Burning Down the House: Cooking from the Farmers’ Market

By Judy Sobeloff,  Co-op Newsletter Volunteer

Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by jodi liano and tasha de serio, San Francisco: Weldon Owen publishing, 2010.

On one of the few rainy days this summer, I loved being at the Farmers Market, which was as crowded as ever. People’s enthusiasm for being there seemed undiminished by the rain, and even increased.

  COOKING FROM THE FARMERS’ MARKET. San Francisco: Weldon Owen, Copyright (c) 2010. 

San Francisco: Weldon Owen,
Copyright (c) 2010. 

Since it’s safe to say that we in Moscow love our Farmers’ Market as well as we love our Co-op, this month J.K., 13, chose to test-drive Cooking From the Farmers’ Market. The subheading is “includes 250 fresh recipes for all your favorite fruits and vegetables.” With full-color photos of ingredients and dishes, this cookbook is gorgeous as well as practical.

The recipes are divided by food type and then subdivided more specifically within each type. In the leafy greens section, for example, there are a couple of recipes for kale (Wilted Kale with Lemon and Garlic; Orecchietti with Kale, Chickpeas, and Sausage) as well as recipes for other greens, such as lettuces (both delicate and sturdy), arugula, spinach, chicories, and chard.

Flipping through the cookbook before heading to the Farmers Market, J.K. stopped at the recipe for Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf and said, “Okay, I’m making this.” Soon she had decided on a main dish, a side dish, a salad, and a dessert, all for dinner that night. Me: "You’re really going to make all those dishes tonight? You’re nuts!" Her: "Yes, I’m going to make all this. You’re not cooking, so stop making that face!"

Though she chose recipes at home beforehand, once at the market she realized that a fun approach for another day would be to take the cookbook to the Farmers Market and see what looked good that day—cherries! peaches! salad greens!—and then choose recipes for those ingredients on the spot. A few hours later, the kitchen smelled great as she attempted to cook all dishes at once. Nonetheless, J.K. proclaimed, “Help, I’m freaking out!” as she surveyed the scene. In the end, she made three recipes: Spaghetti with Arugula-Mint Pesto, the afore-mentioned Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf, and Broiled Grapefruit with Brown Sugar. (Sweet and Sour Onions fell by the wayside.)

  Wild Rice & Mushroom Pilaf

Wild Rice & Mushroom Pilaf

The meal was a success. J.K. found the spaghetti “a little strong, but I actually really like it. It’s not exactly a kids’ meal. Maybe for younger kids you could add some cheese, add less mint and arugula, or use spinach instead of arugula.” Her younger brother, 11, also liked the mint-arugula spaghetti. Her dad said, “It’s very green, it’s nice, it’s perfect. I like the mintiness.”

As for the mushroom-rice pilaf, all of us liked that, too. J.K. did have questions about how to cook it. After 45 minutes it was still a beautiful broth of mushrooms, greens, and hard rice grains swirling around in the pan. J.K. cranked up the heat to high to finish it. She liked it al dente, however, and said, “If it was more well-cooked I wouldn’t like it as much.” Though there had been a booth selling wild mushrooms at the Farmers Market that day, we decided to go with less expensive criminis and shiitakes from the Co-op. We all agreed that the pilaf, tasty as it was, would probably have had a stronger and more interesting flavor if we’d sprung for the wild mushrooms.

And still there was more food. “Grapefruit—serve yourself,” J.K. announced, but none of us could quite figure out how. As she said, “I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong!” Some of us noted “excessive juice,” while others focused on getting the brown sugar drips from the pan when no one was looking.

By now, Ollie, our bearded dragon, had a few things to say about the meal. “There are some serious underlying issues in this family, because I didn’t get any of the food. Plus I don’t like mushrooms because they’re mushy. This dinner would be better if there were live bugs." As for the sugar-covered grapefruit, “the one time I think something looks good,” Ollie added, “I’m not allowed to have any.”

J.K. decided she would “definitely make the rice and pasta again, but probably not the grapefruit. Unless someone was having a grapefruit party, but then I wouldn’t want to go.”

Spaghetti with Arugula-Mint Pesto (makes 4 servings)

5 cups packed (5 ounces) arugula
3/4 cup packed (1/2 ounce) fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shaved aged hard cheese such as Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
2 cloves garlic zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti

In a blender combine the arugula, mint, olive oil, cheese, garlic, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste and blend until smooth. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes or according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the empty pot.

Toss the pesto with the spaghetti. Thin it out with a small amount of pasta water if necessary. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and toss with the additional 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Divide among serving bowls. Sprinkle cheese over each serving and serve right away.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf (makes 6 servings)

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small leek, white part only, chopped
1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms such as white button, shiitake, morel, and wood ear, brushed clean
1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leek and the mushrooms and sauté until the leeks are soft and translucent and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the wild rice, parsley, salt, pepper, and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain off any excess water.

The cooking time will vary with different batches of rice. The wild rice is ready when the grains puff up and the inner, lighter part is visible. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve right away.

Broiled Grapefruit with Brown Sugar (makes 6 servings)

3 grapefruit
6 Tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat a broiler (grill). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Halve the grapefruits crosswise. Arrange the grapefruit halves, cut sides up, on the prepared sheet. Sprinkle each half evenly with 1 Tablespoon of the brown sugar.

Place under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source. Broil (grill) until the sugar has melted and is bubbling, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve right away.