What You Missed at the Market

As expected, it took the whole week for me to feel better from having sliced my fingertip a week ago Friday. By Saturday I was feeling well enough to head out for some produce and conversation at the market.

I’m still favoring the finger – I’ve become quite adept at typing nine-fingered – but there was a moment when I handed Michele at KMK the Fay Elberta peaches I was buying for her to weigh, and between her hands and my hands and the fruit, the digit got pinched a little bit. She said, "Ooh, I can see that still hurts."

The Fay Elberta peaches, by the way – I eat a lot of stone fruit, but this, another older variety, is a keeper. They’re very tender and easily injured (like the aforementioned finger), so you want to choose them carefully. I only took a few, knowing that Chimp would pass them up for the unfuzzy nectarines and plums.

Once I ate one, I was perfectly happy to be able to keep the remaining ones for myself.
I was standing over the sink that afternoon, and after I bit into the peach, lifting it and my chin up so as not to lose any of its copious juice, I thought to myself, "It is good to live in a world where there are Fay Elberta peaches."

I was so deep in my reverie that a few bites in I somewhat lost track of myself, until Chimp said facetiously, "Uh, could you make those noises outside, please?"

"Probably no better of an idea. I’d scare the neighbors."

Figs are back; Fig Fest is right around the corner now – see that little purple flyer in the corner of the image?  It’s Saturday, August 11 – a great party, and the day before my birthday, no less. Will you be there?

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Might Not Post For A Bit

(Squeamish alert: kitchen injury described below.)

I accidentally got some fingertip in the fennel last night (bad hand positioning; I know better but was tired and was not being careful) and my left ring finger is out of service for a while, rendering me unable to touch type. I can still write longhand, but as my Tablet PC died a couple months ago and our scanner no longer has a working driver, that’s not much of a posting option.

This is, would you believe, in all the years I’ve been cooking, the first time I’ve had a mishap like this. I feel like an idiot, because, as mentioned above, I know better.

The initial adrenaline rush and subsequent stress of the situation were exhausting enough to knock down my functioning a bit – I had to send Chimp to the market today, as I just wasn’t feeling well enough to stand up for that long.

So I have been laying low, keeping my hand elevated to reduce swelling, watching cooking shows on PBS (ah, how I love the obsessive-compulsive nature of America’s Test Kitchen…makes me feel not so alone in the world…), being grateful for these and generally feeling sorry for myself. Well, mostly for my finger.

What You Missed at the Market

As I was gathering my cloth bags and my camera out of the car in the parking lot of the farmers’ market this Saturday morning, I heard one half of a cell phone conversation going on in another part of the lot.

“You have to stop by here on your way home. It’s amazing. It’s…um, Blackstone and Shaw. Where all the cars are in the parking lot. They have everything; you wouldn’t believe it. Wonderful vegetables, and there’s this bread, there’s nothing it it, I mean, it just has bread in it, none of that other stuff. And the fruit. You just have to come down here.”

It made me smile as I was walking into the market, which was a good thing, as Kopi Sotiropolous was at Michele’s stand, video camera in hand. “Look at that beautiful smile!” he exclaimed, swinging the camera toward me. Thank goodness I washed my hair…on Thursday, I thought to myself. I had thrown a scarf on over the worst of the mess and gone out, just planning to do the shopping and then come home and clean up. And instead I was potentially making a very brief debut on local television. Oh well. It was nice to run into Kopi anyway; it meant I had an opportunity to thank him personally for giving publicity on Great Day to something we’d done at work.

The tomatoes have been coming and coming, and today, this was the first week that they seemed to be piled everywhere you turned. Michele of K.M.K. had a delicious-looking tomatavalanche at her table:

And Marchini Sisters had these beautiful selections. The one in the foreground might be the Cherokee variety – I didn’t catch a name on the lovely green-yellow one in the back.

Tomato time is the best. But I say that about everything, though, don’t I?

Grapes are just beginning to come on as well. The Soghomonians of Three Sisters were back with the first Red Flame grapes of the season.

Look at the beautiful powdery bloom on these – it’s soft and downy on your lips as you bite into each crisp little fruit. They taste like concentrated sunshine.

K.M.K. Farms Tour Part II

When I left off last time, Kyle was just gathering a group together for a tour.  I walked up as he was describing how they’d started off with just the avocado grove that’s in the background of this shot.  Taking that crop to a farmer’s market was the beginning of what’s turned into a 10-year adventure for Michele and Kyle.  (You can see from the browned leaves that the trees suffered some in last winter’s freeze; Kyle said the waiting after the freeze to see what the damage was had been a tense time, but that despite some damade, the trees seemed to be rallying.)

