Saturday, August 06, 2005

Nature's Bounty: My local Farmer's Market

I'm blessed that my neighborhood has, for the second year now, a Farmer's Market on Saturdays during the summer. It's on my street, just one block away, and is strategically situated between here and the Dog Run in Inwood Hill Park. On Saturday mornings, I walk through on my way to take Stiva (my Miniature Pinscher) to the park, and I grab a muffin or slice of Banana nut Bread, spying some of the fresh offerings I'll pick up on my way back.

Today, I spent a little too long in the Dog Run, and when I came back through, I had already missed my chance to snatch up some curious bi-colored squash. These babies were amazing, shaped just like yellow squash, yellow on top, and zucchini-likeor watermelon striped on the bottom. There was literally a line halfway down, as if they had been dipped like Easter Eggs. They brought to mind the old "limon" commercials for Sprite when I was a kid, with a fruit that was half lemon and half lime.

Ah well, maybe next week.

What I WAS fortunate enough to grab: Fresh corn, zucchini, yellow squash, shallots, red onions, green beans, fennel, parsley and basil. The corn, squash and onions will be going into a traditional New Mexican Calabacitas, with the addition of a little Green Chile I have in the freezer. The basil and parsley will make a great pesto with some walnuts and pine nuts I have in the pantry. And the fennel will make a crispy salad. I'll save the fronds and some of the parsley and basil, and add it to pine nuts and orange zest, chop up the lot, and fold it into a nutmeg and cinnamon couscous.

But the grand prize today was the abundance of fresh vine ripened yellow and red heirloom cherry tomatoes!!!

I bought 2 pounds of these mixed gems, and raced home to make a great salad. I had to take a picture of it and share it with you here:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Fig Vincotto

I quartered the yellow and red tomatoes, tossed with parsley, basil, diced red onions, garlic scapes (green shoots of garlic that have the flavor of garlic, but the look and texture of scallions), olive oil and a special fig flavored vincotto I save for special salad dressings. The real flavor kick, which complements the sweetness of the tomatoes, is the addition of cubes of grilled halloumi cheese.

For those who are unfamiliar with this cheese, I tell you: Go out and find some at your nearest gourmet market or Middle Eastern grocer! This is a specialty of Cyprus, although it is made on other islands, made from sheep's milk that has been infused with mint and brined in a special salted liquid. In Cyprus, it's known as "The Cheese that grills", because when sliced, you can grill it or saute in a non-stick pan, and the most flavorful brown crust forms on it (See the article on browning below for an explanation of the Maillard reaction).

I grilled the halloumi and diced it up, mixed it in with the salad and garnished with a sprig of basil. I wish I could have shared it with you all!


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