Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A rant about farmers' markets, and two new recipes

Lisa and I have developed a Monday evening ritual over the past month: she comes over to my place directly from her day job, we go to the farmers' market around the corner from my house, buy whatever produce we can find, and go back to my kitchen to make something of it. The objective is to create recipes inspired by local produce at exactly the time of year that the ingredients are available from nearby sources, making it truly authentic.

The first week was exciting - simply the return of the market for its second year was a thrill, and picking up baby greens, a greenhouse cuke, green garlic, wild leeks and fiddleheads (the last three in particular) offered a bit of a culinary challenge. But the following weeks have left something to be desired. Salad mix still, yes, but cukes have made no appearance since, asparagus was in stock only one week, and the fiddleheads and wild leeks are now done for the year. There are many tables with non-vegan items (meats, cheeses, honey) and "value added items" - breads, other baked goods, prepared raw foods, $20 flower arrangements... but that's not what I'm after. The market runs from 3-7pm each Monday, and we get there by 5 - this week one stall listed rhubarb and red Russian kale on their white board, but it was all gone by the time we arrived. We left with only a few items...

10 spring red onions ($2.50) and baby beet greens ($2) as well as 2 bags salad greens ($5) which are not pictured.

... and by the time we were back chez moi I was a bit cranky, I'll admit. I would like to think that someone can pop by their local market on a weekday evening, maybe on the way home from work, and be able to pick up the majority of ingredients they need to make dinner that night for their family. Wouldn't that be nice?
Maybe it's that our local market, certainly smaller than the more established Thursday Dufferin Grove or Tuesday Riverdale Markets, but all of these markets need to more reliably offer a variety of items in order to get cred from a wider audience. At least that's my feeling.

Okay, so enough complaining - I sent Lisa back to the market after our initial trip to pick up some potatoes (2.5 lbs for $2.50) and my crankiness dissipated once she arrived back. We did manage to scrounge up the ingredients for two salads, both which could be enjoyed at room temperature for a packed lunch.

Pesto Potato Salad


I have always been turned off of potato salad (or egg salad or tuna salad) with mayo. Bleh. (No offense if you're into it.) This, however is great. You could also throw in 1/2-1 cup green peas or chopped green beans, though you might want to up the amount of pesto and/or salt. Serve with a fresh green salad or steamed greens.

1 kg potatoes - scrub well, peel off only the funky bits, and chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup non-dairy pesto (any kind - basil, cilantro, garlic scape, parsley, wild leek, whatev)
5 spring red onions (or 6 green onions), thinly sliced
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Bring a 3-quart saucepan of salted water to a boil, plunk in the potatoes, and cook uncovered until the taters are soft but not yet falling apart, about 10-12 minutes. Drain into a colander, rinse well with cold cold water, and place in a large bowl to cool. Add the pesto, onions, salt and pepper, and mix gently (maybe with a silicon spatula). Serve at room temperature.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Springtime Tabouleh


Bulgur wheat is replaced by gluten-free millet (or you could use quinoa). Asparagus and radishes are an early-in-the-season variation on the classic tomatoes and cukes. Fresh lemon balm is a unique replacement for some of the parsley, though if you can't find it, forget about it and double the amount of parsley called for. This filling salad tastes best on the first day, but will be fine on day 2 or 3. Serve with a fresh green salad or steamed greens.

1 cup millet
2 cups filtered water
2 cups (350g) chopped asparagus
1 cup finely chopped lemon balm
1 cup finely chopped mint
1 cup finely chopped parsley
5 spring red onions (or 6 green onions), thinly sliced
6 small radishes
juice of 1/2-1 lemon (about 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2-1 tsp. sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper

Place the millet and the water in a 2 litre saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 20 minutes, just until all the water has been absorbed. Set aside and allow to cool.

Steam the asparagus for 2 minutes, until al dente, then transfer to a colander, run cold water over them to stop the cooking process, and set aside to cool completely.

Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl (use a utensil or use you clean hands), until everything is well distributed. Serve at room temperature.

Makes about 8 servings.

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"Domestic affair... do you think it's a funny title?" I asked a friend.
"Funny ha-ha?" she responded, "well, no not really."
"But 'domestic affair', it's like what's going on in the nation, but it's also me, being drawn to all these domestic tasks - knitting, cooking, caring for small children..." I tried to explain.
"I like that it has the word affair in it," she concluded.

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