After eagerly anticipating it for months, the Saturday finally arrived – the very first Evanston farmer’s market of the year. We woke up early (for a Saturday) to a beautiful day. We got to the market around nine, and it was packed. All of last year’s familiar faces had shown up, as well as some new ones. And of course, we came home with some great loot – dandelion greens, green onions, spinach, a few pounds of Rose Finn fingerling potatoes, fresh garlic, 2 heads of baby Rouge D’Hiver lettuce, and a handful of fresh morel mushrooms. There was so much more to be had though – asparagus, button mushrooms, baby butterhead lettuce, rhubarb, baby leeks, new potatoes (3-4 different varieties), fresh herbs, early Asian greens (I forget the varietal names – a few different ones), plants (vegetables and flowers), last season’s preserves and honey, frozen beef and bison, last season’s cider, and probably quite a few things I’m just forgetting about. It was fantastic to walk around and fill up our bags.
So that Saturday night for dinner, I wanted to make something special. I chose roasted rack of lamb, with the Rose Finn potatoes roasted with rosemary, thyme and a little olive oil. The lamb I roasted in the oven with a mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) and finished with a persillade, which is basically bread crumbs, garlic (I used roasted), parsley and butter mashed into a paste. You spread this paste over the lamb and broil it until it’s just browned and crispy. It’s quite tasty with the lamb. I also made a sauce by adding some beef stock to the mirepoix and simmering it, then straining it and thickening it slightly with a beurre manie (pop quiz – regular readers should know this one! It’s a one-to-one ratio of butter to flour). The lamb and potatoes were fantastic, and we shared of bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon (my favorite American table wine- it’s from Oregon).
That Sunday morning for brunch also had us partaking of more fresh goodness. I made roasted breakfast potatoes with the remaining Rose Finns – just a little shallot, paprika and salt and pepper. And we added some green onion to our scrambled eggs. A few slices of bacon each and it was a brunch fit for royalty. After months removed from the freshness of the earth, those green onions tasted amazing! They tasted green, but with that characteristic onion bite. Fantastic.
I’ll likely make Italian Wedding Soup with the spinach, and we’re looking forward to a few good salads with the greens and onions. And I have to think of something special for the morels – they were $48.00 a pound! Reason enough why we only bought a handful (which came in at $8.00), but I don’t begrudge these foragers the price – morels can’t be cultivated, and it takes a lot of effort and time to scavenge a whole pound of them out in the wild. We’re just lucky to get them – we’re at the tail end of the season here in Illinois. Instead of adding them to a dish (like coq au vin) I’d like to feature them – we used to eat them breaded and fried when I was a kid, and that’s what I’ll likely do with them. That would be a nice accompaniment to a roasted chicken. But I’m still open to ideas, and I’ve got cookbooks aplenty to supply them, so I may come up with something different in the next day or two (we’re having the morels come hell or high water for Tuesday night dinner – $48.00 a pound will not be going bad in the back of refrigerator!).
So, the season of green is upon us once more. I can’t wait to see the changes at the market as the season advances – the addition of new produce, both old standbys and this year’s experiments as well as how the weather and the people change. Spring and summer are always an exciting time.