Smile Politely

Meal from the Market

Last weekend, I set out to the market on a hunt for berries and peaches. I had an itch to make cobbler, and I needed some fruits. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of green veggies — green beans, collard greens, zucchini, garlic scapes — it was really beautiful. 

Having moved to C-U from a place that did not have a robust farmer’s market, I was pretty new, and admittedly resistant, to the idea of waking up early and crossing town to buy produce. Despite my laziness in actually getting to Urbana’s Market at the Square, when I do make it, I’m never disappointed. 

One of the most exciting things about the market is that I’m exposed to items with which I’m not familiar and have no culinary relationship. I’m less willing to purchase a new item at the grocery store: They don’t always look that great; I don’t really know what to look for in an ideal sample.

But I’m totally willing to buy new stuff at the market. Perhaps it’s the living, breathing person standing behind the table, or a wave of silly “market confidence” (I can totally whip that into something delicious!), but I often buy things I’ve never used or tasted. I do think, too, that it is super helpful to have access to a person behind the table who is usually willing and able to answer questions about the product.  If the market is particularly busy (which is often), I’m confident enough in the quality of product to know that it will shine in almost any recipe. Or as long as I don’t smother it in cheese.

I bought a bag of garlic scapes, as I’d never had or used them before and was eager to try. They are a wily bunch of curly stems. They have the consistency of a good green bean — nice and sturdy. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them. I also picked up a ½ peck of peach seconds — the redheaded stepchild of the peach harvest. They’re a little ugly, but they are awesome and would be peeled and sliced, thus perfect for my cobbler needs. Added bonus: they’re a little cheaper than the perfect, prettiest peaches.

When I got home, I did a couple of web searches for garlic scape recipes. I had a couple of friends coming over for dinner who were open to testing out some new food, which worked out nicely because I had a few other palettes to provide appropriate feedback. I opted to make a pesto with the scapes. I did read that some people use finely sliced raw scapes where they’d use scallions, but I tried a finely sliced raw scape piece, and let’s just say I won’t be making that trade any time soon. The scapes are just too pungent and garlicky — a bit harsh — whereas scallions are much, much milder and oniony.

I figured that if the pesto was a bust, there’d be plenty of cobbler to go around. To my surprise, the pesto was a hit! I made a pound of pasta for four adults and there wasn’t anything left at the end of the meal. I served the pasta with a side of tomato and cucumber salad (had to save room for the cobbler!). The pesto was creamy, with just enough crunch from the scapes and almonds to keep it interesting. The scapes were indeed garlicky and vibrant, and paired nicely with the tomato and cucumber salad, which was minimally dressed. The scapes did leave a bit of a garlic-heavy aftertaste in the mouth, so be prepared. The lemon juice and zest, coupled with the fresh parsley, brightened everything up and brought all of the flavors together.

This would be an awesome summer cookout side dish, and I think it would be tasty hot, cold, and at room temperature. Add a little more oil or lemon juice, and it will make a lovely poultry marinade. If you’re a more adventurous type, smear it on some toasted baguette and top with tomato slices. (I had about a half to three quarters cup left over.)

Fair warning: If you’re not into garlic, or are indeed welcoming the vampire apocalypse, you should perhaps try the peach cobbler only. If you’re open to some garlic love in your life, excellent! You’ll be able to ward off the vamps with your hot garlic breath, too.

The peach cobbler? Amazing. I really love this recipe, as it’s nearly foolproof. I use Mark Bittman’s cobbler recipe from How to Cook Everything. It’s super easy and you probably have all the ingredients on hand already. (Quick, go check!)

These market peaches were so juicy; they were ridiculously good and messy. Before you begin, put some extra paper towels within reach. The peaches stole the show — they’re just that good. The cobbler topping is the perfect amount of light fluffiness and crunchy top to properly meld with the softness of the fruit and absorb the sweet juice in the bottom of the bowl. The fruit-to-topping ratio is also appropriate, and you’ll get some fruit and some topping in each bite, I promise. I always doctor the recipe a little to include some cinnamon, and I recommended you do so, too. It just makes the peaches that much more lovely, and warms everything up. Top your cobbler with some Prairie Fruits Farm gelato, and it’s a K.O. (That’s knock out for all you unfamiliar with Mortal Kombat.)

Garlic Scape Pesto
For the garlic scape pesto, I didn’t use a recipe; I just riffed off of my own experiences making traditional pesto. What I’m saying, then, is that I made it up, so feel free to adjust the quantities. You’ll need a food processor for this recipe.

1 lb. pasta – any shape will do. I used penne. Whole wheat would also be super delicious
½ cup of nuts –I used almonds, but walnuts or pine nuts would also be appropriate (and a smoother consistency than almonds)
10 or so garlic scapes
Handful of parsley (about ¼ cup, moderately packed), or more to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese plus more for the table
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon

1. First, put the pot on for pasta. Be generous with your water – pasta likes a lot of breathing room.

2. Toast your nuts. Grab a small frying pan and place on the stove on low heat. Put ½ cup of almonds into the pan — monitor carefully! They will burn if you’re not careful. As soon as you smell them, pull them from the heat and place into a small bowl to stop the cooking. 

