And in thy store two loaves are left,
Sell one. And with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
My grandfather loved this poem. An avid gardener, he quoted it to me often. It’s a simple message about what it takes to nourish ourselves from the inside out. Beauty is as necessary to our survival as that loaf of bread.
But apart from the poem’s message, the act of quoting poetry while planting onions or picking peaches was the greater lesson. Sharing that poem in his garden felt like a benediction. Both were blessed: the gardener and the child.
That’s what I love about Saturday mornings at the Cortez Farmers Market: the mutual benefits that take place there. I need, I want, what the vendors are selling, and they need my business. But there’s something else: a palpable buzz of people buying and selling homegrown food. It’s the heartbeat of the market, a community getting in touch with itself. Like my grandfather’s poem, it nourishes me from the inside out.
The Dolores band Last Nickel, a quartet of two guitars, standup bass, and mandolin, offered some foot-tapping Americana and bluegrass music for shoppers last Saturday. So upbeat and uplifting was their sound that I found it difficult not to skip from stand to stand.
But why should I worry about decorum when the produce is lolling about like overstuffed coach potatoes on Superbowl Sunday? There are onions larger than a man’s fist, tomatoes bulbous, misshapen and bursting with juice, potatoes and carrots in profusion, melons the size of a child’s head, acres of kale, bushels of peppers and absolutely, unequivocally, the biggest watermelon at the Battlerock Farm stand I have ever seen: somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds. Lug it to a picnic and you could use it for backup seating.
And since it’s officially fall, there is an eruption of winter squash. Because it all seems to ripen on the same day, I’m always looking for ideas on how to manage its profusion. I picked up the following recipe from the booth where market manager Theresa Titone has a rack of free recipes that utilize fresh produce. Credit goes to Mary Wilson for this recipe; I’ve made a few additions. Although it calls for acorn squash, any winter squash such as buttercup, butternut, or Hubbard would work. I don’t recommend using, however, summer or spaghetti squash. Serve it with salad, sliced lemon cukes, and crusty bread for a hearty autumn meal.
Served on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroads
QUARTER, CHUNK OR SLICE: 2 small acorn squash.
REMOVE: Seeds and strings. If steaming, remove skins first.
BAKE OR STEAM: Until fork-tender. If baking, remove skins after baking.
SCOOP AND MASH: Until mostly smooth, but not like baby food.
MIX: 2/3 C fresh squeezed orange juice, ½ C melted butter, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. each pepper and red pepper flakes (optional).
COMBINE: The mashed squash with the above mixture.
POUR: Into individual ramekins or a shallow baking dish.
TOP: With slivered almonds or pecans; sprinkle with cinnamon.
BAKE: For 15-20 minutes at 325 or until warmed through.
DRIZZLE: With maple syrup just before serving.
About choosing and storing squash: Look for squash that have a hard shell, one that is not easily pierced with your fingernail, that have deep vibrant colors, a hard, corky stem, and a deeply colored resting spot. They should be stored in a cool, dark place. Do not refrigerate.
In addition to squash, there are also a lot of carrots. A tip on what to do with them: Grate 4-6 cups into a large colander and plunge the whole shebang into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and submerge the colander into a sinkful of ice water to cool. Drain, put into zip lock bags and freeze. You’ll be halfway to carrot soup in the dead of winter when you pull them out of your freezer.
Here’s the other half from the time-tested Vegetarian Epicure (v. 2) by Anna Thomas
Cream of Carrot Soup
SAUTE: 3 C grated or chopped carrots and 1 large chopped yellow onion in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed Dutch oven in 4 Tbsp. of butter for a few minutes.
ADD: 1 potato, peeled and diced, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, and ½ C water.
COVER AND SIMMER: Until the vegetables are just tender.
PUREE: The above with 1 ½ C half and half. (Alternately, you could use chicken or vegetable broth instead of the cream.)
MAKE A ROUX: In 4 Tbsp. of butter, stir in 4 Tbs. of flour. Cook until golden brown, stirring constantly.
ADD: 4 C milk to the roux and whisk vigorously over low heat until thickened.
COMBINE: The carrot puree and the white sauce in a large pot.
ADD: Paprika, pepper, minced garlic, and cayenne to taste, plus a splash of brandy.
SIMMER: Gently for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
SERVE: Hot, garnished with croutons or chopped parsley.
Let yourself be nourished by the necessity of food and the ephemera of things less tangible.