An Embarrassment of Riches
I just finished reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a book that is, in some ways, all about food – or rather, the lack thereof. It’s certainly not reading for the faint of heart, since the premise is that the earth has been scorched by something (we never find out what) killing all the plants and animals, except a few remaining people. Those left survive by scavenging what they can of non-perishables in ruined cities and towns, and or sometimes eating the only other thing left to them: other people.
This incredibly bleak and harrowing landscape is depressing, to be sure, but it also makes me appreciate even more the bounty available at the Farmer’s Market. The contrast could hardly be greater, as I compare the black and gray ruined earth of the book to the almost overwhelming variety currently available to me, in a rainbow of colors and tastes and textures. For example, while the boy and his father in The Road were ecstatic to find canned peaches in syrup, I’m reveling in the fresh variety, with they’re furry skin and juice that runs down my chin.
So, in no particular order, this is an homage to what I can find at the market, as well as what I dream about doing with the goods. Be warned - this could take a while.
Peaches, early apples, berries, melons: I love to eat all of these raw, but they’re also good in fruit salads, or sometimes salsa, smoothies, or tossed in with yogurt or on top of ice cream. Berries I might also freeze for winter enjoyment, and you can also make jams, jellies, pies, and other sweets.
Tomatoes: The cherry tomatoes I eat straight because they’re simply so delicious on their own. It’s also nice that in addition to the fresh tomatoes, many places sell “seconds”, overripe or imperfect tomatoes that are great for salsa and sauces.
Peppers and carrots, available in a rainbow of colors: Good for eating raw, perhaps with a dip or spread, in salads or sandwiches, grilling and gazpacho for peppers, slaws for carrots.
Corn: For me, it’s hard to beat the classic corn on the cob. But it can also be great for salsa, chowder, or salads.
Fennel: Another raw favorite, since I love the slight licorice tang, but I’ve also made a good potato and fennel soup, and they can be good in salads
Cucumbers: Wonderful raw, or you can make pickles, gazpacho, or salsa. Cucumber soup is also very light and refreshing on hot summer days.
Eggplant: It took me a while to find eggplant recipes that I like, but a few favorites are baba ganoush (a spread similar to hummus in consistency but with a different flavor), ratatouille, and a Szechuan dish with eggplant, tofu, and mushrooms. Scrumptious.
Zucchini and Summer Squash: Since these overproduce so much, it’s always nice to have ideas of what to do with them. Grilling, of course, and gazpacho and ratatouille, as well as zucchini bread (some folks also love chocolate zucchini bread) and muffins, but they can also be great in stir-frys, or grated into salads or slaws or mixed with your favorite grain and dressed with olive oil and vinegar.
Potatoes, onions, scallions: All of these can be good in soups, or hash, or for making broth or good homefries.
Kale, chard, lettuce, cabbage, and other greens: So many greens! Salads are the default option, of course, but for the heartier varieties (kale and chard, for example), they’re wonderful in soup or stir-fry, or just lightly cooked down with olive oil and garlic, and I know some people love them for smoothies. You can also do slaws with things like cabbage, or make wraps or lettuce cups.
Green beans: Steamed green beans are my favorite, but I also enjoy dilly beans, and bean salads.
Garlic: I love garlic! Add it to soup, stir-fry, hummus, baba ganoush, and whatever else strikes your fancy.
Beets (regular, golden, and rainbow): Even if you’re not generally a fan of beets (usually boiled or steamed or pickled), roasted beets with olive oil and rosemary are a treat.
Rutabaga: Also good roasted with olive oil, or in soups.
Turnips: I’ve used these in stir-frys, and in soups.
Radishes: I’m not a huge radish fan, but sometimes I enjoy them in salad.
Broccoli: I enjoy broccoli simply steamed with a little sesame oil, or in stir-fry, or with dips, or sometimes mixed in with grains and a bit of cheese (or cheese alternative in my case).
Cauliflower: Also good steamed with olive oil, or you can also make a tasty mash them (similar to potatoes).
This isn’t a complete list – it doesn’t even mention the meats and cheeses and jams and honey and other treats – but it’s a good start. I am so grateful for all of this abundance, and that I have access to it. I also know how fortunate I am to be able to recognize these foods and have some idea of what to do with, which isn’t necessarily a given these days.
With that in mind, here are some items on the menu for me this week, in case it inspires you: salads with lettuce, rainbow chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, and peppers; chickpeas with garlicky greens (in my case, kale); ratatouille tian (similar to ratatouille with zucchini, eggplant, and plum tomatoes, but in this case baked); cucumbers and carrots with hummus; and corn/black bean/avocado/tomato/basil salad; and plenty of fresh fruit (melons, peaches, berries).
Even with all that, I wish I could use more, but since even I can only eat so many vegetables in a week, I’ll just dream up ideas for next week, and bask in this amazing harvest while I can, continually grateful to be living in this version of the world, not the one from The Road.