Friday, July 11, 2008

Market Friday.

I got to the market earlier than usual today, and as always the wide path between the two rows of stalls is teeming with shoppers. There are couples and harried mothers hauling small children and serious looking middle-aged people in sensible shoes, all armed with canvas shopping bags and small bills. It is a smaller market, not as sprawling as the Ballard one that seems to go on for blocks on Sundays; it only takes me a few minutes to walk from one end to another, surveying the different farms displaying their wares, tables piled high with baskets of vegetables, flats of berries, plates of pastries, packages of fresh pastas of all kinds, deep freezers filled with meats and seafoods, buckets of flowers. I compare the price of strawberries from different places; the cheapest ones are the smallest ones, so I get the bigger ones that are deep red and intensely fragrant, even though they cost a little more. But all that comes later.

First I buy vegetables from the same farm where I bought those crisp fat sugar snaps last time - potatoes, onions, zucchini, green beans. Then I buy two pounds of Rainier cherries, wander over to another produce stall and gather an armload of more vegetables - dark kale, feathery-topped carrots tied in a neat bundle (much bigger than the tiny baby ones I bought last time), a frothing bulb of fennel, some golden beets with their greens still attached. I pick up the chicken I ordered some weeks ago, wrapped neatly in paper, and sausages. I need rhubarb for my latest ice-cream experiment, and strawberries, and eggs, and I have just enough money left for a cannoli, the crisp golden shell filled with ricotta cream and topped with a maraschino cherry at each end. I love maraschino cherries, but everyone else I know hates them. The eggs are the last thing I buy, and I have to eke out my change with five pennies, but it was all worth it, I hope.

As soon as I get home I eat my cannoli, and it is very good, but my mind is on the rhubarb ice cream. Even before I put away my vegetables I have the two stalks of rhubarb washed and roughly chopped. There wasn't quite enough rhubarb - I need a pound - so I threw in some strawberries, and processed the fruit with some sugar and a splash of vanilla. All the recipes I looked at (although I didn't quite follow any of them precisely) called for lemon juice, which I don't have, so I slosh in some balsamic vinegar, thinking of how well balsamic goes with strawberries; just a touch of it will deepen the flavors. The pureed fruit cooks down over low heat; it softens and cooks into a thick sauce, a clear deep red. I pour some milk and cream into a bowl, and stir in the fruit purée. The white cream and red fruit are almost shocking in contrast to each other, swirling together until it comes together into a vast pinkness. I taste some, and then taste some more, but it has to cool before I can put it in the ice cream maker, so I put it in the fridge and eat a handful of the Rainier cherries that I had bought earlier.

An hour later, it is only a moment's work to pour the ice cream mixture into the machine and walk away. Half an hour later it has thickened into soft ice cream. I taste a little - it is sweet and a little tangy with little bits of soft rhubarb sprinkled throughout, and a gorgeous soft pink - and scoop some into a bowl. I eat my ice cream with a the fresh blackberries from the market, and it is summer in each bite. Next: strawberry ice cream.

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