“I know the farmer,” she told me about the tomatoes, “I know she picked them this morning. I know they haven’t been sitting in a truck or a railway car for a week.” If Marie knows the farmer and finds out about their farming methods, she knows the produce “will always taste right. I have no doubt what it will taste like.” In-season local produce, compared to conventional grocery store produce, she says, is full of flavor. “Just because you can buy a tomato in January doesn’t mean you should,” she says.
Knowing the provenance of her food is the reason Marie Connell chooses local produce. In her baked goods, she always uses local produce whenever it is available (and has made many other impressive choices to ensure high quality, which she told me about here). Wolff’s Apple House sources that produce for her, and also sells MyHouse pies, cookies, quiches and more.
This summer, Marie signed on to teach two cooking classes at Wolff’s–one about grilling peaches and making peach salsa, and the other about cooking with apples and creating apple pies–to encourage people to be creative with local produce as it comes into season. The first class took place this past Tuesday, July 15.
“I just love peaches,” she says of her decision to start off with a class about peaches. Plus they were in season, available by the bushel-full. People are comfortable cooking with peaches, she says. They make cobblers, crisps and more. Grilled peaches, she says, are a different, elegant way to “showcase the fruit,” and peach salsa is a version of salsa that people might not think to make.
Even more than teaching recipes, Marie wanted to give class participants the confidence to experiment–to use whatever local produce catches their eyes in order to create recipes that appeal to their taste buds. Marie had actually done exactly that the morning of the class. She spontaneously grabbed fresh peppers because they were bright and colorful. She encourages cooks to understand the building blocks of the dish they are creating, and then play with it, tasting as the recipe progresses. For salsa, the building blocks are an acid, like lime juice, savoriness, like onions or scallions, some crunch and some salt. “Taste it,” she advises, while you’re cooking.
When Marie Connell teaches her next class at Wolff’s on September 16, apples will be in season. As an experienced pastry chef, Marie will offer valuable pie-making tips, and she’s also been brainstorming about an apple chutney with pork roast recipe to show the many ways to cook with apples.
But of course, she will be back to Wolff’s before September. Picking up produce here is a sensory experience for her. Right now, the smell of peaches fills the air, and the tomato displays catch her eye. “I don’t know how many tomato varieties they have, but it must be 20-30.” The heirloom tomatoes, she says, “look like gems…. it really is dazzling.”
Marie has been selling baked goods at Wolff’s for nine years, and notes how hard they work to get produce for her. “I have a very special relationship with them,” she says. “There’s a lot of fondness.”
Grilled Peaches with Riesling Reduction and Amaretti Cookies
- 3 Peaches
- 1 cup of Riesling wine
- 2 tbsp butter
- 5–6 amarettie cookies
- In a saucepan, simmer Riesling until reduced (about 10 mins)
- Crush the cookies
- Halve the peaches (remove pits)
- Brush peaches with melted butter
- Place peaches cut side down on a hot grill and cook until soft but still held together
- Once peaches are nice and charred place in a bowl, top with crushed amaretti cookies and drizzle with Riesling reduction
Fresh Peach Salsa
- 3 Ripe Peaches
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 1 small jalapeño pepper
- 1 lime
- Fresh mint
- Grape tomatoes (a handful)
- Any other “in-season” veggie you like!
- Peel & chop the peaches
- Chop red bell pepper
- Mince jalapeño pepper
- Chop mint (about 1 tablespoon)
- Halve the grape tomatoes
- Juice & zest the lime
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl & mix gently
- Serve with tortilla chips, on tacos, or try it on grilled fish or chicken!
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Article written by Rebecca Talbot and coordinated by VanDuzer Design & Marketing for Wolff’s Apple House and may also be syndicated on Fig: West Chester and Rachel’s Farm Table.