Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Under the Jones Falls Expressway right around Saratoga and Holliday streets, lives a thriving, colorful, bustling, jam-packed farmers market/bazaar. One of the big bonuses for the JFX market are the prepared foods one can buy and eat right on the spot. From Annapolis, I headed on up in search of the exotic mushroom vendor who also cooks right there sells meals with her treasure trove of fungi.

History of the Market

Originally situated at Market Place so city residents could have fresh produce, construction forced relocation to Pratt and President streets in 1983. Increased popularity and the need of shelter prompted a move in 1985 to a larger space - its current location under the Jones Falls Expressway.  In 2009, a bazaar was added to the market.  It operates in conjunction with the market and is located near Guilford Avenue and Pleasant Street.

On peak Sundays, more than 8,000 people attend the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar. Average attendance per year is more than 200,000. The market has previously taken place every year from the first Sunday in June to the Sunday before Christmas in December. For the first time in its history, the market opened in April in 2011.  The busiest day of the year is the

Sunday before Thanksgiving, so beware as the crowd is bumper to bumper on an average Sunday.

The crowds around the unusual Mushroom Stand were...there, as always. The mushrooms are grown at Phillips Mushroom Farms and at Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms in southeast Pennsylvania, which is quite local to us in the Baltimore region. Crimini, portabella, shiitake mushrooms as well as the more unusual royal trumpet, pom pom or enoki varieties are all tucked in containers to buy or you can consume a mushroom meal right there.

My recipe below is a close inspiration to the mushroom dish I consumed for lunch at the JFX. The second recipe, which is a simple Portuguese classic, made use of many of the fall items from the Baltimore farmers market-turnips, kale, onions, sweet potatoes and goat chorizo sausage.


Exotic Mushrooms on Quinoa and Baby Greens

Serves 6-8

Quinoa Mixture

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups red and white quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves removed from their stems
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water

Salad Assembly Ingredients

  • Sauteed shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and quartered
  • Baby salad greens
  • Sheep feta
  • Vinaigrette of choice

Place a saucepan on high heat and get it hot. Add the olive and sesame oils making sure the entire surface of the pan is covered with oil. Add the onion; cook until translucent but not brown. Add the baby bella mushrooms and cook until brown. Add the quinoa, thyme leaves, bay leaf, kosher salt and black pepper to the pan and stir. Let the ingredients heat up and roast a bit.

Add the vegetable stock (it may spatter because the pan and ingredients are hot). When it comes to full boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and steam for about 15 minutes then turn off the heat, remove lid and fluff the quinoa; replace the lid and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

When the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, place a bed of greens on a serving platter or each individual plate. Top with a mound of quinoa, sprinkle with Feta and add a shiitake mushroom to each portion. Drizzle vinaigrette over all.


Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale Soup)

Serves 8-10

Although this classic Portuguese soup is simple to make, it requires the highest quality chorizo, a spicy and chewy smoked sausage. It's also best with a leafy kale, such as Russian kale or Tuscan cavolo nero if you find it available. Russet potatoes are the norm, but I traded for sweet potatoes for more nutrition and added color. The soup can be made ahead and as with most soups, is actually better the next day after it has seasoned.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 6 ounces chorizo, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 8 ounces turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound kale, stems discarded and leaves cut into thin strips

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic, onion and the chorizo and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 8 minutes. Add the water, sweet potatoes, turnips and a large pinch each of salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Bring the soup to a boil. Add the kale and simmer until it is wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve in bowls, drizzled with olive oil.

To be continued next week as we visit one of the farms...

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