06 June 2011

Two Season Meal

Article and Pictures by Elizabeth Miller

During this time of the year, it is often just as difficult to figure out what to buy at the farmers market as it is to figure out what to wear while braving the indecisive weather one must face while at the farmers market.  The occasional ray of sun that bursts through the sky’s thick cover of clouds may tease you with thoughts of warmer days, but you can still count on steady rain showers to douse your mental pictures of backyard grilling and lazy weekend afternoons spent swinging in a hammock.  Your heart wants to wear a light jacket and short sleeves, but your brain tells you to stick with boots and a raincoat.

My debate about food follows a similar train of thought.  Gloomy weather still encourages me to want to roast and braise things, making hot food that will warm my soggy bones.  The sun, however, makes me instantly crave fresh, light fare that I can eat outside in the sunshine while holding a chilled beverage.  My heart wants to have a picnic, but my brain tells tells me to turn on the oven.  In an effort to satisfy my entire being, I decided that this weekend I would do both.

Stopping off at the Delphina’s Bakery stand, I picked up a crisp baguette.  A few steps later, I was cradling a huge bulb of fennel in my arms from Spring Hill Farm.  The size of the produce I was seeing at the farmers market today ran the gamut from impossibly huge to improbably tiny.  When I picked up an enormous parsnip from DeNoble’s Produce, it positively dwarfed all the bunches of petite beets and carrots I saw spilling off of various tables.  At the Deep Roots Farm stand I grabbed a generously sized bundle of incredibly aromatic basil that, I swear, I could smell from nearly five feet away.  While standing in line, I held the basil to my face and breathed in as deeply as I could.  The air outside was cold and the sun had yet to emerge even briefly from behind the clouds, but in my hands I held the promise of summer.[slideshow]

Roasted Fennel and Parsnips with Lemon Basil Bruschetta

Serves 3-4

Roasted Fennel and Parsnips

1 large parsnip (roughly 12 to 16 ounces), peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick sticks, with the tough inner core removed

1 large bulb of fennel (roughly 8 to 10 ounces) sliced into ½-inch thick ribs

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed or roughly chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place an oven rack on the lower middle shelf.  Combine parsnips, fennel, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper on a large baking sheet.  Toss together until parsnips and fennel are evenly coated with olive oil and seasoning.  Roast in lower third of oven until parsnips and fennel are tender, caramelized, and the edges are browned, 20-25 minutes, turning once, about 15 minutes into the cooking time.  Serve warm.

Lemon Basil Bruschetta

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 French baguette, cut into slices roughly ¾-inch thick

1 large clove of garlic, peeled

In food processor or blender, combine basil, lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Process or blend until ingredients are evenly incorporated and basil is completely chopped, about 20 seconds.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside while you prepare the bread.

Heat a heavy skillet or grill pan over medium heat.  Using the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, lightly brush one side of each slice of bread.  Place each slice of bread, oiled side down, in the hot pan.  When the oiled side is crisp and lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes, remove bread from pan and rub the still-hot, oiled side with the clove of garlic.  Repeat with all remaining slices of bread.

Top each slice of garlicky grilled bread with 1 teaspoon of lemon basil spread.

With her 3rd Contribution to our blog, Elizabeth has been promoted to our contributors page. You can read her bio here.