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Magic, Poetry, and Adventure in Your Local Farmer's Market

by Claiborne Milde Nov 25, 2009
Winter days bring thoughts of long, dreary boredom for many. Find out how professional cook Claiborne Milde finds inspiration to warm her winter nights from her local farmers market.

Every year, I resist autumn. For one thing, I don’t do winter well. I hate the cold, despise being stuck indoors, and dread the daily struggle to don jackets, scarves, hats and gloves. But that’s the least of it.

Fall has always meant endings for me: end of summer. End of sweet, formless days outdoors. End of roaming. During peak tomato time, when berries still hold the sun’s warmth but back-to-school ads are inescapable, I begin to mourn the summer.

Then, A Shift Takes Place

Around the time humidity lifts and light slants a bit lower, fall wins me over with the lovely assortment of foods I find at local markets.

Some may find eating with the seasons stifling, particularly when local produce options seemingly limit the palate. I see it as an adventure. When there is nothing but root vegetables and rugged greens on the horizon, you’re challenged to be creative or else become bored.

No cans this year for pumpkin pie. I scored the perfect cheese pumpkin – resembles the Halloween variety — at a farm stand in Connecticut. I’ll roast it with cinnamon and cardamom and invent my own pie recipe.

A paper bag full of quinces from a Connecticut orchard perfumes the kitchen with their lemony-floral scent; they’re awaiting their appearance in a lamb tagine with saffron and ginger, recipe courtesy of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Fruits cookbook. If I have any leftovers, I’ll poach them with honey produced on a rooftop up the street.

Crazy, extra-terrestrial kohlrabi used to befuddle me. Now I love it julienned and dressed raw, with apples.

Finding Inspiration In the Flawed Hold Outs From the Past Season

Tomatoes that didn’t grow well and will never ripen make a mean green pickle or fried green tomato. Frost-blemished peppers blister sweetly over a flame, and summer arugula turns feisty and red-veined after a couple of cold nights. Both perfect for winter salads.

Winter Spices Warm Your Home

Roasted root vegetables or winter squashes practically beg for spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and even vanilla bean, too often overlooked in summer. These fall dishes require longer cooking which means you must stay indoors as these wintry aromatics fill the air.

By the time winter arrives in a few weeks, I won’t be so afraid of the frigid months to come. Instead, I’ll find comfort in the magic of a parsnip and a stalk of Brussels sprouts, as they take the frost and the weakening light and transform them into something delicious.


What are your favorite winter recipes and farmers markets? Share your tips and ideas in comments.

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