The colors are turning gold in the newly crisp air as fall comes to Pittsburgh. Soon, the lush peaches, tangy plums, sweet cherries and homegrown corn of summer will be delicious memories. But there’s a wonderful crop of fall produce to look forward to, making it the perfect time to don a sweater and head for Mt. Lebanon’s two thriving farmers markets.
A visit is no longer just a quick run to pick up lettuce. Both the Original Mt. Lebanon Farmers Market, run by the Lions Club on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 7 in the United Lutheran Church parking lot, and the WesBanco Uptown Farmers Market, managed by the Mt. Lebanon Partnership on Saturday mornings from 9 to noon, have grown over the years. Each year shoppers have more interesting choices while still benefiting from the market organizers’ commitment to fresh, locally grown or produced foods.
Both markets run from May though October and both aim to offer fresh, healthy food. Their underlying purposes, however, are equally worthy but different. Proceeds from their market allow the Lions, a nonprofit service club, to increase their contributions to the various charities they support, while the Uptown market aims to make Washington Road a Saturday destination for residents and people from around the region and helps support other Partnership activities.
“Everything [sold] is from Pittsburgh or a day’s drive of town,” says Mt. Lebanon Commercial Districts Manager Eric Milliron. “The Uptown market is important to the health and wellness of the community, in addition to bringing people into our vibrant downtown.”
Saturday market manager Carla Clipper, Jonquil Place, has a background in event planning/coordination. She has scoured greater Pittsburgh for new vendors, a tough task given the burgeoning number of farmers markets. “We’d like to add as many options as possible,” she says, and expanding should not be a problem, as the business district spans several blocks.
The Wednesday market, on the other hand, has finite space, so expanding posed more of a challenge this year. Says Alex Parrish, president of the Lions Club: “We have many of the same vendors for continuity (including the brooms and plastic bags that the Lions themselves sell), but we added salmon and cheese providers this year.”
“Some vendors didn’t need the space they had,” says Deanna Bartelme of Wood Street Bread, president of the farmers association. “The space for the new vendors came from nibbling at the size of the existing spots.” She said there are no plans to expand further.
Like most farmers markets, both have evolved. Neither is a collection of farm-to-table provisioners, as they once were. Both boast prepared foods to make family meals easy. Choose from an international offering of Greek, Middle Eastern, Polish, East European and Mexican specialties. Cinco de Mayo Salsa has gone global, offering a muffuletta relish for those Italian sandwiches of the same name.
There’s also classic American food. Bad Azz BBQ sells whole chickens and racks of ribs, but you can get sandwiches as well. Logan Family Farms, which is at both markets, sells grilled hamburgers on Wednesdays, cut meat both days.
“We first started to sell at the Uptown market,” says Joann Logan, who works the family farm with husband Tom. “It wasn’t our intention to sell prepared food. Usually nobody wants to eat a burger on Saturday morning.” But the opportunity arose to introduce people to their meat on Wednesday, and the grilling began. For home, try the flatiron steak, a new cut identified by the meat industry that is just behind the filet in tenderness.
Both markets are very well balanced in terms of their offerings, whether it’s raw ingredients or ready to place on the plate. Fresh, seasonal vegetables are standard at several booths at both markets, although the types and varieties vary widely; there’s enough choice for every taste and cooking purpose. Bread choices from white to whole wheat to multigrain are also available at both markets.
The benefit of the duplication is that you can buy in small quantities one day, then replenish a few days later, and so on in fresh rotation. Yet there are also things you can only get at one or the other market, such as kettle corn and ice cream on Wednesday or wine and Pittsburgh Pawtisserie’s homemade treats for man’s best friend, made by Megan Gerson, Larchdale Drive.
Perry Arlia shows up on Saturday with honey and related products, such as a hand cream that includes sustainably harvested wax from the hive. “I manage the bees for health rather than honey,” says Perry. “I want to make sure that the hives stay healthy through the winter.” That’s a noble task, given the problems with honey bees dying off nationally.
Perhaps the most unusual vendor at either market is the Seven Creeks Roadside Spring, managed by Tim Galownia, at the Uptown market. “We forage on land that’s been in the family since the 1940s and ’50s, when my grandfather bought it. We refer to it as ‘The Crick’.” That creek is the source of the spring water that Tim sells. Also available are wild mushrooms, ramps, stinging nettles, Japanese knotweed and dried mushroom powder.
What is special for fall?
The king of this season is potato; a truly fresh potato is a delectable treat. Amy Zrimm of Zrimms farm will have an excellent all around tuber for any of the recipes that accompany this article. The potatoes should keep well in a cool place into December. Her Bold Organic Farm will offer at least 6 potato varieties. For an easy potato treat, melt some of the fall Raclette or Fontina cheeses from Emerald Hill Artisanal Farms in a baked potato.
Apples are another special fall treat, and Paul’s Orchards has some new varieties, including Gold Rush, which is used in the apple baklava recipe at the end of this article.
Over at Olive & Marlowe is Olio Nuovo olive oil. “It still has a lot of sediment,” says Heather Cramer, “so you get flavor even at the higher smoke point at which the oil can be used. It also retains more nutrients.” The product goes rancid faster than other olive oils, so it has to be used in fairly short order.
Cold weather means warm tea, the leaves right from Tupelo Honey Teas. Danielle Spinola has a large selection from which she has blended a “yinzer” line to celebrate Pittsburgh. For fall, think pumpkin tea, maybe with dark, seasonal honey, which has an exceptional floral note. Or use teas for flavoring in drinks, desserts, sauces and smoking meat.
