Wheelin’ and a-Dealin’

October 24, 2008 at 9:25 am

Rob Gardner

Last Friday, I advised you all to seek out some of our regions more unique food treasures.  This week, while it may still be fun to buy up some delicacies like wild mushrooms or track down an elusive paw-paw, it is vital to address your most basic needs.  Most farmer’s markets will close up shop after this weekend.  The end of the line means, obviously, a chance to stock-up for cooler months, and it is an especially good time to stock up because farmer’s are likely to wheel and deal.  Make offers they cannot refuse.

This Local Family gets a good amount of its food each Thursday via its Genesis Grower’s CSA; then, we supplement, mostly with weekend farmer’s markets (mostly Oak Park’s).  I usually report back around Monday with our haul.  Because our CSA box was so full yesterday, and we did so well with Chad Nichol’s at the Eli’s Cheesecake Factory market yesterday, I am going to recount what we have so far this week.  Expect another report after the weekend buys.

  • Rutabagas – I’ll recount first, a goof.  As I have mentioned before, I’ve waited to stock up on roots.  Yesterday came time to buy.  I found the 16 inch softball sized rutabagas Nichol’s had already gone.  Not only that, but many of the remaining rut’s had dinks and digs that negated their long term potential.  I got all that were good.  Rutabagas sound funny, perhaps remind of the Depression, are a pain to peel, but are actually quite delicious.  Think a turnip with little bitterness.  Mash, roast or boil.
  • White Potatoes – Wait, did I say white?  I got Yukon gold, Caribe blue and all-red.  These are all versatile and well keeping potatoes.  I’d use them for anything but baking and certain types of frying, although I’d use the Yukons for home fries-ish type of frying. 
  • Sweet Potatoes – I’m sure a lot of foodies have heard the bromide that yams are not the same thing as sweet potatoes, yams being a large African vegetable not nearly as sweet as sweet potatoes.  Well, what we got yesterday, Beauregard’s and Carolina’s certainly looked liked the one’s incorrectly called yams.  I mean we got football shaped/sized ones, 15 or so lbs worth.  Bigger are better, of course, to keep.  Some advice on sweet potatoes, use them too, or also, as you would use regular potatoes.  You can fry them or make potato salad. 
  • Leeks – Great deal on yardstick sized leeks.  Leeks are a good stock veg, but they are good on their own too.  Steaming or boiling really taps down their potency, and they are very fine with a mustard vinaigrette.
  • Celery root – First of all, another keeping plant; second of all, another versatile winter veg.  We got four.  Use it like other roots, roasted or mashed, but it’s also great raw, classically at least in a remoulade or mustard-mayo dressing.  The tops look like celery but are very intense.  They can be useful in stocks.
  •  Arugula – Priced to sell at the market, two bags, and then another bag via the CSA.  I love the versatility of arugula.  I can stand its peppery bite alone, especially with an assertive dressing for balance, maybe a good homemade buttermilk ranch.  It also accents other salads well.  For instance, a salad of pears, nuts and blue cheese is pulled together with a few arugula leaves.  Arugula also makes for a familiar yet slightly different pesto.  As I mentioned the other day, it can also be put to use in the stockpot.
  • Sweet peppers – Like tomatoes and cucumbers, I never tire of sweet peppers, and I want to have as many as I can for as long as I can.  Because of frosts, all peppers have been picked.  Any peppers not yet ripe will be never ripen.  At Nichol’s, I rooted around for all those red or orange, five.  Our CSA box contained like three red and three green, but I about half of these were bruised to the point they need to be used soon.  I plan on roasting these today, then semi-preserving in oil (stored in the fridge).
  • Hot peppers – If I may not tire of sweet peppers, I am rather addicted to hot peppers, and I am not quite sure how I will soon cope.  At the market I got three poblanos and six pasillas; the latter for drying.  I use all over the place.  They really liven up chopped salads.
  • Carrots – The CSA came with about a dozen.  Nothing lasts longer in the fridge than carrots, and nothing probably has more uses.  It’s the stock veg.  It’s a happy find in the kid’s lunches.  I like salads made with raw and cooked carrots, and it stands nicely to any root veg recipe.
  • Baby lettuces – A bag for now
  • Apples – Not so much storage oriented yesterday.  The CSA box came with six Jonathons that the teens have mostly attacked already.  At the market I got about a dozen Pink Ladies that will go soon in the table fruit bowl.
  • Yellow onions – Three in the CSA box
  • Turnips, with their greens – The CSA box contained six nice sized turnips, which also meant a good amount of their greens.  See below, collards, for greens ideas.  Turnips are another stock favorite, are traditional paired with roasts in French cooking, and add a nice zing to mashed potatoes.  I plan on pink-pickling, ala Middle Eastern restaurants, at least some of these turnips.
  • Collard Greens – Another week, another bunch of collards in the CSA box.  I find it best to wait until there is a good amount of greens before cooking as greens really cook down.  I’m happy with these greens long cooked, Southern style, and I am happy with modern saute’s.  Something porky would not hurt regardless of the cooking method.
  • Broccoli – Gobs of it in the CSA.  I’ve already blanched it with the intention of freezing it.  Amongst its future uses, with pasta.  Don’t forget to do like I did, keep the stems.  Peeled, they are certainly edible and actually sweet.

You know what, after all that, I may not even remembered everything, like I forgot the chestnuts we bought last week.  Plus, I did not even mention the local eggs and local chicken from Farmer Vicki.  The challenge of eating local, not finding the food.  The challenge, eating all that food.