I recently returned from two weeks in Quebec and can see the signs of summer winding down. The sun is setting earlier, the evenings are cooler and kids are gearing up to go back to school. However, the farmer’s markets are in full swing – if it grows in Ontario, you can probably get it at our markets right now (with the exception of early spring produce such as asparagus and fiddleheads). I went to three farmers’ markets over the past week and here are some of the highlights:
The king of late summer markets, tomatoes are finally in season. Last year I lamented how horrible the season was for tomatoes because the weather was cool and wet and there was a fungus that destroyed a lot of crops. However, all signs point to 2010 being a much better year thanks to hot and dry weather. I’ve been experimenting with heirloom varieties, plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and so far I’ve been pretty pleased. The key to using summer tomatoes is to keep preparation simple. Why not make a classic BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato) Sandwich? When tomatoes are sweet and juicy, it just might be the perfect sandwich. Cook up some good quality bacon, cut some tomatoes into thick slices and add some cool, crunchy lettuce. A smear of mayo on lightly toasted bread finishes this masterpiece.
For more great tomato ideas, check out the tomato archives: Tomato Recipes.
It took me a while to get into eggplant – I used to think it was bitter and mushy. However, now I love them, as long as they’re not too big (the bigger they are, the more watery and prone to bitterness they’ll be). This week, there were eggplants of every size, from miniature ones not much bigger than my thumb to large ones you would normally see at the supermarket.
For a fresh idea, why not make a simple Pasta alla Norma? Last week I made a version with rigatoni, fresh plum tomatoes, fresh ricotta cheese and miniature eggplant rounds. This recipe from Mario Batali is similar but uses canned tomatoes instead: Pasta a la Norma.
Corn was a bit early this year so it’s already starting to taper off. I’ve been enjoying it straight off the cob – boiled and simply dressed with butter, salt and pepper. However, Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers is a great way to use up extra corn (and local peppers, which are also in season right now). Leftover cooked corn can also be mixed with some fresh thyme, sage or basil and tossed with olive oil, parmesan and pasta for a simple, summery dinner.
Local raspberries and blueberries are abundant right now and won’t last long so take advantage of them while you can. Raspberries are delicious in both sweet and savoury recipes so you can create an entire menu built around them. Start with a hearty main course salad such as Duck Confit Salad with Fresh Raspberries and finish with an impressive dessert like Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets.
Autumn fruit such as plums, pears and apples have started appearing at the market. I’ve been focusing more on ‘summer’ fruit (such as the berries, above) but I did try some delicious plums and a beautifully crisp Cortland apple. Visit the apple archives for some tasty and impressive ideas: Apple Recipes.
I’m a little saddened that in a matter of weeks this abundance of produce will begin to slow. However, I love fall (and the cooler weather that comes with it) so I’m looking forward to coming up with some great ideas for autumn. Plus, there is still plenty of summer left so hit the markets and enjoy!