Food is the essence of my social life, profession, and health. This time of year, each week is organized around trips to the farmer’s markets and farms located in my area. For myself and many others, this routine is not just a hobby—it’s a lifestyle. Just recently I read a real estate article that explained the trendy concept of marketing residences for “foodies.” Some homes are being advertised not only for their kitchens, but also for their proximity to the best farmer’s markets and grocery stores!
While at the market or farm I make a point of connecting with the farmers and developing relationships, but I especially take the time to savor the grounded-ness and earthiness of the soil, so that I can bring this energy back to my kitchen. The visual presentation of fresh produce piles brings a sense of calm and peacefulness to my very core. Touching and handling the sometimes dirt-covered vegetables connects me with the earth—a comforting respite on a Sunday morning in a crowded city.
With renewed calm I enter my kitchen and start my post-shopping ritual. All foods are thoughtfully placed with the present and future in mind. Perishable greens are promptly removed from the tops of turnips, beets, and even radishes. They are lightly cooked and refrigerated for future use. Now is the time of year that I start stocking up on root veggies that will last for a couple of months when refrigerated. Sundays are my day for cooking for the week, so menus are planned around the day’s bounty. I often find it’s a great time to stew soft fruits, oven-roast beets, and get all the time consuming preparation out of the way.
In hopes of inspiring you in your market-to-kitchen travels, I would like to share two of my “plan-ahead” vegetables:
There is no better conversation piece then to return from the Farmer’s Market with a stalk of fresh Brussels sprouts. People stop me in the street to inquire about this “strange plant” and children learn a valuable lesson in gardening. I have found two varieties this year, the traditional green and a new purple variety that is smaller in size.
12 Brussels sprouts (removed from stalk or bought loose)
2 Tbs. olive oil
Soy sauce (to taste)
Cut off hard end of Brussels sprout that has been attached to stalk, peel off any dry leaves, then cut in half down the center. Meanwhile, heat olive oil with rosemary in large sauté pan, place Brussels face down starting from the outer edge of the pan then fill in the center. Cover and “sweat” them at low heat for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with soy sauce then cover again and cook another few minutes. ¼ cup of water can be added if you want to speed up cooking time. Serve piping hot. (If you have extras leftover, a unique idea is to take larger Brussels sprouts, remove the dried leaves and then grate and add to coleslaw.)
Cauliflower Two Ways
Cauliflower is another show stopper, especially if you can find the purple and orange varieties at the market. This vegetable is becoming one of the most popular in restaurants in America, thanks to young chefs creating everything from cauliflower “popcorn,” to “rice,” and even “steaks.”
Both recipes serve 3 or 4.
1 very large head of cauliflower
Olive, sunflower, or corn oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Remove all green outer leaves and cut off bottom stem (save the trimmings for making a vegetable stock). Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice the cauliflower from top to bottom into 1 inch thick rounds. Gently place on oiled baking sheet, paint a little oil on the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You may end up with only 3 whole “steaks,” but don’t be discouraged—many pieces will not stay attached. Take these detached pieces and cut or crumble them with your hands to create “popcorn” sized florets. Coat with an oil of your choice and a fun spice mixture (like an Indian curry or French Provencal) or even just simple garlic salt. Spread on another baking sheet or pan. Place both items in oven and cook the “steaks” for about 45 minutes until browned but still al dente. The “popcorn” should cook in the same amount of time.
The “steaks” can be served with a pesto or hummus coating, or any other sauce of your choice. Children may enjoy decorating the dressed cauliflower steaks by making “faces” out of cherry tomatoes, olives, thinly sliced peppers, etc. The “popcorn” makes a great hors d’oeuvre, or tasty lunchbox or after-school snack.