Saturday, July 28, 2007

Green vs. purple plums

People with luxuriant amounts of counter space have big, lovely, ceramic fruit bowls, which display the season's bounty to maximum effect. However, were I to allot so much space (12"+ in diameter!) to fruit, we would have to consider it a third roommate and charge rent accordingly. Instead, my fruit bowl is a Texas commemorative plate, which is luckily just the right size to hold these lovely Shiro plums.

I had to stop when the bags got too full:
5 ears corn
1 lb. "golden nugget" potatoes
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 bunch rainbow chard
4 zucchini
1 lb. shell peas
1.5 lbs. green and yellow beans
1.5 lbs. peaches
1 lb. nectarines
1 lb. Shiro plums
Total spent: $44

Tonight I'm planning a multi-course dinner to use up the most perishable of my purchases: first will be corn on the cob, then tomato and goat cheese salad with salt and pepper, then for the main course, a plain omelet (using local eggs), peas, and roasted potatoes. I can't wait!

Hopefully the pretty golden Shiro plums will be more satisfying than the purple variety have been. I've expressed my dissatisfaction with regular plums in the past, and last year the only plums I liked were Green Gage, which have been absent from USG thus far this season.

As I feared, this week cherries were, for my purposes, gone: a few stands still had a limited supply, but they were mostly mushy and mottled, not worth sorting through. Peaches are still gathering momentum, but apricots, too, seem to be waning, but luckily nectarines have just started showing up. However, I haven't found an east coast nectarine that can compare to a good peach...

Otherwise, my week's purchases are pretty standard: green beans for blanching and serving plain or for stir-frying, zucchini for dicing and steaming in pasta salad (and stir-frying, I suppose), chard for putting in everything possible. Next week I have to remember to buy two bunches, since the kale has been really tough lately, and spinach is nowhere to be seen. I should experiment with other greens, but I have had some unlucky results with collards that make me hesitant. Maybe I can get some baby bok choy or tat soi next week. The lovely legumes have distracted me from my greens so far this summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Love hurts

It seems that the cherry season this year has been terribly short; it seems like only a week or two ago I was enjoying my first summertime cherries, and now they're already obviously on the wane. Strawberries disappeared all at once, but cherries are slowly fading - fewer USG vendors this week than last, and fewer next week, and soon they'll be totally gone, along with sugar snap peas, which are also past their prime. I feel winter creeping into my bones already!...and yet, it's mid-July.

Today's nevertheless-lovely harvest:

1 lb. cherries
1/2 lb. apricots
1/2 lb. plums (little purple ones, not sure what variety)
4 peaches
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 1/2 lbs. green and yellow beans
1 lb. shell peas
1 bunch rainbow chard
3 zucchini
2 cousa squash
5 ears bicolor corn
1 pint orange heirloom cherry tomatoes
Total spent: $42

The tomatoes are delicious - as my photo assistant said while enjoying them with goat cheese, salt, and pepper, they're "outrageous" - and the little cherry tomato size is somehow less intimidating than the big ones, which I'm afraid will go bad before I can use them. The tinies are easy to snack on during every trip to the kitchen, which is good since I won't refrigerate them and they'll only last a couple of days in our hot lair.

Corn on the cob is quite a good consolation for the loss of earlier-summer crops - it's getting sweeter every week. There are already two husked ears in the steamer for dinner tonight, along with my favorite cherry tomato preparation, named above, and some squash and tofu sauteed together with garlic and spices, over rice.

I couldn't resist the green and yellow beans; I bought them from the same organic vendor I got them from last week, and they were delicious, and so versatile. They'll be blanched and served cold and salted in lunches, chopped into 1" pieces and added to pasta salads, stir-fried, and probably other ways I haven't imagined yet.

My fingers are crossed that the peaches will turn out better than the last ones I had; these are from the orchard I bought most of my peaches from last year, so I'm hoping they'll be as flavorful. I've already tasted a few of the plums and I'm experiencing my usual "blah" feeling about them; perhaps the Shiro and green gage varieties will be more to my liking, as they were last year.

I also bought some non-produce: goat cheese from Lynnhaven Farm (wonderful!), and fantastic basil pesto from an herb vendor. It's the second time I've bought the pesto - you get about 1 cup for $5, which lasts through lots of pasta salad servings - and it's really wonderful. I haven't made my own because I don't have a food processor... and I'm happy to buy it from the cute young couple who run the herb stand.

This morning I went to the USG about half an hour earlier than usual, as I had to get home early to go to the Sunburn Siren Festival, and it seemed more crowded than when I'm normally there. I wonder if there are more people who show up for the market's 8 a.m. opening than are there at around 9:30 or 10...before it gets crazily-crowded with regular folks around 11 or noon. I'm thinking of trying to get there when it opens one of these Saturdays, to see if I can get it on any extremely special, sells-out-immediately, produce...or perhaps that's a myth?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Yellow and orange and sunny

USG was packed early this morning with folks who were loading up their weekender totes with ears of corn and berries. The morning was beautiful and sunny, and the fruits and veggies were orange and yellow, as if in homage. The bright yellow chard is breathtakingly lovely! (Also yellow, but not pictured: gold nugget potatoes, corn on the cob).

