Host a farmers’ market pitch-in to welcome summer

Date: 
06/15/2011
PeaBruch

Fresh pea, mint and Pecorino bruschetta recipe is  below

Here is a simple recipe: find one beautiful summer day and add a local farmers' market. Mix in 6-8 friends. Add a little wine and serve outside. Drew and I love to entertain and we often plan our menus around what is available at the farmers' market. Once or twice a season, however, we invite everyone to meet at the market in the morning for a real pitch-in. With coffee and pastries in hand we wander the grounds and scope out the day's offerings, scooping up the first handfuls of peas or the few pints of raspberries.

Together we sketch a loose menu using what is available and divide up the work. We keep it easy so everyone can feel confident and creative. The resulting menu might have two meat dishes or it might be a grand buffet of vegetables. Spontaneity is part of the fun! With ingredient lists in hand we break into groups and gather the items needed to create our feast.

Market bags in hand, everyone meets at our home and the chopping and cooking begins. Early afternoon we set up some games and offer platters of local cheeses, cured meats and fruits to stave off hunger as we grill, marinate and sauté. Pitchers of lemonade, cucumber water and carafes of naturally low-alcohol Riesling quench thirsts. Late in the afternoon after many games of corn-hole, lawn jarts and cribbage we arrange the finished food on large platters and in rustic bowls for a casual buffet. Drew chooses breezy summer wines and puts a slight chill on the reds. As the summer sun wanes we toast our good fortune and good friends.

We all have friends who don't cook but still enjoy the market scene. Assign wine or flowers to these folks so they can contribute to the feast.

Need some ideas to inspire your market party? Summer squash can become a delicious salad or a savory gratin. New potatoes can be roasted in the coals of the grill, fried up crisp or simmered until rich and creamy. Baby fennel can be shaved into a salad or braised with chardonnay and lemon. A rustic loaf of bread can be sliced and grilled for bruschetta. If there weren't enough yellow tomatoes for the salad you had imagined, pulse the few you bought into a chunky chilled soup with dill and nasturtium leaves. Take the ends of that loaf of bread, cut it into chunks and crisp them with garlic and herbs. Float the chunks on top of your chilled soup. Farm fresh eggs can star as a main dish frittata with grated cheese and herbs. Remember that the dishes will have to go together relatively quickly. Save the long-braising cuts of meats for another meal and choose meats you can marinate and grill.

Here is a simple recipe that takes advantage of early summer peas.

Fresh Pea, Mint and Pecorino Bruschetta

Makes about 1 cup for 6 bruschettas

1 cup                 raw green peas (from 1 pound peas in the pod)

1 small              green onion, trimmed and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon      roughly chopped mint leaves

¼ teaspoon        kosher salt

Several grinds    white pepper

8 tablespoons    fruity olive oil, divided

6 slices             ciabatta or rustic bread (about 3" by 1 ½" by ½" thick)

2 ounce wedge Pecorino cheese, as needed (sub Parmesan)

Fleur de sel, as needed, optional garnish

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade combine the raw peas, green onion, mint, salt and pepper. Process using on/off turns until finely chopped.

With the machine running, add 6 tablespoons of the oil through the feed tube to form a light puree. Scrape down the sides and taste for seasoning. Transfer pea mixture to a bowl and set aside. This can be made up to 1 day ahead; bring to room temperature before using.

Preheat a gas grill or build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill. Brush the ciabatta with the remaining oil and grill until lightly toasted. Let toasts cool slightly and divide the pea mixture among them, mounding it high. With a vegetable peeler shave a few shards of cheese on top of each and sprinkle with a little fleur de sel. Serve immediately.

Variation: Toss the pea mixture with hot penne pasta and shower with grated pecorino for a quick, healthy summer supper.

Later in the season, substitute fresh fava or lima beans.

In your glass: there is something magical about Italian white wine with green vegetables. Try a minerally vermentino or a sparkly Prosecco.

For more information: West Town Tavern

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