Friday, September 19, 2008
an embarrassment of riches
Life (at least from a vegetable standpoint) may never be quite this easy again. You see, the Union Square farmer's market is right in the middle of my walk to and from work. It's a fabulous market. It even has its own blog. I think that after a few years of low-paying publishing jobs, shopping for fresh food has fully replaced any urges I might have had to keep up with fashion. Even if I have no plans to cook, I can't walk by without admiring (and buying) those perfect peaches, a bag full of multicolored string beans, and local scallops from the fish stand. (Not sure my officemates appreciate that contribution to our shared fridge.) In addition to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the Union Square market is open on Saturdays (though it's a zoo) and there are two other local farmer's markets open on Tuesdays, and Sundays, respectively. So yes, there's a farmer's market in my path every single day—except Thursday.
That's where the CSA comes in. When I saw that the new Downtown CSA held its pickup on Thursdays, I couldn't resist. But I'm going to be honest. For someone who walks to work through a farmer's market almost every day, I'm not sure it's an ideal arrangement. I feel a ton of pressure to cook everything that is perishable on that first night, but sometimes these things don't really go together! We share our share with another couple, so CSA night is a great excuse for a dinner party. But there have been funny menus—one night I did an entire dinner of bruschetta: bruschetta with beets and goat cheese, tomatoes and basil, beet greens and cannellini. It was good, but kind of a lot of bruschetta. Sometimes, Thursday night rolls around and all I can muster is salad and pasta...the vegetables just keep coming...
I'm not sure if I'll continue the CSA next year. Some of the produce has been extraordinary—the cherry tomatoes were sweeter than any others I have tasted. It's a really friendly community, which is exciting to find in New York. I like contributing directly to an organic farmer, and I know that providing them the money up front is very helpful. But I like interacting with farmers every week at the Union Square market, too, and I like waiting for cooking inspiration to strike me there. I guess it's not such a bad dilemma.
Quick Baked Ziti with Greens and Hot Salami
I had no plan for this week's vegetables until I stopped by Russo's, a local Italian market, on my way back from the CSA pickup. They had samples of hot salami out to taste, and it seemed the perfect accent for the giant bunch of tatsoi. Mixing different kinds of greens balances the flavor. You could also add white beans to this for a bit more protein.
Serves five, or four plus tomorrow's lunch.
1 lb ziti (I used DeCecco)
1 large purple onion, sliced
3 small green peppers or italian frying peppers, sliced
1 clove garlic—or more if you like it
1/4 lb freshly sliced spicy salami
1 small serrano pepper, sliced
1 large bunch greens (I used tatsoi) torn into pieces
1 smaller bunch different greens (I used spicy mustard greens) torn into pieces
1 T assorted fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, sage)
1 T fresh basil
1/2 lb ricotta
1/2 lb other cheese: fresh mozzarella, asiago, parmesan
2 cups milk
handful of panko or breadcrumbs
Cook ziti until VERY al dente (maybe 3/4 of the way done.) Reserve a bit of the pasta water. Meanwhile, saute onion with a little olive oil in dutch oven until quite soft, add sliced pepper, garlic, salami, and serrano and saute a few more minutes, stirring. Add greens and a half cup or so of pasta water and saute/steam until slightly wilted—don't cook all the way, since this is going in the oven. Turn off burner. Stir in herbs, cooked pasta, ricotta, milk, and half of the other cheese until evenly distributed. Top with the rest of the cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Pop in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. Serve with salad.
Bonus mystery vegetable.
Guess what this is?
I swear that's its natural color. And it's not a tropical fruit.