With all the choices, there are dozens of combinations for dinner, as well as breakfast, lunch and snacks. My set of picks for one day of gustatory enjoyment from the options at both markets would be fresh eggs in the morning with toasted ciabatta. Lunch would entice with a roasted root vegetable salad dressed with a flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Treat yourself to an afternoon pick-me-up of cherry chocolate bread and juice. Dinner is a roast with mushrooms, pasta with truffle butter and caramelized onions, baked squash dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg, all paired perfectly with a wine. Dessert would be any of the several pies and pastries available. The table would be dressed with seasonal blooms, clean up made more pleasant with natural products.
It’s all easy and fun. Check the Web sites of each market for complete vendor lists to plan your twice weekly shopping. Then enjoy your own bountiful harvest!
For further information:
Wednesday market: www.mtlebanonlionsfarmersmarket.com
The market is located in the parking lot of the Mt. Lebanon United Lutheran Church, Washington Road at Cochran.
Saturday market: www.mtlebopartnership.org/uptown-farmers-market
The market starts on Washington Road in the parking lot next to WesBanco and across from Washington School. It continues up Washington Road to Central Square. Parking is $1 all day Saturday.
- Cut 2 pounds of potatoes into chunks.
- Put the potatoes and 1 cup chopped leeks into a pot and cover with liquid of choice.
- Boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender and the soup looks thick.
- Add 1 cup of cream and continue cooking until the soup has thickened again. Let the soup cool.
- Use a food processor to make the soup very smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve cold, garnished with chives and parsley.
- Cut 2 pounds of potatoes into small dice.
- Follow steps 2-5 and 8 above. The soup should be chunky.
- Add the corn and heat through.
- Garnish with chopped chives, parsley and a dollop of sour cream.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Slice 2 pounds of potatoes into 1/8” rounds, then parboil them in water; they should be resistant to a knife poked into them.
- Drain and dry thoroughly in one layer on a clean dish towel.
- When dry, sauté in butter until brown and crisp.
- While the potatoes are cooking, caramelize 1 sweet onion in butter in another pan.
- Add the garlic to the caramelized onions and sauté until translucent.
- Layer the onions and potatoes with chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste in a shallow dish.
- Bake until very hot.
- Prepare the Potato/Corn soup through step 3.
- Add the crab meat and heat through.
- Garnish with chopped chives.
- Garnish with parsley and chives.
Potatoes au Gratin
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Cut the potatoes into 1/8” rounds.
- Put the potatoes into a pot and cover with chicken stock.
- Cook until the potatoes can be pierced with some resistance and are still firm.
- While the potatoes are cooking sauté the onions in butter until very soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook until translucent.
- Grease or spray well a baking dish, traditionally an oval casserole.
- Drain the potatoes, reserving the liquid.
- Put a layer of potatoes in the casserole, then a layer of onions/garlic, then a layer of cheese.
- Repeat step #8 above until all the ingredients except about 2 ounces of cheese have been used.
- Add the cream to ½ cup of the reserved cooking liquid.
- Add the cream and water to the casserole.
- Bake until the potatoes are very tender. The liquids should have been absorbed.
- Sprinkle the last of the cheese on top of the dish.
- Bake until the cheese has melted and is golden.
- Garnish with parsley.
1 package phyllo dough
2 pounds apples, slightly sweet, dry variety, cored, peeled sliced into 1/8-1/4” thick half circles
NOTE: The folks at Paul’s Orchards suggest the new Gold Rush variety for this recipe.
½ C. cornstarch
¾ pound unsalted butter, melted, plus more as needed
6 ounces each of walnuts, almonds, pistachios, lightly toasted to bring out the flavor, then coarsely chopped
1 C. sugar
3 T. very high quality cinnamon
½ t. each ground spices: allspice, cloves, mace, star anise
1 t. ground nutmeg
1 C. chopped dates
NOTE: These are optional, but add a whole new dimension to the pastry.
1 ½ C. honey
Note: Use summer honey. The fall honey has a deeper, more intense flavor that can overpower the pastry.
¾ C. water
1 C. sugar
¼ C. lemon juice
NOTE: There are two kinds of phyllo dough, one very thin and one, a “country” style, slightly thicker. Cooking times, temperatures and number of sheets of dough will therefore vary. Check the box that the dough comes in for manufacturer times and temperatures. This recipe is based on the thin variety of phyllo.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Use a pan that is as close to the size of the phyllo dough sheet as possible, usually 9” x 14”. Trim to fit if necessary. Save the trimmings and keep the dough covered with a damp towel and a layer of plastic wrap. Grease the 2-3” deep pan very lightly, or use spray.
- Mix the sugar and cornstarch with the spices, then with the apples and dates (if used).
- Use 10 sheets of phyllo to line the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet with the melted butter.
- Spread the apple mixture over the dough.
- Cover that layer with 8 sheets of phyllo, brushing each with the butter.
- You can use the trimmings, if any, in the layering.
- Spread the nuts on top.
- Use the remaining sheets for the top layer, brushing each with butter.
- When done, cut the pastry into squares or triangles as desired. Kitchen shears are suggested for cutting as a knife may pull, stretch, or break the sheets.
- Brush some of the remaining butter over the top phyllo sheet, then pour any remainder evenly between the cuts.
- Bake for 45 minutes —1 hour or until the dessert has risen and the top layer is golden.
Note: Gently check one of the center pieces to make sure that the layers are crisp and the apples are cooked
- Mix the syrup ingredients and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the honey is fully incorporated, then boil for one minute.
Pour the syrup evenly into the cuts of the hot baklava
Note: The syrup should reach the top sheet of baklava. If it doesn’t, prepare more syrup and add.
- Let stand at least 8 hours before eating.
NOTE: Uncooked pastry can be frozen. Phyllo in frozen cooked pastry does not always recrisp successfully.