I got to the market at 8 a.m. and, as usual, I wasn’t the first in line. I had barely enough time to contemplate what I wanted to put in my basket, what would compose my menu for the next several days, before it was my turn. I saw tomatoes fresh off the vine, but as the temperatures drop, so does their flavor and my desire for them. There were also fat and shiny eggplant, a raft of yellow and green zucchini, and just enough zucchini blossoms to make one serving of something. I looked at them all the way one looks at a summer dress before folding it up for next year, with nostalgia for a departed season.
Subject to Nostalgia
Perhaps it was nostalgia that had me ask for zucchini and a couple of tomatoes, but what really caught my eye and appetite were the squash. There were fat, round, orange/red potimarron, silky skinned and very small butternut, giant green and orange Cinderella-style pumpkins (Musquée de Provence) which the grower was holding against his chest and doing the dangerous by cutting towards himself to release huge wedges. It’s an art; no blood is ever shed.
Butternut and Potimarron
I chose butternut and potimarron – the Musquée de Provence are, to me, tasteless and watery and I’m always surprised people buy them when the other two are available but, as always, it’s simply a matter of taste and culture. All squash are newcomers to Europe (16th century), and potimarron – what we call Kuri squash – and butternut are newer comers than the musquée de Provence which has been around longer, and thus apparently has seniority with many.
So Much Bounty
Along with the squash I got starchy potatoes – to mash, yum – purple garlic, shallots, and violet-scented mâche, which never ceases to amaze me with its meaty texture and delicate flavor, so perfect with a sprinkle of shallots and a drizzle of olive oil. A handful of freshly harvested shiitake went into my basket, and I also added shell beans, for the minute they are no longer available I will miss them almost as much as farm-ripe tomatoes.
What To Do? Oh, What To Do?
What will I do with all the bounty I carried home? It depends on who will sit at my table, what the temperature outdoors is, what I’m inspired by. For the squash, perhaps I will simply bake and serve them with butter, salt, and pepper. Maybe I will turn them into gratins, roast chunks dusted with cinnamon, star anise, salt, and pepper, braise or purée them, turn them into soup. I’m inclined to take a cue from a cute little restaurant we went to recently, called Petrelle. The two female chefs there sent out a dish of potimarron purée dotted with goat cheese and thick slices of shitake mushroom and surrounded by fennel-infused oil. It was sparkly bright, and I loved it.
Fighting the Inevitable
While I – like others – feel nostalgia for recent summer and its bounty, this is fighting the inevitable, and who needs more of that?!. I am, now, ready to dive into the chill of all that fall and winter bring and I hope you are too.
I know you’ll get inspiration from watching what I’m cooking up in the Dancing Tomato kitchen. And, THERE IS MORE!!! We are launching something new that will inspire you, teach you, help you get the most out of your time in the kitchen.
Stay tuned. You will be the first to know what’s coming up! Until then, please take a look at our Live Cooking with Susan! Up-to-the-minute seasonal, encouraging, filled with knowledge and tips just for you!
Let Me Know…
Meanwhile, Bon Appétit and let me know what’s coming out of the oven and off the stove in your kitchen!