We shop at farmer’s markets so regularly, they are such an unquestioned part of both Lisa’s and my weekly routines, that we don’t actually write much, specifically, about them here.
We have written posts about various fruits or vegetables we’ve introduced to our kids, new recipes found at the market, the farmers or fish mongers we visit, but, as it turns out, not much about the market scene: the day of the week, whether we walk or drive, what the kids like to buy, and how we haul our pounds of produce home.
So I’m looking forward to all of you discovering the three, very different, market essays in our book (available for pre-order now!) and for now, am continuing to punt writing about my local market. Instead, to supplement what I’ve written already about the fabulous street food we found in Turkey, I thought I’d offer a peek at the amazing variety of goods you can find in the local markets:
essential Union Jack sunglasses
just couldn't get enough of the spices
And what, after all this, did we actually buy? Eli bought a laser pointer. Ben bought three different bags of this kind of weird, granulated fruit tea:
And the adults bought the fixings to make a few meals like this:
Aside from our one disappointing long weekend of notcamping, my family’s enjoyed a fortunate summer. Unlike poor Lisa’s family, who struggled through a difficult summer of illness and hard work and not a lot of fun, relying — as I would — on the comforts of familiar foods — we were able to explore. We tried new things in the kitchen (zucchini blossoms; homemade nutella; mint stracciatella) and we traveled new places (which I will be writing about in the coming weeks).
But I think my favorite part of this sweet summer was one of our most familiar stops, my parents’ home in Connecticut. Summer is my favorite time to visit because my dad’s garden is always so plentiful. We can never predict whether it’s going to be a good year for apples or peaches, potatoes or green peas, corn or beans, but there’s always something.
This year the harvest looked like this:
Summer is winding down now. School has started, work is amping up, and some worries loom. A new season is beginning. But as I head into the fall and the memory of summer’s bounty starts to fade, I will continue to remember this:
I grant that this post is a little silly. I know for most folks zucchini blossoms are more of a rare summer treat than something you’re looking for new ways to prepare. They are too fragile to find in grocery stores, so you really need either to grow them yourself or look for them at a farmer’s market, where they aren’t cheap. And once you have them at home, well, when they are so tasty dipped in batter and fried, why look any further?
But I was taken by Melissa Clark’s recent NYT column about zucchini blossoms, in which she points out what we really all know: once you batter and fry something, especially something as delicate as a zucchini blossom, the prevailing flavor disappears in the larger sensation of salty crunch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but, maybe there’s another way?
And also, I’d bought a bag full of the flowers expecting friends for dinner; their plans changed but my sense of urgency about getting to the blossoms before they wilted did not. So I figured two preparations would be the best way to handle the bounty.
I fried half, using a simple flour and seltzer water batter like this one; for the other half, I followed Clark’s lead and simply stuffed the raw flowers with tapenade and burrata (the mozzarella filled with heavy cream).
As we sat down to eat, the fog rolled in and it started to drizzle, but the sunny platter loaded with zucchini flowers brought a little summer into our evening.
We have an old orange tree, and its fruit sweetens late, but when it does, it’s miraculous: sweet, cool sections like jewels; juice that seems the concentration of winter sun. Growing up in the cold, snowy northeast, oranges and their juice came from exotic, far away places. Now one of those places is my home, and it’s still strange to me. For my kids, oranges are absolutely ordinary. For them they, ahem, grow on trees. But for me, that tree is the stuff of imagination.
Now, the fruit is dropping nearly as fast we can harvest it, and it’s getting to be time to juice and zest and make arancello and orange polenta cakes.
Sunday, I asked Finn for help. I gave him a sack, and told him to climb. He grabbed the bag and ran out the back door, then disappeared into the glossy leaves, hauling himself up and up until he was surrounded by the bright fruit. He filled his bag and climbed back down.
I think this is one of the things he’ll remember about growing up in California. The opposite of snow.
It’s not that often my kids come to the farmer’s market with me anymore. Our neighborhood market is Sunday morning, and it’s easier if I stock up in an early strike mission on my way home from a run, before the boys are even out of their pj’s. But we all went together recently, in combination with a stroll through the local block party, and Ben noticed the information booth stocked with recipes. He grabbed one for pumpkin pie (which I have promised to make for Thanksgiving), and then also this salad recipe. It was ages before we had all the right ingredients, ripe and ready at the same time; first we had the apples and dill but unripe pears, and by the time the pears were ripe the dill was gone and we didn’t have a cucumber. But finally, today, we had a proper alignment of produce and Ben and I shared this for lunch. It’s sweet and crunchy and delicious.
for the dressing:
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons chopped dill
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of brown sugar
Whisk together in a small bowl and set aside.
Core and slice, leaving the peel on for color and flavor:
Two crunchy tart apples
One ripe pear
One small seedless cucumber
Toss with the dressing and serve.