Yesterday I came home to the new Bon Appetit. It feels strange to read this magazine again; unlike Gourmet, which I have been reading since 1992 or thereabouts, I have not read Bon Appetit since the early 90's, until I was at a friend's house last month and flipped through several issues stacked on her living room table. It was very different from what I remember, the layout and content and photographs. Styles change. Trends change. There aren't columns with amusing anecdotes of life as someone who loves food; gone was the little interview with some celebrity about their eating and cooking habits on the last page. But I flipped through the pages and saw restaurants and recipes I wanted to try, little knick-knacks I would love to purchase for my table (and an extravagant canvas-and-suede picnic tote for two with a set of ceramic dishes). One recipe in particular caught my eye - shortcakes filled with peaches and a ginger cream - but all this comes later.
I had a dish firmly in mind - the trofie pasta I had purchased last week at the market, tossed with kale and bacon. But it could wait. It was still early. I drank my ginger ale with Campari and settled in to read the rest of my magazine. An article caught my eye - the interview with Peter Hoffman (the chef-owner of Savoy and Back Forty in New York City), long an advocate of farmer's markets, he was instrumental in establishing New York's greenmarkets and is frequently seen at the most famous of them all, the Union Square Greenmarket (which I remember from Laurie Colwin's essays nearly twenty years ago). His tips - taste as you go, and do a walk-through before you start buying to compare prices and quality and availability - aren't anything new to me, since I already do those things - but he strikes at the heart of why we should shop there. Buying from local farmers is about getting off the grid...Money stays local, our outlying regions can remain agriculturally productive, and the landscape is preserved. And in response to what is probably the number-one reason why most people don't shop at the farmer's market, the cost, he has this to say: Get with it. That is the real cost of food. Vote with your fork and your belly, and support the opportunity to buy directly from farmers and eat better food by buying from them.
I have been shopping and cooking and eating mostly off the grid for the past three or four weeks, as much as I possibly can. As much as I can afford to. I think of how lucky I am that I can do this, that I can leave work at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon (since I get there around 7:00 am) and head to the market and load my bags with fruits and vegetables and meat and drive home sneaking a few berries here and there. The market is located in the parking lot of a Grocery Outlet, and the irony is not lost on me. But the doorbell rings, and C. is here. Time to cook dinner. It takes very little time to strip the stems from a bunch of kale and slice the leaves, chop a small onion, mince a handful of parsley, dice several slices of bacon. A pot of water is set to boil as the bacon cooks away. C. has brought some bread, and I mix together some butter and garlic (grated on the Microplane into almost a paste) and a little parsley, soften it in the microwave, and spread it across the bread, sprinkling on some grated grana padano before sticking it in the toaster oven to bake.
After the bacon bits have cooked up they go into a bowl, and a little olive oil is added to the pan. The onions are next, sautéed until translucent, and then the kale, which wilts gently in the heat. I add chicken broth, let it cook down. The water has come to a boil; in goes the trofie pasta, which floats to the top as it cooks. Everything is tossed together with the fresh parsley and more cheese and dinner is ready, deep bowls of pasta, a dish of hot garlic bread, dripping with butter. We lay back on the sofa and recover for a while before I abandon C. to my stash of magazines and head back to clean up the kitchen and make dessert. I pull together a variation on the peach-and-ginger-cream shortcakes from Bon Appetit - I will use blueberries instead of peaches, and I have no crystallized ginger on hand. It will just be the ginger-ale-infused shortcakes filled with blueberries and whipped cream, lightly sweetened and touched with vanilla. And they are perfect, warm and crusty against the cool softness of whipped cream and sweet berries.