Sunday, August 23, 2009

Market Finds- A Purist's Week

Most of you probably feel the same way I do in the summer. I love farmers markets. We even visit them while on vacation if we can find one. Could it be appealing because one can walk amongst natures bounty, memorial's welcoming of summer, possibly meeting a neighbor, or a reason to meet friends out and about? Live music, or not plays while you sit and nibble on a few things you purchased. Enjoying it with a loved one like your children can be educational.

I find that once I see what is available my mind begins to reel with ideas for the weeks meals for hubby and I. My creative kitchen juices begin to flow like coffee houses to the student. The draw back is...seasonal choices might be limited, and it all ends around Labor Day. For years now I have been fascinated with purist's I have met while on my own market quest. My own mother (until cheap can good era hit big time) would feed their families for a whole seven days, and with minimal fuzzy science projects making into the trash. The Saturday morning visit to the butcher for a whole hen, and ground beef would also complete her meager purchases for the week.

I remember we would come home from the Dallas Farmers Market with more than a full basket. The ones they used to collect bushels of peaches, or apples. I believe you could either have them, or purchase them for your return visits. Once home we would sit on the kitchen floor, or out on the porch; then we were instructed to shuck corn, snap peas, and eat a peach or two to hold back the hunger before lunch. Back then of course there were miles of farmers and farms lined up across rural America. No matter how much we want those days back, we have to make due with what is offered.

(Local figs that went into a cobbler...)

Lately you may come home with only a few things due to a lack of vendors and farms in your area. From my experience rules do vary in the markets. Our neighborhood market board committee did only allow the actual farmers living in the area to rent space, and there are less than a dozen of them. Which seems only fair, but the public may find such puny offerings of no interest when they can go to a larger grocer and get everything all at once. Ready made foods have not been allowed in the past, like breakfast, and that could be a great draw. If farm yields are low and you happen to come late morning you might find little or no choices from your favorite vendors.

Between the two in our area you are almost always guaranteed to see tomatoes, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, sweet corn, and some kind of fruit or two, or three. Some of the farmers experiment with crops and I have even found leeks. We have one that opens on Saturday, and one on Sunday, so there are more choices. Local artists could add a flair, and increase traffic to the farmers; allowing them to increase sales, and their farms would continue to thrive without a for sale sign being seen off the local routes.

With my work schedule over the years and not having a Saturdays off, hubby has been the one who would go out to the local farmers markets. He loves the local Griggs Town Farm Poussin, and the odd mystery ingredients he finds now and then. As of late my schedule has allowed me to return to the summer market, and I am enjoying it. Non-produce related item shopping has also reduced greatly over the past months in my house. Not because we need to cut back financially, but because I wanted to add a little something extra to my challenge.

August through September do allow for extra abundance as far as produce yields, but can you feed a family the whole week? I had to try the purist way of life.

(Local organic heirloom tomatoes...sorry bad photo, but too late we ate them!)

Buying local can be a challenge without supplementing fruits and vegetables from our regular grocery stores, but I managed to cook the whole week with fruits, vegetables, and meats we bought between the two markets. I baked bread, made my own pasta, and even some refreshing limeade drinks.

(Local zucchini that were stuffed, and then stuffed us...)

I am doing a wine and dinner pairing this Saturday for sixteen, and we intentionally hit Philadelphia this past week so we could visit the Italian Market off 9th and Washington for some choice ingredients (like Wild Game). We made a weekend of it with our friends, Bob and Adrienne. Of course its not all local, organic, or even a purist's paradise, but there are plenty of artisan foods made on the spot. I wanted to see if we could keep up the purist's momentum for my Pinot Noir event, and our own weeks menu.

This would be fun if someone else could do this and let me know how it worked for you...

Farmers Market Roasted Vegetable Medley Salad

2 beets, cleaned and quartered (skins scrubbed well, and left on)
6 small potatoes, cleaned and quartered
1 fennel bulb, cleaned and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 onion, medium slice
1 bunch string beans
1 bunch of wild garlic
fresh chopped herbs of choice

Olive Oil drizzled, and toss
Salt/Pepper to taste

Roast for about 40 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. Remove and let cool. Add 2 tablespoons lemon dill vinegar (or vinegar of choice), and place on top of fresh spinach salad.

(Local Sekel Pears that will go into a recipe soon...)