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Posts Tagged ‘Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market’

I was actually planning to write a post about making the most out of what’s left in season and in the market at October comes to a close, and we see November baring its teeth. I thought about this as a subject sometime on Friday. Saturday morning came around, cold, windy and rainy and only confirmed my inclinations. The usual parade of game-day types trudged by our house toward the stadium, looking embattled in their ponchos and plastic bags (and, despite the Wolverine’s forward momentum, an unusual number of them trudged back at half-time, clearly defeated by the weather if not the Golden Gophers). All that ridiculous lingering sunshine and warmth is done with; it’s high time to move on to a steady diet of root vegetables and assorted starches.

But the market took me by surprise. The less hardy members of the family opted to stay home and read books and take baths, while Nick and I (made of sterner stuff) put on our boots and rain slickers and headed out to see what we could see. Which, it turns out, was quite a lot. Yes, there were many squashes and the odd celery root and rather intimidating daikon radishes, but there was a whole lot that seemed more like summer than fall. TheTantre Farms stand alone went on-and-on and plumb in the middle, miraculously, were small baskets of fresh strawberries (cause for Nick to come close to hyperventilation — the next half hour was punctuated by insistent cries of “Mama — the berries! The berries, Mama!” — Mama didn’t have the cash on hand).

It turned out that the limits on what I brought home were imposed by my relatively small budget (end of the month and thus end of the pay period), by the number of days in the week and by my imagination, not what could be bought. I came home with spinach, arugula, lettuce, some rather medicinally named “vitamin greens,” apples, leeks, potatoes, and onions, and really, there could have been so much more. I’ve got an uneasy feeling that we have global warming to thank for all this abundance, but after so many winters of deprivation, it’s hard not to be enthused.

So there was nice fall cooking around here this weekend: some red cabbage cooked down with maple syrup and ginger and a lightly fried egg on top; a veal shoulder braised in sherry with figs served with butternut squash puree; grilled salmon on a bed of spinach wilted with warm balsamic vinaigrette and then tossed with pine nuts and golden raisins. Oh, and Sunday breakfast? Chocolate chunk sour-dough rolls have returned to Zingerman’s and, preferably toasted and smeared with butter, they are one of the best things in the world with a strong cup of coffee and the Sunday Times.

All that said, the swings in the weather and the continuing presence of things like good tomatoes and flavorful peppers have made me think a bit outside the usual fall cooking box. I keep wanting dishes that have some of the bright clear flavors of summer but that are hearty enough to fight off the night time chill. The pasta pepperonata that I made earlier this week meets both criteria. It’s easy enough for a weeknight, as long as you don’t mind hanging around the kitchen a bit, it takes advantage of the fact that the frost hasn’t gotten to the fresh herbs yet, and with a salad and some bread, it makes you feel like you’ve had some dinner. Still lots of peppers in the market. Get them while you can. It was twenty-six when I woke up this morning, so that may not be very much longer.

Pasta Pepperonata (feeds about four medium appetites)

3 T Olive oil

1 T butter

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped (peeled if you’re fussy)

A combination of 3 large red, yellow and green peppers, seeded and chopped into strips

2-3 T red wine vinegar

1 T honey

Some basil and oregano — fresh is better, but a teaspoon or so each of dried will do

Pepper and Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil and butter. Ann the onions and garlic and sauté briefly until the onions are soft (about five minutes). Add peppers and saute for another five minutes until peppers are softened. Add wine vinegar, honey, pepper and herbs. Cover and simmer over low heat for almost ten minutes. Add tomatoes, cover partially and cook another ten minutes until aromatic. If a good bit of liquid has accumulated, uncover and cook over medium high heat until some has evaporated. Serve over pasta. (First toss the noodles with butter and Parmesan cheese. I prefer penne with this, but then I prefer penne with most things.)

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This is more of a photo essay than a post, I suppose. I’ve been so absolutely smitten by the abundance at the market the past couple of weeks that I’ve overbought and am having a hard time keeping up with cooking and eating all this vegetable treasure, let alone reporting on it.

There’s been an awful lot of tomato activity around here lately. Following Shana’s lead, I made up two huge vats of sauce, one rustic and chunky and sweetened with carrots, one smooth and silky with just a touch of garlic, basil and onion, and both destined for the freezer. The past three days I’ve been doing pan after pan of slow-roasted (very slow; twelve hours at 200 degrees slow) tomatoes and slipping those into quart freezer bags and thinking about how good they’ll taste in February. Oh, they taste good now too. It’s important to sample one from each batch to make sure nothing went wrong. And then a second one to confirm.

And then, because plum madness seems to have struck the internet and everywhere I turn I run into plum recipes, there was a rocking plum crumble and a very nice plum cake. I actually made the plum cake with love and good intentions for the wonderful people who work for me when they came to my house for our annual retreat this week. But then I entirely forgot about it, perhaps because we gorged ourselves on the famous frites from the much lamented Jefferson Market. At first, I thought this was a pretty happy accident as it meant all the more plum cake for the locals, but sadly, a moist plum cake and humid weather don’t mix, and when I lifted the foil on Sunday morning, looking forward to cake and coffee, there was an alarming amount of fuzz on the surface of the plums. Sigh.