3. In the meantime wash the scapes. I also gave the ends a little trim and cut them down into 1–2 inch pieces to make it a little easier on the processor. Mind your fingers — these scapes are curly and will require some attention to avoid chopping off a finger! I used about 8–10 scapes, or a heaping ½ cup. Place these to the side.

4. Place the almonds in the processor and pulse for about 10–15 seconds. You want to avoid large nut chunks, so make sure you pulse until they’re gone. Add your scapes. Pulse for another 10–15 seconds. Here you can decide on the chunkiness of your pesto — if you like it smoother, make sure you pulse until most of the large pieces have been broken down.

5. Is the pasta water at a rolling boil? Add a lot of salt. Yes, really, a lot. This is your only chance to flavor the pasta, so make the water taste like the sea. Add 1 pound of pasta. Stir!

While the pasta is cooking —

6. Return to pesto. Add your Parmesan cheese — ½ cup (or more if you’d like!) — and a handful of Italian flat leaf parsley. Give that a good run-through. Add salt and pepper — remember that the cheese is salty, so taste, taste, taste as you go! I also took the liberty of adding the juice of ½ a lemon and the zest of one lemon. This just brightens up the pesto and brings the flavors together.

7. Turn the processor on and add your olive oil. You’ll probably need about ½ cup or so, but, as always, to your taste. Check again to make sure it’s well seasoned. 

8. Drain your pasta, reserving 1 cup of starchy cooking liquids. Place about ½ of your pesto mixture into your serving bowl. Place the pasta on top. Give it a stir. Add about ¼ cup of cooking liquid to your pesto/pasta combo, stir. Really work that pasta around and cover each piece with the pesto. Add more pesto and water (very little bit at a time) as you see fit.

9. Garnish with a few parsley leaves and/or finely sliced garlic scapes. Serve immediately (with extra cheese on the side, of course).


Peach Cobbler
Try not to eat all of the peaches before you bake the cobbler. No, really. It was quite difficult for me.

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008. (p 883, see Blueberry Cobbler)

4 to 6 cups blueberries or other fruit, washed and well dried, peeled and sliced as necessary
1 cup of sugar, or to taste
8 tablespoons (1 stick), cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus more for the pan
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch Salt
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease a pan — 9×9, 8×8, it really doesn’t matter too much. I used an 11×7 inch Pyrex. 

2. Begin peeling, coring, and cutting your peaches into slices. I find the easiest way to do this is with a paring knife. Carefully peel the skins, mindful to leave as much flesh as possible! Cut into the peach lengthwise once, then do so again at about ½ inch measurements, at a slight angle. If you’ve ever cut a citrus fruit into segments, you’ll know how to roll. If not, check out this video. If you have your own way of peeling and slicing, by all means, go for it. 

3. Drop your peach segments into a decent size bowl, and your peels and pits into a small bowl (your garbage bowl). Once you’re done, add about a ½ cup of sugar (I like brown sugar for this part) to your peaches. I also like to a pinch of cinnamon, sometimes nutmeg, too, and a dash of vanilla. 

4. While the peaches hang out and marinate, put 1 cup of flour, ½ cup of sugar, ½ teaspoon of baking powder, pinch of cinnamon, and pinch of salt into the food processor. Pulse for a few seconds. Get all those dry ingredients mixed up. Take one stick (8 tablespoons) of cold butter, cut into small squares. (I cut in half, lengthwise, cut those two pieces in half lengthwise, and then cut the four pieces widthwise.) Drop your butter pieces into the processor. Pulse for about 10–15 seconds. You want everything to come together, but not form into a ball. 

5. Once you’ve got your buttery flour topping mixed up, plop it into a bowl. Mix in an egg and a teaspoon of vanilla.  It will be a gooey mess, but I promise you, it will be amazing.

6. Pour your peach mixture into your greased pan. Take your wet topping mix and drop onto peaches by the spoonful. The topping drops don’t need to be touching — it will all come together in the oven. If it seems like you have a lot of topping left over, well then you can fill in some of those holes. Or just mush some topping into the peaches. Don’t worry, you can’t mess it up.

7. Put it in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check up on it after 35 minutes. You’ll want to see a nice golden top.

When it’s done, try to give it a few minutes to cool, because it will be very, very hot. It will be tempting, however, to shove it all into your mouth at once, but I promise you that you will better savor the deliciousness without a scorched mouth.

Top with whipped cream or Prairie Fruits Farm gelato, or both. Enjoy!

In full disclosure, I made two batches of this peach cobbler this week because I had enough peaches to do so. For the second cobbler, I used fewer peaches and the same amount of topping. I strongly recommend picking up some blueberries and doing a peach and blueberry cobbler, or a peach and blueberry pie — it’s one of my favorite fruit combinations!

Here are Bittman’s ‘official’ directions:

1. Heat the oven to 375. Toss Fruit with half of the sugar and spread into a lightly greased 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining ½ cup sugar in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process for 10 seconds, until the mixture is well blended. By hand, beat in the egg and vanilla.
3. Drop the mixture onto the fruit by tablespoonfuls; do not spread it out. Bake until golden yellow and just starting to brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately.


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