The full array of summer’s bounty — corn, tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant, potatoes and beans, to name just a few — is now arriving at Seacoast farmers’ markets. Rachel Forrest, the food editor and columnist for Seacoast Media Group, recently toured the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market with some local chefs as they planned their weekly Market Menu around what they found there:
A few Saturdays ago I went to the Portsmouth farmers market as I usually do, but this time I decided to tag along with the chefs and owner of Pesce Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar — Chefs James Walter and Gillian Roun with owner Cliffe Arrand.
Of course many of our local chefs come to the market to buy fresh produce and meat (not chicken or raw milk because the city bans it. Harrumph), and many of our local chefs use those fresh ingredients in their dishes during the weekend and often throughout the week. At Pesce, each Monday they have a Roman Market Meal where every dish — including an antipasti and insalata bar and a choice of one of three pastas — uses what they found on Saturday.
In general, you can predict what you’ll find at the market based on what is coming up out of the ground. Strawberries were still there and tomatoes from greenhouses are coming in as well. “But first,” says Cliffe, “We have coffee.”
Peas are in.
“Hopefully we’ll do things we didn’t do last week,” say James. “We’ll walk around and get everything then write a list of what we have, have some lunch and write a menu.”
Each week the Market Menu offers an array of dishes to start and guests can choose from the antipasti and insalata bar, going up as many times as they like, followed by a choice of one of three pasta dishes. This week, they pick up 2½ pounds of peas and spy the fava beans over at Touching Earth Farm, knowing that they’ll still be there when they’re done. Not many people know what to do with a fava bean but on Monday, they’ll wind up in a pasta dish, tossed with corkscrewed strozzapretti pasta with some of the four pounds of arugula they pick up, pureed into a tangy pesto with garlic scapes. Sauteed beet greens are tossed in as well.
The trio also tries to buy from as many farmers and suppliers as possible. “The market meal is about supporting local farms and getting the town behind it and not really about the money part of it,” says Cliffe. They get squash from Wake Robin Farm, which becomes a mix of roasted summer squash and zucchini tossed with fresh market dill. Duck eggs from Yellow House farm go into another pasta dish, Spaghetti Carbonara made with bacon from New Roots Farm and their acorn fed pigs, those peas from Meadows Mirth Farm and just a touch of cream and black pepper.