This was a week full of discovery, connection, and wonder. The farmers’ market kicked it off.
I spent extra time at the market this week, in conversation with the farmers and producers of the items I bought. This yielded some great personal stories that ranged widely from motherhood and family, to community outreach, to climate change, to Game of Thrones, to long-anticipated plans for an epic family road trip. Each person at the market brings more than what they produce to the table each week. There are lives behind each item I bring home to my family. It’s important to remember that.
There were many new, intriguing items at the market, and I could not resist the urge to experiment. The fennel fronds at the top of the photo and the mustard greens at the bottom of the photo are going into a chimichurri-inspired sauce for the goat kabob. The cranberry beans, inside the pink and white pods (should have taken some out for the photo, sorry!) have already gone into a light summer chili with the ground beef and tomatoes. I had never cooked with cranberry beans before, so I asked the farmer about them, and she had all the advice I could need. They cooked up quickly because they are fresh, not dried, with a tender, creamy texture.
The two cheeses are headed for macaroni and cheese. The raspberries and peaches are already gone, as are the english muffins and donuts. The donuts didn’t last the day, they were so tender and sugary, better than any donut I’ve ever had. I decided to try some granola bars from the woman who makes the mint patties. The Chocolate-Chipotle-flavored one did not even make it into the photo. They are better than any granola bars I’ve ever had.
The CSA share had some new surprises in it as well. The cherry tomatoes were finally ready for picking! The first day of tomato picking, I like to walk up and down the rows to see what varieties of tomatoes are there, and which ones are ripe. I was delighted by a new type I hadn’t seen before, oblong “Indigo Kumquat”, with purple tops and yellow-orange bottoms. They are gorgeous to look at, and sweet to eat. I may have picked a few that are not quite ripe, but they will ripen soon, mingling in a bowl with their ripe brethren.
We have never had fennel at the CSA, so that was a welcome surprise, even after I had bought the fennel fronds at the market. Fennel can be used top to bottom. The bulb can be sliced up raw for salads or cooked in sauces, and the fronds can be used in herby sauces like pesto and chimichurri, or as a garnish for salads. Its flavor is anise, sort of a mild licorice taste, and it compliments meats, vegetables, and pasta equally well. Since I now have plenty of fennel fronds to work with, I can try out a few different preparations.
I got there just in time to split the last few leeks with another CSA member. Leeks are somewhat labor-intensive to grow. If you want them to stay pale-colored, they have to have dirt mounded around them as they grow to keep the sun off them. The dark green parts have seen sunshine and made chlorophyll, and can be too tough to eat (although great for using to flavor a homemade broth). Leeks are a culinary amazement. They transform anything they are cooked with, adding a mild onion flavor and an inexplicable creamy richness, with or without any fat or dairy.
Then there were the green tomatoes. Green tomatoes, sliced thickly, breaded in flour and cornmeal, and pan-fried in oil and butter, are a real treat. Crispy and tender, juicy and tart, salty with a touch of oiliness, they are pretty close to a perfect food. Grocery stores don’t sell green tomatoes, at least not here in the Great White North, so they are truly a summertime treasure for us. I will need to get them cooked soon though, because given time, they will ripen on the counter to red and juicy, and need to be used for something else.
Of course, I can’t leave out the country’s eclipse viewing party. The Boy and I viewed the eclipse together, through a colander and a couple of cardboard viewing boxes, and it was such a fine moment, for this mother of a “jaded” teenager, when he peered into his viewing box the first time, and giggled. Not so cynical after all. When we weren’t outdoors, I was sharing the event with others on social media, strangers connecting in wonder at this celestial event. For just a few minutes, we forgot the pain of current events, and allowed ourselves to be awe-inspired. There is still beauty all around us, and that’s important to remember, too.