Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Color Collaborative: September: Market


In the introduction to her 2008 cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, Ina Garten writes about cooking seasonally, explaining how she learned to cook this way when she and her husband began spending part of the year in Paris. There, people visit the markets each morning to buy food for the day, choosing from foods that are in season at that moment. Ina had always dreamed of cooking like a Frenchwoman but she found the reality of food-shopping in Paris to be stressful. She realized that people there had limited options; they could only cook what was in season, and some ingredients that she was used to - pumpkins and cranberries at Thanksgiving time, for example - were not available at all. Over time, she adjusted to the idea that she would have to cook like a French person, going to the market without a plan and buying what was there on a given day. She learned to cook seasonally, making use of what was plentiful, which was also what tasted best.


I've never been to Paris. A lot of what I know about Paris - living there, cooking and eating there - actually comes from reading Ina's cookbooks. (I am a die-hard Ina fan. I've often said that I want to be her when I grow up. If that means an apartment in Paris someday - well, fine. I have to play the part, don't I?) When I read Ina's discussion of shopping in Paris, my illusions were shattered. I, too, had long maintained a fantasy of shopping daily in a bustling city market, a large leather-handled basket over my shoulder with a baguette poking out of the top. I'd be wearing a long, floaty skirt, or maybe a trim top with cigarette pants (I'd be trim in general). The food would be impossibly fresh and I would be spoiled for choice. I'd take it home and cook a gorgeous meal, which we'd eat on our terrace. We'd drink wine and the children would behave beautifully, complimenting me on the fabulous meal I'd served...

Romantic notions, straight from the mind of the woman who just told you she's never been to Paris.

Back to reality. Shopping, cooking and eating, for us, are not quite like that. We're not picky eaters at all, but freshness is important. We eat a lot of produce around here - a good five or six servings per day when you count both fruits and vegetables - and I really like the idea of buying it all fresh every day or two. Even more, I like the idea of having it be easy to find, and affordable. I'm one of those rare people who adores buying groceries, even in a mainstream supermarket. But I don't always think about the seasonal limitations of food shopping. Ina's experiences give me pause; it would be much more difficult to shop entirely based on seasonal availability, but it would help a cook learn to be more creative and resourceful too. I do try to shop, and cook, seasonally - I buy apples in fall and citrus in winter, asparagus in spring and tomatoes in summer. There is room for choice; if I feel like it, I really can have an apple pie in May, or an asparagus tart in September. They won't be the best examples of those foods, though, and that's where seasonal marketing shines.


Though we recognize that shopping locally and seasonally is important, we live in a part of the country that isn't always conducive to bountiful harvests. The chile harvest, for example, is highly dependent on the monsoon season - more rain means more chiles, and an earlier harvest for a longer buying season. In spite of the difficulties of growing produce in the high desert, we have some excellent farming around the state. Here in Albuquerque, we're fortunate to have a wonderful farmer's market during the growing seasons, with early autumn its biggest and best time. The Downtown Grower's Market is open on Saturday mornings and it attracts a big crowd every week. There is live music. There are fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads, pastries, dried meats, eggs and many different kinds of handicrafts. It's fun to browse and try and taste. It's also a good opportunity to ponder local, seasonal produce (more plentiful than many people realize), and learn how to make it a bigger part of our lives.


Chiles feature prominently, of course, along with other types of peppers. You can buy fresh red or green chiles to take home, or have them roasted at the market. You can also find dried-chile ristras, to decorate your home (it's traditional in New Mexican culture to hang one outside your front door as a sign of welcome). Chiles freeze well, especially if you take the time to cook and chop them first. Then, they can be enjoyed all year. You can buy them in the grocery store, often from larger-scale farms, but they always seem to taste better when they come from small farms dotted around New Mexico. Peppers are an important part of autumn here, culturally as well as economically. I think our peppers epitomize local, seasonal harvest.


Pumpkins and root vegetables are having their moment now. Carrots, potatoes, turnips, garlic and onions abound, basic elements for hearty cold-weather stews and soups. Soon, it will be time to stay indoors and eat things that fill you up and keep you warm. These foods travel well and store well, waiting until you're ready to use them. To me, carrots and pumpkins, with their warm, brilliant shades and promising culinary potential, are a seasonal must.


Autumn is the season of golden fruits, flowers and foliage. Our market is full of yellow at this time of year - squashes, gourds, peppers, apples and sunflowers crowd the tables. Yellow is one of the freshest food colors, bringing to mind crispness, juicy bites, sun-warmed flavors. It's easy to imagine building meals around such foods, isn't it? As Ina put it, the food that is plentiful right now is also the food that tastes best. Whether in Paris or in your own hometown, cooking seasonally is smart and delicious.

Do you try to cook and eat locally and/or seasonally? What is in season right now where you live?

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Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below: 

Annie at Annie Cholewa 
Sandra at Cherry Heart 
Sarah at mitenska
 
What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.

