Farmers market profiles: a taste of Damascus on Marco
If you thought hummus was limited to the couple of bland flavors you can buy at local supermarkets, Barbara Cardoos changes all that.
Her selection at Chef Robert's Kitchen at the weekly farmers market at Veterans Community Park is limited only to her own imagination.
Think tahini garlic lemon hummus, black or white bean hummus with fresh presto, and you get the idea.
"I don't know if the grandparents would approve," says point-of-sale person Cardoos, whose husband, Robert, is a second-generation American, but who digs back into his roots when it comes to creating foods to tempt market-goers.
Hummus variations, she says, the variations have proved really popular.
"I just tell people to have a taste," she says. "I tell them if they don't like it, they never have to eat it again. Most of the time, they do like the flavors, though."
On this particular day, Cardoos is joined by new employees Karen Hogan and her husband Phil. All three find they don't really have to rely on any sales pitches ... merely offering tastes of the assortment is sufficient.
That includes taboulleh (parsley, salad and tomato on cracked wheat with lemon and mint), baba ganoush (eggplant dip with garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon, cumin, olive oil and brine-cured black olives), spinach pie (made with pita bread dough instead of phyllo) and stuffed grape leaves with rice and spices.
Visitor Beth Ahearn savors a portion of olive tapenade – four types of coarsely chopped olives with capers and garlic – and nods in approval.
"It's delicious," she says. "I can taste the kalamata coming through the most."
Cardoos says she buys the grape leaves on regular trips to her former home town of Boston. She blanches them and freezes them for future use.
The whole culture thing takes an extra twist, says Cardoos.
"I'm Jewish, and my husband has the Syrian background, so you can imagine our household," she says with a chuckle.
She adds that Marco offers a "fabulous" market, and that it's one of the busiest on her schedule of eight others stretching from Boca Grande down to Marco.
On the cover: A display featuring the types of Mediterranean fare served up at Chef Robert's Kitchen at the Farmers Market. Photo by Quentin Roux.