Their farm, while diverse in terms of crops and managed without synthetic sprays or pesticides, isn’t certified organic.  "We’d rather be certified by you folks," Kyle said at some point during the tour, indicating their openness and willingness to discuss and explain their cultural methods.  They use practices you’d expect on an organic farm – soil-building with organic matter and companion planting being two examples, and in general, Kyle said, continuously explore better ways to farm while getting the best out of their seven acres and reducing the impact of their practices on the land.  Some of those practices will be visible in the images to come.

Continue reading “K.M.K. Farms Tour Part II”

Corn, Tomato and Black Bean Salad with a Lime-Chipotle Dressing

We’ve been making salad for dinner. Given the heat, we’ve been making salad for dinner a lot. Last week, for instance, we managed to not turn on the stove for five consecutive days.

It’s fair to say that I have a bit of a taco salad problem. It’s been my favorite meal for, oh, about 20 years now. The way I satisfy that ongoing jag has shifted a bit, admittedly; this is light years away from iceberg lettuce in a deep-fried white flour tortilla.

But if you share with me a love for that spicy-cool-tart-crunchy-citrusy combination – not that I’m admitting to anything, but if, let’s say, you did something on the order of driving three exits down the Beltway to hang out at a fast-food restaurant that rhymes with Paco Hell in the middle of the night in high school, but have since turned your heart toward wholesome food – this is the salad for you.

This corn, tomato and black bean salad is one that can only be born at midsummer – it needs perfectly sweet-tart tomatoes, not to mention crunchy-sweet corn. Cilantro backs up the citrusy note of the lime-based dressing, and black beans and bulghur give it the heft that a main-dish salad should have.

Sure, the black beans make sense, but the bulghur might seem out of left field, right? It has a good reason for being there. It adds what I think is an essential chewy note, something that salads often lack. The bulghur fills that textural gap and makes the whole combination much more satisfying to eat.

Continue reading “Corn, Tomato and Black Bean Salad with a Lime-Chipotle Dressing”

Baba Ganoush & The Eggplant Incident

My lack of love for eggplant has been previously mentioned herein.  Each summer, though, the tide of eggplant rises along with the other nightshades – tomatoes, peppers – and eventually, a globe or two shows up in our CSA box from T&D Willey and I must dispense with it.  This was the week.

That "previously mentioned" link above – to a recipe for Royal Eggplant with Garlic, which is a really delicious smoky roasted eggplant puree with tomatoes, onions, spices and butter – is one of my two ways of coping with eggplant.  My other coping mechanism is baba ganoush.  Load eggplant up with olive oil, tahini & lemon juice, and really, there’s no reason not to eat it. 

It’s sad that I have two eggplant recipes and a bajillion ways of using just about every other kind of produce, but they are two really good eggplant recipes.

So, not having posted my baba ganoush recipe previously, that’s where I headed on Saturday.  The heat had broken (it was going to be 104 instead of 112; that’s what we mean in Fresno when we say it’s going to be "cooler") and so I took some time before the day got really hot to roast the eggplant in the oven.

This occasion is one of those times that I think I should buy a grill to avoid heating up the house with the oven, and then Chimp reminds me that you have to cook on a grill outside.  Well, scratch that when it’s 110.

I think I could skip buying the grill entirely; just oil the eggplant up and lay it on a well-scrubbed section of patio, then go out and kick it every 30 minutes or so.  Come to think of it, why don’t I have a solar oven?  And along with that, why isn’t every roof in this town covered with solar panels?  You’d think we could make a mint.  I must be missing something.

But I’m getting off track here.

I came home from the market, washed the eggplant, and popped it in the oven to broil while I washed some shallots (for something else) to roast along with the eggplant.  I was tossing the shallots in a dish with some grapeseed oil and salt when

POOOFFfffffsssssss.

"Aha," I thought to myself, "That must be the eggplant exploding."

I opened the door.  My oven had birthed a Japanese tentacle monster.

Exploding the eggplant was not originally part of my baba ganoush recipe, but if you, like me, are tired or forgetful and omit the step of pricking the eggplant before you place it in the oven, I want you to know that this recipe has been tested with both exploded and intact eggplant on separate occasions, and both kinds work just fine.

Continue reading “Baba Ganoush & The Eggplant Incident”