Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Farmers' Market Compulsion and My Overstuffed Freezer (and Belly)

Native sliced peaches mixed with local honey — the filling for my peach crisp

I have an addiction/compulsion with the farmers' market and cooking. I go every Saturday and buy the fresh produce that I need for the week plus more — a lot more! I get there, and everything looks so good. My mind races with all the wonderful dinners, sauces, sides, salads, and tasty treats I can make. I never take into account that I really don't have the time to make all the things I dream up, nor do I have a large family to feed, only myself and my fiancรฉ Ryan. But I buy the goods anyway.

This week I bought broccoli, corn, green beans, spinach, big tomatoes, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, an onion, a red bell pepper, a yellow bell pepper, peaches, mixed greens, a head of lettuce, and a loaf of olive ciabatta bread. I also still had some produce left over from last week: Macintosh apples, raspberries, four hot peppers (two red chilis, one jalapeno, and one orange chili), and a few potatoes. And I still have produce in my own little garden: tons of basil, sage, parsley, oregano, rosemary, zucchini, summer squash, peas, and cherry tomatoes.

So what did I do with all of these fresh garden delights? I cooked, ate, and froze! I had some unscheduled time this weekend and planned to spend most of it in the kitchen preparing and preserving this abundance of produce.

First on my cooking agenda was to make a spicy condiment for myself. My fiancรฉ is not a big fan of hot and spicy — he only likes mildly spicy. I, on the other hand, believe in the theory of "the hotter, the better." I started by roasting the chilis, the jalapeno, and the red bell pepper over the open flame on my gas range stovetop (instructions from What's a Cook to Do?), peeled the blackened skin from the peppers, chopped up the softened, flavorful pepper flesh, added olive oil, fresh minced garlic, salt, and pepper — the result was a fabulously spicy hot pepper pesto for me to spread on any mildly spicy dish to kick it up to my temperature of choice — superhot!

While I was making my pepper pesto, I was also boiling the half dozen ears of corn. Once they were boiled and cooled, I cut the kernels from the ears and froze them for later use. And simultaneously, I baked five chicken breasts, then pulled the meat and set it aside.

While all of that was going on, I set out four casserole dishes, lightly greased the bottoms, and started rinsing and cutting veggies: two heads of broccoli, one summer squash, one zucchini, and a bunch of green beans. I split them evenly among the dishes, then grated fresh Parmesan cheese over them and added feta cheese, fresh minced garlic, and olive oil. I added some of the pulled chicken to two of the four casseroles and tossed them all to mix it up evenly. I finished them off by sprinkling Italian-seasoned bread crumbs over each and placing very thinly sliced butter pats on top. One of the chicken dishes I baked in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes for dinner that night; one of the veggie dishes I covered with foil and put in the fridge for the following evening's side dish; and the remaining two I tightly wrapped with plastic and put in the freezer: one full-meal casserole and one veggie side dish for future busy evenings. I concocted the recipe on my own, but the cook-and-freeze-the-rest idea came from the book, Fix, Freeze, Feast.

My preprepared freezer items: two peach crisps; one veggie casserole;
one chicken-veggie casserole; one jar of spicy, locally raised,
pork sausage tomato sauce (made a few weeks ago); corn; and basil pesto.

That was it for Saturday's cooking. But I was back in the kitchen at 9:30 Sunday morning to finish the rest.

Last week I had made a batch of homemade applesauce with half of the Macintosh apples. This week I used the remaining apples to make an apple-raspberry crisp (using a recipe for apple crisp from 250 Treasured Country Desserts, with some modifications based on the ingredients I had on hand). And since I had bought a dozen peaches and I was making a crisp topping already, I tripled the topping recipe and made peach crisps, too. I use a peach crisp recipe from Peaches and Other Juicy Fruits for the filling — a recipe that has only two ingredients: peaches and honey! I bought honey a few weeks ago at the farmers' market, so my peach crisp is truly a locavore's dream. I brought the apple crisp that night to dinner at Ryan's parents' house, and the two peach crisps I wrapped tightly and stored in my freezer for another time.

Fall dinner: I made this for dinner last Tuesday. A pork tenderloin
with homemade applesauce, homemade mashed potatoes topped
with a homemade gravy from the drippings. Both the
potatoes and the apples were bought at the farmers' market.

Next? Salsa! I used two of the big tomatoes, half an onion, half a bell pepper, minced garlic, minced cilantro, and lime juice to make a mild salsa (I will add the heat to it later for my benefit). Some of those ingredients were bought at a regular grocery store because of unavailability at the farmers' market. I set the salsa aside.

While I was making the salsa, I enlisted Ryan to help me with the pesto. The previous evening I had picked a bunch of basil leaves and some parsley from my garden. I rinsed and drained them, so on Sunday morning they were ready to go right into the food processor. In addition to the mostly basil leafy mixture, we added several cloves of garlic, pine nuts, fresh grated Parmesan, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Ryan blended it all up, filled an ice cube tray with the pesto, and popped the tray into the freezer. The pesto is still in the ice cube tray, but I will take the cubes out later and put them in plastic freezer bags for easy use throughout the winter.

By this time Ryan and I were both very hungry, and football was close to beginning — it was time for lunch. I mixed up the rest of the pulled chicken, most of the salsa, a can of black beans, and some shredded Vermont sharp cheddar. I put the mixture in flour tortilla wraps (mine I added the hot pepper pesto to) and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350. They were delicious! I had a few leftover chicken wraps — I brought one to work for lunch, and no doubt, Ryan will eat his for lunch or dinner today as well.

Later Sunday evening we went to Ryan's parents' for dinner. His mother made quite a feast, and I added to it with my veggie casserole and apple-raspberry crisp.

I love fresh, local produce, and good homemade meals. This week I plan to make a pesto, spinach, and tomato pizza with some of my remaining produce. I also plan to eat the chicken casserole for dinner one night. My farmers' market purchases have left me with plenty of salad fixin's to get through the week and a few more side dishes of vegetables. With all of that cooking out of the way, I should be able to eat well with little work all week long!

Kristy L. MacWilliams, Marketing Manager

1 comment:

Amy Greeman said...

Oh my god. This makes me feel like I do nothing! Kristy, I'm moving in with you and Ryan; I like it spicy, too!