Shag leather rug or mushrooms?
I scored an unexpected bounty today at a farmer’s market that until this morning I had no idea existed. I came into work this morning to see one of my co-workers munching on fresh peas straight out of the pod. Perhaps sensing an interrogation in the making he volunteered the info about a farmer’s market that runs on Tuesdays at St Marks Church on 10th and 2nd. Who knew?
If you live in NYC and have been less than pleased with the offerings at Union Square this year. This one (along with the one at Tompkins Sq. on Sundays) might be worth checking out. It only had 3 lonely vendors, but 2 of them where local farmers that had just plucked these organic wonders from their fields.
At the first stop I picked up a few pounds of English peas, sugar snap peas and “real” strawberries of the sort I haven’t seen since leaving California. Small, glistening and incredibly fragrant, these little red berries brought back memories of picking my own berries along highway 1.
At the second stop, a weathered man with dirt still between his nails offered up a stalk of purple asparagus to taste. Enamored by the surprising sweetness I quickly picked out a handful of deep purple sticks that still looked alive. Apparently, the reason the purple variety is so rare is that it’s relatively new and since asparagus beds last for 20 years, most farmers are unwilling to dig up their existing beds to plant the new variety (which take several years to start producing).
Next he tore off a cluster of Maitake mushrooms and handed it to me to taste. I have to be honest in that the very pungent odor (not in a good way) and uncleaned rawness of the mushrooms put me off initially, but after taking braving a bite I could see the potential and ended up buying some along with a cluster of yellow oyster mushrooms.
Regular readers know that I’m an advocate for simple preparations of food. Like a good story, I think that food should have a few complimentary main characters with a supporting cast of ingredients that help the main characters tell their story. Too many leads and you’ll have a chaotic tale that’s hard to digest.
For this meal, I just sauteed the mushrooms, asparagus and snap peas over a hot flame with some olive oil, and finished it with a pinch of smoked salt and freshly ground black pepper. The maitake mushrooms proved to be incredibly meaty in flavor, the unpleasant odor all but disappeared turning into a deep rich umami unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The yellow oyster mushrooms added some color and texture although their delicate flavor was assimilated by the maitake.
The asparagus added some crispness and sweetness while the sugar snap peas added their own brand of cripsy sweetness. A squeeze of lemon juice just before eating was like a splash of sunshine that cascaded through the flavors making this one of the most perfect meals I’ve had in a while.
What foods do you find most inspiring?