Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gettin' Fresh at the Farmer's Market

I am a produce pervert.

"Um, I just think your vegetables are really....pretty." Totally. Awkward.

This to the farmer with the constipated expression as I snap photos of his dirt flecked potatoes and adorably tiny Brussels sprouts. (Sidenote: did you all know it was Brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts? I, for one, had no idea! Thanks spell check!)

Gosh darn it, I love the farmer's market. I mean, I really really love it. Like, I wanna marry it! Even if I don't buy a thing, I get actual tingles just admiring the chubby little misshaped carrots and careful stacks of vivid green leeks.

Even on a chilly winter's day (just like today!) the Ballard market is overflowing with local produce; the newborn root vegetables exposed to the Seattle sunlight for the very first time. There is amazing cheese (I'd caucus for Estrella Creamery and it's swoon-worthy, pungent, oozy, washed rind creations). There are local oysters and seed studded baguettes perfect for a sword fight or a hot butter bath. And the best way to warm up: cozy grilled-to-order quesadillas packed with fresh market vegetables and melty, white cheese. This rustic snack is like taking a big bite of the market itself. Wow. That might be the cheesiest line I've ever written. You see?? That's what the market does to me!

Feeling light, happy and inspired, I hightailed my bag of veg home to make a big pot of my newfound favorite soup: Chickpea and Leek. It's super (or should I say souper? Oh idiotic puns. Sigh.) simple, but remarkably tasty. Aka I can eat it for a few days without getting sick of it. It's a Jamie Oliver recipe, and satisfies both creamy and chunky soup cravings.

To Get the Job Done:

-12 oz can of chick peas (garbanzo beans)
-1 medium white/yellow potato (peeled and diced)
-5 medium leeks (sliced. discard tips)
-2 cloves chopped garlic
-3 cups chicken or veggie broth (I do half and half)
-a knob of butter (oh, those lispy British cooks and their whimsical kitchen slang)
-a tablespoon olive oil
-salt and pepper
-Parmesan cheese for garnish (Really intensifies the tasty factor. Get a fresh chunk for grating)

The Job:

-Warm a soup pot, then add the butter and oil. Let it melt.

-Add leeks, garlic, and a few shakes of salt. Sweat gently. Not you, the food. (Read: This be the hee-larious instructions from my pal Carrie, who bequeathed me the recipe. I love the word bequeath. Just be careful not to stutter and morph the "th" into an "f." Happened to me once and...oh, Jesus. I completely digress)

-Stir in chick peas and potatoes - cook 1 minute.

-Add 2 cups of stock. Simmer for 15 minutes (I do lid-on to cook potatoes through)

-Now, bust out a blender or food processor or hand mixer. Ladle in some of the soup and blend. You can do as much or little as you like. I blend about half. This makes for a creamy consistency, but leaves lots of the chunks that make the soup so satisfying.

-Add the blended bit back to the pot and add remaining cup of broth. Let simmer for another 15 minutes uncovered (or longer -- it's an unfussy recipe), taste and season with salt and pepper - and serve! You will need to add salt.

I like to peel big curls of Parmesan off the hunk -- and sprinkle on top of each bowl of soup.

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