There must be something in the human DNA that makes us happy at the sight of food in large quantities. Perhaps it’s some lingering genetic memory of times of famine. Whatever the cause, August is definitely the month to calm any insecurity you may have about food scarcity. Just visit a farmer’s market if you need proof of that. We have a beauty just down the street in Litchfield, New Hampshire called Wilson’s Farm Market, and this being National Farmer’s Market Week, the Gertz Girlz headed over with recipes on our minds, and plenty of shopping bags at the ready.
To prepare for our trip, I pulled “Vegetables” off the shelf–a cookbook written by James Peterson. I’m embarrassed to say that up to this point, I had not cooked a single recipe from its pristine pages. I love veggies and can only offer that I’m more carnivorous than I thought. I’m certainly CARBivorous 🙂 Bring on the potatoes and pasta, please! In fact, save time and bring gnocchi!
They say timing is everything. I’m having some regrets at the moment over my decision to try the Keto diet that you’ve all heard about to death, just as all the beautiful fresh carbs of August come available. So while I would’ve loved to have made corn chowder, served with cornbread, and a side of corn relish, that is not happening until I fit into a favorite pair of jeans. Corn is the Lucifer of veggie carbs.
Mwah ha ha!!! I dine with the devil, because my first recipe was Corn Fritters, or as I like to call it: Cornzilla! Who says vegetarian dishes must be healthy? Not me. And since I’m not on the Keto diet, I took four ears of locally grown, super sweet corn kernels and deep fried them into these lovable little devils! My mom would make these on early autumn weekends but I don’t have her recipe. This recipe comes courtesy of Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman RECIPE and I followed it to the letter, EXCEPT hers calls for 1/2 tsp of cayenne so I halved it. It’s spicy enough, but I think it would be okay with the full amount, especially if you sprinkle on powered sugar to balance it out. I also bought a new bottle of maple syrup to make it extra decadent.
Happily, I was able to find some interesting alternatives and still have fun at the farm stand. I focused on the fragrant August tomato for my first dish, Shakshuka. I had never heard of this until I started searching for Keto recipes. For this recipe I went all the way back to the 2010 food blog of the Smitten Kitchen
https://smittenkitchen.com/2010/04/shakshuka/ and simply swapped out the Anaheim peppers for our good ol’ farm stand green peppers. Shakshuka is a Mediterranean dish that is basically a slow-cooked marinara sauce made in a large skillet. Once the sauce thickens, you make three or four small wells in the sauce and crack an egg into each well. You cook this until the whites of the eggs have set.
Because I have to be fancy (and also because I wanted to add more protein and fat to the dish), I added crumbled sweet Italian sausage to the sauce. It was so good I made it again a few days later. The versatility of Shukshaka is terrific…you can serve this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and everyone will be impressed.
My mother’s telling the truth – I loved the Shukshaka. But you know what would’ve been great with it? Cornbread.
Honestly, I don’t know where she gets the snark. But onto my next dish which I liked for a lot of reasons, Cucumber Soup with Wasabi Avocado Cream. I found this recipe in my favorite kitchen bible, Ruth Reichl’s The Gourmet Cookbook. I made a small change and simply combined all ingredients instead of using the wasabi avocado cream as a garnish. I was drawn to the recipe initially because this New England summer has been an absolute scorcher, and the idea of a chilled cucumber soup was very appealing.
The cool cucumber and avocado flavors were magnificent together, and the little kick of wasabi was just enough to keep things interesting. It occurred to me that this would also be a phenomenal “palate cleanser” at a fancy dinner, served in chilled shot glasses with tiny spoons. The Keto Gods would be delighted! Cucumber Soup with Wasabi Avocado Cream
Well, the carb demon was in my kitchen yet again, because I bought sweet potatoes, and the next recipe I chose was Indian-style Sweet Potato Salad. This was a mistake with regard to leftovers; my husband Doug doesn’t care for sweet potatoes, so I ate it for a week. The good news is it was delicious and tasted even better the next day, and the day after that, and, well, after six days I threw in the towel. But I’m proud to say what I tossed fit in a small container.
I also chose this recipe because it provided an excuse to haul out my rarely used mandolin to thinly slice a red onion. Props go to my husband for handling this part. I’m going to have to use this wonderful tool more often! Even a super sharp knife would never get the onions this uniformly thin.
Here’s my big takeaway from this recipe: rubbing coarse salt into the onions makes them even sweeter and oh so tender. After the salt massage, they rest in a colander for 20 minutes, then, thoroughly rinsed and squeezed of all their moisture, they are rendered limp. It’s a spa treatment; I’d be limp, too! I plan to use this method to top a burger, fold into an omelette, or even before caramelizing. What a revelation!
I’m a firm believer in making a recipe exactly as written the first time unless something really stands out as wrong, like baloney with whipped cream (credit: The Three Stooges). So I made this verbatim with one exception: I didn’t use mint because it wasn’t available (not a big fan of the herb, I admit, so I didn’t try that hard to hunt it down). And I thought twice about using the 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper, because ouch! But I did use it and…ooo yeah! It’s intense. If I were to make it again, I’d cut back to 1/4 tsp. I’d also use a thinner yogurt. I used Fage Greek which is fantastic and thick, but too much so for a yogurt sauce. Rather than dolloping the sauce, I would prefer to drizzle. It would make a prettier presentation as well. I’d like to point out that this was my error; the recipe doesn’t specify a type of yogurt, other than plain, of course.
Would I make this again? No. Certainly not with sweet potatoes. But it specifies substituting with Yukon gold, so that might be worth a try. Indian-style Sweet Potato Salad
Back to the farm stand itself…Wilson Farm is one of our ‘happy places.’ I got my driver’s license this year and I enjoyed getting my practice hours in going to the farm in Litchfield…it’s very scenic with cornfields, blueberry patches, and historic farmhouses on either side. Once you arrive, it’s a pretty scene with flowers everywhere you turn. Inside you can find everything from whoopie pies to fresh bread baked right on the premises. One of my favorite things is the fresh whipped cream you can buy for dunking all the beautiful berries they offer. The people who work at Wilson’s are also very friendly.
Gertz Girlz Final Dish:
It’s not often that a farm stand has an outstanding website so we would be remiss not to mention it. They offer about a hundred recipes which makes it easy if you need some ideas in a hurry before you visit Wilson Farm! (Locations in both Litchfield NH and Concord MA).
Go and enjoy their bounty!