30 comments:

  1. I try to use the seasonal vegetables for cooking, but sometimes, I just give in to imported goods... Like asparagus. Both Hubby and I adore asparagus, but it has only a very short season. So middle of winter, it happens (regularly) I buy asparagus (mostly from Peru, don't know why but the out of season asparagus always comes from Peru, all year round !). Of course these asparagus are really not as good as ours (we live in the epicentre of the "real" asparagus), but still, it makes me happy to be able to eat them...
    In our supermarkets you can buy everything all year round. i don't know if that is such a good thing (apart from the asparagus, haha), especially not for local farmers...
    And PS as for Ina - I don't know where she shops in Paris, but in my experience, Paris' supermarkets also have everything all year round... Even the street markets are well provided...

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  2. I try to eat as seasonally as possible and buy as much food locally as I can. There is an abundance of cauliflower around at the moment.

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  3. While I try to shop seasonal and local produce, I sometimes give in to imported produce...like melon in the winter. Now pumpkins and squash are being featured in our area and I am still getting delicious Sun Gold cherry tomatoes from the plant I put in this past Spring. I have enjoyed watching segments of Ina's show, but I have never read any of her cookbooks. From what you have shared about them, I think I would enjoy reading them a well. Your photos are so lovely to view, and your thoughtful narrative fun to read! Thanks for posting, Jennifer xx

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  4. What glorious photos Jennifer, and beautifully arranged together. Fresh produce always looks so tantalising doesn't it. It amazes me how many chillies people get through! Lots of hot food I think. There's so much in season here at the moment. The last of the salads, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and sugar snap peas. Cabbages, leeks, squashes and root vegetables. Courgettes, until the first frosts hit. And fruit - apples, plums, autumn fruiting raspberries, blackberries. It's wonderful, we're absolutely spoilt for choice, it's the best time of year for food. I loved your post, and to hear about the Downtown Growers Market, I do love to visit markets like that. CJ xx

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  5. Wonderful thoughts and photos. Its wonderful the abundance of food that can be found everywhere.

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  6. Some of our produce is only available seasonably, particularly stone fruits which we see for about three months over the Christmas period. When I was growing up all of it was seasonal, and in some ways I preferred that. When strawberries came, they were beautiful and a special treat. Now they are almost always available, often imported from long distances, and not so tasty. Also with apples, they are always on sale, but often have spent months in cold storage, so are poor quality. We sometimes go to farmers markets, once a month in our area. At the moment, we are coming into Spring, and I am looking forward to the nectarines and cherries, coming soon.

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  7. I do love a nice market and your photos are glorious. I love the idea of hanging chillies as a sign of welcome too. Thursdays around here are referred to as 'pig and paper day' - traditionally, the market was held then and the local weekly news came out. No pigs these days but I love to browse the fruit, veg and bread stalls. Here's to shopping locally. xx

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  8. I do love to see such a range of colours on a market stall. I think I learnt more about eating seasonally when I started gardening and growing my own. It does make you think and wonder about the vegetables you see in the supermarket when you haven't even sown the seeds for your own yet, obviously imported. I do think it's good to have choice but I agree that the best tasting examples are those which are in season, that's why I rarely buy tomatoes in winter, they never compare to my home grown ones.

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  9. Such great photos of the food, and yes I love the seasonal food at it's best, but like you enjoy food all year round, but know they are not at their best.
    xx

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  10. What an amazing array of great looking vegetables - isn't seasonal food great!

    Have a lovely Thursday

    All the best Jan

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  11. I love the idea of cooking seasonally. I wish we had more farmers markets around here. The one that has selection is only open once a week, the others are 30 minutes from my home. Your photos are beautiful!

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  12. It's what 'we' used to do before we had fridges and freezers, go shopping each day and buy the food in season xx

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  13. Your photos are gorgeous...love all the brilliant colors of the different foods! And your descriptive writing was something straight out of a magazine. I think I've asked you before...have you ever considered submitting your writing to magazines (this article and photos would be perfect for Mary Jane's Farm!) for publication? Love farmer's markets and being able to choose from all the fresh bounty. Like you, I do cook seasonally, but I also am thankful for the choices we have here if we choose to eat say, asparagus in December.

    PS - I'm also a huge Ina fan! Bonus if I'm watching Barefoot Contessa and Jeffrey makes an appearance. Those two are so cute together. ;-)

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  14. Wow, your colorful photos were a treat for the eye! Was that at your farmer's market? I stopped by a farm store yesterday and brought home all kinds of wonderful locally grown veg and fruit. Love that place. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  15. A mouth-watering post. As much as I enjoy growing my own I could not survive without my twice weekly visits to my wonderful local greengrocer whose shop is in the next village. This week I've bought figs, lemons and red and white onions. A bit paltry I know but it is harvest time at the allotment and I am overflowing with fresh produce. I also love going to farmer's markets and it is possible for me to visit one every week in a different venue fairly close to home. I love choosing in person what to buy, cook and eat and luckily I don't have to use a supermarket home delivery service, which seem to be very common in the UK nowadays. My only problem is bringing it all home on my bike!

