Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Berries from Paradise

Someday, yes someday really, I will get organized about my life to the extent that I will regularly go to the Farmer's Market every Saturday all summer long and I will plan out my week's meals using the fresh ingredients of the season, yes sir! Every time I make it to the farmer's market I'm delighted at what I find. And yet some years I don't make it at all. Because, in fact, I am not at all organized about my life.

But a new small market opened up next to the Mill City Museum (right near the Eagle) which is conveniently just up the road from me and I can whiz over there and park and return with very little trouble. Both the St. Paul and the Minneapolis Farmer's Markets are nowhere near this convenient, although they are vastly larger. Anyway, at this new market I can get the best plumpest freshest smoked trout ever. I bought one last week and ate the whole thing by mid-afternoon so this week I bought two. I ate it on nice tasty braided bread that I also bought at the market, which was sublime last week but this week turned out not to be fresh, which was very strange. Last week I got some of those early spring peas. I was never too keen on peas until I had them fresh from the garden. They make a great snack, when you eat them raw.

This week there were little crooked organic carrots in two different colors, and baby zucchini in viviv vivid yellow, so tonight I'm going to saute them up with onions and mushroom and cook them in rice made with my homemade chicken broth and it will be so tasty and I will feel so virtuous and I will resolve to get organized about my shopping and cooking and stuff, but then I won't. I'm organized about my laundry, isn't that enough?

This week also, I bought a little container of blueberries and a little container of mixed blackberries and raspberries and then when I got home I made the mistake of eating a few. These were the magic special incredibly tasty fresh berries of food writer imagination, of Alice Waters proselytizing, of walks in 19th century forests. I kept trying not to eat more berries but I failed utterly and then there were no more berries and they were all I could think about.

On Sunday I found myself at Whole Foods, buying the good grape tomatoes and fresh basil and organic lemons and garlic that I will use for the tortellini pasta salad I'll be making for the Fourth of July, and also the Whole Foods special cow's milk feta and some olives for the same dish. (The lemon and garlic is for the olive oil marinade.) I was still thinking about those berries so I bought a container of blackberries at Whole Foods that looked plump and pretty and which were quite expensive. They turned out to have a great texture, but they were tasteless, as are most supermarket berries. (Except, oddly enough, for blueberries this year.) They would have been good with a little sugar in a baked dish, but I was spoiled from the previous days crop.

These amazing berries were not cheap. But drat, I suspect I'm going to be heading over every week now. I could serve these berries with a little cream (with vanilla in the cream? I think that's what my friend Jim does) and they would be a gourmet's dessert.

Here's how I make my tortellini pasta salad, which I found in a 1980s cookbook I picked up for 50 cents a few years ago. It's the only thing in the book I'll ever make, but I make it all the time. It seems quintessentially 80s somehow:

I mix a few tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a few cloves of peeled split garlic into about a cup and a half of olive oil and let this sit for at least 90 minutes but it's better to remember to do this in the morning before going to work. I cook up a whole lot of mixed green and white tortellini (better to use the refrigerated fresh rather than the much cheaper frozen). While the water is boiling (this takes a while) I put as much fresh basil as I feel like I can afford that day into the food processor. This dish is, in fact, why I originally bought a food processor, because it used to take me forever to cut up the basil and you need a lot of basil.

When the tortellini is done I drain it and put it in my enormous metal bowl I bought also just for this dish, so I could make it in double quantity. I mix it with the olive oil marinade and about a third of the chopped basil and let it cool. While it is cooling I cut in half two pints of grape or cherry tomatoes (I prefer the sweeter grape tomatoes) and I open up and drain a couple of cans of olives (canned really isn't bad in this dish). Then I mix the tomatoes and olives and the rest of the basil and 8 oz. of crumbled feta into the tortellini, plus a whole lot of fresh-ground pepper. It usually doesn't need salt because of the feta and canned olives, but sometimes it needs a little.

Then I taste it and it always tastes too bitter because there is so much fresh basil in it and I worry that it didn't come out right this time. But overnight in the refrigerator mellows it out and then you bring it back to room temperature and everybody loves it.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.