Friday, September 3, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
At this week's market: peaches, apples, pears, plums, blueberries, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers (hot and sweet), zucchini, summer squash, and all sorts of greens
It was rainy and chilly at this week's Davis Square Farmers' Market; the summery piles of peaches and eggplants looked incongruous in the weather. The market had actually flooded, earlier in the day, and while the water had gone down by the time I got there, everyone seemed a little beleaguered. The chill had me planning a hearty soup, and I was drawn to the piles of squash on Farmer Al's table.
I've been curious about Farmer Al for a while now; usually, he oversees his stand next to a cheerfully-painted sign that reads "The Calaloo Man." I introduced myself, and asked about his squash. "It's buttercup," he said, in his lilting accent. "Buttercup, buttercup, where have you been? I've been to London to look at the queen." He also had some shiny red peppers which came to a point; I asked them if they were sweet, and he said "Yes! They are delectable and delicious." All of his produce is organically grown, and the peppers and yellow tomatoes I bought were indeed delectable and delicious. Before I left, I asked him if I could take his picture. He looked dubious. His face, he told me, had a problem with cameras; it broke them. I didn't believe him, and he very kindly obliged me by taking off his orange hat, putting on his baseball cap, and smiling. Here he is in the rain.
In case you're worried, my camera doesn't appear to have broken yet. Perhaps it's a delayed effect.
Meanwhile, sunny summer has reappeared, and I'm no longer craving squash soup. Chef Robert offers a more seasonally-appropriate recipe, perfect for impressing your friends and savoring the summer peaches.
This is more of a parlor trick than a recipe. This time of the year, with the fresh ingredients arriving from the farm daily, less is more. The one piece of specialty equipment that you'll need is a blow torch. If you don't have one handy you can just grill the peaches on a hot grill, just enough to get a slight char on the outside.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
At this week's market: tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, melons, blueberries, raspberries, plums, peaches, greens, sweet peppers, hot peppers.
The peppers are in! I've been wandering the Davis Square Farmers' Market like a wraith for weeks, waiting for bell peppers. The past few weeks, hot peppers had begun to appear, and I'd spot them across the market, getting wildly excited when I saw the flash of green skin, only to find my hopes dashed upon closer inspection.
Why, you ask, did I want sweet peppers so badly? A reasonable question, as the lack of peppers was probably overshadowed in your mind by the presence of the peaches, and the corn, and the tomatoes, and the blueberries, and all the other lovely things the market's had to offer. And it wasn't that I didn't appreciate all this, it's just that I'd been waiting since last summer to make ratatouille, and to do that, you need peppers. Luckily, this week, the gods smiled on me and peppers appeared. I scampered home and made ratatouille for dinner; I recommend you do the same.
Adapted from Chez Panisse Cooking
A note: those who love ratatouille tend to have strong opinions on how to make it. These opinions fall into two main camps: the stew school of thought and the saute school of thought. The stew-lovers tend to cook all the vegetables together, with a long simmering time at the end. The saute fans tend to cook each vegetable separately and then combine everything at the end. There are merits to both approaches, but I fall into the second camp: why would you collect all of summer's best vegetables and then cook them to death? The benefit of cooking all the vegetables separately, although it may seem fussy, is that each retains its own flavor; the short time cooking everything at the end means that the flavors meld without becoming indistinguishable.
4 slim eggplants, skin left on, sliced into rounds 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water large yellow onion, sliced
4 bell peppers, cut into strips
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 mixed zucchini and summer squash, sliced into rounds 1/4 inch thick
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tbsp capers
4 tbsp pitted green olives, chopped
2 tsbp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Salt and pepper the eggplant lightly and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Place in a baking dish with the water, then cover and bake for about half an hour, or until soft to the touch.
2. Meanwhile, saute the onions in a large saucepot in a few tablespoons of the remaining olive oil until it softens, then add the peppers and season with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring often, until both the peppers and onions are well browned. Add the vinegar and cook one minute more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
3. Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and saute the squashes until both sides are dark brown.
