Sunday, August 16, 2009

Autumn Approaches

Two sure signs of the pending seasonal switch could be found at the Reading Terminal Market: pears and celery root.

While we tend to think of pears as a fall fruit, some varieties appear in late summer, including Bartlett and all of its varieties. Iovine Brothers Produce had western Bartletts for 99 cents a pound, and there were also quart boxes of small Bartletts at Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce.

The celery root, a.k.a. celeriac, could be found at Fair Food. A single one, with stalk and tops (even though it’s the root that’s desireable) were $2.95 apiece. Also attracting my attention at Fair Food were the Poblano peppers, $5/pound; maybe it’s time for some homemade chile relenos.

But let’s remember it’s still summer. Tomatoes, standard field varieties and heirlooms alike, are plentiful and, despite the Northeast fungus scare, prices seem in line with last year. Apricots are just about gone, but blueberries can still be found (at least this week) and we’re awash in plums, nectarines, peaches, blackberries (though these seem to be priced dearly at $4-$8 a pint), and second crop raspberries. Summer squashes are proliferating, as are eggplants. It’s also the height of lima bean season.

I made peach ice cream earlier this past week, but failed to add enough sugar. When I sprinkled a little granulated sugar on top and mixed it in, however, the strong peach flavor jumped out. But the idea of sprinkling sugar on top of ice cream is just a tad weird. So I bought two pints of blackberries from Livengood’s Saturday ($4/pint) and put them through my Foley food mill at home, then sieved them to make sure I got out all those pesky little seeds (which are fine to eat in fresh berries, but awful in sauces), combined the resulting juice with a very ripe peach I put through the same mill, added about a cup of sugar to a pan and briefly cooked it all until the sugar melted and it came just barely to a boil. After cooling and sitting in the fridge for a few hours the syrup was pleasingly thickened. That peach ice cream was even better with this on top! (I use the Cuisinart model with the insert you pre-freeze; it works quite well so long as you’ve got room in your freezer for the insert. It sells for $50 at Fante’s.)

Back at Iovine’s, New Jerey salad cucumbers were four for a buck. Various eggplants, including the common purple and rounder Sicilians, were two pounds for a buck. Jersey tomatoes were 50 cents, New Jersey and Maryland peaches 99 cents, and white and black seedless grapes (presumably from California) were 99 cents. Local corn was still three ears for a buck, but limes had climbed back to four for a buck. Pepper survey: green bells from New Jersey 99 cents, red bells $1.99, orange and yellows $2.99, but frying peppers were down to 79 cents. If you really wanted to splurge, little boxes with pieces of truffle could be found in a refrigerator case for $399.99/pound; most pieces were marked at $20-$25.

Sardines at Golden Fish were $3.99 whole. They were about four inches long apiece.

I went to Jonathan’s Best looking for Maldon salt (they didn’t have it), but was impressed by their selection of products from Bob’s Red Mill, which distributes all types of flours and grains. Saves a trip to Whole Foods next time I need chick pea (a.k.a. garbanzo beans, ceci) flour.

Joe Nicolosi, son of the proprietor of Tommy DiNic’s, reports he fried up some pancetta the other day and added it to a pork sandwich for himself. He loved it, but at $5/pound wholesale they won’t be adding it to the menu in these recessionary times. Sounds like a good idea to try at home, though. BTW, DiNic’s will prepare large meat platters (including gravy) for your office or home party. Be sure to order in advance, though, especially as the holidays approach.

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