By JAY REED
I can’t really complain about the summer. But I’m going to, anyway. First of all, it was as hot as fill in your own simile here. I don’t remember ever seeing our car thermometer hit 110 before this summer. Also, it went by really fast. I think that was due to the incredible amount of activity generated in our house with trips, camps and the like. In fact, it somehow feels less busy now that school has started again. Go figure. But the worst thing about the summer is that when it ended, it took the Starkville Community Market with it.
Yep. By the time this is published, the last Market Saturday of the summer season will be completed. And I did not get to go nearly as many times as I needed to. I’m something of a market addict — a groupie, if you will. It didn’t matter how late I stayed up on Friday night, I tried to be at the market shortly after it opened on every possible Saturday. And there was the rub: I wasn’t free as often as I wanted to be. Part of the challenge was the aforementioned crazy travel schedule, then there’s the ol’ day job. (But you have to make the green to buy the green, I reckon, so I am thankful for that.) Despite my unintentional truancy, however, I still managed to put together some fun market-inspired meals that I think are worth sharing.
I didn’t often buy breakfast foods at the market for later consumption, but I did enjoy eating breakfast there. I learned an important lesson last year, too — if you see a scone you like, buy it right away, because it may not be there after you’ve finished looking around. Chocolate chip scones and cranberry-orange scones from Way to Go were my favorites, with a little glaze drizzled on them. One day I did take a mini-loaf of her banana-cream cheese bread home to share, but I confess I didn’t share much of it. I think I remember whispering to the family when I got back with my sacks of market loot, “There’s banana bread here.” After that it was fair game. Maybe if I had said it louder, when they were awake, there would have been more sharing. Oh well, you snooze, you lose.
Lunch options were legion, of course. There’s nothing like a tomato sandwich made from a fresh-picked tomato and homemade bread, and the market supplied both. Tomatoes were everywhere — many of the farm vendors had them, including hydroponic varieties from The Tomato House — and the folks from Kristen and Ed’s Rustic Bread (I love the rhyme) were regulars with a variety of home-baked loaves. And while we’re on tomatoes, let’s talk about salsa. I love fresh salsa, and the market farmers brought just about everything I like to get it started: cherry tomatoes (or tomatillos, if you like it verde) from Lancaster Farms, onion, and fresh cilantro. A little salt, a squeeze of lime, and some chips — that could be a meal on its own. And if you like it hot, pecks of peppers were there to be picked.
Dinner from the market took on a new dimension this year with the pasta options sold by Double D Farms — just add your favortie veggie-based sauce. Like marinara? Take some of those tomatoes, add some basil, garlic and parsley. Pasta primavera? Zucchini and sweet peppers with a little olive oil from the pantry. Eggplant parmesan, too? Can do — make your own breadcrumbs from part of a baguette and use the rest to push the pasta around the plate. For an interesting side salad, grill marinated green tomato slices, then add fresh mozzarella and basil. If you prefer a veggie plate to Italian, simmer some purple-hull peas, boil some D&G Farm cabbage (or make slaw) and fry some okra. Or maybe you like to grill? Fresh corn on the cob is usually around at the beginning of the season, or try fat slices of patty-pan squash.
For those who like their veggies more on the raw side, how about a nice salad? I eat a lot of leafy green lunches, so I am always looking for new components to prevent salad boredom. This summer, for a limited time, micro-greens were available from Rhonda Head, and I came home with a tray of teeny-tiny arugula plants. I have had micro-greens before, but usually in small quantities, mainly as garnishes on other meals. This was the first time I had seen them in large quantities in their natural habitat, so to speak. To prepare, I cut off the tops, washed them really well, and added a handful to whatever lettuce or chopped veggies that were in my bowl that day. Talk about a burst of flavor — for such little bitty leaves, they packed a punch. I couldn’t get enough. And though the Tor family came to the market a little later in the summer than the micro-greens, I think one of their Turkish rolls (feta cheese-stuffed or black olive-studded) would have made a nice accompaniment.
Dessert time had a range of options. Maybe a piece of baklava, or fresh pita from The Hummus Lady dipped in local Eaddy’s honey? How about a loaf of strawberry bread? I had a lot of fun with blueberries this summer. The most interesting concoction was certainly the Bo-Berry cobbler. I made the fruit layer with fresh blueberries and a few basic pantry extras (sugar, lemon juice, etc.), but instead of the usual crust, I used the top halves of glazed Bo-Berry biscuits from Bojangles, pieced together and added during the last few minutes of cooking. Why be normal?
Now begins the long countdown to May, when the Market opens again. Thank goodness for fall football and a few months of Saturday distractions.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .