Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Farmer's Market Kinda Day

Here in the Blues, there is not a plethora of organic supermarkets, or open-air farmer's markets. DucCat and I have come to depend upon our semi-weekly dose of the Williamsburg Farmer's Market to keep us connected to everything that is vibrant, local and fresh. Perhaps twice a month, we'll sneak up the back roads to Williamsburg, avoiding the constant deadlock on the highway, and spend at least one blissful hour- or, one hundred dollars, whichever happens to come first.

This particular weekend, we dabbled in a bit of multi-coloured heirloom tomato joy, followed by a vibrant array of small, sweet, yellow-and-red watermelons. I picked up some handmade soaps, a constant addiction; DucCat purveyed and selected our root veggies. Then, we came to the end of the line, which was our always pleasant encounter with the folks at Sassy Springs Farms.

Their organic meats and warm ways are what keep us coming back for more, month after month. DucCat decided to stock up on short ribs, stew beef, and flank steak. On a sultry day, this was undoubtedly a cry for Autumn.
We wandered down to Double A Farms, for one of Virginia's most famous exports. Dainty pig figurines dangled off the ears, wrists, neck, and belt of the woman who helped us to 3 pounds of uncured bacon, a pound of unlinked 'breakfast' sausage, and some good, old-fashioned spicy Italian sausage. We exchanged money, and advice on the proper preparation of our newly-acquired goods, and thanked the gods again for providing us with the heavenly pig.
I made a beeline across the walkway for Amy's Organic, and am sorry I didn't get a picture of it. Her handmade signs are as charming as her personality; her baked goods are a sign that Virginia is doing something right. I got a small loaf of her Flaxbread, about 5-inches in size, but weighed down with colon-cleansing, delicious-seedy goodness. DucCat noticed her portions of potent looking pesto- 'much more intense than your average pesto!', she promised, and he purchased two.
As we were walking towards the exit, and to our car, I spied a new stand: Maree's Marvelous Handpicked Blueberries. Like so many other vendors, a pint of free samples lay cracked open, and I tasted- and grabbed another. DucCat had no say as I plunged a berry into his mouth. He chewed seriously for a moment, then smiled. "Get a couple of those!" We did, and by the time we'd dropped our packages off at the car, and walked again past the market, Maree had completely sold through her lot. Previously, I'd never imagined a blueberry to taste quite this good on it's own. They were sensuously sweet, with a lingering blueberry taste that was so real, I'd almost forgotten what they could taste like.

After visiting The Blue Talon Bistro, and spent a day doing the necessary chores, it was time for dinner prep. DucCat took charge of cooking the spicy sausage, adding red onion, garlic, kalamatta olives, and tomatoes. He served his own dish on thin spaghetti; mine, as usual, went on slightly wilted spinach. Summer is fantastic in so many ways, and a quick, yet light, 'Italian' type meal exemplifies some of its best traits.

Dessert, as the day had promised, was a slice of that luscious blueberry pie, topped with a smattering of mascarpone whipped cream. As our Sunday Morning Show on CBS told us the following day, it seemed we were just living 'la dolce vita'. Life is too short for anything else, right?

Recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible

Open-Faced Fresh Blueberry Pie

Basic Flaky Pie Crust for a 9-inch pie
½ large egg white, lightly beaten
1 ¼ pounds blueberries, rinsed and drained
½ liquid cup, plus 2 Tablespoons, divided, of water
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used more, at least a tablespoon)
pinch of salt

Roll out dough and transfer to pie pan, folding the excess under, and crimping the border. Cover loosely, and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour, and a maximum of twenty-four.

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees for at least 20 minutes before baking.

Line the pastry with parchment, and fill with dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the beans with the parchment, then prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Bake 5-10 minutes longer, until the crust is a pale golden. Check after 3 minutes, and prick any bubbles that have formed.
Cool the crust on a rack for 3 minutes, so that it is no longer piping hot, then brush the bottom and sides with the egg white.

Measure out 1 cup of the blueberries, choosing the softest ones. Place in a medium saucepan together with ½ cup of the water. Cover and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of water; set aside.

When the water and blueberries have come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, or until the blueberries start to burst and the juices begin to thicken. Stirring constantly, add the cornstarch mixture, the sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Simmer for a minute, or until the mixture becomes translucent. Immediately remove from heat, and quickie fold in the remaining 3 cups of blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into the baked pie shell and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving. When set, the berries will remain very juicy, but will not flow out of the crust.

Store at room temperature up to 2 days.

Note: The low amount of sugar in this pie maintains the tart freshness of the berries. Taste the berries before you begin. If they are very tart, increase the sugar by a few tablespoons.


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