4. Remove the eggplant from the oven and discard any liquid left in the baking dish. Put the eggplant, along with all the other vegetables, back into the saucepot, and add the tomatoes. At this point, the vegetables should not be stirred any more than is necessary or they will break up and spoil the presentation. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-high heat for two minutes. If the mixture is extremely juicy, pour the liquid into a saute pan and cook it until it thickens.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and let the ratatouille cool. Then add the capers, olive, parsley, basil, and garlic. Taste and add more vinegar, salt, or pepper, if necessary. Before serving, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over each portion.
Ratatouille is very good served cool or cold, and it is even better the next day. Serve it over rice on its own, or with fish or lamb.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
What I'd thought would be a long, lazy summer is flying by faster than I'd bargained for. Mid-August, already? Have you been to the beach yet? Gone berry-picking? Sat on a dock for a few hours? Seen Inception? Eaten enough tomatoes? I certainly haven't. As I walked through the market this week, I thought about how the strawberries and cherries were long over, and how I hadn't preserved a single jar of them, and how I didn't want to make the same mistake with the raspberries and the tomatoes I saw all around me. Granted, stirring a boiling pan of jam or tomato sauce may not be your idea of the best way to spend an August day, but imagine how happy you'll be to have the results, sometime around the middle of February.
Flush with resolution and dreams of preserves, I came into the kitchen to find that Chef Cobi had had a similar idea; I found her cooking up 40 pounds of raspberries into jam, which would be given away, in jewel-like 4-oz jars, as favors at a wedding this weekend. The raspberries had come from Kimball Fruit Farm and were large and ripe and perfumey. I ate a few; they tasted like summer.
Chef Cobi's Raspberry Jam
Makes about eight 8-ounce jars
In an 8-quart pan, combine the raspberries, lemon juice and sugar.
Over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down, stirring constantly. Stir in the entire contents of the pectin pouch. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Skim off any foam.
To prevent the jam from separating in the jars, allow the jam to cool 5 minutes before filling the jars. Gently stir the jam every minute or so to distribute the fruit. Ladle the jam into sterilized hot jars leaving 1/4 -inch head space. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process half-pint jars in a 200°F (93°C) water bath for 10 minutes, pint jars for 15 minutes.
After the water bath, carefully remove the jars from the water and set them on a flat surface covered with a clean dish cloth. Once they are completely cool, label them and place the in a cool dark place.
For more information on step-by-step canning procedures, including how to sterilize jars, go to www.pickyourown.org/jam
Friday, August 6, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Highlights of this week's market: tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes... and eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, summer squash, new potatoes, greens of all kinds (kale, chard, amaranth, salad greens), herbs, berries, plums, peaches.
This Week's News
This week I'm going to take shelter under the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words; there was so much summer bounty available at the market that I can only express it through photos. Although I will say that Kimball Fruit Farm alone had over fifteen different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, so make sure that you get to market to try at least a few of them.
Scroll down to find a recipe from Chef Robert for a fingerling potato salad; this is the perfect way to use the small new potatoes that you see at the market this time of year.
Recipe: Fresh Dug Roasted Fingerling Potato, Caramelized Onion, Confit Garlic, and Fresh Herb Salad
2 lbs Fingerling Potatoes
1 Large Vidialia Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cup of Peeled Garlic Cloves
½ Cup Basil
¼ Cup Finely Chopped Thyme
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Submerge the garlic cloves in the olive oil in a small sauce pot and cook on very low heat for 30-45 minutes or until the garlic is very soft (but not falling apart) Strain and reserve the oil.
Cut the fingerling potatoes lengthwise and toss in a bowl with a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper. Place the potatoes flesh side down on aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until the flesh easily gives when poked.
Cook the onions over low heat in a well-oiled saucepan until they are soft and very browned; this will take about 45 minutes.
While the potatoes, onions, and garlic are still warm, toss in a bowl with the fresh herbs. Season to Taste, and squeeze the lemon over the top right before serving