Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Meal of the Moment

The incredible Sturgeon Moon with its highest of tides has  brought us the highest flow of produce into our farmers' markets.  It's all here now, from apples to zinnias. Raspberries linger, blackberries burst and blueberries just keep coming to go with the new crop of peaches.  And it's the sweet spot for corn and tomatoes. Such exuberance makes an exhilarating meal, a right now moment of magnificent plenty when the food is so fresh, its flavor so strong, you barely have to do more than skin or chop it to eat royally.  

Because I'm a fool for this occasion, I can't pass it by so I invited 10 people for dinner and served them all the glory of the land around us at this very moment.  Abundance is the fuel of sociability; our need to know there's food so we're going to survive is primal and it determines how we behave. Last night was the golden opportunity to let loose with colorful and tasty bowl after bowl. 

Here's what was in them:
for starters while waiting for everyone to gather, a bowl of plump high bush blueberries, a block of local cheese, a bowl of olives and a bowl of nuts.  

When we moved to the table it was hors d'oeuvre variee time: a vivid display of farm produce ripe and ready to dig into: 
green beans Armenian style with garlic, tomatoes and dill (recipe is in the first How to Fix a Leek edition and now in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking), 
French carrot salad which is essentially grated carrots and tons of chopped parsley dressed with oil and lemon juice and the slightest hint of fresh ginger (recipe without ginger in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking);
Corn and Green Pepper Salad with purple new potatoes, cherry tomatoes, tons of fresh cilantro, an avocado, kidney beans and pimento stuffed green olives halved--dressed with fresh lime juice and a blend of corn and olive oil or tomatillo salsa (which I had made fresh). Corn salad recipe in VEggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking; tomatillo salsa in How to Fix a Leek.
Fresh olive bread and a plain baguette.

Plates were piled high. Everyone was now wildly happy and the wine was flowing along with nonstop conversation. Note: food not rich or fancy, just fresh and fine.

Okay,so we finally got to clear away the salad plates and out came the main meal:
cubed local lamb cooked Palestinian style with onions, garlic (two whole heads), chard, chickpeas and fragrant spices (cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cloves), served with a squirt of fresh lemon juice. And
the juiciest tomatoes chunked on a platter filled with fresh chopped basil and a sprinkle of local goat cheese, a sprinkle of precious sea salt and a dash of fruity olive oil, Plus
fresh cucumbers in yogurt with garlic, mint and dill.

I can't begin to describe how high that raised enthusiasm. And there was  more on the way because right now the land keeps on giving. For dessert:
blackberry clafouti (recipe in How to Fix a Leek), clafouti being a cross between cake and pudding
peach crisp with pecan topping (recipe in How to Fix a Leek)

I stopped counting how many wine bottles had been opened. The conversation never stopped. People lingered for two hours, coming at 6 and leaving after 11.  The exuberance of the market right now has been in all the emails today. What a high tide time!  And it can easily happen to you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Get watery right now

In these dogs days of hot and humid, the body needs water, lots and lots of water. And that's why Nature has just given us berries and melons galore. They are 90% water. Just what we need.

So get to the market and get those melons and berries.
And cucumbers while you're at it. They too are 90% water, which is why they've been traditionally eaten at a time like this which is all the summer time in sweltering countries. They provide an elegant way to  keep the body hydrated and cool.

This is also the time cultures that understand how to properly fuel the body eat salty foods--capers, olives, anchovies, that also help retain water while we sweat. Use them liberally in salads you douse with olive oil, another trick. Mediterranean peoples eat lots of oily dishes at times like these because the oil provides a lube job to the muscles.

Fresh tomatoes with olive oil and olives! Yogurt and cucumber! Keep thinking salt, water and oil.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Farmers' Market Fast Food Lunch

Photo of a shopping spree. At the local farmers' market. Then lunch in 15 minutes. A version of Salade Nicoise, with smoked Maine mussels substituted for tuna. Everything in this lunch was from the local market except the black olives: fresh eggs, new potatoes, tomatoes, purple scallion, green pepper, green beans, cucumber, dill and flat leaf parsley. Plus local smoked mussels.  While the eggs and potatoes were being boiled with the green beans added for the last two minutes, everything else was chopped and assembled.  It was all dressed up with a whisked mix of olive oil 3 to 1 with balsamic vinegar and a minced garlic clove. Then plenty of freshly ground black pepper, a huge pinch of sea salt and what a happy meal!  Served with local bread and cheese. Topped off with local ice cream and bakery cookies. It's all about shopping.