30 August 2011

A Meal of Unexpected Promise

Photos and Article by Elizabeth Miller 

My son does not like going to the farmers market.  No, let me rephrase that.  My son does not like going to the farmers market with me.  I can’t blame him, really.  When I go to the farmers market, I dawdle.  I examine what is offered at each and every stand, and, once I have made my rounds, I double back and revisit each and every stand, silently compiling a meal list in my mind.  But this weekend, in an effort to entice my son to visit the market with me, I promised him it would be different.  I vowed to make this market visit a surgical strike, to know exactly what I wanted to buy, then blaze in, make my preplanned purchases, and get out.

Good Things Are About to Happen

I knew I wanted to do something with zucchini, it being so prevalent this time of the year, and right away I spotted Converging Creeks Farm offering piles of the abundant vegetable.  Eggs were purchased from the happy ladies at Jacobs Creamery, when, just a few feet away, I noticed that the Sun Gold Farms stand had fresh apples.  Apples!  The first of the season!  I had to buy some.  No matter if they weren’t on my list, I’d find something to do with them.  On my way to the register, I gazed upon a basket of huge summer leeks, their aromatic stalks practically begging to come home with me.  I gave in.  Now there were two items in my grocery bag that I hadn’t intended to buy.  Vowing not to let two impulse purchases throw me off my game, I moved along towards the middle of the hub.
Then, at La Terra Vita’s stand, I spotted what seemed like a long lost wish.  Poona Kheera cucumbers, a vegetable I once grew in my garden long, long ago, and have been unable to successfully grow since, were sitting companionably in a basket, their brown skins smooth and earthy.  Before I knew it, I had bought two, and I was in the midst of discussing with the purveyor of the cucumbers my undying love for them, and my difficulty in finding and growing them.  My poor son, his body growing loose with boredom, stood silently beside me.
I broke free, suddenly realizing I now had to craft a meal plan that would make amends for the many purchases not seen on my list.  Additionally, I would also have to make amends with my son.  Being a person who is well practiced in the ancient skill of bribery, it was clear to me that my amends would have to include dessert.
The weather hot and lovely, I set my sights on a simple, summery meal.  Light pancakes of leek and shredded zucchini, topped with a perfectly poached egg, made for a summery meal that was perfect for eating in the garden.  With a handful of fresh mint from our garden, the crisp cucumbers and ever-so-slightly tart apples were transformed into a bracingly fresh sorbet, a treat that serves equally well as both an after-meal dessert or a between course palette reviver.  Scooped into tiny bowls or blended into a smooth slush with a bit of unsweetened apple cider, it is also highly effective as a mea culpa to a small child who may not yet appreciate the farmers market itself, but certainly appreciates all that it brings to his table.

Little White Sorbet

Leek and Zucchini Pancakes with Poached Eggs
I large leek, sliced in half lengthwise, rinsed of dirt, then sliced into thin half moons
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cups shredded zucchini (about two medium to large zucchini)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ teaspoon finely grated or chopped lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil, for cooking pancakes
4 large poached eggs
In a medium pan, melt butter over medium low heat.  Add leeks, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove leeks to a large bowl.
Add grated zucchini to sautéed leeks.  Stir to combine, then add eggs, flour, baking powder, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.  Mix thoroughly to combine.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Scoop 1/3 cup of zucchini mixture into the hot oil, and flatten the mixture into a thin circle.  Cook 2 pancakes at a time.  Cook pancakes for 3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and slightly crisp.  In between each batch of pancakes, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and allow oil to heat up before adding batter.
Serve pancakes topped with poached eggs and freshly ground pepper.
Serves 4
Cucumber, Apple, and Mint Sorbet
1 ¼ cups water, divided
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, crushed slightly in your hands to bruise the leaves and release their oils
2 cups peeled, cored, chopped apple
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped, seeds removed
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine 1 cup of water with sugar.  Stir to dissolve sugar, add mint leaves, and allow mixture to come to a light simmer.  Immediately remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, combine chopped apples and ¼ cup water.  Allow apples and water to come to a simmer, then cover, turn heat to low, and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
When sugar water has cooled, remove half of the mint leaves.  In a blender or in the bowl of a food processor, combine sugar water, cooled apples, cucumber, and squeeze of lemon. Blend or process until smooth, about 40-60 seconds, scraping down the sides of the blender or bowl as needed.  Strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl.
Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions.
Direct from the ice cream maker, this sorbet has a wonderfully soft and slushy consistency.  Left in the freezer for a while, the sorbet hardens quite a bit, so before you plan on scooping it out, allow it to soften by leaving it out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.[slideshow]