Of course, the culinary benefits are wonderful, too. My family and I get to enjoy the taste and nutrition of fresh summer vegetables and fruits at their absolute peak of ripeness. And since the bounty needs little cooking or gussying up to taste spectacular, my meal preparation tasks are often minimized.
One thing I decided after my initial market visit was to skip writing out a formal grocery list and not to count on buying the same thing purchased on the previous trip. Farmers' market offerings, in contrast to supermarket fare, change from week to week depending on what crops are coming in and out of season. It's really better to just survey the scene and buy what's bountiful and most enticing at the moment.
Last Friday, tomatoes and squash abounded at the market, so I loaded up on them. The "Easter egg" radishes (left side of the pic) looked amazing, so, even though I'm not a big radish fan, I bought a bunch of them. The farmer told me that the eye-catching two-toned squash variety at left was called zepher. As he said, it tasted and cooked much like "plain" yellow squash. The gorgeous sunflowers, shown at the very bottom, were another big market attraction, but I resisted them.
To deal with my huge heirloom tomato purchase, the hubs and I ate tomato sandwiches several days for lunch this week, and I fixed our favorite tomato oregano salad for supper several evenings as well. Both the tomatoes and squash got put to use in the following delectable pasta dish. I've posted it before, but it's so good it's worth repeating.
Summer Pasta-Veggie Skillet
This can be served as a summer side or vegetarian entree. It's tempting still warm, but equally appealing at room temperature or on a hot day, eaten slightly cool. You could add a few cubes of fresh mozzarella, or dust the top with freshly grated Parmesan for a more substantial dish, but honestly, it doesn't really need either of these. In fact, I think the sprightly taste of the summer bounty comes through best when there are no dairy distractions.
What does enhance this mightily is a generous sprinkling of fresh, tender chopped herbs strewn over the top right before serving. The thyme in particular really makes the dish sing, so do be generous with it.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divied
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1-1/4 cups diced mixed red and green sweet peppers
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and minced
2-1/2 cups peeled, cored and very coarsely chopped vine-ripened tomatoes (about 1 1/3 pounds)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves (no stems)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (no stems)
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 cups 3/4-inch cubes zepher squash or mixed zucchini and yellow squash
Scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for garnish
10 ounces cappellini or other long, thin pasta, cooked al dente and drained
Freshly chopped tender herb leaves (no stems), including 1 generous teaspoon fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon oregano, and 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet or saute pan, combine 1 tablespoon oil, the butter, onion, and sweet peppers. Cook, stirring, until onions are beginning to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Raise heat to high, and add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, and black pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring, just until most liquid has evaporated from skillet; be careful not to burn. Lower heat so mixture simmers; stir in squash and salt to taste. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until squash is heated through, but still barelycooked and tender-crisp, about 2 minutes.
Place the pasta in a serving bowl and toss with the remaining olive oil. Spoon the sauce over top, tossing lightly with the pasta. Sprinkle the top with coarse salt, freshly ground pepper and the fresh herbs to taste. Provide a dish of dried hot red pepper flakes at the table, if desired. Makes 4 side-dish servings or 2 main-dish servings.
Other recipes you might like: Tomatoes Oregano Salad
or perhaps my no-canning-required Tomato Chutney.