, seed removed and cut into small cubes of 0,5 cm
mixed fresh herbs (thyme, fresh zaatar, parsley, basil)
3-4 spring onion, sliced 0,5 cm
40 - 50 g toasted pine nuts
1unwaxed lemon
apple cider vinegar sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Place the sliced spring onions in a small bowl, cover with cold water,  add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (this step will make onions easier to digest; you can skip  if you like raw spring onion).
Peel the tomatoes, remove seeds and cut in small cubes (to remove the tomato peel easily, blanch for 20 seconds in boiling water then cool under running water). Season with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil, mix well than transfer into a strainer placed over a bowl to drain excess water.
Heat 3 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan, add the chopped zucchini and sauté over a medium-high heat until they start to brown;  transfer to a large bowl. Wipe the pan with kitchen paper and cook in the same way pepper and aubergine, separately; as soon as they are ready transfer in the bowl with the zucchini.
Drain well spring onions and add them to the bowl with the other vegetables. Add also  tomatoes.
Season generously with salt and pepper, add the fresh herbs and 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil. Let marinate while you cook pasta.
Bring to a boil a pot filled of water, add some coarse salt, and cook fusilli until al dente (refer to instructions on the packet for the cooking time). Drain and add to the bowl with vegetables along with the toasted pine nuts (reserve some for garnish) and lemon zests; mix to combine adding, if necessary, some more olive oil.
Garnish with reserved pine nuts, basil leaves and serve.
·         It is possible to add other ingredients to this salad, for increasing the proteins level. I love the combination with crumbled feta cheese, but also other hard cheeses work well (shaved parmigiano, cubed cheddar or halloumi). For a non-vegetarian version is it possible to add boiled or grilled shrimps, or chicken breast.
·         The salad can be prepared in advance; it keeps well at room temperature for few hours and in the fridge for a couple of days (in this case let it come to room temperature before serving).

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil (follow this link for the recipe)
Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta
Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta

Orecchiette with cherry tomatoes crumble
serves 4
500 g ripe cherry or date tomatoes (or a mix of the two varieties)
60 g breadcrumbs
60 g of Parmigiano cheese, grated
30 g of pecorino cheese, grated
1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
mixed fresh herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, marjoram), finely chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
320 - 400 g orecchiette *
Preheat the oven to 160 -170°C.
In a mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbs, grated cheeses, herbs, garlic, salt (not much as cheese is quite salted), freshly ground pepper and 4 - 5 tablespoon olive oil. Mix well and set aside.
Halve the washed tomatoes and place them on a large baking dish in a single layer but very close to each other; sprinkle generously the breadcrumbs mixture on top  trying to fill the tomatoes rather than spaces in between (to avoid breadcrumb mixture burns), add some more olive oil on top and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, until tomatoes are tender, crispy on the edges and have lost part of their moisture.

Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta
Crumbled tomatoes

In the meantime bring to a boil a large pot of water (about 100 ml per each 100 g pasta). When it gets to a boil, add some coarse salt, then drop the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, according to package directions.  
When the pasta is ready and al dente, drain (reserving some cooking water) and transfer into a large mixing bowl; add the roasted tomatoes with all their juices  and mix well. You will probably need to add more olive oil and a couple of tablespoon cooking water if it is too dry.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you like you can add more grated parmigiano or pecorino, the dish will be tastier.
Decorate with basil leaves and serve immediately.
·         The crumble mixture will probably be too much for filling tomatoes; if you have any left crumble you can sprinkle on other types of vegetable than bake, or use it instead of simple breadcrumbs for making meatball /meat loaf or vegetarian burgers.
·         Tomatoes can be prepared in advance; they keep well at room temperature for at least 8 to 10 hours.
·         These crumbles tomatoes are delicious not only with pasta but also as a side dish to meat, fish, eggs or cheese; I also like to serve as an appetizer along with other small dishes.

*the sauce of this recipe was meant for tossing orecchiette, a variety of pasta from the region of Puglia whose name, literally meaning "small ears", comes from the shape which resembles a small ear. During the demo, as orecchiette were not available we used penne instead with a very satisfying result. 
Cooking at the Farmers Market on the Terrace: pasta, pasta, pasta

I can't finish this report of the day without saying thanks first to Baker & Spice for inviting me to do this demo and making available all the ingredients I needed, then Jumeirah Hotel for providing tools, pans and cooker and two precious assistants who helped me a lot and, of course, all the people who attended the show for their warm participation.
A particular thank to Hannah, a foodie friend and follower of my blog, for passing me some of the pictures she took on that day and I used in this post.


  1. Love the crumbled tomatoes! Thanks for sharing, I'm sure it was a great learning experience for those who made it.

    1. You guessed the most appreciated recipe of the day! And one of my favorite too: very tasty. Thank you for stopping by Sadia.

  2. Brilliant job - you look as cool as a cucumber. The crumbled tomatoes recipe is especially interesting. You've articulated so well the things I love about shopping at the Farmers' Market each week. See you on Friday.

    1. If you say so, Sally, I must believe it, lol. I particularly love the crumbled tomatoes recipe, not only because is very delicious, but also because it reminds me a dear aunt of mine, one of those ladies who never weights any ingredient and makes any recipe by hearts.
      I love the Farmers Market and I can't stop saying so. I'm sorry the season is about to end. See you there.

  3. That sounds brilliant, congratulations :)
    The market sounds so good, unlike anything that was ever there years ago x

    1. Thank you Elaine!
      The market is actually fabulous, with fresh and delicious veggies. It started in 2010 if I remember well, pretty young then!