Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eating among the Irish

On our trip to Ireland last week we spent two nights in Kinsale, often referred to as Ireland's culinary capital. When I discovered we'd be there for the town's Wednesday farmer's market, I vowed to get there bright and early. (Thinking of how I dislike the full-contact sport that late-morning shopping has become at the North Market and Worthington Farmers' Market. But hey, the crowds are great for the farmers.)

Anyway, turns out the folks in Kinsale are a little more laid back about their start time. We arrived at 9:30am when the market opened, and many of the growers and bakers hadn't even set up their stands yet. Ditto for 10:30 am. (As my husband put it, the 9:30am opening was more of a soft opening.) Things didn't really start hoppin' until 11:00am, when locals in the know showed up with their baskets and pull carts.
Though the vendors didn't have the bounty of produce I'm used to in Michigan and Ohio, I was struck by the number of stands that sold exquisite yet homey-looking baked goods: breads, brownies, scones, muffins and cakes. What I loved about them was that they were all beautifully arranged on cake stands and in baskets, and weren't wrapped tightly in plastic (like you often see in the U.S.) but out in the open air. One of the bakers displayed her framed certificate from the Ballymaloe Cookery School, which unfortunately is closed during the months of August.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

International fare with flair

We just returned from a wonderful, weeklong trip to Ireland. Now that I've recovered from my jet lag, I can share a few things about the food I enjoyed there--and will share photos later this week.

For one thing, in Ireland I rediscovered the value of taking time for breakfast. We stayed at various B&Bs the whole week, and I loved taking a half hour in the morning to sit down at a table and drink tea, eat brown bread spread with butter and jam, and sample some homemade Irish porridge. (At one B&B, when I asked the owner about her porridge recipe, she told me her secret ingredient was Bailey's Irish Cream--no wonder it tasted so good!)

Our breakfasts each day were a far cry from my usual workweek ritual: gulp down coffee from a travel mug in the car while simultaneously driving, eating peanut butter toast, searching for my work ID badge and rooting around for parking garage money.

My post-Ireland, late-summer resolution: Each day, I'll take the time to sit down and eat breakfast, even if it's just 10 minutes at the table.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Stars in the kitchen

I'd never bought fresh okra before, so I was delighted to discover that, when diced in preparation for freezing (which is in preparation for my roomie to make some gumbo this winter) it has the shape of perfect little stars! I bought the okra this weekend at the South Haven Farmers' Market, and the farmer said: "When I picked that I was wondering if it was going to be worth the effort." Sure enough, it was--I bought all he had.

I also bought a half-bushel of peaches this weekend, which I split with my mom, as well as two quarts of the last sweet cherries of the season. Purchasing so much fruit over the weekend has made for busy weeknights--I had big plans for this produce! I turned the peaches into freezer jam--an excellent way to preserve the taste of summer for the rest of the year. My new serrated Zyliss peeler made the usually-arduous peeling task quite easy.

And the cherries--well, I turned those into boozy, brandied cherries, using Melissa Clark's recipe featured in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago. They're absolutely delicious. I only need to macerate them for one more day before spooning them over pound cake or ice cream.