Market Friday. dinner for two.
Sometimes, before late fall sets in and washes the city with gray rain blanketed in gloomy clouds, there are a few beautiful sunny days scattered through September. Bright and warm, but not too hot. Today was one of those days, one of those lovely days when we get out of work early and have the late afternoon before us, and we come out into sunshine and the realization that it is market day. The last farmer's market of the season. We pull into the parking lot of the Grocery Outlet (in the window are cases of Shasta soda, which I last drank, surreptitiously, in the school cafeteria as a seventh grader) and are accosted by a clipboard-wielding woman who asks us if we are old enough to vote. This sends me into giggles, as I have been a registered voter for exactly ten years now. (The other night, someone asked me if I was in high school. This is the downside to adult acne, I feel, as well as my daily uniform of jeans, a backpack, and sneakers).
The tables are heaped high with vegetables and fruits of all kinds, although now the carrots and beets are bigger than they were a month ago. Cherries and strawberries and blueberries have been replaced by apples and peaches and blackberries. There are still bundles of chard and kale and heads of escarole and all sorts of lettuces. I buy fat purple carrots and chioggia beets at one place, onions, potatoes, beans, and tomatoes at another, and escarole, shallots, kale, and chard at a third. I buy a small log of chevre, two tiny lemon scones, and a big jalapeño-cheddar scone for breakfast tomorrow. C. finds a bunch of beautiful flowers, but I pass. I buy some lemonade from a very serious, business-like boy who looks about nine years old, who asks us if we want ice and how much, before neatly filling up paper cups and handing them over. Just outside the entrance to the market, I buy one of the baskets that I have been eying all summer. It is made of some pale, clean-smelling grass, with a handle wrapped in leather for comfort. I plan to use it next summer, when the market reopens.
We head home, me with my backpack sprouting beet greens as though they were wings (which C. regards with the same poker face that saw me falling off a balance ball in my building's exercise room a few nights ago). While watching two episodes of Mad Men (season 1) and the presidential debate we eat the lemon scones (incredibly light and airy) and then the cheddar-jalepeño one (so much for breakfast tomorrow) before our hunger can no longer be ignored and I go off to cook dinner. I slice the dark kale and the shallots while the water comes to the boil, find a hunk of guanciale in the fridge (from last week's trip to Salumi) and then slice some of that, too. It is harder and drier than pancetta or bacon, and easier to slice finely. The guanciale goes into the pan, cooked until the fat becomes translucent, although its translucency seems to have a different quality than that of bacon or pancetta. The flavor is different, more intense. I throw in the shallots, and when they are soft I add the chopped kale. As it wilts down I add some chicken stock, made from last week's roasted chicken and onions; it makes a brothy sauce for the orrecchiette that is bubbling away on the stove.
Soon, everything is ready. I scoop the pasta straight into the guanciale-spiked vegetables, toss it all together with a handful of grated grana padano cheese, and divide it between two shallow bowls. I think about how I would do it different next time - chop the kale more finely, cook it longer, add more cheese - but then I start eating and everything else fades away. It is very good, and nothing else matters.