The triumphant return of the farmer’s market

September 24, 2010

I finally made it back to the farmer’s market last week, after missing the last one due to some important errands out of town, and the previous eleven weeks because of, well, you know. I had a couple of recipes in mind as I scanned the stalls — I knew I wanted butternut squash soup, and I’d been thinking about ratatouille or some kind of minestrone — but mostly I was happy just to be there, looking at the abundance of brightly colored produce flanked by smaller tables of local honey, eggs, bread, and homemade soaps. I talked myself out of buying cranberry beans and I probably should have said no to the leeks, which were $1 each, and which I still haven’t used yet, though I think they’re destined for a leek-and-parsley risotto. Next time I’ll have to bring a camera; for now, here’s a not-too-well-lit portrait of the spoils:

I’m pleased that, while I hadn’t bothered to check what size squash the soup recipe called for, I selected one that seemed right, and it weighed in at almost exactly the stipulated 3 pounds. And I would like to note that the two eggplants were much prettier than they look in this picture, especially the lavender-colored one.

Even though I already linked to the squash soup recipe, the method is so simple that I might as well describe it briefly. You cut your squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and stringy pulpy stuff (if you want, you can clean and dry the seeds and roast them with olive oil and salt), brush the cut sides with olive oil, stuff the cavities with whole unpeeled garlic cloves (3 apiece), then roast them cut side down along with two good-sized onions, quartered, for about half an hour at 400 degrees. After the squash has cooled enough to handle, scrape the flesh into a food processor along with the onions and garlic (squeeze the softened garlic out of its charred peel), add 3 cups vegetable stock, salt and pepper, thyme, and a little nutmeg. Blend to desired texture, then heat gently on stovetop until hot. You can also fry some sage leaves and throw them on top, but I failed at this step and the soup was fine anyway.

My favorite thing about this recipe — which is from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook — is that it doesn’t overemphasize the squash’s sweetness, although roasting the garlic and onions does make them sweeter. I had a terrific butternut squash soup at Einstein’s Bagels once, but in my quest to replicate that experience, I choked down a lot of too-sweet, too-smooth concoctions with no savoriness or complexity to speak of. (Trader Joe’s soup-in-a-box, I’m looking at you.) So this recipe was the answer to all my butternut squash soup dreams. Yes, some of us dream about soup. Shut up. I had intended to turn the eggplant and zucchini into this ratatouille, but I’d neglected to buy peppers or parsley, and I didn’t have herbes de Provence or most of its components. By the time I got back from the store, without the spice mix because it cost $7 for a smallish bottle of probably dubious quality, I was no longer interested in spending 3+ hours on a fiddly, meticulous recipe for what’s supposed to be sort of a rustic peasant dish. I turned again to a Moosewood recipe, this time from the classic Moosewood cookbook, which you really should own if you’re at all interested in cooking vegetables. (But I’m a hypocrite, because I don’t own it. I bought it for my mother, and currently I have it out from the library.) Mollie Katzen’s recipe takes a mere 45 minutes and calls for no herbes de Provence, just four spices I already had — basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. I don’t know how authentic her version is, but it was easy and delicious, with bright, fresh flavors.

The tomatoes, I sliced and ate raw with salt and pepper. The corn was astonishingly delicious on its own, and I mean raw, sliced off the cob in sweet, milky kernels. But it was even better in this recipe for spicy sauteed corn. I substituted two chipotles for the fresh jalapeno, since I had some in the fridge already, and I would venture to say that might have been an improvement, though I didn’t try the original.

I think that accounts for everything but the green beans, which I’ll have tonight, gently cooked, alongside that leek risotto. It feels good to be back in the kitchen, and even better to have so many sources of inspiration.



  1. I often make the spicy corn recipe with chipotles instead of fresh jalapeños, too. I can’t decide which way is better. Depends whether I’m in a smoky mood or a grassy mood. Which sounds a lot more Snoop Dogg than I intended.


  2. Ha! Yeah, I figured the smokiness would complement the browned corn bits nicely. But I’ll have to try it the other way too.

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