union sq farmers market - picking okra copyIf I could put my loft on a magic carpet, fly it to New York and land it somewhere in Chelsea within walking distance of Union Square, I would do so in a heartbeat. I love the city. It is actually my favourite! And I love Union Square Farmers market and wish we had something similar in London. It is not that we don’t have enough farmers market. We have plenty. But what they don’t offer is the tremendous variety that you find in Union Square. Take the top photo for instance: beautiful, graceful hands picking okra from a selection of red and green ones. As some of you know, I was brought up in Lebanon and Syria where okra is a  common vegetable but I had never seen red okra before. Nor for that matter fat okra as pretty as those with the reddish tops in the picture below. It is not my favourite vegetable but if I lived in New York, it would certainly become one. At least at this time of the year.

union sq farmers market - okra 2 copyAubergines, on the other hand, are one of my favourite vegetables and if I were shopping for them in NYC, I would have the choice between two different fat ones for baba ghannuge, one light and the other darker, and both with less seeds than the most common variety available in our markets in London.

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union sq farmers market - aubergines copyI would use the long narrow ones for preserving three ways:  in olive oil with the aubergines filled with a spicy walnut ‘pesto’ (maqduss), a Persian version where the blanched aubergines are filled with fresh herbs and preserved in cider vinegar and a Lebanese version, with the aubergines preserved in vinegar and water but filled with crushed garlic and a little chilli if I decide to have them spicy.

union sq farmers market - aubergines 2 copyI would use the fairy tale ones to make mehshi batinjen (stuffed aubergines), with meat or vegetarian or even sheikh el-mehshi (the king of stuffed vegetables because the stuffing is only meat and nuts; will post a recipe soon but sadly not with those gorgeous just picked fairy tale beauties). I am not sure what I would do with the multi-coloured Turkish variety. They were totally new to me and I never got round to asking the vendor about them.

union sq farmers market - aubergines 4 copy

union sq farmers market - turkish eggplants copyAnd I would make tons of pesto, perhaps even experimenting with the red basil.

union sq farmers market - basil copyAs for the green beans, I would mix them with the yellow ones for lubiyeh bil-zeyt (beans in tomato sauce) or I would opt for any of those on offer at the specialist dried beans stall  to make a wonderful hearty bean stew with pork belly.

union sq farmers market - beans copy

union sq farmers market - dried beans copy

union sq farmers market - fresh lima beans copyAnd I would have a field day with all the different leaves and herbs on offer, not to mention the variety of radishes , tomatoes and carrots to make my daily salad, posting a  recipe every other day if I had that market as my local. I have also been in winter and despite the produce being less plentiful and varied then, the market is still exciting at that time of the year.

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union sq farmers market - herbs copy

union sq farmers market - scarlet frills mustard copy

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union sq farmers market - carrots copyWhen I lived in Paris, I often went to Brasserie Lipp and always ordered celeri remoulade. I just wish I could have easy access to such gorgeous celeriac in London (I guess I could at Bermondsey Spa but I would not call that place one with easy access).

union sq farmers market - celeriac copyI would prepare my own edamame for a healthy snack, perhaps mixed with garlic chive flowers.

union sq farmers market - fresh edamame copy

union sq farmers market - garlic flowers copyI might even make my own grass juice. Just joking. I hate that stuff but will certainly load up on peaches and other fruit. It is so difficult to buy good peaches in London and when you find them, it is like buying jewellery!

union sq farmers market - grass copy
union sq farmers market - peaches copyAnd every week, I would experiment with a different kind of pepper. Given the variety on offer at that stall, I could go for weeks before running out of a new choice!

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union sq farmers market - peppers 6 copyI could also recreate the nettle pizza I once had at Chez Panisse and never forgot although I suspect they used younger leaves than those on offer in the picture below.
union sq farmers market - stinging nettles copyOr I could mix the nettles with sweet potatoes to make a variation on the potato and sorrel soup we serve at Koshari Street. Or perhaps use the multi coloured chard in our lemony lentil and chard soup. I so wish I had Aladdin’s powers. I would instruct the genie to transport me and my home this very instant!
union sq farmers market - sweet potatoes copy

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There is 8 comments on this post

  • Perhaps you’ve enjoyed a sampling of a passionate chef’s afterlife, brought to you by the good people of New York and the surrounding farms. Indeed, your Shoreditch loft somewhere in Chelsea is nirvana….
    The photos are beyond spectacular! Thanks for the visual feast. xx

  • thanks for this post ya anissa. you made me so nostalgic! union square farmer’s market is def. my favourite place. although I spent 9 years in NYC, I only got to really enjoy it in my last two years there right after grad school. I took a part-time private-cook job for a woman who lived in the west village. She used to request I make all my dishes from produce at union square. I spent many many mornings there between 2002 and 2004. Its a very special set-up, I haven’t experienced it anywhere else. Spring and Fall are the most colourful times…ps: they didnt have okra back then.

  • so glad you enjoyed rima. great place. the farmers market at the ferry plaza is also great but a lot more hectic 🙂

  • you are welcome bibi 🙂

  • Hi Anissa,
    The photos are incredible!!! I was wondering if all those vegetables are from local produce…. otherwise the price we all pay to have such bountiful of choice is too high on the environment.

    Anyway, this summer I have been to Bourough Market in London and I was surprised to find such a big variety of tomatoes, basil, other vegetables, I have seen ochra too, the green one, and I can insure you that in Spain we can only dream about such variety of vegetables. Incredible enough, even though Spain is a Mediterranean Country we have just one variety of green pepper, one kind of red pepper and so on…. Usually the vegetables are not very taste and the markets usually sell the same stuff you can find in the supermarket as the sellers are not farmers…

    So I think London is a great place to find variety and flavours for the kitchen, I would be very happy to buy my every day vegetables there. 🙂

  • What a great place I have to visted it

  • Amazing photos, wonderful writing. Only you can make me homesick of the very place I visit every week. In fact, I was just shopping here the other day. What’s more, your writing added new layers, textures, and dimensions to this market I thought I intimately know — making it even more alluring. What a gift you’ve got, Anissa.

  • thank you benedicto! so pleased to know you like both the photos and the writing 🙂

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