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Tag: farmer’s market

Cream of sunchoke soup

I believe in the value of trying new things as often as possible, so this weekend I bought sunchokes at the farmer’s market. I find food a deliciously inconsequential way to switch things up. Whenever I hear about someone who eats the same thing at the same time, week in and week out, or engages in other repetitive behavior, a part of me thinks, “Alzheimer’s waiting to happen!” So I like to seize the opportunity to try something new whenever it presents itself. Yesterday, it was sunchokes, something I’ve never cooked (I don’t think I’ve ever eaten them before either).

Sunchokes are a root vegetable, also known as Jerusalem artichokes. Their delicate flavor is similar to that of an artichoke heart. The ones I bought were purple on the outside with pure white flesh; they can also be brown, red, and white. Sunchokes tend to be rich in the carbohydrate inulin, which some people digest better than others.

I had some leftover cream in the fridge, so in the spirit of wasting nothing, decided to make a cream soup.

In the market basket I take to farmers’ markets, I keep a couple of ceramic egg cartons, and a small ceramic berry basket. I filled this berry basket with sunchokes, which turned out to be 9.5 ounces when I weighed them. Please adjust the recipe below to the quantity of sunchokes you want to use. I used a generous half of my carton of chicken broth.

Cream of sunchoke soup

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a soup course

9.5 oz sunchokes
32 oz carton chicken broth
4 T heavy whipping cream (or 8T half and half)
1 shallot, diced fine
6 cloves garlic, peeled
olive oil
1 pat butter
white peppercorns
1 t cornstarch (optional)

Scrub and rinse the sunchokes well. These knobby little tubers really know how to hang on to dirt!

Drizzle a little olive oil on a jelly roll pan. Halve the sunchokes lengthwise and place cut side down on the pan along with the garlic, ensuring each piece is lightly coated in olive oil. You can add a bit of salt and pepper at this point if you like.

Roast in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes. Place the pan where it can cool.

In a small enameled Dutch oven, melt a pat of butter over low-medium heat. Add the finely-diced shallot and soften.

Meanwhile, dice the roasted vegetables and add them to the pot. Cover generously with chicken broth. Add salt, freshly-ground white pepper, and thyme to taste. A little cayenne or nutmeg would also be a good addition.

Bring to a boil slowly over medium heat, and then reduce heat to allow the soup to simmer. Enrich with 4 T heavy whipping cream. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the sunchokes are tender.

Dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch in water or chicken broth, and stir in to thicken the soup as desired.

Note: If you like pureed soups, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup at this point, instead of thickening it.

Serve with whole-grain crackers and some Chardonnay.

Bon appetit!

A pantry feast

There’s something life-affirming about good food.

As I recover from the flu, I’m grateful for every delicious morsel yielded up by my refrigerator and pantry. Thankfully, this malady isn’t affecting my digestion, so while my sense of smell is not all it could be, I’m still well able to enjoy food.

Like purple asparagus and mature white cheddar. A nice Chardonnay. Sweet home-grown pomegranates from a coworker. Onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and eggs from the farmer’s market. Good Parmesan cheese and pecans.

Housebound, I’m starting to feel like improvising. A menu plan can be a lifesaver during a busy week, but with all the busyness subtracted, the food looms large. I take it as a good sign that I feel like being creative. A pantry spaghetti sauce would be delicious. With butter, onions, tomato sauce, and basil from the garden, not to mention good pasta, Parmesan, and the last of the wine, a feast fit for the gods is well within my grasp.

How to bake a farm egg

This is my favorite way to prepare a farm egg … I buy half a dozen every Saturday, and six days a week, have one for breakfast.

Why a farm egg? Well first, it’s awfully good to know for sure that my eggs are from happy chickens and ducks. I see them, with their chicks and ducklings following along behind, every time I visit the urban farm where the eggs are laid. Apparently they all have names, because one Saturday the hunt was on for Puff the duck, who’d gone missing.

But also, of course, because farm eggs taste great–rich, flavorful, fresh. The organic eggs from the gourmet grocery store that I used to eat cannot compare. Now, if I can’t get farm eggs, I don’t eat any.

One of my collections is vintage Chateau Buffet, including about 10 individual handled casseroles that are just about perfect for an individual serving of anything. Glazed toasty brown on the outside; rich duck egg blue on the inside. I line one of these with a thin slice of uncured honey ham. Then a couple of small slices of mature white cheddar. Next the farm egg.

It’s better by far not to break the yolk, but the shells’ thickness varies, making it a delicate operation. These are not a factory product.

Into the oven at 315° for 20 minutes (no preheating needed), then check the white for doneness. A steaming cup of green tea, fresh fruit … a sprinkle of fleur de sel on the yolk.

Ah … all is right with my world.

Farmer’s market basket

The way we spend our food dollars is one of the most important votes we cast. –Michael Pollan

I’d been looking for a market basket for years when I finally found the one I have now at an antique mall. Now it sits on a table near my door, ready for next Saturday’s farmer’s market. It’s an old hand-woven oblong basket, a bit similar in shape to an egg basket, but smoother. Its thick double handle is fully woven into the basket, all the way around to the bottom. The same kind of reed (I think it’s a reed …) is the basis of the top woven edge of the basket as well.

The handle is sturdy and shallow–not much space between the top of the handle and the cavity of the basket. This makes it very practical for carrying comfortably on my wrist at a farmer’s market without bumping into things.

My basket has a bit of discoloration at the bottom–perfectly appropriate for a basket with a past. I especially love how it’s a little lopsided–the left and right sides are noticeably unmatched. It doesn’t seem to be the work of a specialist, but rather of someone who needed a good basket and knew how to make one. Very wabi-sabi, and just what I was looking for. I think I paid $23 for it.

I send a thankful thought to my basket’s weaver, who had the skill–lost to most of us now–to make this beautiful tool that was useful, endured, and now is mine.

Four perfect figs

… It is in the smallest details that the flavor of life is savored.
–Sarah Ban Breathnach

This morning for breakfast, along with my usual farm egg, I had four perfect figs. Little baby figs, about the size of my thumb above the joint. Lavender purple and green, tender, smooth, perfectly sweet. Delectable, in a word, with tiny seeds just whispering texture. Each bite (eight, in all) was a moment of perfect pleasure.

It’s at times like these that I’m so pleased I’ve made time to go to the farmer’s market. These figs were grown onsite, about two miles from my home. The only things more local are the basil and oregano I grow on my front porch, or the peppers that grow in my flower bed. (They have a lovely little purple blossom before the pepper comes, and truly beautiful foliage.)

Yesterday was a particularly busy Saturday, with errands and appointments in three cities, including my own. The organization required to get to all of them on time seemed akin to a military operation. The reward is these wonderful figs.

Not all my farmer’s market purchases turn out so well. There was the watermelon that had all the sweetness of your average vegetable, not to mention the huge fibrous peach that required baking to make it palatable.

But when it pays off, it pays off big. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. Even the gourmet grocery store has nothing to hold a candle to these.

This afternoon, I bought the farmer’s market pottery berry basket I’ve been wanting a reason to own. Next Saturday, I hope to fill it to the brim with perfect figs.

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