Union Square Greenmarket

At the Market This Week: Desperado Chefs and Salade Niçoise Royale

MY FRIDAY MORNING RITUAL is to visit my neighborhood farmers’ market on West 97th Street, often with one friend or another who lives nearby. Today—because it was pouring rain of course—I decided to switch things up a bit and make the trek down to Union Square Greenmarket. I have to say the sights just made me feel like singin’ in the rain.
 
 
 
 
I was early enough to bump into (be run over by) chefs foraging for the day’s ingredients. You can learn a lot from how they eye the produce and then hone in on, say, the romano beans and buy four big bags of them. Plus perfect bunches of dandelion greens. You look at what they choose and see that, yes, it is at its peak of perfection that day, at that farm stand. (And as Mario Batali once pointed out—in encouraging people on all sorts of budgets to shop at farmers’ markets—when you buy a particular crop at its season’s peak, it’ll also be at its cheapest.)
 
 
One hyperfocused chef/cook (maybe he was running late and worried he’d miss out on a crucial ingredient) rushed into the Migliorelli Farm stand and said, “I want all your Tuscan kale, all of it. I’ll take all you have.” Now this is not a small farm stand, so that’s a big load of kale! Tuscan kale soup? Sautéed Tuscan kale? Maybe the menu will reveal all.
 
 
As usual, I bought enough beans and tomatoes and potatoes and greens to feed an army and give me a good upper body workout at the same time. With a lovely piece of Yellowfin Tuna from Mermaid’s Garden in my fridge, I have all the makings of a Salade Niçoise Royale, as Nancy Harmon Jenkins refers to the new-fangled version of this dish that includes tuna. In The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, she reminds us that traditionalists don’t include tuna, or even potatoes. I guess in this case I’m not a traditionalist.
 
 
On the way home, I stopped by Eataly to refuel with a latte and apricot croissant. It was just after opening hour and the place was amazingly calm. I relaxed for a while and then strolled through the store, spotting the frisée (above) I needed and hadn’t found at the market. That will be for a salad with golden beets. But more about that another day.  

RECIPE: Spring Market Dinner

 
LATE IN THE AFTERNOON on the last day of winter, there were definite signs that the season was changing. The 70º temperature was an obvious hint.
 
And the blossoms everywhere. Down at Union Square Greenmarket, bunches of pussy willows and forsythia were for sale.
 
 
And even at 4 o’clock, I found enough fresh greens for a spring market supper—or two.
 
 
Kale of all sorts...
 
 
And collard...
 
 
 
ONE VENDOR WAS GIVING OUT tastings of baby bok choy sautéed in garlic butter. I knew I had asparagus at home already. That inspired the idea of a simple pasta and sautéed greens for a Meatless Monday dinner. Perfect for a lazy Mediterraneanista.
 
 
After removing the tough bottoms of the asparagus, I chopped the stems in three-inch pieces. I blanched the stems first for 3 minutes, then added the tips for another 2, for a total of 5 minutes. I chopped the bok choy stems in thirds, pretty little yellow flowers and all.
 
 
RECIPE: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 minced garlic cloves for about a minute (don’t brown). Add asparagus and bok choy, a good pinch of salt, black pepper, and sauté until bok choy is tender. Serve over pasta—I used pennette— with another drizzle of oil. Top with coarse fresh bread crumbs that have been toasted golden brown in a skillet with a little olive oil. Add grated parmesan to the plate if you like. (I do.)
 
 
A half pound of pasta, a pound of asparagus and a bunch of bok choy made enough for dinner for two with leftovers for a couple of lunches. All for about $7 or $8. Farm to table rocks! 
 
Next up: something with swiss chard. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share? The bunches I brought home are pretty enough to be a bouquet.
 

At the Market This Week

JUST LIKE HAVING KIDS makes you feel the years pass in a particularly poignant way, so do weekly visits to the farmers’ market. I was feeling downright sad last week as the tomatoes dwindled and I had to face it, summer was over. But this Saturday, a visit to Union Square Greenmarket reminded me that fall has its pleasures, too. Not only did I find a few pounds of nice end-of-season San Marzano plum tomatoes at Cherry Lane Farms, but the whole market was a riot of color and productiveness. Peppers sweet and hot, winter squash, glorious specimens of savoy cabbage, carrots, beets, kale and collard greens, broccoli. It was hard to know where to start—or stop. 

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