Thursday, October 30, 2008

What the Farmers' Market Provides

Following Meg's last two Odes to the Farmers' Market, I thought I would get a post in too, especially as Meg informs me that last week was the last one they're holding the market downtown. Sigh. But perhaps Meg will tell you about her Zombie Tomatoes if you ask nicely – just in time for Hallowe'en!

In any case, here are some of my own food experiences generated by visits to the Farmers' Market. It's amazing what such a variety of veggies and other produce can inspire. What the market giveth...
Not fried green tomatoes

These green zebras, plus a yellow accordion tomato (and a curvy green tomato that I'm afraid I have forgotten the name of) were combined into a delicious salsa verde, with garlic for bite and lime juice and cilantro for a little more flavour. Green heirloom tomatoes are so tasty! And pretty. The salsa went very well on some beef burgers one night.

Another night saw me making a beet soup with delicious roasted piping-hot beets and some sturdy organic carrots. Beets are amazing – I can't believe how brilliantly burgundy they are, and how they subsume every other colour in a recipe. They were so hot they were hard to peel, but they were lovely and sweet and blended beautifully with the carrots. I include the following ode to beets from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins:

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious...the beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies."

How poetic! There's lots more, but you should read the book for yourself as it's wonderfully odd. I remember reading these words as a teenager and being thoroughly confused. Robbins assures us that a Ukrainian proverb warns that any tale that starts with a beet will end with the devil ... but says that's a risk we'll have to take. My tale that began with a beet, however, ended with delicious soup! As you can see below.

One of the first things I tried with my market haul was stuffed squash blossoms – largely they were first because they were worrisomely fragile (though beautiful) and were sitting with their stems in water.

They looked something like this:

Except not as French. And as you can see, the above are zucchini blossoms. But the principle was the same! I made a mixture of ricotta cheese with various finely-chopped mushrooms and shallots, and the blossoms were stuffed and then breaded (with Japanese rice panko, as that's the only breadcrumb mixture we have) and fried.

Lots of recipes I read called for them to be deep-fried with a batter – which does sound good – but trying to keep the whole endeavour vaguely healthy, I went with shallowly-fried. They were delicious – and it was just fun to realize that you're eating a blossom! Next time I would make more, and possibly serve them as an hors d'oeuvre to lots of people, though possibly substituting a soft tofu or goat cheese for the ricotta (for the dairy-impaired, mais oui).

The farmers' market comes through again. These are certainly veggies to dream of in chillier times ... pass the soup!


moyrad said...

I like walking up to the market and the community gardens nearby. It has become a place for us to meet for a Sat morning stroll with friends and has definitely brought a sense of community to the area apart from the normal shopping streets.

I hope it can grow bigger with more stalls and a choice of purveyors. It seems to be primarily organic producers which is great but a bit too expensive for me most of the time. Though I will make exceptions for tomatoes and some fruit and veg not found other places like concord grapes.

Leeeeesha said...

What a beautiful post, Laura! Those tomatoes look amazing - I've never even heard of an accordion tomato before. And do they all have different flavours?

I have to admit, I'm quite jealous of those stuffed squash blossoms. I've seen the dish done on the food network before and it always makes me drool! Can we make them for an upcoming potluck? Pretty please?!?

Meg said...

Wow, so many great things! I too really want to try squash blossoms. I'm totally jealous too Alisha, but we'll have to wait until next year I think, as they're one of those short-season things. Mmmm they look so crunchy, delicate, tasty.

I loved Jitterbug perfume! The whole beet thing is so cool. Thanks for getting me into that book Laura.

And salsa verde - one of my favourite things. I have to say, this summer didn't include enough fresh homemade salsa. I kept forgetting to make it! I now have dreams of browsing the heirloom tomato table at the market, picking this one and that to try. The green zebras were one of my favourites too. I totally should have been a zombie tomato for halloween!