Saturday, October 14, 2006

Beauty and the Feast

Another week draws us closer to the end of the farmers' market for the year, and the selection of vendors continues to dwindle. This morning I counted no more than 10 tables set up with end-of-season produce or baked goods.

I'm happy to report, though, that some of my favorite farmers are still holding on strong and bringing good produce for me (and my fellow eaters!) to buy:

The Gentleman Farmer and his son greeted me with a grand sweeping gesture toward the pots of leggy basil plants, brought after my gentle reminder last week. I looked them over and chose one hardy specimen to take home with me, along with another beauty of a small pumpkin, two bunches of salad greens, four onions, and a glossy eggplant.

The Cheerful Lady and Handyman Joe stood out in the cold, nursing their coffees, but gave me a warm greeting as I strolled over to examine their offerings. After much bantering and laughter, I walked away with a bunch of fresh basil, a box of Russian fingerling potatoes, yet more garlic, and a bag of spinach (minus any fears about E. coli).

The Amish farmers next to them had more broccoli as well as lovely heads of cauliflower, so I bought one of each.

Not a huge amount of produce, I admit, considering that in past weeks I've been spending almost twice as much on good food. But my pantry has filled up nicely, thank you, and I didn't want to go overboard this week with perishable items.

I did, however, have a need for some items to be used immediately as I had company coming for dinner: the lovely Phoenix was in town for a brief visit, and Mr. Nice Guy accompanied her as always. Phoenix has been itching to cook in my new kitchen with me, and she had her chance at last tonight.

Knowing how jealous she was of Mr. Nice Guy's opportunity to test a new dish a few weeks ago, I decided to reprise it for her. So before they arrived, I steamed cubes of fresh pumpkin, chopped a red onion and some garlic, and browned a couple of vegetarian breakfast patties, ready to make a delectable squash sauté for good friends.

When they arrived, we enjoyed a couple of good cheeses from the local deli (Morbier and my favorite Gruyère) with crackers, homemade French bread, and grapes. After a good nosh, Phoenix followed me to the stove and did all the stirring while Mr. Nice Guy washed greens and I threw in the necessary ingredients.

With a simple salad of mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette on the side, a bit more French bread, and a couple thin slices of Gruyere on top, this squash dish made the perfect "welcome back" feast for a fair friend.

A celebration... of good local food, of good friends, of new beginnings. What could be better?


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