It’s now peak season for produce at the market. Here are a few things to look out for when you’re shopping (based on availability in Southern Ontario, which will vary slightly in other regions):
- Corn. I bought some corn on the cob about a week and a half ago and it wasn’t great but the cobs I picked up yesterday were sweet and delicious. Serving idea: Cut kernels off the cob and stir into your favourite salsa for a sweet, raw crunch that’s delicious with corn chips.
- Tomatoes. To be honest, so far I’ve found local tomatoes to be a bit disappointing. Some of the smaller ones such as strawberry and cherry tomatoes have been quite flavourful but the field tomatoes I recently bought were a bit mealy and lacking in flavour. Hopefully better ones will hit the market soon. Serving idea: Toss some halved cherry tomatoes with cooked pasta, olive oil, torn basil leaf, salt and pepper and cubed fresh mozzarella. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Peaches. They are just starting to come into their own. It’s been a wet season in Ontario peach country so they may be a bit slower than normal reaching their peak but after I let them sit for a day or two (on the counter – not in the fridge), they were quite juicy and sweet. Serving idea: Halve peaches and discard pits. Brush with a bit of honey and place cut side down on a hot grill. Grill until lightly browned with grill marks. Serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.
- Peppers. Red, green and yellow peppers are just starting to turn up at farmer’s markets. Often they are a bit misshapen and ugly compared to the perfect greenhouse specimens we usually see but they are not lacking in flavour. The red and yellow peppers I picked up yesterday were very sweet. Serving idea: Saute strips of green, red and yellow peppers in a pan with sliced onions and a bit of oil and garlic. Squeeze with fresh lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve with grilled chicken or beef (omit for vegetarians), sliced avocado, salsa and sour cream in a warm flour tortilla.
- Eggplant and zucchini. Zucchini are abundant right now so I will be developing a few recipes to use them up (particularly for those of you in rural areas where zucchini can quickly get out of control and people will leave baskets of them on their neighbour’s doorsteps just to get rid of them!). Servng idea: Cut zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers and onions into large chunks and toss with a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place in grilling pan (or a roasting pan for the oven) and grill or roast until vegetables begin to soften and brown around the edges. Season with sea salt and your favourite fresh herbs before serving (thyme, oregano or basil are delicious).
- For Ontario home chefs (particularly those of you in the Greater Toronto Area): I recently discovered a fantastic gourmet store that features products primarily from Ontario, including oils, vinegars, meats, cheeses, produce, nuts and flour. It’s called Culinarium and it is an excellent source for anyone in Ontario who is hoping to use local ingredients. They carry Red Fife flour, which has become a favourite of chefs (JK Wine Bar in Toronto uses it). I’m working on a couple of recipes using the flour so stay tuned. The service at Culinarium is excellent: very friendly and they will let you sample virtually everything they keep in stock. I picked up some flours, vinegar, oil, peanuts, dried cranberry and a bit of produce. Their website is www.culinarium.ca and they are located at 705 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, Ontario, phone: 647-430-7004.
I’ve been exploring the farmer’s markets and doing a lot of experimentation in the kitchen so check back often for the latest in market news, gourmet finds and of course, new recipes with seasonal ingredients. Have a great weekend and good eating!