Sunday, August 21, 2011

Celebrating the farmers market

Earlier this week, my 9 year old and me made a trip to the Union square green market in NYC and were overwhelmed by the gorgeous bounty on sale. It seemed like everything was at its peak. What was supposed to be a quick browse turned out to be a major event. Instead of picking up a few choice produce and taking a subway back home, we had bought enough to warrant a cab ride. Starting from the stunning red Jersey tomatoes, to the juicy Jersey peaches, to the shiny eggplants, numerous variety of potatoes and many many more...... there was a wide variety of produce to pick from.

This post is highlighting only a fraction of what we lugged home - future posts to follow. So, here we have ball zucchini and patty pan squash - they are so beautiful that they look too good to eat, some succulent tomatoes, crisp pale pink radish and an array of fingerling potatoes. Fingerling potatoes come in a variety of colors - yellow, pale pink, red, and purple. I bought a combination of rose-red skin French fingerling potatoes, yellow La Ratte fingerlings and a pale pink variety whose name I cannot remember. The French fingerling has a moist yellow flesh with streaks of pink and looks really pretty when cooked. These fingerling potatoes are great for roasting as they are waxy and have a nutty flavor.

Farmers market produce

So I made my favorite panzanella and used the tomatoes and radish, with seedless Persian cucumbers, sweet Vidalia onions, kalamata olives and some fresh basil. The fingerling potatoes were simply roasted with fresh rosemary and the zucchini and patty pan squash were grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad, usually made to use left over bread, but I like it enough to go get a fresh baguette or ciabatta for making this dish. You need to plan a little ahead when you are making this salad since it tastes best when the bread croutons soak up the juices from the vegetables and the dressing. Hence it is best eaten about 2 hours after making.

1/2 large baguette, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped field or beefsteak tomatoes
2 Persian cucumbers or 1/2 English cucumber (any seedless variety is good), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 pink radish, cut down the middle and thinly sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onions (or any other sweet onion)
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grindings of fresh black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Drizzle one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil on the baguette cubes and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 13 minutes till they turn golden brown. (You need to keep a watch on them, as they can burn very quickly).
  3. In the meantime, in a small bowl, add the minced garlic, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar and mix. Whisk in the olive oil and set aside.
  4. Place the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and olives in a large salad bowl. Add the croutons and mix well. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and give it one more toss. Cover and set aside for about 2 hours to allow the croutons to absorb the juices from the vegetables and the vinaigrette. Check for seasoning – adjust if necessary and serve. 
Serves 3 to 4

Grilled Zucchini with a Lemony basil dressing

One large ball zucchini
One large patty pan squash
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
Olive oil for grilling
Sea salt or kosher salt for grilling
Zest of one lemon for garnish

2/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil
Juice of 1/4 large lemon
1 clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat a stove top grill. A reversible griddle over two burners works the best, since it has a large surface area and you can grill more slices at one time.
  2. Slice the zucchini into 1/8th inch thick slices ideally using a mandoline or a sharp knife. (If you cannot get it that thin, it will still taste good, but will take a bit longer to grill, but there will be fewer slices to grill).
  3. Once the grill is hot, liberally spray with olive oil to prevent the zucchini from sticking to the grill. Place the slices on the hot grill and sprinkle some salt on top. Grill for a minute or so and flip. The zucchini should have nice grill marks. Remove and keep on a serving plate. Repeat till all the slices have been grilled. You may need to re-oil the grill halfway through grilling if the zucchini starts to stick. Thinner slices will stick more than thicker slices.
  4. Prepare the dressing in a food processor. Add the basil, garlic, salt and pepper and give it a buzz to break down the leaves and the garlic pieces. Add the lemon juice and with the processor running slowly pour in the olive oil till it forms an emulsion. Remove and drizzle over the grilled zucchini slices. Sprinkle the lemon zest and the red chili flakes and serve at room temperature.
Serves 3.

Roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary

1 lb fingerling potatoes of assorted colors if possible, cut into half lengthwise
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. 
  2. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary leaves. Place on a baking sheet cut side down and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip and cook for another 10 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes the potatoes will be golden brown and fluffy. Serve hot.
Serves 2 to 3 depending on how much you love potatoes.

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