Monday, November 06, 2006

Local Eats Make for Cool Summer Treats

Cooler? Check. Large tote bag? Check. A variety of small, unmarked bills? Dave, my husband, raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I've got the cash, now let's go!"

Just another typical Saturday morning in our household, as we made our way to the Williamsburg Farmer's Market. Unlike traditional supermarket trips, shopping local has a vibrancy about it, a sense of excitement and purpose.

Stop number one was Annie Thompson's Fine Vegetarian Foods. A tasty black bean quesadilla proved the perfect fuel as we wandered down the cobblestone streets. Live music, courtesy of a quartet of energetic fiddlers, bounced around the booths, while a team of jugglers spontaneously performed with fresh produce.

Our rough plan for dinner was 'something chicken', but the farmer had already sold out. After nibbling on some chevre at Goats'R'Us, we came across Buster's Seafood, a new booth featuring fresh steamed crabs. Now, that sounded like something I could get into. While Dave took care of the crabs, I moseyed on over to Zamora's produce for some delicate-looking corn, fat tomatoes and smooth, lean cucumbers. We had just enough money left for a pint of Maree's Marvelous Blueberries, thankfully, and headed on home.

One of the best things about eating local is that the goods are fresh and flavorful, requiring only a subtle touch of seasoning for real satisfaction. To complement the steamed crabs, Dave made a quick chopped salad of tomatoes and cucumbers in apple cider vinegar. A pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, it then went into the fridge to cool off.

The oppressive heat left me with one obvious choice for the berries: blueberry ice cream. The recipe was utter simplicity, fresh sweet berries, a little sugar, some lemon juice, and a turn in the ice cream maker. There was enough time to let it firm up for a few hours before guests arrived.
We sat down to a newspaper-covered table, heaped high with fat, ruddy crabs. A judicious sprinkling of Old Bay Seasoning perfectly enhanced the delicious meat, while a pat of butter was the ideal topping for the sweet, young corn. Between that and the chopped salad, we almost eschewed dessert, but hey- you've got to eat it while it's fresh, right?

Get out there, folks, and support the local farmers, cheese-makers, and growers who are hard at work on Virginian soil. Not only will you be rewarded by eating seasonal, organic and sustainable goods, you'll be supporting the locals who haven't given in to 'big business'. Dave offered his thanks to the woman who handed over the crabs, saying, "You just made my dinner tonight!" She responded with a smile, "...and you just made my electric bill!".

Check out more photos from the market here.

Fresh Blueberry Ice Cream

2 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 pint)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups half and half

Bring blueberries, sugar and salt to boil over medium heat in heavy saucepan, mashing berries (use a fork or potato masher).
Simmer, stirring frequently, for about five minutes, and cool slightly. Stir in lemon juice.
In blender, puree mixture with the cream and half-and-half until smooth.
If desired, strain through sieve to get rid of berry skins.
Chill mixture until cold, then process according to your ice-cream maker's instructions.
Transfer to airtight container and let firm up for 3-4 hours.
Adapted from


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