Good weekend for cooking

Good weekend for cooking

It’s been a very nice Labor Day weekend. The weather has been greatking.

On Saturday, we made it to the farmer’s market in neighboring Marblehead. After driving around trying to find it for a half hour (hint to the farmer’s market people: people from out of town might not just know where the middle school is), we finally go there. Suburban farmer’s markets are funny places. It’s a combination of Old World seniors, aging ex-hippie boomers, crunchy twentysomethings, and yuppie Gen-Xers. We made some good finds.

Of course, there were plenty of tomatoes. I picked up a few pounds of Romas. Melanie liked some funky striped heirlooms as well as a pint of grape tomatoes. We bought a big bunch of fresh basil as well as a basil plant I’m going to try to re-plant and keep here at the house. There was also a really great little loaf of chevre, goat cheese rolled in pepper. It was so fresh, the farmer said the milk came from the goats just last Wednesday. It tastes it! Mmmm. The farmers are Ann & Eric Starbard of Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling, Mass. We’ll be buying more from them next Saturday. There’s nothing like ultra-fresh goat cheese.

We also bought some pickles from Moon Brine, made in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, where I spent the first four years of my life. The pickles are great. I love pickles and we got the Super Dills. Next time I may pick up the Pretty Hots. Want to know how much I love pickles? When I was a kid I used to drink the brine. These pickles are so good, I may take up the habit again. In fact, their web site has a number of recipes for using the brine after the pickles are gone.

Another one of finds was some jams and relish from Deborah’s Kitchen, another local producer who also happens to be in Jamaica Plain. Melanie got the Massachusetts Rubies, a combination of cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry; and Forest Berries, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry. You’d think the fruit flavors would overwhelm each other, but they really great a great new combination. I got the sweet red pepper relish. I’m a sucker for pepper relish. It’ll be great on a turkey sandwich.

After we got home, I got cooking. I had some leftover chicken parts from a roast chicken earlier in the week so I started cooking up some stock. Meanwhile, I blanched and skinned the tomatoes for some tomato sauce. It starts with sauteeing onion in olive oil. Then you add a whole shredded carrot, mixed with a couple tablespoon of chopped thyme. Let that cook a little over medium heat then add the tomatoes. I chopped the tomatoes, but didn’t cut them too small. Eighths is about right. A little fresh basil, some oregano, and let it cook over low heat for a couple of hours, adding water if necessary to prevent it from thickening to much. Adjust for salt and pepper as well. Notice what’s missing there: no garlic. Garlic gives Melanie migraines so we’ve eliminated it from our cooking, ocassionally substituting shallots. I’m still adjusting.

Meanwhile, Melanie was making a great Caprese salad. She sliced up the heirloom tomatoes and topped them with some fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and very good balsamic vinegar. She likes them just like that, but I put them on slices of crusty bread. I also dug into the chevre, putting it on bread along with some of the jam we bought.

Seeing we had so much basil, I threw some in the food processor with pine nuts, parmigiano reggiano, and olive oil for some quick pesto to keep in the fridge. I got into the cooking mood so much that yesterday I decided to start baking some bread. Nothing fancy, just some wheat bread that came out very nice. It was so easy, I think I’m going to start doing it more often.

There’s nothing that makes you feel more at home than being able to do some cooking with great, fresh ingredients. Now our fridge is filled with some great fixings for future meals.

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