Thursday, September 28, 2017

Invasion of the Vegetables 2

I’ve written about my farmers’ market love affair before, but now I am positively racked with vegetable gluttony. I try to resist the farmers’ market – I can’t possibly fit any more giant celery or giant leeks or giant chard in the refrigerator – but it calls to me. Maybe if I just walk around and admire the vegetables I won’t bring any more home.

But who can resist?

I used to easily pass certain vegetables by; I don’t like radishes and who knew which part of a fennel you ate? But I went one day with my friend Rob, and he said, “If you roast radishes, they get mild. If you roast those salad turnips, they get soft and juicy. Just try it.” I have bunches and bunches of radishes now, and I get more each week. I roast and roast and roast … when I’m not making gallons of soup.
I invite friends over to reduce my inventory. I used to think of it as “making dinner,” now it’s “making room in the fridge” and the dinner is incidental.

It’s not just my weakness either. My friend Judith was traveling so she showed up at my house, abandoning her Brussels sprouts and turnips as she left town. (Yes, it reminded me of those old jokes about secretly delivering excess zucchini in the middle of the night to your unsuspecting friends.) Judith even had a kohlrabi thing, which looks like some terrible mutation but that’s what a kohlrabi is.
I positively scour cookbooks, magazines, and the Internet for recipes. Oh, yikes: I’ve turned into a Foodie! A vegetable-only Foodie. I make things with names like Fennel Leek Soup, Curried Brussels Sprouts with Currants, and Asian Sesame Zucchini Noodles (out came the spiralizer). All the extra leaves go into Minestra di Riso e Fagioli alla Genovese (soup).

Kohlrabi nearly stumped me: my $30 America’s Test Kitchen Vegetarian cookbook doesn’t even have kohlrabi in the index. Martha Stewart, however, has “8 Delicious Ideas” for kohlrabi. That’ll be tomorrow’s experiment, tomorrow’s New Thing.

I found a recipe for turnips and other root vegetables, and the photo in the magazine looked great. The recipe called for parsnips and celery root (which hadn’t made it into my kitchen yet) so I had to visit the farmers’ markets again. I had to. I found the parsnips, and one woman showed me what a celery root looked like, but she didn’t have any for sale. She told me that we could even eat the funny little rooty-looking things that stick out of the bulb.
So off I went to New Sagaya and their odd vegetable collection. (Yes, I’m prowling for vegetables. I’m a veritable vegetable Lewis and Clark.) While the man went to check for celery root in the back, I looked at all the other vegetables. Oh, no! The thing I thought was a turnip – and built the whole recipe around – is really a rutabaga! Hmmm, they look sort of similar.
I Googled “Can I substitute a rutabaga for a turnip?” and am always astonished to discover when lots of other people have had the exact same question before me.  Turns out that rutabagas were invented by crossing cabbage and turnips and supposedly, they turn a brilliant orange when they’re cooked and mashed.

When I moved from New York to California, I discovered brand new vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, things I’d never heard of. I’d grown up on French Style Green Beans from a can; gray, slimy-ish, soft and mushy green beans. I left New York believing that vegetables had to be canned to be safe to eat, like pasteurizing milk. When I discovered FRESH vegetables, my whole diet changed. In San Francisco, I lived near the produce market and bought my food daily.

Then I moved to Alaska. In the grocery store back then, I’d see vegetables for sale that would have been spoiled rejects in California: wrinkled, limp peppers; spotted green beans; soft, squishy zucchini. In California, they were compost. In Alaska, they were food.

That all changed with Costco, but the farmers’ markets offer new bounty with Alaska’s own giant, spectacular vegetables. The farmers’ markets are glorious temples of vegetables, and I worship at them. There are just two Saturdays left, and then they’re closed for the season.


1 comment:

  1. We walked over to the APU farmer's market the other day and got gorgeous crisp carrots, buttery leafy lettuce, a large luscious leek, two tempting turnips, a bunch of beautiful beets, and a loaf of fresh 3-cheese bread. What a haul!


Sharing Button