Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fresh From the Farm

I love farmers markets. I love how the fresh produce is haphazardly placed in bushels, on tables, and in crates….none of those perfect pyramids of peppers or gravity-defying walls of grapes so common at certain unnamed grocery stores. I love the colors, the smells, and the energy of the farmers market. In most cases, the produce was picked earlier that morning, the dirt still clinging to the veggies, green tops still attached to carrots and radishes and beets (”oh my!”).
Years ago, while living in New York City, I joined a food co-op, and picked up my share at a neighborhood church twice a month. The pre-packed bags were filled with whatever was in season at the time, and was a great opportunity to try all sorts of new things. It was my first experience with fiddlehead ferns, various leafy greens, and root vegetables I didn’t recognize. I enjoyed trying to figure out what to do with my harvest, and loved tasting everything at the peak of freshness.

We now live in the suburbs, and I joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, which works similarly to the co-op. Each week, the farm brings that week’s harvest to one of our local farmers markets, where I go and choose 6 different types of veggies and one fruit to take home. Then, let the games begin!

My most recent share included long, thin, Japanese style eggplant, summer squash, corn on the cob, heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, carrots, and some gorgeous, plump raspberries. I decided to work on the raspberries first, since they are delicate and don’t last very long. My two little ones gobbled most of them up, but I managed to save a handful for a simple hors d’oeurve. This recipe takes only a matter of minutes to prepare, but never fails to impress (I have to give a shout-out to my friend KD, who gave me this idea).

By slicing off the very top of a mini wheel of brie (try goat’s milk brie if you can find it—it is delicious!), you create a little canvas for some food-art: spread a tablespoon or so of your favorite preserves on the cut surface (I like to use apricot), and use the fresh raspberries to make a little design on top. Pop in the oven to get the cheese all oozy and delicious, and serve with crackers or thinly sliced baguette. It’s a great excuse to have a girls night in!

Baked Brie with Raspberries

Serves 4-6

1 - 4 to 6 oz wheel of brie

1 tablespoon preserves or marmalade (apricot, raspberry, or your favorite)

10-12 whole fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Carefully slice off the thin papery layer on top of the brie, exposing the cheese interior.

Spread preserves over cut side of the brie.

Arrange the raspberries (bottom-side facing up) on the brie, using the preserves as a sort of “glue”.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is softened and warm.

Serve with crackers or thinly sliced baguette.

To find farmers markets and/or CSAs near you, go to

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