The market also had homegrown gourds that are seasoned, scraped, sanded, and painted with ancient native designs and rimmed with indigenous materials such as iris leaves, corn husks, yucca, and cottonwood bark; an assortment of sassy farm fresh aprons featuring watermelons and cupcakes, ladybugs, chicks and bucking broncos, even spools of thread winding their way across crisp cotton; and embroidered tea towels, the kind our grandmothers used to make and stockpile for their wedding chests, made by one of our local vendors. Seeing these treasures snuggled up alongside bags of locally grown dryland beans, baskets of small green grapes, simple flower bundles and produce reminds us of our connection to the land and to the stout-hearted people of our community who farm it.
My friend Linda Bellush from Mancos wrote a song a couple years back entitled “Carbohydrates and Caffeine” that asserts, “A swig and a bite make me feel just right.” If this is your credo, you can sample the wares from stands featuring baked breads such as Zuni sunflower, cheddar onion or various Bible breads like spiced Galatica. Ever tried a potato-water butterhorn? Me either. They're there at the farmers market, along with all manner of cinnamon rolls, muffins, quick breads, and pastries. You might even stumble upon a personal favorite of mine: an “ease-your-conscience” special that consists of a bag of spinach paired with a slab of homemade carrot cake. Shucks, you can even find homemade dog biscuits. (But please folks, leave your dogs at home since the farmers market has adopted a no-dog policy.)
Many vendors at the farmers market bake and sell the kind of bread that can be used to make bruschetta, an Italian creation of roasted veggies and melted cheese heaped atop a loaf of hearty crusty bread. Bruschetta can serve as a light summer meal on its own or play a role as a supporting actress alongside any pasta dish or summer salad. Here's a simple recipe for Italian bruschetta, but I advise you to use it as a jumping off place for your own creation featuring your favorite summer vegetables.
Slice a loaf of any crusty whole grain bread (the denser the better) lengthwise.
Brush on a light coat of olive oil, covering the entire surface to the edge.
Broil or grill until just beginning to brown.
Remove from oven and top with your favorite combination of cheeses and veggies.
Here are a few of my tried and true:
Fresh mozzarella with sundried tomatoes, chopped fresh garlic, and thin strips of fresh basil.
Bleu cheese and prosciutto.
Slabs of eggplant (with skin left on) salted and broiled ahead to remove some of its water, paired with a dollop of tomato sauce and topped with a healthy dose of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Spinach (lightly sauteed), onion, and mushroom with a good Swiss cheese like Jarlsberg or Emmental.
Once you've added the toppings, pop it under the broiler again, briefly. Just before bringing it out of the oven, you can grate some Parmesan or Romano cheese over the entire thing and drizzle a little more olive oil. Stay nearby because it only takes a couple of seconds for a beautifully roasted bruschetta to turn into an incinerated disaster. Let it set at room temperature for five minutes before slicing into manly wedges. Serve with a fresh green salad. Or better yet, try it with some of your own kale chips.
A word about kale: It is that curly green sprig often found on your plate of restaurant food as a garnish because it can last for days without wilting. It is a blackish green that transforms into an intense emerald green when cooked. Typically kale is cooked low and slow, but in kale chips it is exposed briefly to intense heat to produce a chip-like quality with kale-like goodness . The first batch I tried I left in the oven just a couple of seconds too long and ended up with blackened kale chips. I don't recommend them. Just keep a close eye on them while they're cooking and you'll do fine. A number of local vendors offer kale so, as in all recipes, start with the freshest produce you can find. Here's how to make your very own.
Rinse and dry a head of fresh locally-purchased kale.
Remove the stems.
Oil generously a cookie sheet and turn your oven to broil.
Remove the little spine that separates the two halves of each leaf. To do this fold the leaf in half lengthwise so that the stem is exposed. With a small paring knife slice it off and discard.
Spread the leaves on the cookie sheet.
Spray some oil over the leaves and lightly salt with your favorite seasoned salt (I use Spike or Gomasio).
Pop under the broiler in the middle of the oven.
Watch carefully! It only takes a few minutes for them to crisp up.
Bruschetta, kale chips, perhaps a salad and a sparkling fruity beverage — it's almost dinner time. So snap on your apron and get going.
Oh yes, the answer to the riddle: You can tune a lawn mower.
The Cortez Farmer's Market is open Saturdays from 7:30 to 11:30 at 109 W. Main (www.cortezfarmmarket.com).
The Parsnippet is supported by Livewell Montezuma, a healthy eating active living (HEAL) community.
Wendy Watkins is the owner of S'more Music, a private Suzuki piano studio in Cortez. She can be reached at 565-4129.