Finally–Durham Farmers’ Market

It’s embarrassing to start two blog posts in a row with the phrase, “It’s a little embarassing . . .” So be it.

It’s a little embarrassing to have lived in Durham for over two years and never to have visited the Farmers’ Market. My early complaints about store produce were always met with tching from friends, who would scold, “You just need to go to the Farmers’ Market!” But their admonitions were also laden with various qualifications, “It’s small.” “You need to go early.” “It’s only on Saturday.”

Such comments had led me to expect a dozen or so ragtag booths, populated by earnest, tie-dye clad organic farmers, each with three or four tomatoes and some salad greens on display, all of which would have disappeared by 9:00 a.m. Why would I drag myself out of bed on the only day of the week I can truly sleep in for that?

Yesterday morning, though, I found myself in unusual circumstances. First, I was Fredless, since he was working a 24-hour shift at the hospital where he serves as a chaplain. Second, I was awake and about by 9:00. It was a gorgeous morning and I had nothing to lose, so I figured I’d stop by the Farmers’ Market and see what it had to offer.

Quite a bit, it turns out. First, there were these tiny heirloom tomatoes from Bluebird Meadow Farms. The orange ones could well be the sweetest, most perfect little tomatoes I have ever eaten.

I ate about half of them plain, then put the rest in this salad of olive oil with a dusting of sea salt. It turns out that plain was best–they were simply so perfect that the extra flavoring was wasted.

There were also these baby eggplant, though I can’t remember where they came from. They are coated in kosher salt, waiting to be broiled with olive oil and pepper as I type this.

Best of all, however, was this:

These are goat’s kidneys, from Meadow Lane Beef farm. Neither Fred nor I have ever tried kidneys, but they are soaking in milk and will be cooked for supper tonight. They are supposed to be quite tender and delicious. I will post results.
Durham Farmers’ Market, I am sorry I ever doubted you. I will be back!

Grilling Myself

It’s a little embarrassing to have been cooking as long as I have and to have such a poor command of the grill. Frankly, I’ve always been bewildered by cooks who say they love the grill because it’s so easy and cleanup is a snap. These must be people who also enjoy pounding their laundry clean over rocks in a river, or mucking out the barns of their cattle, or perhaps mowing the lawn with a pair of hand shears.

My experiences with our new grill over the last few weeks have typically gone something like this:

1) Crumple newspaper and stuff into bottom of chimney starter.

2) Set starter on bottom rack of grill and add charcoal. Forget that black dust has adhered to fingers. Wipe fingers on white shorts.

3) Light newspaper. Wait in hopeful but futile anticipation for flames to erupt. Cough and wave hands in front of face when seemingly non-existent wind somehow manages to blow smoke into eyes. Light another corner of newspaper. Get more smoke in eyes. Note flames beginning to erupt.

4) Run back up stairs into kitchen. Salt and pepper meat or fish as the grill heats up. Glance out door to check on fire. Note that there is plenty of smoke but no sign of fire.

5) Continue with meal preparation. Check fire again. When there is still no sign of fire, run downstairs to stare at smoking starter in hopes that flames shooting from eyes will cause charcoal to burn at last.

6) Repeat steps 4 & 5 several times until flames actually erupt.

7) Wait what seems a reasonable amount of time for charcoal to catch fire. Turn starter over onto grill and try not to catch self on fire as flames unexpectedly shoot from all corners of the starter.

8) Watch as fire either slowly dies or continues to rage uncontrollably. Futilely move various levers and knobs on grill. Run upstairs to collect various items you have forgotten (tongs, mitt, shot of bourbon). Eventually, toss food onto roaring flames, where it will char on the outside and remain nearly raw on the inside, or set onto icy rack over barely flickering embers, where it will lie inertly until you give up, take it inside, and cook it on the stove.

Still, we remain hopeful. Even the very poorly prepared swordfish and salmon I’ve produced has beated pan-seared and baked versions for taste and tenderness. If I ever get this grilling thing right, I’ll report results.

Grilling tips, anyone?