Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekend Food Exploits

Lately I've gotten back into the routine of going to the grocery store every weekend. Stocked pantry/fridge = meal flexibility and a lot fewer restaurant meals. Late spring through early fall I also stop by one of the produce stands run by Howell's Farm. They specialize in tomatoes, but also grow a nice variety of squashes and eggplants, peppers, and corn. Yesterday's trip was a little different -- I started my day with a visit to the Nashville Farmer's Market.

The FM has traditionally been a disappointment; few farmers and lots and lots of resellers. The interior market has had some interesting shops and restaurants, but that's somewhat in flux now. Half the facility is taken up with a flea market that is 99% knock-offs and mass-produced cheap, gaudy junk. There's an effort underway to renovate and reposition, including trying to get more actual farmers selling more actual local product. The effort has been surprisingly controversial ... but more about that another day.

I went to the FM hoping to score some decent peaches, and was also interested in seeing what the general selection was like these days. One seller had some peaches from KY, which counts as local. None that I inspected were really ripe; I've got four on my counter and hope they'll be worth eating. I also picked up a loaf of whole wheat bread from what I think was a Mennonite couple who had a table of baked goods. Made a Bradley tomato sandwich with it for lunch -- it was good, soft bread for all of it being whole wheat. I saw a huge variety of squashes and peppers, including cute pint baskets of cherry-tomato sized, mixed-variety heirloom peppers. I was hoping for fresh onions or garlic, fresh herbs, maybe some strawberries, and ... exotica. I was disappointed, but did go to Howell's stand there and pick up some things I usually get from them -- zucchini, eggplant (small white and Japanese), Bradley tomatoes (low-acid and thin skin), cherry tomatoes mentioned in yesterday's post (which I discovered today are called Black Cherry), plum tomatoes, Peaches-and-Cream corn, some pickling cucumbers, and some red potatoes. A goodly haul.

Sundays have become a cook-for-the-week-and-the-freezer day, and today was no exception. I used the pickling cucumbers to make a quart of refrigerator bread-and-butter pickles, using kind of a hybrid of several recipes. I'll write about them in a couple of weeks, after the first tasting. With the eggplants, plum tomatoes, zucchini, and previously-purchased purple bell pepper and Vidalia onion, I made Cooking Light's Gardener's Ratatouille. I've been making this every summer since the recipe was first published in 2002. The unconventional colors of some of the vegetables (purple pepper, white eggplant) made it even more colorful than usual. Delicious, too!

I was going to link to the recipe, but it's no longer available on the Cooking Light web site, so ... here it is. (Note: It's also in the Cooking Light 2002 Annual recipe book.)

Gardener's Ratatouille
Cooking Light, Aug 2002
Robin Taylor Swatt

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups chopped plum tomatoes -- (about 1 pound)
2 cups chopped eggplant -- peeled (TL note: I've never peeled them)
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic -- minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add tomato, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in oregano, and remaining ingredients; cook, uncovered, 5 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: approx 3/4 cup).

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