This Week @ The Westport Farmer's Market: Chef Nicole

Liz Rueven

Chef Nicole Straight will present two autumnal dishes to shoppers at the Westport Farmers Market on Thursday October 7th,  between 10-2. Balsamic macerated figs with sweetened ricotta (recipe below) is a welcome alternative to baked fruit desserts at this time of year.   Straight’s simple and flavorful preparation is assembled in two easy steps. She allows plump, glossy figs to be  front and center, accented by the creaminess of sweetened, whole milk ricotta. Her second presentation will be a fall twist on bruschetta.  Now that tomato season has sadly wained, Straight concocts an equally appetizing combo of eggplant, apples, butternut squash  and onions with honey, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, cayenne and paprika.  She hits all of the taste buds in this colorful and nutrient packed assemblage of the season’s highlights. The chef will source all of her veggies, onions, honey and figs from the market that morning.  She often turns to SONO BAKING CO. for her bread and will use their baguettes to support her veggie laden topping on Thursday.

Straight loves the small town feel of the Westport Market and makes a habit of riding her bike from her home, just three miles away. This summer, she was often accompanied by her daughters, ages 8 and 9, as they assisted her in loading up their backpacks and baskets with the goodies they bought for family meals.   The  girls relished drinking freshly squeezed lemonade and devoured chunks of SONO BAKERY’s irresistible bread on most Thursdays.  As the seasons change, Straight continues to enjoy sourcing produce from her favorite vendors and catching up with neighbors and friends.

Nicole Straight  is a private chef and founder of the clever TIME TO EAT! cooking classes.  Her classes focus on preparing uncomplicated , family friendly, delicious and healthy meals that can be prepared in about 15 minutes.   Each class session teaches 4-5 recipes and covers basic cooking techniques, ingredients and recipe preparation.   Straight’s favorite kitchen tool?  Every cook’s five senses!  She encourages her students to view ingredients as flexible and interchangeable, according to what is available and appealing to the individual cook.

Straight was honored to be invited to the WHITE HOUSE, this summer, when First Lady Michelle Obama launched  the CHEFS MOVE TO SCHOOLS program as an adjunct to her LET’S MOVE campaign to combat childhood obesity.  This gathering of 200 chefs was meant to highlight the program’s initiatives and empower chefs to return to their communities and assist schools in creating healthier meals within their district’s dietary guidelines and budget.  Straight serves as her daughters’ school representative to Westport’s Food Service Advisory Committee and feels passionate about implementing change in our school’s lunch programs.

Balsamic macerated figs with sweetened ricotta

10 fresh black figs, quartered

½ C. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs. honey or agave

2 C. whole milk ricotta

¾ C. confectioners sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine figs, vinegar and honey in an airtight container and let sit for at least 3 hours before serving.  

In another container, combine ricotta, sugar and vanilla and stir well to combine.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Place a dollop of ricotta in the center of a plate and add a few figs and balsamic mixture around ricotta, serve.

Fall Bruschetta

1 onion

4 tbs. olive oil, divided

¼ C. balsamic vinegar

2 tbs. agave or sugar

1 large eggplant

1 peeled and cubed butternut squash

2 apples

kosher salt and pepper

1 tsp. sweet paprika

pinch of cayenne

1 baguette, sliced into 1” thick pieces

For caramelized onions:

Thinly slice onion and add to a nonstick pan with 2 Tbs. olive oil on medium heat.  Add balsamic vinegar and agave, and cook over medium heat until liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  

*Note, onions can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Preheat oven to 425.  Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat.  Finely dice eggplant, and apples, leaving both skins on.  Toss squash, eggplant and apples with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Place mixture in a single layer on the Silpat lined cookie sheet and roast for 10-12 minutes.  Gently turning halfway through cooking.  Remove from heat and add onions.  Place a spoonful of the bruschetta on a piece of baguette and serve at room temperature.  Bruschetta can be made 2 days in advance.