jude’s culinary journey

To market to market

By JUDE WATERSTON
Posted 8/26/20

I’ve never been to market to buy a fat pig, though I’ve picked up some mighty fine chorizo sausage, chops and ground pork from Hilly Acres Farm at the Callicoon Farmers’ Market. …

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jude’s culinary journey

To market to market

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I’ve never been to market to buy a fat pig, though I’ve picked up some mighty fine chorizo sausage, chops and ground pork from Hilly Acres Farm at the Callicoon Farmers’ Market. Sherman Hill Farmstead, Lucky Dog Farm, Willow Wisp Farm, Heller’s Farm, Campanelli’s poultry, Maynard and Trapani Farms are just some of the vendors whose cheese, fowl, fruit and vegetables, variously, have all served me and my sister Janet, well.

As an avid cook, I have always been drawn to outdoor markets whether in Europe or here in the United States. The abundance of colorful, fresh produce spilling out of crates or stacked neatly in corrugated cardboard containers is like manna to my eyes and to my soul. As market shoppers in Italy do, I choose my daily menu based on what is available at the market. Plump purple eggplants, potatoes in an array of hues, juicy heirloom tomatoes, shiny bell peppers and bunches of dark, leafy greens become components of a meal—first in my mind and then in the kitchen.

The coronavirus has altered our shopping practices this year. The Sullivan County Farmers’ Markets have done a remarkable job of ensuring the safety of customers, and the vendors have gone to great pains to work out a smart system. There are rules to follow, like masking-up, waiting in line at an appropriate distance from the next shopper, and pointing to desired produce as opposed to grabbing a handful of Kirby cukes yourself. It’s more time-consuming now to visit the farmers’ markets than in the past, but nothing beats savoring the abundance of the earth, brought to us by the farmers in our communities who toil to enrich our lives at great physical cost.

That said, there is one item I have not needed to buy this summer at any farmers’ market. For the first time in my planting life, my garden has produced tasty tomatoes in great numbers. I had never used compost before but added it this time around to good, rich garden soil before planting eleven varieties of tomatoes. They are different sizes, colors and shapes. Even their names excite me: Aunt Ruby’s German Yellow, Gardener’s Sweetheart, Damsel, Brad’s Atomic, Valencia, Jaune Flamme, Rose de Berne and Sugar Lump, to name a few. A few were duds, taste-wise, but most are delicious and at present are sitting in bowls in my kitchen, waiting to be grilled, savored raw with fresh mozzarella, fragrant basil and crunchy crostini. Or, a new favorite: burst cherry tomato sauce on pasta.

Any pasta will do, but I prefer a coiling shape, shells, or cavatappi for this dish. Even mediocre cherry or grape tomatoes become flavorful when cooked; the fruit caramelizes and becomes sweet. The tomatoes roll around in good-quality extra-virgin olive oil (that has been flavored with garlic) until they pop and burst, becoming jammy when crushed against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon.

The “sauce” is combined with the just drained al dente pasta, finely julienned basil leaves, and copious amounts of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

While the pasta is cooking, I throw together a bunch of greens from the farmers’ market, such as butter lettuce, radicchio and arugula and dress them with fruity olive oil, balsamic or sherry vinegar, flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Whenever possible, I set the table outside on our front or back porch. I pour crisp white wine into goblets and put out cloth napkins. Janet and I eat slowly.

I give thanks to the local farmers and to my first ever crop of terrifically tasty tomatoes. To green thumbs everywhere!

Burst cherry tomatoes with pasta

Serves two

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound (or a little more) mixed cherry and grape tomatoes, preferably heirloom
Kosher or flaky sea salt
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1/2 pound cavatappi, shells, or rotini pasta
1/4 cup very thinly sliced basil leaves
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or a mixture of Reggiano and Romano) cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring, until they color and turn pale gold. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from the pan and discard. Add the cherry tomatoes to the skillet, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until tomatoes start to blister and burst, about four or five minutes. Continue cooking, gently pressing on tomatoes with a wooden spoon to release juices and until tomatoes have collapsed. Keep sauce warm at the lowest temperature or turn off heat until pasta is cooked, then reheat gently. When pasta is al dente, drain and immediately toss with the sauce, adding the basil.
Add 3/4 cup of the grated cheese and toss; add remaining 3/4 cup cheese, toss again and season with black pepper and more salt, if necessary. Serve at once.

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