Farmer’s Market dinners

It’s that time of year again!  The farmer’s markets are open here in Virginia.  My Saturday ritual from now until November is to take my dog to the market.  She gets lots of attention and is a delightful companion.  She always manages to find the lady selling the chicken toe dog treats.  Nope, I’m not kidding.  Actual chicken toes, smoked I think.  Gross, but Miss B really loves them.  Anyway, it’s a little early in the Virginia growing season to buy much in the way of vegetables just yet.  Right now there are lettuces, spring onions, a little late broccoli, strawberries and collards.  This is also the time to pick up some tomato, pepper and herb plants.  I picked up 4 tomato plants this week – two to replace some perished seedlings and two more.  I’m up to sixteen tomato plants in eight varieties.  I need to stop.  Of course there’s also wonderful meat, poultry, cheese, bread and pasta.    Admittedly you’ll pay extra for the meat, poultry and cheese, but after you’ve tried products from your local farmers it’s nearly impossible to return to grocery store fare.  So much so in my case that last year I got a chest freezer so I could stock up!  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  This week I picked up collards and strawberries.

All this to say that thus begins the time of year when I start to punt the cookbook in favor of throwing together whatever I got at the market.  I cooked collards yesterday.  If you’ve never cooked collards at home be prepared for two things:  one, you’ll chop forever and feel like you have a mountain of collards and they’ll cook down to nothing and two, the entire house will smell terrible.  You should definitely serve collards to company, but cook them a few days ahead.  Make as many as you can get in your largest pot.  They freeze beautifully.  If you  need some collard cooking guidance I recommend consulting Paula Deen.  Her recipe calls for smoked turkey wings.  That works fine, but if I’m using smoked turkey I use the legs.  There’s more meat on them and I chop the meat and add it to the greens at the end.  My inclination is to use a smoked ham hock though.  It’s a stronger flavor, but it’s what really says home cookin’ to me.  Serve them with cider vinegar.

So tonight’s dinner was grilled pork chops with peach chutney, collard greens and squash sautéed with onions.  I know, those of you who know me are shrieking in horror about the peach chutney on the pork chops given my deep and abiding disgust regarding warm, cooked fruit.  By way of explanation, I serve the chutney cold so that helps.  Also, since chutney is fruit with an acid there’s something about the added vinegar that makes it okay for me.  I canned it last summer from some farmer’s market peaches and peppers.   I’m providing a recipe here.  It’s not the one that I used, but it’s pretty close.  You’ll find that many recipes call for raisins.  Yuck.  I couldn’t possibly eat a cooked raisin so I searched for one without.  Don’t try canning this chutney.  If you want to make a bunch and can it be sure you use a recipe designed for canning.  The acid balance is really important in canning.

Peach Chutney

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 shallots finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh peaches, blanched and diced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Melt butter, add garlic, shallot and jalapeno and sweat for 1 to 2 minutes, add diced peaches. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, add sugar, deglaze with brandy and vinegar and allow to cook on low heat until peaches are soft. Season with salt and pepper.

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