savoring vermont

after a long absence, my husband and i finally made it up to visit my family’s house in vermont this weekend. what i look forward to most on the drive up is the first breath of fresh air when i arrive and get out of the car. the air is so full of heady scents – flowers, earth, sun – that it just has to be healthy. i highly recommend visiting vermont. if you need any pointers you can find information at http://www.vermontvacation.com.

after a few deep breaths, next on my list is always a quick stroll around the property to check on all the fun things we have growing. this time around i was most looking forward to seeing my watermelon plants – pretty vines, but no melons yet – and the peach tree that we planted in 2010. much to our surprise it already has fruit! i don’t think they’ll grow into fully edible peaches, since it’s not due to bear fruit for another 3 years, but they are cute and fuzzy nonetheless.

after a good night’s rest, we woke up bright and early saturday to head to the brattleboro farmers’ market, where i have to try very hard not to buy everything in sight. i have been going to this farmers’ market every summer for at least 15 years and it continues to get better and better. in addition to the many beautiful fruit and vegetable stands, there are now many vendors offering thai, indian, tex-mex, and even malian cuisine to go. this is very convenient, since after an hour of looking at, tasting, and buying produce i can get quite hungry!

so, what was on the shopping list this weekend? we stocked up on tomatoes, eggplants, and summer squash from old athens farm since we plan on making a ratatouille later this week. crisp salad greens, deep green kale, perpetual spinach,  and some fabulous-looking purple kohlrabi came from walnut ridge farm. and we bought some amazing fresh garlic and asian cucumbers from akogi farm (stock up: fresh garlic has a short season, and the old garlic with papery skin gets you through the winter but it’s not nearly as tasty). we also made sure to buy as many pints of blueberries as we could carry for pie!

to accompany our blueberry-peach crumble (see below), my amazing husband also took a small road trip to hanover, nh to procure some gelato from morano gelato, a small artisanal shop started last year by a friend of his. there is no doubt that the 2 hour round trip was well worth it. we had sweet milk, dark chocolate, biscotto, and coconut gelatos as well as strawberry sorbet, and they were all excellent with the crumble!

there are obviously many excellent farmers’ markets in new york city and popping up all over the country. you should check out one near you because the taste and quality of local produce is always miles above what you find in the supermarket. and in addition you will be supporting your local farmers and artists! your reward will be the chance to whip up a few of the following dishes:

blueberry-peach crisp

filling

4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, though fresh is far preferable. if using frozen, thaw and strain out excess liquid thoroughly before cooking.)

2 cups peaches (same as blueberries)

1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

topping (from my “grown-up cherry crumble”)

3/4 cup whole spelt flour (or flour of your choice)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into about 24 pieces

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup ground almonds

1/4 cup rolled oats

1. preheat the oven to 350°f.

2. in a large bowl, mix the blueberries, peaches, tapioca starch, and sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes.

3. pour the mixture evenly into a 9″ pie plate and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture begins to bubble. be sure to place a sheet pan or tin foil under the pie plate in the oven to catch any overflowing bubbles of fruit!

4. while the fruit is baking, prepare the crumble topping. combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. mix the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. add the walnuts, almonds, and oats and toss lightly to combine.

4. when ready, remove the pie from the oven and place on a heat proof surface. spoon the topping mixture evenly over the fruit mixture and return the pie to the oven. bake for another 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. again, be sure to place a sheet pan or tin foil under the pie plate while baking.

Cucumber mango salad 

serves 4

1 large mango

1 large asian cucumber

4 cups arugula

16 mint leaves

1/2 cup hazelnuts, crushed

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup yogurt (i used sheep’s milk yogurt from vermont shepherd)

salt and pepper to taste

1. slice the mango in half vertically, cutting to each side of the pit to make two halves. peel the skin off each half with a paring knife. then slice each half the short way into half moon slices about 1/4″ thick. set aside.

2. using a vegetable peeler, first peel the cucumber. then shave into long slices, going the entire length of the cucumber if possible. set aside.

3. to prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and yogurt. add a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground pepper.

4. to assemble the salad, place the arugula in the bottom of a bowl or plate. curl the cucumber slices into loops and place on top of the arugula, interspersed with the mango pieces. sprinkle with hazelnuts and a few mint leaves. then spoon the dressing on top and serve!

perpetual spinach: another name for swiss chard.

kohlrabi: a member of the cabbage family.

asian cucumbers: usually about 18″ long, slender, and slightly ridged. they are denser and have fewer seeds than a regular cucumber.

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