Sunday, August 12, 2007

Market Day

A small sampling of Saturday's loot

Saturday is market day. We usually go to the 32nd Street Market in Waverly, just a few miles away. Sometimes we hit the larger downtown market on Sunday, but it is overwhelming and my favorite orchard doesn’t have a stall. Both markets open at 7am, and if we get there much past 7:30 we have to contend with the crowds, and that makes me tense and angry. Why, oh why must folks bring their dogs and jogging strollers and wagons to a crowded market – do they enjoy frustrating their friends and neighbors? They must. It’s the only answer.

But I digress. Market day, if I get to the market early enough, is a joy. What a succession of sights and smells! The herb guy has terrific prices, even if his basil bunches have gotten a little smaller this year, and I love to bury my face in an armful of cilantro, dill, parsley, basil, sage, and thyme and wait for the inspiration to hit – I usually go to the market with a list, but it’s not until I smell the herbs that I begin to know for sure what the week’s menu will be.

Then I head over to One Straw Farm, the organic growers, for my leafy greens, squash, eggplant, beets, beans –whatever looks and smells good. By now, my first bag is full, and the menu has definitely taken shape. I’ll usually have made space for corn on the cob somewhere, so I visit each of several corn stands to find what looks and feels the nicest. I look for luxuriant, golden silk and plump ears. Sometimes I squeeze the tip of a few ears to see if they’ve gone soft. One wagon in particular tends to have excellent corn that is mildly sweet and rarely starchy. A dozen ears of corn (a farmer’s dozen of 13) fills up the 2nd bag, and it’s time for my tomatoes. I bring separate, smaller paper bags for them, so they won’t get crushed.

The tomatoes are gorgeous – red of course, but also yellow, purple, and green. Fat beefsteaks, long Romas, tiny sweet millions, and a host of other varieties tempt me. Mortgage Lifters, Arkansas Traveller, Amish Paste, Uglies, and others --- surely tomatoes are the most varied fruit on the planet! I usually settle for a pint of snacking ‘cherry’ tomatoes, a few big slicing tomatoes for sandwiches, and a few pounds of Roma for pasta.

Whatever money I have left from my market budget is now available for fruit. The family I buy my fruit from are always ready with advice about what’s at its peak, and what’ll be ready next week or the week after. If I’m not sure which variety of plum I want, they hand me one of each so I can taste and decide for myself. Whatever I buy, they’re sure to throw a few extra into the bag. If I have anything left over (I usually don’t) I might visit the lady who sits under her big yellow umbrella selling slices of 7-Up cake, and then to the Ginger Lemonade folks next to her. If I’ve neglected to order my meat and dairy from the farm, I have my choice of 3 stalls, all of which have delicious meats, cheeses, milk, and yogurt.

By now, it is just about 8am, and the market is filling up. I stagger away with my loot, to the corner where Justin picks me up, and we head to the grocery store to pick up whatever wasn’t available at the market, and then head home. I nurse the baby down to sleep while Justin and the kids put the groceries away. The market produce they leave for me – I’m particular about how each item is stored, and anyway I like to have my riches before me as I write the menu, to be sure I don’t forget something. Few things are as disheartening as finding an herb or vegetable, far past it’s prime, languishing in the back of the crisper drawer at the end of the week.

This week’s menu:

Grilled tequila-lime chicken thighs, corn on the cob with chipotle-lime butter, tortilla chips and tomatillo salsa

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Basil

Black bean and corn burritos with queso blanco

Apple-sage turkey burgers and roasted beets topped with gremolata

Tomato lime soup, quesadillas

Homemade papparadelle with Italian sausage and sweet peppers sauce

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