Friday, June 03, 2005

Market Follow-Up
The Season's First Bitter (Big) Salad

Salt, sweet, sour, bitter. Eaters tend to rejoice with foods full of the first three basic flavors. Yet, how many diners do you see, pushing themselves back from the table, satisfyingly wiping their lips and say, "boy that was bitter." I mean, how many people just winced at the word bitter? Do not fear bitter. Two of the best things to consume are dominated by bitter flavors: chocolate and coffee. And lettuce, dressing tends to tame lettuce's bitterness, but underneath that dressing is some pretty bitter stuff. At Green City Market the other day, we picked up a bunch of mixed seasonal lettuces from Growing Power, the farm located in the midst of the city of Milwaukee. I was a bit skeptical of this lettuce because Growing Power had a lot of hothouse tomatoes. They insisted though, that the lettuce came from the ground. I believe them now.

This was lettuce to tame your fear of bitterness. And of course, high advertisement for farmer's markets. I made my first big salad of the year. I love big salads. I take a bunch of items found in the kitchen, typically farmer's market produce and leftover meats, then chop it as well as my poor knife skills allow. I confess that what I love most about the big salad is just shoving all the minced stuff in my mouth like a squirrel and enjoying the way it interacts. In fact, I do not think I could eat a big salad in the company of others because the puffed out cheeks would be so impolite. OK, I am getting off subject. This big salad featured leftover pollo rostizado from Carnercia Jimenez (not the best I've had from them, too salty); Costco miracle bacon (i.e., their pre-cooked bacon that lasts for 8 months and is really, really good); Caputo's roasted red peppers, the Condiment Queen's famous tapenade (so good the chowhounditas demand it for breakfast, with goat cheese, at least once a week); and some crumbled blue cheese, with mustard vinaigrette. Oh, and that Growing Power Lettuce, at the end of the day, with all those things faded into the background. I mostly tasted the lettuce, a deliciously bitter lettuce. I finished that big salad, pushed myself away from the table, wiped my lips, smiled to no one, and said, boy was that bitter.

Additional follow up: We made the Wilmont Milling polenta last night. It took a long time, much longer than promised, but at the end of the day it was worth the wait (if you like your polenta heavy, intense and tasting like corn.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Chicago's Green City Farmer's Market
Always Gettin' Better

We missed the first couple of weeks of Chicago's Green City Market, but it took only one visit to convince me that it is better than ever. From its start, Green City has included vendors selling produce both organic and unique. That makes it a very good farmer's market. Yet, it did not stop there. Over the last few years, Green City has added several vendors offering local, organic meats such as Piedmontese style beef. And we are not talking a few chickens and a bunch of eggs. One could get bratwurst made from Illinois pork, bacon, parts including liver and kidneys, heritage turkeys, etc. More, more, more. A couple of years ago, Traderspoint, an organic dairy based in Indiana began offering their freakishly good milk and yogurt. How could they top it in 2005?

How 'bout stone ground organic grains from a water-run mill? 2005's Green City Market now has an array of products from Wilmont Milling Company (est 1840!). Grits made from white popcorn, polenta from yellow corn, even a grind made from Indian corn (also oatmeal, bread flour, rye, etc.). I found, that at $8 for 24 ounces, it was not a bad deal at all. I have yet to make it, but it looks great (and I doubt I will ever do a direct taste test with some of the mail order stone ground grits guys out there). Still, it adds to the completeness of the Green City Market.

Of course, I like my Oak Park market the best (which this year will include meat and eggs), but I like it for reasons not just food. I am most impressed with Green City.

NB: Wilmont Milling will only be at the market on Wednesdays. On Saturdays, they will be at the Indianapolis market.