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  16. I try to use seasonal vegetables as much as possible, they're cheaper when in season and at their best in terms of flavour. We try to grow a few crops in our garden too, there's nothing like going out to pick or dig up something for dinner. Downtown Growers Market sounds wonderful. Enjoy the rest of the week. Jane xx

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  17. I really love these photo's Jennifer. I am an Ina fan too. I spend my time when watching her on TV straining my eyes to see what is in the background in her dining room etc. her house looks absolutely amazing. I cook reasonably seasonally, eg I avoid buying summer berries in winter etc, being led by taste, budget, and discomfort of buying very obviously out-of-season foods, but I don't get too agitated about it. X

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  18. I enjoy watching Ina's show on the FOOD network but I haven't read any of her cookbooks. You make me want to try to find them Jennifer. I have been to Paris twice but stayed in hotels both times. Although I wandered through the street and local markets because I love markets of all types, I didn't even think to notice if the food was seasonal. Although I loved to visit, I think it would be a very expensive place to live. I have been cooking a lot recently with squash of different types from the garden at the lake. Also sweet corn, tomatoes and green beans from the same place. Yum! Thank you for the beautiful pictures and the reminder to enjoy the simple things in life...like veggies!
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  19. Great post, and I wish our local market had live music!
    I really enjoy eating seasonally; my favourite food writer is Nigel Slater and his Kitchen Diaries are based on seasonal food. In fact he's inspired me to try using pumpkin - the photos of curries and soups look so tempting.
    Right now we have root vegetables, plums, damsons. Autumn's harvest time and also a good time for hedgerow produce (nuts, berries)...
    I watch Ina Garten on TV but rather than Paris, it just makes me want to live in the Hamptons!
    Sarah.

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  20. Gorgeous photos Jennifer! Yes, we do try to eat seasonally and locally, it is really important to us. We do our best throughout the summer to put by as much local seasonal food as we can to enjoy throughout the winter, and work each year to reduce the amount of food we eat our of season. I am not sure that we will ever get to a 100% seasonal diet, it is hard up in the north where we have snow on the ground for a good 4 or 5 months of the year, but we have fun trying.

    We have a year round market here on Saturday's, with farmers selling their stored root vegetables throughout the winter, and fresh greens from the greenhouse. We also have a local greenhouse that grows and sells cucumber and tomatoes all year long...not bad. The one thing we miss the most is fresh fruit in the winter. We do freeze and can fruit, but there is nothing like fresh fruit.

    We have pretty much the same things in season right now...root veggies, apples, peach season is winding down, some farms still have strawberries, pears, squashes...it's a good time of year.

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  21. I'm thankful to live in an agricultural area so there's loads of csa's to join here and our markets always carry local produce. I would love to eat locally only but that would mean pretty much no fruit during the winter unless it was preserved. If we all did we what we could, though, it would make a world of difference.

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  22. I want to go to your Downtown Growers Market, it sounds amazing! I like to eat seasonally but I'm not obsessive about it. But for me there are definitely autumn / winter dishes like stews, roasts and pies which I don't want in summer. And asparagus risotto will always be a spring dish. X

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  23. Ooh, that looks like my kind of market ... so much wonderful fruit and veg.

    I loved your thoughts on French markets. Great post Jennifer :o)

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  24. Beautiful photos, you are making me hungry. We eat seasonally and a locally as possible. My veg comes from a farm coop, five miles away, delivered to the door. At the moment we are enjoying broccoli, spinach, cabbage and tomatoes. I suspect these are all coming to the end and we will be onto root vegetables soon. I am loving the apples which are in season now and the odd spot of foraging for berries from the hedgerows. It's really interesting to hear about what is grown in different areas around the world and what is in season :)

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  25. Wow, love your colours!!!! ♥♥♥

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  26. That really was a colour collaborative! We eat very seasonally because of the allotment but there is always room to improve! Jo x

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  27. I try to eat locally as much as possible and we do buy things that are in season. You have great photos of these vegetables!! I share your love for Ina, she has been my favorite for so many years and I also like Giada. It is the beginning of Autumn here in North Dakota. The wheat in the fields are being harvested fast.I see many fields already bare. Wishing you a lovely Autumn!

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  28. I loved your beautiful market pictures, such gorgeous produce and stunning colours. I try to use seasonal produce most of the time......this weekend I will be making vegetable soup with locally grown veggies and apple crumble with my daughter's home grown apples. Thank you for a lovely post, Jennifer. Happy weekend.
    Helen xox

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  29. Absolutely gorgeous!!! Lovely colours and freshness.

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  30. oh those colours Jennifer, so gorgeous. I am truly envious of your growers market, our local market is small and despressing........... the most exciting things are imported olives and they look tired and sad......

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