Friday, July 2, 2010

Dinner in summer

This is why it’s handy having a farmers market on a weekday uptown.

It was the end of the day last Tuesday. At home, the cupboards were bare because I’d had to miss my usual Saturday market expedition. A teenager was waiting to be rushed off to his evening appointment. I was too hot, tired and drained to have much energy left at all.

I pulled into the Atherton Mill Market, 2104 South Boulevard in SouthEnd, grabbed a couple of bags and dashed inside to see what I could find.

A handful of green and white Zephyr squash. A bag of newly dug potatoes, from thumb- to marble-sized. Haricot vertes-type green beans as skinny as embroidery thread. A bag of freshly shucked corn. A small Sugar Baby watermelon and a cantaloupe. A round loaf of roasted garlic & olive oil bread and a tub of the hot tomato oil from Duke’s Breads. A couple of packages of freshly harvested chicken wings from Red Dirt Ranch. Tomatoes, of course -- a fat red heirloom and a box of orange Sun Glos.

Rushing into the house, I found the teenager had already eaten and was on his way out. A reprieve, and dinner just for two of us, empty-nesters in training. I put the corn, squash, tomato oil and chicken wings away for later in the week and set aside the cantaloupe for breakfast.

On the counter, I spread out the tiny potatoes and green beans, the watermelon and the tomatoes. I looked them over and came up with the easiest dinner I could. First, two links of Trader Joe’s chicken sausage left over from the night before went into a skillet to brown slowly.

I scrubbed the potatoes under running water to take off the last of their dusty dirt and piled them in a skillet with just enough water to cover, a squirt of olive oil and a fat pinch of kosher salt. I put the lid on and brought it to a boil for 10 minutes. Tiny potatoes don’t take very long to cook.

While I waited, I pinched the tops off the little green beans. I put them on top of the potatoes and covered the skillet for 2 minutes longer, then took the top off and let the water boil away, letting it all finish cooking in the salty oil left behind.

While the potatoes cooked, I cut a couple of fat wedges of the roasted garlic bread, wrapped them in foil and tossed the package in the toaster oven to warm.

I sliced the fat red tomato and arranged it on a plate. I topped it with a pile of halved Sun Glos and some shredded basil from my garden, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

I sliced into the watermelon and found flesh that was as magenta-red as raspberry sorbet, a color so deep it almost looked fake. I cut away bite-size sweet chunks and piled them in a bowl.

Twenty minutes later, we were sitting down to plates with just a little chicken sausage, piles of green beans and potatoes, tomato salad with plenty of juice to soak up with the wedges of warm bread, and watermelon. It looked like a painting of summer and tasted like someone else’s life, someone more sophisticated, more elegant. M.F.K. Fisher, maybe, or Ruth Reichl.

Stopping to market on the way home like we’re living in Paris. I could get used to this. Next Wednesday, my colleague Andrea Weigl will bring you a story about the joys of summer vegetable plates. In the meantime, I hope you have a Fourth of July weekend full of all the fresh produce you can find.


Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Sounds fresh and bright! I stopped by the small farmers' market in Huntersville the other day just to browse . . . it's tiny, but lots of nice produce there.

Donna Thrasher said...

And your photo of the the potatoes & green beans looks like a French blogger's site, maybe C. Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini- tres elegante!

Carol Baldwin said...

I always enjoy your columns and loved this blog. I mentioned it in my blog that I just posted today. Don't know if you remember me or not...but your words have stuck in my head for years! Check it out at:

kerry said...

loved your quick dinner with the freshness if summertime....the pictures are air markets are wonderful! (donna t. i love chocolate and zucchini...check out my pic of "radishes in dirt")

Kathleen Purvis said...

Thanks, Carol. You have an interesting blog. I'm flattered to be mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me what Sun Glos are!!!

Kathleen Purvis said...

Sorry, Anon. I meant Sungolds, which are the small orange and red tomatoes, a little smaller than cherry tomatoes. I corrected that in the print column, but you know blogs -- speed is everything.

Anonymous said...

Okay...thanks so much!