Good Crop, Bad Crop

Farmer's Market Stew

Have you ever walked through the grocery store or the farmer’s market and seen those people that interrogate their produce? Well admittedly I am one of those people. And for good reason. But there are some practices that I just don’t go for. Like the undressing of each and ever corn…it’s not necessary and it’s a bit selfish. Next time just run your fingers over the husk to feel for missing spots and uniform kernels. Since starting this practice, I haven’t purchased bad corn. Or what about the thumbing of the avocados. This one is harder to avoid because the firmness is a great indication of ripeness but ideally we can make our choice without handling the entire bundle. On the other hand, there is no doubt the best and most rewarding interrogation tactic is the smell test. The smell of fresh, ripe produce is undeniable and unmistakable. And when you follow your nose, inspiration is always just around the corner.

Last night, my trip through the green market left me with a bundle of inspiration. Deliciously vibrant swiss chard, plump bi-color corn, ripe yellow cherry tomatoes, sweet yellow peaches, and a fantastically purple eggplant. Vegetable stew was all I could think of. But I had to be hallucinating, right? Vegetable stew on arguably the most humid day of the summer? I wasn’t so sure how it would work but I was determined to see. I knew that with a bit of thought, these cast of characters could work perfectly together.

The first step to building flavor was to make a rich sauce out of the vibrant yellow tomatoes. Pureeing them with sauteed red onion and garlic, along with some red wine, ensured the boldness of these tomatoes would be the cornerstone of the dish. Layering this background with roasted eggplant, roasted corn, and wilted chard added depth and textural contrast. Finishing the stew with a bit of sour cream cooled off the heat and helped meld the flavors together. Lastly, a few slices of grilled organic chicken breast with a homemade peach glaze added a bit of sweetness to the dish rounding out what was a truly delicious and balanced meal. And despite the sweltering heat and humidity, this stew really hit the spot.

And honestly, the dish was pretty simple. A few more steps by making the tomato sauce and glaze on my own but well worth it. Just goes to prove when you take quality product at the peak of its freshness and let them do the talking, you almost always end up with a delicious meal.  Hard to disagree with enthusiasm like this… “One of the best meals you’ve ever made”.

I’m not the only one in my family taking advantage of this unbelievable season. Check out my sister in-law’s fruit pizza she made the other night. Too bad we didn’t share!

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