Sunday, May 18, 2008

Market day... and a busy day in the kitchen

Judging from the array of delicious fruits and veggies on display at the market this morning, I'd say we have one foot squarely in summer: nudging their way in next to the strawberries that have been dominating fruit stalls for a few weeks are cherries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots. I also noticed the first of the peppers in one vegetable stall, and picked up some fully grown, but just-picked garlic. Winter's bounty is drying up: there is still a bit of broccoli, but the vendors are clearly trying to get rid of it. (When I picked up my leeks, the stall's proprietor tried to get me to buy some broccoli as well--half off.) Other winter vegetables have largely disappeared, and I was even hard pressed to find leeks, let alone ones that weren't over 2" in diameter. The kiwi stall had a sign saying "last day."

While I feel some wistfulness about the end of locally grown broccoli, overall I couldn't be more pleased that the summer fruits are making their debut. I can't get enough of peaches, apricots, cherries, plums, and all kinds of berries--for both eating out of hand and everything one can do with them. Summer is the season of crisps, cobblers, fresh fruit salads, and berry-topped tarts and cakes. But above all, it is the season of pie. When I was growing up, my mom (often with the help of one of us kids) would make a fresh fruit pie almost every week. It was usually apricot, but there was also strawberry pie, blackberry pie, olallieberry pie, and so on. Blueberry pie was a rare treat reserved for visits to our grandparents' summer house in Maine--not so much because of a dearth of blueberries, but rather because my mom, having once participated in a blueberry pie eating contest when she was a little girl, had been put off blueberry pie for life. Just as well, really--when it comes to baking, the large blueberries we get out here really don't hold a candle to the tiny wild blueberries one finds in Maine.

All of that to say that today's visit to the market has me thoroughly jazzed for summer. In fact, I have an urge not only to cook with lots of summer fruits and veggies, but also (after reacquainting myself with a breezy skirt for a stroll through a local street fair with the Suitor) to go out and bolster the summery section of my wardrobe. But in the meantime, there is still foodie business to cover, so let's not get too distracted by thoughts of lovely skirts and dresses...


Okay, I said not too distracted--after all, I'm not made of stone. Back on task: let's talk loot, i.e. what I got at the market. I went with only three items on my list: some sort of fruit (the tangelos from last week's CSA box being nearly gone), snow peas for tonight's Chinese chicken salad, and flowers for the living room. I came home with those and much more. I often come home with more than I intended to buy, but this time I really loaded up. I think I was hungrier than I realized, but in my defense, it all looked so delicious! I ended up not only with snow peas, but also a watermelon-sized bag of English peas. And not content with only one kind of fruit (a basket of strawberries), I picked up three white peaches as well. I ate one this afternoon, and they're so sweet that, I kid you not, they're like sugar syrup infused with peach flavor. Just incredible. My two sources of home-grown garlic are fresh out of last years, so I picked up some fresh garlic from this year's crop, as well as some leeks for Tuesday dinner. There was not a single head of radicchio to be found, so the pasta with leeks and radicchio will have to do without the radicchio. Finally, some freesias for the living room table and some coconut macaroons to have with my tea.

That was the morning, but how about the afternoon? What of this "busy day in the kitchen?" If the state of my kitchen an hour or so ago is any indication, I certainly did have a busy afternoon there. I had two weeks' worth of rhubarb (four stalks) to use, so rhubarb crumble was the first order of business. I didn't use any particular recipe, but rather, drew from a few different recipes: one from Nigella Lawson (via Bee), another from Fine Cooking, and a third that my mom recommended from a local radio station. It smells delicious, and I can't wait to try it--perhaps with a bit of vanilla ice cream..

Next up: Chinese chicken salad using my grandmother's fabulous recipe. Or rather, one very much like hers--I still ended up not including the fried wontons and rice sticks. I'd like to have you believe that this was out of some sort of laudable effort to be healthy, but really, it was mostly out of laziness. I have a weakness for many fried things, wontons not least among them, but the prospect of getting oil splatters everywhere (or, more accurately, the prospect of having to clean up all of the oil splatters) was more than I was willing to deal with this afternoon. Nevertheless, the chicken salad is delicious, and plenty crunchy with to the bean sprouts and snow peas.

Finally, as if I weren't making enough of a mess in the kitchen with my market bounty, rhubarb crumbling, and chicken salad fixings, it occurred to me that I had half of a cucumber, a lemon, and some parsley and mint that needed to be used up. Fortunately I almost always have bulgur on hand, so tabbouleh salad was an easy choice. I added some walnuts and dried cranberries, and it's pretty tasty! I'm learning to have things like this salad on hand for when I come home hungry and don't have the energy to cook what I had planned for dinner, or wind up without leftovers for lunch on a day when I'm biking to work (i.e. can't stop for a salad on the way in or go out at lunchtime).

Now that I've finished dinner, I'm off to sample some of that crumble! Hope everyone had a lovely weekend--even better if it involved some relaxation:

Update: the crumble was soooooo good! I can't wait to wake up and have more for breakfast. :)


Brave Sir Robin said...


What a day!!

I am green (get it? green? ha ha) with envy!!

When ever I make a pilgrimage to the farmer's market, I always buy too much, but it all looks so good!!

I totally agree that the big blueberries we get here aren't nearly as goos as the tiny ones. Especially for muffins. For pie, well they all get cooked anyway, but for muffins they are just too large.

Apricots and cherries? Time for a tart.

Bee said...

