Friday, September 23, 2011

End of Summer Bounty

As I spend time selling lamb, beef and sausage at the Auburn Farmer's Market each Saturday, I become more aware of the seasons and what I am eating. I also see the profound effect the seasons have on what I am eating. The end of summer provides an abundance of fruits, vegetables, meat and flowers. There is so much that economical eaters will freeze, jam, dry and preserve the bounty, saving some of the glorious summer flavors to be enjoyed in less prolific winter months.

Currently the locally grown produce available to munch on in considerable quantities includes plums (bad year for plums, too much late rain), Asian pears, apples, raspberries, honey, a large variety of melons, okra, sweet corn, patty-pan & spaghetti squash, peppers, beans, tomatoes, lamb, pistachios, beef and more. Below are a couple of my favorite seasonal creations made using ingredients found at the Auburn farmers market and the Sacramento Co-op:

Green zebra heirloom tomatoes from the garden
Pistachio Basil Pesto Bruschetta with Tomatoes
-2 cloves garlic
-1/2 cup shelled pistachios
-2 cups loosely packed basil
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Put garlic in food processor (ie blender); pulse until chopped.  Add pistachios, basil, lemon juice and salt; pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Add olive oil gradually through food shoot and process until well combined. Add cheese and pulse 2 or 3 times.  Makes one cup.

1 baguette, sliced
Broil in oven until toasty, about 4 minutes

Slather the toast with pesto, top with a slice of tomato, savor the taste and the moment.

Frozen Honey Cream - a lighter ice cream option, but a warning: it is so good you just might eat it all in one sitting!

In a medium bowl, using n electric mixer, beat 1 3/4 cups heavy cream into stiff peaks, then refrigerate. In a small pot, bring 2/3 cup honey to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 2 minutes.

In another medium bowl, beat 4 egg yolks until pale yellow.  With mixer running, add honey in a slow, steady stream. Beat on high until mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, fold in whipped cream. Transfer to a 5x10 inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic. Eat it soft, or freeze until set, about 2 hours (or for up to a week).
Growing up in a culture where almost any kind of food is available at any time of year (Mango's in California. In January.) I never really connected food with the seasons in which they naturally grow. As I slowly gather and retain knowledge about local, seasonal produce, I have discovered that food picked in season, when it is ripe (ie locally, not shipped in from Argentina) is vastly superior to the blemish-free, taste-free produce found in supermarkets across the country.

In California it takes marginally more effort to shop at a farmers' market rather than a big grocer but the tantalizingly tasty rewards are well worth it. There is also great joy to be found in meeting and supporting directly the people who grow your food (and flowers). Farmer's markets are also an excellent opportunity to meet like minded as well as other shoppers, and to start to see what a wonderful sense of community these markets can build.

A decorative red eggplant for fall-courtesy Ueki Gardens

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