Felicitous encounters at the farmers' market

This morning my mother, sister and I went to the Minneapolis farmers' market which, according to my sister, beats anything she has happened upon in the Bay Area -- a fact that I find incredible, given what I have heard about San Francisco's food culture.

Nevertheless, we found such bounty today that I am beginning to reconsider my high opinion of New York's Union Square Greenmarket as well. The Hmong, Latino, and Nordic farmers here in Minneapolis are certainly doing something right: they are growing great food, without a lot of the pretentiousness that we find at coastal markets. Food that is worth the extra trip, the difficulties parking, and the hot sun. Food that makes me want to take up canning, and has me wax poetic about the virtues of sharp knives. Yes, that kind of food (vegetables, to be more precise).

Hark the tomatoes and eggplants above, and the blazing squash blossoms to your right. Yes, those buggers, the yellow things in the middle.

Have you ever seen such beauties? I wouldn't have given them a second glance, except that I just came back from a month in Italy, where fiori di zucca are cooked up into the most amazing little fritters you have ever put your mouth around, the kind that you need to eat with a paper towel to keep from getting fried batter all over your fingers. (See image at left).

No, we weren't brave enough to try frying them today. These little guys were destined for greater things: a squash blossom frittata recipe from this month's Bon Appetit magazine. I have the magazine lying around our house, for pleasant reading in spare moments, and our lunch today was a happy coincidence of a) having read only yesterday a series of recipes on squash blossoms in said magazine and b) snatching up the last fresh bundle of fiori di zucca at the farmers' market this morning.

As fate would have it --.

To proceed with the narrative: we brought the squash blossoms home -- only after visiting Erik's Bikes and outfitting my sister's road bike with pedals and clips, a story for another day -- and I practiced my frittata-cooking skills again.

Like soufflés, which I write about in another post, frittatas are wonderfully fast, cheap, and whimsical meals, best for two or three or four or a couple dozen of friends to make and share together on the fly. I learned to make these egg-based dishes in response to a gluten intolerance that has plagued me over the last few years; as a cook, I have found that my dietary limitations often provoke the most startling food discoveries, veritable adventures in culinaria. Hence the soufflé, the frittata, the fish cooked in parchment paper (no breading for me), the sweeter Domincan sweet potato, the fig.

What does squash blossom taste like? Something like zucchini and nasturtiums, with a strong dose of bitterness where the flower meets the stem. Next time, I would remove that part before cooking. Otherwise, the frittata is perfect, especially with a little grana padano sprinkled over the top before it goes into the broiler. We served it with a side of fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil:

It makes me happy to be hungry, to be able to eat such food and take delight in it.


LisaB said...

Love the yummy pics of food. I know how you feel about the farmer's market, but have to disagree about the S.F. Farmers Market. Not the one by the water, but the Alemany farmers market which is crowded and homey, cheaper than CUESA. Goodness how I love fruit and vegetables, it feels so amazing to eat them.

Ai Lu said...

Hi, Lisa:

I'm pleased to stand corrected on the issue of the S.F. farmers' market, of which I know very little. I'll let my sister know that Alemany is the place to be. Apparently she has been shopping at some market near the ferry building -- is this the CUESA that you were referring to? As ignorant as I am on questions of California, I should not have put my foot in my mouth to laud Minneapolis's markets over theirs, when I know nothing whatsoever about the topic.

And now I'll go eat a big piece of humble pie. A la mode.


Ai Lu