Farmers’ Market Saturday – 8/13/11
August 13, 2011
There was definitely a nearing-the-end-of-the-summer vibe at the Boulder Farmers’ Market today. The produce has shifted a bit – now there are more tomatoes, eggplant, onion, peppers. Muskmelon and watermelon have made a big entrance. And it wasn’t nearly as hot today!
I was delighted to realize that I had three leftover dishes from last week for this week’s menu: Southwestern Quinoa, Lasagnaesque Eggplant and Squash, and Deep Dish Crustless Quiche. That will make cooking much easier this week, as all I will have to worry about for three meals is vegetable sides. So I bought a little less at the Farmers’ Market than I have for most of the summer. I got yellow beefsteak, heirloom, and cherry tomatoes, wild arugula, two varieties of garlic, purple potatoes, pattypan squash, an onion, a bell pepper, okra, yellow string beans, carrots, green onions, a watermelon, a French melon, purslane, Pappardelle’s Spanish Saffron Trenette, and a rhubarb-raspberry mini-pie from Shamane’s.
As I was making dinner, washing tomatoes after cutting up some bright purple potatoes, I got to thinking how in the past all food must have been as various as what you can find at Farmers’ Markets, rather than the homogeneous vegetables you find at the grocery stores. I mean, intellectually I have known this for several years, having watched Food, Inc and The Future of Food, and having read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Fast Food Nation, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. But since I’ve been buying more heirloom vegetables this summer, and trying things that you just can’t really find outside of Farmers’ Markets, I found that I felt a more visceral sadness that we have lost this historical diversity with our enthusiasm for convenience, mass production, and economy of scale. I have literally been in awe of the vividness and tastefulness of many of the things I’ve been cooking with lately, and it just struck me that in the past, people could have been eating this type of gorgeous food regularly.
Well, that just makes me all the more happy to have read the news that more than 1000 new farmers’ markets were opened in the US this past year, making over 7000 nationwide. And even more glad that my local farmers’ market in Boulder has such a large number of terrific vendors.
I purchased a surplus of tomatoes with the intention of making Bloody Mary Salad, a recipe from Bon Appétit which I saw wonderfully implemented on the blog Offally Tasty. I actually made several substitutions which may have resulted in the salad not tasting as bloody maryish as I was hoping. I didn’t have celery hearts, just standard stocky celery and I found that we don’t have any celery seed on hand. I had already earmarked my red onion for something else, so I used green onion instead. And I’m wondering if the horseradish I used was maybe not the best for the dressing. The salad wasn’t bad, it just didn’t taste as good as the picture on Offally Tasty looked. It was intriguing enough, however, that I think I will give it another go in the future, armed with ingredients that match the recipe more closely, and I think I’ll experiment with the dressing a bit.
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to make for an entrée, but I thought I should use the okra I bought fairly early in the week, so decided I’d come up with something using that. I also discovered I had a bit of a surplus of purple new potatoes. Well, okay, I thought that okra could work with potatoes. And we still had some red pepper chicken sausage, so I could envision a skillet dish taking shape. Throw in the bell pepper and onion that I bought today, garlic, and some hot smoked Spanish paprika, and that would make a lovely dish. As an afterthought, I thought I’d use up the remaining heirloom tomato I had from last weeks Farmers’ Market as well. After I had combined everything I thought it should be a little more saucy, so I added a can of spicy V-8 juice, and then simmered it down a bit. In hindsight, I would use 2 extra tomatoes and some Tobasco sauce instead of V-8.
I’d never used raw okra before, just the frozen kind that I’ve put in gumbo. So I looked up how to prepare it, and it was fairly simple. I scrubbed the outside with a vegetable brush to defuzz it, then cut the top and ends off, and then sliced it into 1/4 inch slices. I read that cooking it in fat would prevent the gummy texture from being overwhelming, so I sautéed it in olive oil.
Chicken Sausage, Okra and Potato Skillet
3 links of pre-cooked chicken sausage (I used a red-pepper variety)
1 lb new potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb okra, defuzzed, ends trimmed, and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp salt
Cut the sausage links in half lengthwise, and then slice into about 1/3 inch pieces. Set aside.
Cook potatoes, either in water in the microwave for about 10-12 minutes (stir and check every 5 minutes), or by boiling on the stovetop until tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and then sauté the okra until tender and the first few pieces start to brown around the edges, about 3-4 minutes. Set on a paper towel to cool. You might want to rinse the skillet out at this point if there is okra residue – it won’t hurt if you wait for it to cool down first. The potatoes and okra can cool, as you’ll heat them up again later.
Heat 1 tsp olive oil in the same skillet, and then sauté the garlic for about a minute, then add the onion and pepper. Sauté until the pepper is tender, around 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and cook for several minutes until they start to break down and make the dish a little liquidy. Add potatoes, sausage, okra, paprika, and salt, and cook for several more minutes until some of the liquid boils off. Add as much Tabasco sauce as you like (taste it as you add!)