Avocado from a guy selling them two-for-$1 out of crates on Broadway
Tomatillo and cilantro from the 175th Street Greenmarket
Queso blanco from the new Mexican greengrocer on St. Nicholas Ave.
Limes from a street vendor on W181st Street
Black beans from Key Food near W187th
Halve avocados and scoop out some but not all of their flesh. Roughly chop and toss with black beans, queso blanco, cilantro, chopped tomatillos and lime juice. Serve in the meaty avocado shells.
What a rubbish summer 2009 was for tomatoes. I can’t remember eating even one really good tomato this year, which is just so depressing. Still, these San Marzano plum tomatoes were a flickering bright spot in an otherwise bad year.
Unlike a lot of tomatoes, San Marzanos are really meant for cooking—and if you’ve ever popped open a can of these tomatoes, you know why. Sweet and a little bitter, they’re often compared to a good bittersweet chocolate, which seems fairly apt. They’re nearly all meat inside, with only two narrow seed chambers (compared to four or more in other tomato varieties) making them exceptional for cooking. And with summer being so definitively over (if you can say we even had a summer this year), I knew exactly what to make of these tomatoes: soup.
Tomatensoep (Dutch-style tomato soup)
Chop two leeks, two onions, and one peeled carrot and saute in butter (or oil) over medium heat, making sure not to brown the vegetables. Add two pounds chopped, peeled, and seeded tomatoes and a peeled, diced potato. Add enough liquid to cover everything. (I used a combination of water, a bouillon cube and a Parmesan rind.) Add a couple bay leaves and a handful of chopped parsley. Let simmer until all the vegetables are tender, fish out the bay leaves (and cheese rind, if you used that) then blend into a puree. Add salt and/or pepper to taste, as well as some milk or cream, if that suits you.
This isn’t a word I use often, but I must ask: aren’t they just gorgeous?
If you’ve only ever tasted supermarket grapes (as I had until last year), you have no idea what you’re missing. It’s an intensely… grapey flavor. After one grape, you will suddenly understand what artificial grape flavor is striving towards and yet never really getting it right. Those grapes are from Wager’s Cider Mill from out near the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
I have to admit, I love the grape people. They sell from a small table on the outer edge of my neighborhood Greenmarket, and spur you to try the grapes (knowing, as I just said, you’ll be amazed at how they taste). I’ve had Concord as well as Seneca and Yates varieties of grapes from them so far, all slightly different but equally delicious.
Still, my usual Greenmarket problem arises: my urge to buy grapes can often outstrip my ability to eat said grapes in a timely manner. So, what to do with all these lovely grapes?
Every week, I go to my Greenmarket with a $20. I could easily spend more, but my desire for buying things like leafy greens often outpaces my desire to cook said leafy greens in a timely manner. So, I set a $20 spending cap to feel slightly less bad when I’m throwing out slimy, wilted food.
Despite their name, Millport Dairy are my go-to egg folks. They’re pretty standard pastured farm-raised eggs, which is to say, lovely; incredibly fresh, with thick whites and amazing, lurid yolks. We’ve been going through a dozen a week — especially impressive for a family that often lets lesser eggs sit around until they go bad — so $4 a week is always earmarked for their eggs.
A couple weeks ago, I hadn’t been cooking much and still had almost an entire dozen eggs in the fridge. Determined to spend my entire $20, I took the $4 for eggs and picked up a jar of Millport Dairy’s bread and butter pickles instead (again, still not a dairy product). I was a little put off by $4 for a pint jar of plain old pickles, but I figured it’s still cheaper than Rick’s Picks which are $7 or more a jar (although to be fair, they are really quite good).
I can’t even describe how much restraint it takes for me to not just stand in the open fridge door and scarf these pickles straight out of the jar. As you can see, they’re sliced paper thin, with bits of onion and sweet red pepper, making them a bit more condiment than regular pickle, but they’re a perfect blend of sweet and sour and just the right amount of crunch.
Naturally, I went back the next week and bought more — habonero dill this time.
I’m on the fence about these.
Eaten on their own, they’re crisp, slightly sweet but more sour, and OH SWEET FANCY JESUS MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE AAAAAARGH. I’m not a spicy food sissy, but these are hot. Hot hot. They were quite good tucked under a cheeseburger but I don’t know what else I can do with these beside eat them until my lips swell up.
Millport Dairy also sells cheeses, some meat products, and another six or seven different kinds of pickles (including beets, which are my favorite), so it’s pretty safe to assume you’ll be hearing more about them before Greenmarket season is over.
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Chioggia beets (also called Candy Cane, Candystripe, or Bull’s Eye) are an Italian heirloom variety, named for the Italian city of Chioggia, near Venice, and were introduced to the US around 1840. One of the sweetest varieties of beets — with an 8% sugar content — they lose their distinctive coloring when boiled, although roasting them supposedly helps keep their rings.
How crazy looking is that second beet? I was cutting off a piece of skin I’d missed while peeling and it ended up with that fractal effect.
Those beets came from Migliorelli Farm — one of the only farms I know by name, because their fruit and produce is so consistently good. It also doesn’t hurt that they make fantastic cinnamon-sugar cider donuts.
I couldn’t bear to have these beets lose their fun rings, so I shredded them with my all-time favorite kitchen gadget, the Borner mandoline, along with a couple of Granny Smith apples and some carrots, to make this:
I’m calling it ABC Slaw (for Apples, Beets, Carrots, not Already Been Chewed) and it’s really simply dressed with just olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. One caveat: it’s best when it’s eaten right away. Otherwise, the beets’ earthiness starts to overpower the other elements and the whole thing starts to taste like, well, earth.
A couple of years ago, we were living in Massachusetts and squirreling every dime in the hopes of moving to New York. The pizza delivery guy was a distant, dim memory from the days of frivolous purchases like take-out, cable TV, or new underwear. Desperate for pizza, I labored over a batch of dough, then wrestled it into a pizza-like shape and attempted to be generous (but not foolhardy) with the cheese.
Before setting it in the oven, I did not think to check the broiler for, say, a piece of foil I’d left in there the night before. Which, naturally, caught on fire. Smoke billowed out of the oven. The pizza dough I sweated over, now gray and speckled with ash, slid unceremoniously into the trash.
Since then, the notion of making pizza has consistently been met with one thought: fuck that noise.
I don’t know why I decided to make pizza dough again, but wow, I am so glad I did. This recipe from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen is so unbelievably simple — the dough came together in less than 10 minutes in the food processor. I topped it with Swiss chard, red onions, tomatoes and goat cheese, which was… okay. A little bland, honestly, but the crust was terrific. In the oven for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then a little olive oil brushed on the crust once it was done. Super easy! And good!