Back when I used to work in grocery stores, people were incredibly predictable with what fresh produce they would buy. I'd like to think that having a culinary background and a good memory was what enabled me to be able to remember produce codes (or PLU's), but the truth is much of the time I was using the same seven to ten codes for the same seven to ten items on every customer's order.
Iceberg lettuce, celery, bananas, hot house tomatoes, green peppers, green onions, english cucumbers, granny smith apples, white button mushrooms...repeat repeat repeat. Those PLU's are so ingrained in my mind I still can recite them from memory.
At the farmers' market, it's the end of August/beginning of September and that means harvest time. Late summer abundance and the long growing season fall offerings now are becoming ripe. I see the market stalls full of vendors, but from my initial views it seems the produce sellers are offering the same items as the other 8 produce vendors. Tomatoes, corn, peppers, cukes, onions...soon to be squash, apples, and sweet potatoes. All great stuff, incredibly repetitious though. They have tomatoes, I have tomatoes, and my neighbours have tomatoes. I get it - the tomato fairy has landed in Elgin County. I'm eating tomatoes at almost every meal and I'm getting tomato'd out. It's only September!
So what else are the local farmers growing? Plenty, if you dig a little deeper. Smile and push your way through those market crowds to get up close & personal with the farmers. Lo and behold - diversity! Along with shiitake mushrooms, heirloom carrots, cabbage, and blackberries, vendors at the market are also selling tomatillos, callaloo, chiogga beets, and gmo-free corn for those who don't mind a worm or two. The Eggplant Coalition (I made that name up) must've had a successful marketing campaign because there are quite of bit of aubergines at the market. Perhaps one day The Lemon Coalition will be just as successful. I won't hold my breath though. For now, I'm quite content with PLU #4081 to go with my #4064's.
Grilled Aubergine Soup with Lemon - Recipe
2 pounds small firm eggplants
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced onion
Salt & pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
4-5 tablespoons lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons chopped chives
Poke 2 or 3 holes in eggplants with a paring knife then place on the barbeque. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, allowing skins to blacken and char. Turn and cook on other side until eggplants have softened completely, about 4 minutes more. Set aside to cool, then remove and discard skins and roughly chop eggplant flesh.
Place 4 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook until quite soft and are beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, cayenne and reserved eggplant and cook 1 minute more, then add broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Purée soup using blender. Strain through fine-meshed sieve and discard seeds. Add 3 tablespoons lemon juice to puréed soup and taste again, adding more as necessary. Soup should be well seasoned and rather lemony.
Mix lemon zest with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil for garnish. Ladle soup into small bowls, topping each bowl with 1 teaspoon lemon oil and chopped parsley. Serve hot or cold with fresh baked bread.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.