Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I had a few summer wishes that hadn't come true until very recently, which is why I have been obnoxiously clinging on to the passing season. Among these, raspberry picking, blueberry picking, peach picking, one last trip to the beach, one last BBQ, one last road trip. Well you've seen some of these happen lately (hello raspberries! nice to meet you BBQ!). It's too late for me to pick blueberries this season. Whew! Just admitting that is liberating! In this post, I bring you some more items that I've been ticking off my summer checklist, bringing me closer and closer to accepting the end of that season and the beginning of another.
Peaches! I had been wanting to go peach-picking for weeks. Not only would picking the peaches ourselves be more fun, but it would be way more cost-effective than buying them at the market. My environmentalist and frugal tendencies would nudge me in this direction. But the closest peach orchards to us were about an hour away. So... how many fossil fuels am I willing to burn for the idyllic thrill of picking fresh local peaches? Support local farmers and save money, but drive 150 miles round-trip, put out carbon emissions, spend $20 on gas? Decisions, decisions.
Fortunately, the decision was made for me one Saturday at the farmers market, when I met a man selling this huge bushel of "seconds." They were seconds not because they were overripe or damaged, but because they were cosmetically compromised by hail! Basically, I got a box of ugly buy perfectly delicious peaches for $5. Local, meet the farmer? Check. Cheap? Check. Lots of peaches to have fun with? Check and check.
At the market, we also got a huge basket of these tiny plums, which as you can see in the photo above, were about the size of large grape tomatoes. I kept wanting to use the plums to cook or bake something fabulous, but they were just so damn tasty to pop into my mouth. Somehow, Daiku and I went through these before anything got made. Going delirious with a huge glut of produce and eat them all before you can make anything with them? Check!
One of the best buys we have made from the market in recent memory is the world's biggest and best bunch of spinach ever. See that huge bunch I'm holding up in the above photo? That was only, say, 1/8 of the entire bag. We had so much spinach, that we used some almost every day, but didn't finish it for over a week! We kept fearing that it would go bad, but this never happened. Basically, this was fresh local spinach, pulled out by the root, so it stood up to refrigeration admirably. We used it for pizza topping, pasta, soup, salad, and more, as you've seen in my last few posts.
But the coolest thing that came from the spinach was... green smoothies! I've always wanted to experiment with throwing greens into smoothies. I've made smoothies with powdered spirulina, and I've juiced kale, but I had never gathered up the courage to just throw a bunch of greens into a smoothie until now. I figured the spinach was so fresh, tasty, and tender that now was as good a time as any to try it.
And boy, was it good! As you can see from these photos, the spinach completely dissolves in the smoothie, so there are no chunks hanging around. There is also no lingering flavor- all the spinach leaves behind is this beautiful emerald color. I was amazed at how much spinach I could cram into a small smoothie. So for breakfast, I could have 2 or more servings of greens (in addition to the banana, soy yogurt, orange juice and other goodies I threw in there) before the day had even begun. It felt really virtuous and good. Get a huge amount of perfect produce, enough to experiment with? Check!
With all these lovely summer produce experiences, I have been comforted enough to finally let autumn in. The photo above is from our second apple-picking excursion. It's so fun to bring home a huge amount of apples, and now that different varieties are coming in, there's even more we can do with them. In future posts, I will share the crisps, juices, pies, and sauces these apples have been yielding, but for now, I want to share my apple theory with you.
You see, when I go apple picking, I always pick these apples with the freckly markings on them. Not only do I love imperfect produce, but I'm convinced that these are the apples with the best flavor and texture. So far, I haven't been proven wrong. See, this is the fun of picking your own, whatever the produce item might be: getting to see the charming, quirky, irregular, or ugly fruit that you might never encounter in a supermarket. It adds immeasurable pleasure to the eating experience to come to terms with your food in its original context.
What about you? Do you have any "theories" about what makes the best-tasting produce? Are there any rituals or superstitions that you have to share about how you go about gathering the food you eat? Share them with me!
one year ago today: on 2 October 2006 I asked, what's on your skin?