Farmers’ markets pop up under white tents around the city throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and they are one of our favorite places to shop. Sure, brick and-mortar markets are necessary and the Cookin’ half of us visits two to three a day, but crowded, neon-illuminated aisles slowly navigated by angry old ladies with rickety carts and kids on Razors will grate on anyone’s nerves. People often suggest that we order food for photo shoots, but, to me (Maria) grocery shopping is a bit like foreplay, and I like to spend time getting to know what I’m buying; if it’s produce, I’m definitely getting to second base with it. Sure, you can get fruits and vegetables delivered to your home, but it is endlessly more satisfying to see, smell, and touch each slender-necked zucchini, each tangle patterned cantaloupe. More pleasurable still is spending a sun-drenched morning at the greenmarket leisurely going through these motions.
Last Saturday, Tara and I went to the Union Square Greenmarket, arriving before the crowds made it difficult to navigate. Piles of fuchsia radishes with
roots curled like small rodents’, wooden crates’ edges breached by gooseneck gourds, wildflowers abuzz with dizzy bees, emerald leafy greens bunched into
edible bouquets, dark crusty loaves of bread; the feast begins even before you’ve stuffed your tote bag.
Our greenmarket jaunt was all about going there without a shopping list (which is completely foreign to me as I usually type them up by supermarket section) and
picking up whatever seemed most appealing. Do the same; you’ll be surprised at how little fresh ingredients need to shine.
Below are a few recipes we pulled together for brunch later that morning; hopefully they’ll inspire you to shop outside this weekend.
GRILLED ZUCCHINI BLOSSOM SANDWICHES
Makes 4 sandwiches
The key to the success of these sandwiches is good ingredients. We like a Wonder Bread and American cheese version just like the next guy, but gussy the old standard with local cheese and artisan bread. Our choices are in the recipe, but feel free to use your own selections.
Zucchini blossoms are that vegetable’s bold and beautiful décor – luckily, they’re edible, too.
8 slices peasant bread, cut ¾-inch thick
6 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces Brigid’s Abbey cheese, thinly sliced (See Headnote)
16 zucchini blossoms
Salt and pepper
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush each slice of bread on both sides with 4 tablespoons oil. Heat large skillet over medium heat and grill bread in two batches until lightly toasted on both sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer bread to large baking sheet.
Distribute cheese evenly among bread slices and place in oven. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer tray to cooling rack.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in now empty skillet until shimmering. Add zucchini blossoms and sautée just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide zucchini blossoms among 4 bread slices. Top with remaining bread slices, cheese-side down. Serve.
KALE AND PEACH SALAD
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
Anchovies provide this salad dressing with an assertive backbone. If you’re not a fan, trust me, they melt right in and get a good kick in the pants with the addition of caramelized lemon zest and bright, tart lemon juice.
Kale salads seem to be very in vogue at the moment, but the addition of ripe summer peaches is a surprise we bet you haven’t yet encountered.
Recipe notes: Microwaving the garlic and lemon zest in oil will mellow out the garlic and caramelize the lemon zest. As an alternative, heat the oil, garlic, and zest in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
– This salad can be prepared and dressed one day in advance; since kale is such a hearty green, it won’t wilt. Add the peaches right before serving.
1 large bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed and discarded
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon zest and 3 tablespoons juice from 2 lemons
8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
2 ripe but firm peaches, cut into ½-inch thick wedges
Cut kale leaves into 1/8-inch-thick ribbons; you should have 6 cups.
Combine oil, garlic, and lemon zest in small bowl and microwave for 1 minute (See Notes).
Whisk anchovies, mustard, and lemon juice in salad bowl. While constantly whisking, slowly drizzle in oil mixture. Add kale and toss to evenly coat with dressing. Add peaches and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
SIMPLE PLUM-CHAMPAGNE COMPOTE
Recipe notes: Large plums work in this recipe as well, however we picked up multi-colored petite versions at the greenmarket.
To remove the seeds, cut the plums in half, then core out the seeds with a paring knife. Don’t worry if they become a bit mangled in the process as they’ll break down during cooking.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 pints small plums, pitted, seeds discarded (See Notes)
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup champagne or Riesling
2 cups mascarpone or plain Greek yogurt
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to foam. Stir in brown sugar and cook until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in plums and salt and cook, stirring occasionally until thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes.
Stir in champagne or Riesling, and continue cook until syrupy consistency is reached again, about 5 minutes longer. Serve at room temperature with mascarpone or Greek yogurt and season with pepper.