I am green with envy, too.

I want to try one of those peaches! It doesn't feel like summer here at all, with temperatures struggling to get up to 60.

Your day really does sound like my ideal day. BTW, what is the name of your market?

Will you post the Chinese Chicken Salad? That is one of my favorites, but I've never made it at home.

I need to make a rhubarb crumble, too, as we have four stalks -- wilting in the frig, even as we speak.

I'm off to make quiche lorraine for dinner now, (we need to use up some eggs!), although what I really want to do is make like your kitty and take a nap. :)

Anne said...

About the blueberries, the wild Maine ones also seem to have a more intense flavor--perhaps that's why I like them better in pie. But you're absolutely right about the muffins! Mmm, blueberry muffins... now I'm getting hungry!

I've never made a tart with either apricots or cherries. Do you do it in a fluted pan, or a free-form, galette-type tart with the edges folded over?

I'm a little amazed at how good the peaches are, given how early it is. Maybe they were spurred to greatness by the very hot weather we had last week. The ones on my parents' tree were still the size of walnuts when last I looked (about two weeks ago), so we'll have to wait a while for them.

My market is just the local farmer's market: the Mountain View Farmer's Market. Every Sunday, year-'round, rain or shine (and one day in early February it was really raining hard). It's grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, to the point where they had to move it to a much larger venue.

I'm impressed, Bee, that your kids like quiche! That's a pretty grown-up taste, even for teenagers. But I suppose some people are born with what we generally consider "adult" tastes--or at least more adventurous ones! Sister #2 liked coffee starting when she was a toddler, and has always been an adventurous eater. Gastronomic open-mindedness came much later to me.

Dusty is a champion napper. In that picture he was only dozing (and periodically positioning himself to maximize the potential for petting, thus the exposed belly), but when he's out, we can pick him up and reposition him--to or from a lap, to a different position on the couch, even to a whole different room--with only the barest of murmurs from him.

Anne said...

PS: I will indeed post the chicken salad recipe! Tonight when I get home.

Brave Sir Robin said...


I always make it in a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, but I don't see why it couldn't be made free-form.

It is from an old Bon appetit. I'm not sure when, but probably about 10 years ago.

I'll look when I get home.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Whooo! Found it online!!


Anne said...

I have an 11" tart pan that must be getting lonely from lack of use... but for that particular tart recipe (thanks, btw, for finding it!) I'm inclined to wait for the Blenheim apricots, which won't be coming in for another... hmm... three to four weeks? Maybe five. Anyway, the flavor is so far out of the league of Patterson and Castlebright apricots and the like that I just can't bring myself to buy apricots if they're not Blenheims.

Hello, my name is Anne and I'm an apricot snob.

In the meantime, I could always make the tart with peaches... or plums... or pluots! The one time I ate at Chez Panisse we had a pluot tart that was to-die-for. The almond whipped cream on top was not cream with almond extract. Oh no. It was cream in which toasted almonds had been steeped overnight. The cream was drained and whipped, and it had the most delicate almond flavor... yum!

Bee said...

I love the name of your farmer's market! So is there a mountain to view?

My kids just think of quiche as totally normal food. They are both good eaters, although the little one has a more sophisticated palate. She likes coffee, port, and escargots -- just to name a few of her more sophisticated tastes. The older one is a pain because she doesn't care for most dairy -- and she won't eat any fish. I detest food prohibitions!!

Are your cats faddish about their napping places? Lately, Minstrel has taken to napping in a little wooden crib that C has for her baby dolls. She looks too cute in it!! This morning I was making her bed, and I looked down and saw him . . . and well, it did make me laugh.

Is a pluot a hybrid of a plum and an apricot? I've never heard of that. The almond whipped cream anecdote amuses me . . . did you ask the how they had infused the almond flavor?

Anne said...

Bee - there are indeed! Several, though not big ones, mind. The tallest is Mt. Hamilton at about 4,000 feet. The town itself is called Mountain View, actually.

Does your older daughter not like fish, or does she have other reasons for not eating it? (E.g. environmental) I was fairly dairy-cautious when I was growing up. I liked very few cheeses, was iffy on yogurt, and so on. I did like milk, though.

Too bad you didn't get a picture of Minstrel in the crib! I bet that was quite a sight. Our cats are definitely faddish about their napping spots, although there are some "classic" spots that they always use. Madeleine has recently claimed my neoprene laptop sleeve as her own, whereas she used to take her afternoon naps on top of a tall bookshelf in the office. Dizzy went through a phase where she wanted to be on top of the fridge all the time, then she couldn't care less about it, and now she's up there every evening again (making quite a ruckus, I might add). She likes to get down via my shoulders. The Suitor's won't do, she insists on mine.

Dusty is pretty consistent, though. His absolute favorite place for napping is a human lap, and he will climb over laptops, books, or whatever he has to in order to install himself in a lap. His second favorite place is a bed that we got for him to have in his crate after his hernia surgery; if he can't have a lap, and if Orbit hasn't already snagged it, he likes to be in "his" bed. They all have such different personalities... endlessly entertaining!

You got it on the nose with the pluot! Sorry about that, I should have specified what it was. There are several varieties, as you can well imagine, but the most common ones seem to be Flavor King and Flavor Queen.

We did ask about the almond flavor in the whipped cream. After dinner we got a tour of the kitchens, and Katie and I asked the pastry chef about the almond whipped cream. We had speculated that that was how they did it, and our suspicion was confirmed.