Let’s face it: summer is pretty much over. The pools are closed, the beach is a distant memory and all that free time you used to have has been replaced with classes, homework and that loathsome part-time job. But there’s one bit of summer that will be around for a little while longer: the farmers market.
I shouldn’t have to explain the benefits of local produce (Michelle Obama already did that), but you should also know that even Whole Foods’ “local” produce most likely sat in a refrigerator, or even a warehouse, for a day or more. And when you’re talking about fresh corn, tomatoes, peaches and berries, a day or two can make an incredible difference.
Aside from the one located on campus every Wednesday, there are three farmers markets that are convenient for those near campus, each on different days, all run by the same group: Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, Penn Quarter (Gallery Place) on Thursdays and Dupont Circle on Sundays. The complete list, along with hours and exact locations, is available at http://www.freshfarmmarkets.org. Here are a few suggestions for putting all those beautiful veggies to good use.
Farm Vegetable Farfalle with Goat Cheese (Serves 4)
1 dry pint green beans (approx 1 lb.) with ends removed, blanched and cut into one-inch pieces
3 T vegetable oil
2-3 ears of corn, cut from the cob
1/2 medium sized red onion, diced (About a 1/2 cup)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 plum tomatoes, diced
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
10 leaves of fresh basil
1 pound of farfalle or other pasta
To blanch the green beans, cut the ends off, put them in a skillet and cover them with cold water. Place the skillet on a stove over high heat and drain when it comes to a boil.
Dicing onions can be tricky. Cut them in half length-wise, then cut off the stem end where it looks kind of paper-y. Now put the flat side on the cutting board and make three to four cuts parallel to the board but try not to cut all the way through. Now make about eight cuts lengthwise again cutting as far into it as you can without cutting all the way through. Finally chop, chop, chop.
To peel and chop garlic, put it underneath the flat side of your knife and smash it, then remove the paper-y shell and chop it.
The Main Event
Start a large pot of water boiling and heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, it will move like water when you tilt the pan. If it starts to smoke, take it off the heat for a bit. When the water starts to boil like whitewater rapids, add a good amount of salt and dump in the pasta.
Just as the oil starts smoking, add the green beans, corn, onions and garlic to the pan. Shake the pan once to spread everything out. Leave it alone for at least one minute before stirring it again. Sautee, stirring every one to two minutes until the corn starts to get nicely browned (remember GBD: golden, brown and delicious). If it starts to dry out, add a tablespoon of water.
Keep an eye on your pasta. When it’s ready, it will have roughly doubled in size. If you’re not sure it’s ready, take a piece out, let it cool a bit and bite into it. When it is nice and tender, drain it and put it back in the pot, but leave it off the heat.
Once the corn is GBD, add the vinegar and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. (At this point you could also skip the pasta, leave the vinegar and goat cheese out and serve the veggies as an amazing side dish). Keep the veggies on the heat for one more minute, then turn it off and stir in the goat cheese. Add the sauce to the pasta and serve, garnishing with fresh basil.
Use zucchini and yellow squash instead of the green beans. Cut them in half lengthwise and then into quarter-inch thick “half-moons.” Sauté them first, set them aside and then add them back to the mix at the same time as the tomatoes.
Use pesto or marinara sauce instead of the vinegar-goat cheese combo. You might want to leave out the tomatoes too, otherwise it could get messy.
Chop up one or two slices of bacon, cook it slowly to render the fat and leave out the vegetable oil, vinegar and goat cheese.
Think of another combination that sounds tasty and follow the same principles and methods. Once you get the hang of sautéing, you’ll come up with all kinds of tasty treats.