A perfect morning:
2 ears bicolor corn
1 lb. yellow Swiss chard
1 pt. orange heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 lb. green and yellow beans
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 bunch red kale
1 lb. gold nugget potatoes
1 head Rocambole garlic
4 zucchini (2 green, 2 golden)
1 lb. apricots
1.5 lbs. peaches
1 lb. cherries
Total spent: $45

The peaches (tree-ripened) are lovely and juicy, but still working up to perfect flavor - it's still early in their season. Last week's apricots were so delicious that I got twice as many this time. If only I had taken that canning class at Brooklyn Kitchen last week...but it was a Sunday, and I had to work. They assured me they'd have another one soon, though...fingers crossed it's in time for me to put up some peaches, tomatoes, and apricots.

I've already got the whole head of Rocambole garlic on the stove in tomato sauce (with last week's basil - oops!). All the snap peas and most of the beans will end up blanched in lunches, but I will sautee some of the green beans with garlic and red pepper for dinner tonight - paired with the potatoes, and preceded by corn on the cob and a salad of sweet, juicy tomatoes with goat cheese and Italian parsley.

That chard! It's so lovely - the contrast of the fresh green with that bright yellow - that I want to come up with some way of showcasing it. Perhaps I can combine it in a recipe with some of the golden zucchini to highlight the sunniness of both vegetables.

Last week I had a bug for pasta salad, probably due in large part to the delicious pesto I bought at the USG, as well as the excruciating heat. Here are two variations I made, both great for packing in lunches, because the flavors blend in the fridge - they're not recipes as much as assembly suggestions:

Tortellini Pesto Salad
tortellini (I used Trader Joe's artichoke tortellini, but your cheese would work)
pesto (1-2 tbsp per serving)
cherry tomatoes (as many as you want)
goat cheese (2 tbsp per serving)
salt and pepper to taste

Tear kale into approx 2" pieces, steam it, and set aside. Don't throw away the water you steamed it with - add more water and use that to cook the pasta (saves nutrients). Drain pasta and rinse gently with cold water until cool. Chop kale into thin strips; halve cherry tomatoes. Add pesto, pasta, kale, cherry tomatoes, and about 3/4 of the goat cheese to a bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss. Just before serving, crumble the rest of the goat cheese on top.

Penne Pasta Salad
pesto (1-2 tbsp per serving)
summer squash (about 1 medium zucchini per serving)
Italian veggie sausage (Tofurky andField Roast are my favorites)
goat cheese (2 tbsp. per serving)
salt and pepper to taste

Dice zucchini, steam it until just barely tender (err on the side of crisp) and set aside. Again - use the steam water for the pasta. Drain pasta and rinse gently with cold water until cool. Dice and sautee veggie sausage. Add pesto, pasta, zucchini, sausage, and 3/4 of goat cheese to a bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss. Just before serving, crumble the rest of the goat cheese on top.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Going overboard...

...was my greenmarket m.o. today. Though strawberries are already gone, the amazing July selection at the USG today more than made up for it.

I love summer:
1 quart cherry tomatoes
1 lb. sugar snap peas
2 cousa squashes
1 bunch red Russian kale
1 bunch rainbow chard
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch basil
1.5 lbs. cherries
5 apricots
Total spent: $34

The plural of "squash" is giving me a headache. Does "squashes" mean only "multiple varieties of squash," or can I use it to mean "two fruits of the squash plant"? I think my point comes across regardless.

I'm very glad sugar snap peas are still here - they're our summer staple vegetable so far. I've been blanching them for 75 seconds, shocking them in ice water, then packing them in lunches with a few grinds of sea salt...and then, more often than not, we have them again (prepared the same way) with dinner.

I'm excited to have bought my first tomatoes of summer! One of my plans is to have them in a pesto pasta salad with cousa squash, goat cheese, and Italian parsley - with fresh basil to garnish. I bought some pesto at the greenmarket because I don't have a food processor to make my own. The basil will also go into some homemade tomato sauce.

Most of the other veggies are self-explanatory - greens for adding to burritos, pasta, and anywhere else I can fit them in, and the carrots for having raw or steamed with lunch. The cherries are from Terhune Orchards, which is also where I get my apples in fall - they have the best cherries at the greenmarket (they also had the best asparagus when it was around). I'm very happy that apricots are starting to show up; a few places even had peaches. Though these are two of the fruits I most want to can this summer, so that clock is ticking quickly. We'll see if I can fit in a class and get the gear in time to put up some fruit this summer.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


So, I obviously haven't posted in awhile, and I was thinking of giving up Produce Stories altogether. My main reason was that I started this blog (a year ago!) as a means to encourage myself to eat lots of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and to think of creative ways to prepare them. Since that's ingrained now, I thought that the blog had done its job. However, when I was home in California, multiple people told me how much they like it, including one of my mom's friends, who said that she has Produce Stories bookmarked on her work computer and goes to it to check out my veggie photos whenever she needs a as of this Saturday, I'm going to restart in earnest.