Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Greatest Sunday

Our farmers' market is open.

Nothing against ShopRite, but from now until mid-November we're pretty much all about the Jersey produce, grown locally, bought locally, eaten as soon as possible. And it's amazing to see what a difference a few thousand miles makes. Right now, supermarket berries are pretty good. But the ones at the farmers' market? Amazing. Margy and I bought a box of some of the juiciest strawberries we've ever had, and we found blueberries that taste exactly like... blueberries! It's the best.

I also picked up a big box of fava beans, which I had never dealt with before. I got home and read up on the ingredient, and suddenly the big box of beans seemed a lot smaller. First, you shell the beans. Then you blanch and peel them (unless they're very young and tiny, which mine weren't). The usable portion is minuscule. So I drove back to the market.

"Didn't you just get some of these?" said the guy at the stand as I grabbed a second helping. I'm guessing he's never cooked with fava beans.

A while after I got home and went to work on, oh, a hundred pods or so, I stood back from my kitchen table to see a craggy green mountain of empty casings casting a shadow over a small bowl of beans. A while after that, once I'd dropped the beans into boiling water, rinsed them, and slid off their skins, I could fit the foundation of our dinner in the cupped palms of my hands. I allowed myself to eat a single fava bean. It was ultrafresh and delicious.

I boiled about four-fifths of the beans in chicken broth along with more farmers'-market bounty -- garlic scapes and sweet summer onions -- plus oregano and parsley from our garden. Then I puréed this glorious stew and warmed it up on the stove with the rest of the whole beans and served it over spaghetti, garnished with fried garlic and the sliced green tops of the onions.

Summer really is here, and having access to ingredients like these makes those stifling, sticky days a lot easier to handle, and a lot more tasty.

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