I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Farmers Market - Harvest Bounty

By late September, it is harvest time here on the East Coast and my local farmers market brims with treasures of a summer’s bounty. In June the choices are small--- pickles and tiny carrots, some radishes and baby field lettuces. But now comes the harvest, fruits and vegetables that are feasts not just for our table but for our eyes and souls. What a joy it is to shop, ubiquitous LL Bean tote in hand, with happy neighbors, enjoying the sunshine, morning-picked produce and the smiles of the farmers themselves. Such a lovely change from the dreary super–supermarket, all wilted lettuce, sullen clerks, and mountains of toilet paper and cleansers.
Now in its second year, our small market has grown from maybe five vendors to perhaps twenty. We have, of course, wonderful potatoes and corn, squash and tomatoes from our own island; we have an Amish farm with fresh produce--- eggs, homemade noodles and relishes and that special Pennsylvania sweet, shoo-fly pie; a Long Island winery; a fresh-caught fish seller of course and a new seller, a lavender farm, from the North Fork of Long Island. And since this is a New York, semi-urban market, we have a pickle man and a knish dealer and our very favorite, a Brooklyn seller of fresh handmade pastas and traditional cheeses. Yum!

This week I had the extra fun of going to the market with my daughter. Not only was it a pleasure to shop with her but the extra pair of hands to tote the harvest produce was a huge asset. And, best part, she brought new ideas to the kitchen, suggesting we buy Bread Alone’s exceptional French multigrain sourdough loaf, so dark and chewy, not “sour” at all!---called pain au levain, to use for our Wednesday TV night’s grilled cheese sandwiches. Very good, it took the simple American lunch staple to new gourmet heights.

At the fruit sellers’ we got fresh cider, Ginger Gold apples and ripe peaches (a rarity in the grocery stores) for a cobbler later in the week. It would be topped with a dollop of sweetened fresh ricotta from the Italian cheese vendor (Papa Pasquale’s, Brooklyn NY) Another stand was the source of tiny new potatoes no bigger than marbles, wonderful roasted with olive oil and lemon pepper. Also amazing beefsteak tomatoes, to slice for those grilled cheese sandwiches. And an enormous bouquet of flame red and golden yellow dahlias which we knew would be wonderful in a blue and white pitcher on the table. When I hesitated over the flowers---such a short lifespan--- my daughter turned to me and said: Those are gorgeous! And they are.

Last we chose two types of winter squash and some onions to make a Martha Stewart stuffed winter squash recipe on Friday night. Her recipe is called “Moroccan-style Stuffed Acorn Squashes" (though I believe the ones I used were Delicatas); it is on page 170 of the October 09 issue of Martha Stewart Living. It came out soooo delicious and everyone loved it. And by the way, only 350 calories per serving. I will say I simplified and made a few changes---because I have to admit I have no clue what bulgur wheat is or where to buy it! (Is that like the grain in taboulleh? Or the kasha in kasha varnishkes?) I plan to investigate, but this week I substituted wild rice, added a ½ cup of pre-cooked crumbled Italian sweet sausage and also I used chopped dried apricots instead of the golden raisins which my grocery did not have.

Next week, I hope the October pumpkins and gourds start to appear. And we plan to buy an assortment of the truly splendid exotic eggplants and figure out a use for them. Until then, enjoy!