Having been an avid farmer's market shopper for three years now, I'm starting to get into the hang of what is going to be there when. It's also helpful that I get an email from my CSA farmers around Tuesday of the week, and what they've got is a good indication of what's going to be available at the market. Of course, none of that can account for the fact that - I suspect just to throw me off my game - nobody had garlic at the market this past Saturday.
I think that cooking at the farmer's market really exemplifies what's at the heart of locavore cooking. It's nothing fancy, nothing flashy, nothing rehearsed. I like to think of my cooking a lot like I think of my dancing. For those of you who only know me from my blogging, I am also an American Tribal Style Belly Dancer (South Shore Market regulars: those are the belly dancers you see a few times a year!). The thing that drew me to ATS Belly Dance was the fact that it is improvisational group dancing. We always dance in groups, and nothing is choreographed. You practice a lot with the women you dance with, you know your music well, and you learn the "vocabulary" of the dance, but when push comes to shove you just don't know what exactly is going to go down. This, to me, is the joy of the dance. You are in the moment, and 90% of the time you need to give that control away. You know what should happen, and you can even influence it a little, but in the end you need to give that control away. You are not in charge. You have to trust those around you to take care of you, and you are responsible for taking care of them. And when something goes wrong, you smile, forgive, and move on. And you learn something new for next time. And maybe, if you're really lucky, you get to create a new move!
This is how I feel about locavore cooking. You learn the ingredients. You learn how they should work. You learn when they should be there. But in the end, you need to work with what you have. And maybe things don't turn out exactly how you want, but maybe they turn out better. And maybe you end up with something even better than what you had intended. In the end, that is what locavore cooking is about. You need to let go and work with whatever is at the market. In today's well stocked grocery store, you can get whatever you want whenever you want it. That's great, but there's nothing to push you outside of your bubble.
I'm not saying I necessarily got pushed outside of my comfort zone at the market this past weekend. While not having garlic is fairly traumatic to anyone of marginally Italian descent, "just leaving it out" probably isn't getting pushed outside of your bubble. But I'm not talking about me right now, am I? No. I'm talking about you. I'm saying that you should allow yourself to get pushed out of your bubble. Because it's fun. Because I promise that the bag of weird looking mushrooms that you pick up at the market is going to taste way better than whatever you "just have" to run to the grocery store for. Because I bet you wouldn't have believed me before that peaches and corn make a good salad. And because cooking (like dancing) should be fun.
The recipes came out well. My helpers Denise and Missie were amazing. The plants that I strategically placed throughout the audience asked all the right questions at all the right times. Okay, the gazpacho was a bit spicy, but I cooled everyone down with a little maple bacon ice cream so they have to forgive me, right? Right.
Thanks again for coming out to see me. And if you didn't, you can make it up to me next time! I'll be dancing at the market this coming Saturday...
Corn and Peach Salad
- 4 cobs corn
- 1 lb peaches
- 1 small red onion
- mixed greens (preferably with edible flowers for decoration)
- 1 lime
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 jalapeno?
This is a light, refreshing salad that would go well with any grilled meat in the summer. You could also add some avocado, feta, or nuts (if you're into that sort of thing). Another thing I thought of while walking the market after the demo was to flake some of the Rushing Waters smoked trout on top and make an entree salad.
Grilled Vegetable "Gazpacho"
This is what I did at the market, but you can really feel free to throw in whatever other ingredients you have, or omit any that you don't. (Garlic anyone?)
- 1 large zucchini (about 1 to 1.5 lbs), cut into large cubes
- 1 red onion, quartered
- 1 jalapeno (or two depending on how you're feeling)
- 2 bell peppers - whatever color you're feeling
- A large handful of fresh herbs (if you find yourself thinking - wait, I didn't notice this at the market, you are very perceptive. And also shhh!)
- 1 cucumber
- 2 (ish) lbs tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on the size
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
While the first set of veggies is grilling, blend the cucumber until it is fully liquified. Add the grilled vegetables, and blend again until thick. The zucchini has a nice viscosity to it, and will thicken up the soup nicely, while the cucumber and the tomato thin it out. In this case, the zucchini takes the place of the bread.
Toss the tomatoes in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. You want the tomatoes to start to dry up slightly, and get a little charred on the outside, without drying up.
Once the tomatoes are warm and getting a little caramelized, transfer them into the blender and puree.
At this point, I like to combine the green portion and the tomato portion artistically. You can stir them together, but I like how the layers look. Depends on how fancy you're feeling that day.
Quark and Beet Dip
Easiest. Recipe. Ever.
Roast off 1.5 lbs of beets (the color's up to you) and allow to cool. Put into a food processor, and process until smooth. Combine with 1 8 oz container of quark from the Clock Shadow Creamery (your choice of flavor... try the maple, it's award winning!) Add a dash of any spices you feel appropriate (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne...? Preferably not all four.), or maybe a bit of lemon zest, and stir to combine. Serve as a dip with crusty bread, carrot or celery sticks, or crackers.
Maple Bacon Ice Cream
Send me a message to place your order ;)
Next up - what to do with the pile of zucchini and cherry tomatoes building up on my kitchen counter. Got any tips for me, or anything you'd like to see me try? Leave them in the comments.