I couldn't even imagine living in an area with fresh produce all year-round. Those temperate zones like the Mediterranean & California have growing seasons 12 months of the year. The sun sticks around long enough for treasures like olives, artichokes, and blood oranges to grow and mature. I would spend all my money on food if I lived there. Oh, right - more food.
That being said, the middle and end of August in Elgin County is looking pretty spectacular. Edamame, early squash, raspberries, peaches (and peaches and peaches), tobacco, tomatoes, first red peppers, watermelon, pickling cukes, sunflowers, and corn are just the tip of the Elgin Summer Harvest Iceberg. I saw someone walk by earlier with blackberries but by the time I got to the market stall they were sold out...Tuesday is the next picking day, so they say.
Moonlighting at the Farmers' Market
I'm doing a little procrastination. Working tomorrow for a better today.
I've got plenty of things to do, but sometimes I really do need to just walk away from what I'm doing and take a break. What's a break for me? Working for someone else for a market morning - ha!
I love the market. I wish I still had my kitchen and space to create baked goods and preserves on a regular basis. I'm working on another plan to spread my true-food love across the county but I'm not ready to announce the details at this point in time. For now, inspiration is all I can offer. Good thing it's everywhere!
Instead of being a vendor at the market Saturday morning, I was a helper at Empire Valley Farm's table. Located close to Wallacetown (waaay down on the west end of the county, right on #3 highway), Dave & Joy grow a wide selection of produce available at their farm, the Horton Farmers' Market and the Covent Garden Market. No, I'm no farmer; my pathetic tomatoes and 2 beets that managed to grow this year are evidence to support this statement. Yes, I've got succulents galore (my other love), but I tried to grow carrots twice this year, multitudes of heirloom lettuces, herbs, beans, broccoli...none of it the worked out so it's obvious it's not my forte. You grow it - I'll cook it. Everyone will be happy.
Working at the Empire Valley table was fun. Dave has a lot of spunk and in most cases he is on the task of growing the produce - not necessarily selling it so we were both working to find our grooves this morning. And we did. That last quart of yellow beans found a home and so did each and every field cucumber.
One thing I feel hampers the growth in non-main stream produce is that people don't have a clue what to do with it. Kale - people buy it but have no idea on how to use it in the kitchen! Two questions that popped up over and over again today were: 1) What is it? 2) What do I do with them? Both of these queries were in regards to patty pan squashes.
To simplify things, think of patty pans as yellow zucchinis in a funny shape. Similar taste, similar texture, just a different shape. Like all zucchini, they soak up any flavours you combine with them be it olive oil, garlic, charring on the grill, red wine vinegar, or butter.
There is a magical time of year when a whole lotta delicious flavours become ripe all at the same time. That time is now! Eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, sweet peppers, and onions. Combine them with a few accents such as basil, black olives, capers and a few seasoning such as garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil and you have a recipe worthy of summer tradition. It really is a dish that I hold off making until August each year (or September) because the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients are most integral to the dish: if you have inferior tasting food, the dish as a whole will taste like it, too.
Ratatouille - Recipe
Ratatouille is a dish native to the Provence region of France and can be considered a vegetable saute more than a stew. Each component is sauteed separately then combined and briefly simmered together to harmonize some of the flavours. After sauteing, the ratatouille is cooled then seasoned with olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic, basil, capers, olives, and (more) red wine vinegar. The flavour of the dish actually improves as it sits and will last several days in the refrigerator. Serve ratatouille with bread, pasta, in a omelet or all on its own.
2 eggplants, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 large onions, sliced
3 red peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
3 green or yellow zucchinis or 6-8 patty pan squashes, sliced into 1/4-inch slices then quartered
1 quart cherry tomatoes or 4-6 red or yellow regular sized tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped Italian flatleaf parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata or Nicoise olives
1 tablespoon chopped capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lay sliced eggplant on a baking tray and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper then cover with aluminum foil. Bake 30-40 minutes or until tender. Once cool, dice eggplant into 1-cm cubes. Set aside.
In a hot skillet pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and place in sliced onions. Brown onions and then add in sliced peppers. Season and saute until browned and softened. Deglaze pan with red wine vinegar and boil briefly. Place sauteed vegetables into a large bowl. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the same skillet and brown squashes or zucchinis; season; add to onions and peppers.
Add chopped eggplant to vegetable mixture and gently place them all back into the skillet to heat through. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes being careful not to crush vegetables. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Stir in olives, capers, garlic, herbs and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if necessary.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.