There’s still much to be done. There’s a few pounds of skinny little eggplants and a pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes waiting to be turned into Neapolitan eggplant. There are large, sweet, wonderfully red bell peppers destined to be roasted and marinated in lime juice, olive oil and garlic. It’s nonstop cooking around here right now, I tell you.

Meanwhile, here’s the way we make potatoes four out of five times in this house. It’s one of those recipes that seems to me so obvious that I don’t think to post it. But the potatoes are great right now and this may not be in your repertoire yet. Give it a try. Bone simple and delicious.

Brain Dead Roast Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees or so. A little higher if you like a bit more crisp on the outside of the potatoes.

Dice the potatoes up (I always leave skins on) into manageable cubes. The size should depend on the aesthetics of dinner, but I try for one to one and a half inch cubes mostly. Parboil the potatoes. I usually aim for five minutes of parboiling unless I’m really trying to hurry things along. Sometimes, though, I get distracted, and I think up to fifteen minutes works okay. If you parboil that long, you may need to cut down roasting time.

Drain the potatoes and toss them, while warm, with a generous amount of olive oil. I do this right in an oven proof casserole. Throw a child size handful of kosher salt on top and slosh the pan back and forth a few times to get a good even coating of the salt on the potatoes. You may want to toss in some rosemary as well.

Pop the pan in the oven for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes and your personal taste in potato resistance to the bite. Make sure they get at least golden brown. They taste best, I think, very hot, but really aren’t bad at room temperature either.

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Sometimes, especially in summer, food speaks for itself:

This Week’s Share

  • ARUGULA: an aromatic, bright green, salad green with a peppery mustard flavor
  • GENOVESE BASIL
  • GREEN BEANS
  • BEETS or KOHLRABI — sadly, it was kohlrabi
  • CARROTS (Sugarsnax)
  • SWEET CORN (Montauk): bicolor kernel with superior, sweet flavor and remarkably tender.
  • SWEET PEPPERS
  • FRESH HERBS: Parsley— dark green leaves have a strong parsley/celery flavor for use dried or fresh; Rosemary– pine needle-like leaves.
  • KALE (Green Curly)
  • LETTUCE
  • YELLOW ONIONS (Olympic): medium-sized yellow bulbs for short-term storage.
  • NEW POTATOES: You may choose Red Norland (smooth, red skin and white flesh) or Yukon Gold (delicious, medium-dry, yellow flesh).
  • SUMMER SQUASH
    • TOMATOES: Sun Gold Cherry, Red Grape, Chiquita, Juliet
    • Muskovich—heirloom with deep red color & rich taste.
    • Buffalo Ruby Red—long popular Dutch beefsteak tomato.
    • Debarao—deep red heirloom tomato, medium size , oval, plum variety used for sauces and salads.
    • Brandywine—deep pink heirloom tomato with smooth, red flesh; delicious flavor and large (1 lb.) fruit.
    • Rose—deep pink heirloom tomato, which is large, meaty, and flavorful.
    • Green Zebra–delicious, tangy salad tomato; ripe just as green fruit develops a yellow blush, accentuating the darker green stripes; beautiful sliced into wedges for salads.
  • WATERMELON/MUSKMELON

Tender, delicious, aromatic, smooth red flesh. A yellow blush. Meaty and flavorful. Beautiful.

 

Chop some things. Cook some others. Add butter and salt. Dinner.

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You can probably tell that G3 has spring cooking fever. We’re having a lot of chatter lately, online and off, about things like morels (see below), asparagus, and fava beans. Much to my Saturday morning shopper’s delight, the farmer’s market is starting to produce too. It’s still not exactly promiscuous but it’s putting out a little more each week. Here’s just a glimpse of some of what’s come home from the market the past three weeks or so:

First asparagus: before

First asparagus: after

With a basic balsamic vinaigrette. A favorite at our house. Warning — vinaigrette crazes your thrift-store bone china. And I paid two dollars for that plate!

Irresistibly tender young Bibb lettuce.

Needs nothing more than a wee bit of olive oil, a splash of vinegar and some sea salt.

Rhubarb: before

A vegetable I was not at all sure I cared for. But crazy with spring and in pursuit of local eating, I bought some. And roasted it (at 300 degrees for 20 minutes) with the zest of half and orange and all it’s juice, and 3 T Damara sugar and 2 skinny split vanilla beans. With some creme fraiche on top it was so good that it was gone before there was even a thought of an after picture.

Solomon’s Seal

Because it’s good to celebrate some of the beauties of spring that you can’t eat (although truth be told, I’ve never tried to eat this — it could be good).

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