Monday, July 21, 2008

This Little Piggy Went To Market

I've noticed lately that my diet is consisting of more vegetables and less meat proteins. This is due in part to my having a food blog and the need to post about a variety of foods, but also has a lot to do with the way I've been shopping. More and more I find myself making time to get to the lovely outdoor markets here in NYC, more specifically the granddaddy of all markets, the Union Square Greenmarket. Buying fruits, vegetables, and specialty items directly from farmers and manufacturers has it's benefits, and not just financially. While you do get more for your buck quantity-wise, you're also generally getting organic and pesticide or hormone free products, and the benefit of asking the farmers advice as to what to buy and why, and even better, how to prepare it (when was the last time you even saw a real produce manager in your supermarket, let alone asked one a question he could answer?) and sometimes how to store it.

Needing to make time to go on a Saturday is always worth it once you see what's available to you. It can sometimes be jarring to see the sheer number of seasonal veggies available, and even more bizarre to see the natural size of most fruits and vegetables that haven't genetically modified or pumped up with toxins. There's no confusing a shallot for an onion here, because the shallots are their more natural ping pong ball size and the onions are somewhere around the size of a tennis ball. In my one trip last weekend I learned of the many types of radishes out there. Up above you'll see a photo of lovely elongated French breakfast radishes, which I'd never heard of. Granted I'm not much of a radish eater, but I was intrigued. Does anyone out there know what they're good for? They sure are beautiful, and something tells me they'd be lovely just sliced and served ice cold topped with sea salt.

There were of course lovely red radishes and beautiful pink ones, too, right next to the kohlrabi and summer turnips and cabbages. I sometimes feel like the food at the greenmarket appeals to my weakness for color and texture and I just can't say no. Before I knew it, I had two 100% organic cotton totes packed full of vegetables and was considering buying a third bag for a cilantro plant. The temptation to buy along all colors of the spectrum was so great I almost bought a huge bunch of carrots even though I don't really care for them. I was already envisioning roasting them, or kicking it old school and serving them alongside a beef roast or some pork cops. I stopped myself by saying that they'd simply go bad before I had time to make them.

In the end, I left without the cilantro plant (but I'm pretty sure it's going down next weekend), but I did buy a few new things I'd been hoping to experiment with. I have little experience with beets and have only recently started ordering them at restaurants. Alright, I haven't ordered them, I've been eating them off the plates of people that have actually ordered them. Either way, the time has come for me to learn all there is to know about beets, and what better way than buying them from a farmer who knows the best way to prepare them? So stay tuned for a beet recipe some time this week. I'm mulling around the idea of a roasted beet salad, possibly with blue cheese, but that's really just so I have an excuse to check out the cheese stalls at the market next weekend.

I also decided to experiment with some absolutely gorgeous rainbow Swiss chard (top photo) since I love greens so much and they're so easy to prepare. I couldn't leave without buying a huge bag of shallots, Spanish onions and spring onions since I use those almost every day. Needless to say My bag was getting heavier by the minute and getting it all back home on the train and through Times Square was not going to be pleasant. But before I left it occurred to me that I hadn't stopped by any of the meat stalls, so I made a quick stop at a sausage stand and bought some lovely bangers (bangers and mash post coming soon) and right before leaving got the lovely pork belly I posted about last week. So even though there is no recipe today, I think this week will see some excellent postings and recipes geared towards encouraging everyone to get out to their local green markets and cook up some fresh from the farm meals.


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