Monday, February 23, 2009

Ode to spring

Mostly as a result of reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) by Barbara Kingsolver and family, which brought many food production issues to my attention, I made a serious effort to visit local farmer's markets in my area over last spring and summer, and into the fall. I had attended one farmer's market sporadically over the past couple of years, but wasn't really commited to it.

One of my peeves about farmer's markets is that most of them seem to take place in the middle of the day, on a weekday. Is their target market only stay-at-home mothers, senior citizens (and now, the increasing numbers of the unemployed)? Only 3 somewhat-local markets were on the weekend, and only 2 were on a Sunday. As an Orthodox Jew, I can't attend the Saturday markets. I almost wish I lived in Manhattan, as they seem to have some pretty fabulous farmer's markets a few times a week, including Sundays. Mmm.

Of the two Sunday markets, only one was actually well-stocked. It was also held at a very picturesque area on the waterfront, so my husband and I could take a really pleasant walk afterwards. I took pictures during many of my visits and intended to post them here regularly, along with pictures of various recipes that I prepared with the produce, but, um, never got around to it. But, at least I can post some of the better pictures here, to help us look forward to spring.

First, my vegetable crush. Patty Pan Squash. Mmmmmm!
Okay, it really doesn't taste dramatically different than zucchini, but it's so adorable that I pounce every time I see it. I admit that I was very sad when its season was over.

How cute are they? Hellllooooo, adorable!
I had a lot of fun preparing the Patty Pan Squash with Eggs recipe. I took pictures of the finished product, but since they weren't so pretty (I was a little overzealous when removing the squash's innards, so there was egg leakage), I won't be sharing them. Plus, I need new dishes; my dishes are not photogenic *at all*. I think it's time for me to use my blog as an excuse to buy some plain white square dishes that will highlight my food creations appropriately. Oh, and an external flash or other lighting device.

Ok, moving on to...even more squash. These avocado squash were very unique. I really enjoyed trying something new. I just sauted them, and enjoyed.

And these yellow avocado squash were also quite nice:

Just to illustrate that I don't eat just squash all summer, here are some lovely peppers. Who knew peppers came in purple?
(Why yes, I am pretty much a city girl. Why do you ask?)

I won't eat peppers, but I'll certainly take pictures of them.

Also, lovely eggplants. I think these were called Fairytale Eggplants.

I don't eat eggplants either. Am I losing my status as a foodie?

And of course, lovely heirloom tomatoes. Yes, I eat tomatoes. I'm not crazy.

Hey, they're not square! And they come in different varieties and colors. What a shock!

Oh, and purple carrots! Purple, people! Wow.

And this is what they look like inside:

Very cool. They tasted slightly different that regular orange carrots, but I must admit that they made for a colorful plate. I just roasted them in the oven with a little olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Ooh, I nearly forgot. These are a little more mainstream (which means that I've actually seen them before). Purple potatoes. Very cute. They don't look all that exciting, but they're fun. I sliced them thin, without slicing all the way through, put slices of garlic in between the slices, and sprinkled with... a little olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Fun.

I also tried kale for the very first time. I really don't eat greens that often, so it was a pleasure to try Eggs in a Nest from the aforementioned book. I made this during the Sukkos holiday, and my nieces and nephew were very impressed. Such a simple dish...

I'm also proud to report we bought and ate beets pretty much every time we went to the farmer's market, and even ate the greens. Gasp. Sauted with garlic, the greens are pretty good. And, as usual, the beets were...roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. They weren't that pretty, so no pics. My oven was working overtime in the summer heat. At the end of the season, my sister (who I also managed to get hooked on roasted beets) bought beets at the supermarket and roasted them as usual. Can anyone say horrible? Gah! I haven't bought beets since.

And, last but certainly not least. Squash Blossoms. I had never heard of squash blossoms in my life. This is the northeast people, and they do not show up in local supermarkets. The blossoms were presented like rare jewels in a little box at my favorite farmer stand. I learned that they had to be made the same day, or very carefully wrapped individually in paper towels and prepared the next day. Any later, and they'll just be rotten and gone.

I couldn't find a definitive recipe that I liked on the Internet. What I've settled on, after a few different attempts, is to:
- Wash them very carefully, making sure there are no...surprises...inside the blossoms. Don't rip the petals!
- Stuff the blooms carefully with ricotta cheese. You can use cottage cheese instead, but it won't be as good. Twist the blossoms a little at the top to hold in the stuffing.
- Dip the blossoms in beaten egg.
- Dip the blossoms in a bread crumb mixture of sorts, whatever you usually use. I make it up every time, so I don't really have a set recipe. Just don't make it really spicy like you might do for chicken cutlet shnitzel.
- Fry the blossoms in oil

Eat immediately!

Since I usually only made 3-4 blossoms at a time, and had so much egg and breading left over, I'd usually fry some squash slices at the same time.

It's hard to describe the taste of squash blossoms. All I can say is that they taste You feel like you're eating nature. It's really amazing.

Ah. Now I have to wait until May or so till I can go back! I'll just have to come back here often to drool over pictures.

P.S. Excuse the pictures. I'm still learning Adobe PhotoShop, so I'm sure that some of these would be considered entirely too bright or something by professionals. I have to start somewhere!