Getting back to tomatoes, the few scallops that I didn’t eat raw after my last run to Shore Catch ended up pan seared and finished in a marinara with sautéed shishito peppers that started with roma tomatoes from Blooming Glen Farm (the last produce stand on the SW end of Headhouse Square farmers market). After the obligatory 3 minute skin pull inducing parboil, I blended the tomatoes. Given my limited supply of potted basil, I added Japanese basil (the shiso) and lemon balm as well. That same garlic oil (from making garlic confit: cloves submerged and cooked in canola on low heat for about 45 minutes) took the marinara over the top and, as with the previously mentioned tomato and scallop dish, was drizzled over a salad of lemon balm, shiso, sweet gherkins, ground cherries, and heirloom grape tomatoes holding chunks of sardine fillets pulled from of a tub of olive oil (Bela Portuguese sardines).
While the gherkins are nice–lightly sweet, with a slight tart sourness, they’re simultaneously reminiscent of tomatoes and cucumbers–the ground cherries have been the find of the summer. Looking like mini tomatillos with their whispy paper shell, they have a tartness and a lactic, cheese like flavor.
Ground cherries and gherkins abound at the Rittenhouse farmers market stand of Z Food Farm, where I’ve also been getting garlic, beautiful, flavor rich cippolini onions, shishito peppers, baby eggplant and their array of nutty, summer resplendent squashes.
With Dizengoff’s hummus option that features an island of baby eggplant and pureed baby eggplant in mind, I sauteed up onions, garlic, squash, and eggplant for about 30-40 minutes on low heat (long enough to get the eggplant nice and mushy). I put most of the squash aside along with a sampling of everything else. The rest I pureed with a mix of the same herbs I’ve been adding to everything, their flavor, along with half of a scorchingly hot sauteed scotch bonnet, carried nicely through each bit I scooped up with chunks of a baguette from Wildflour Bakery (also from Rittenhouse farmers market; at Headhouse on Sundays) with chunks of squash, eggplant, and onion adding direct flavor.
The autumnal equinox (the 22nd) just passed and at least two days in the last week were cold, rainy and fit more for late October. On top of that, I was told by the people from Neighborhood Foods that their shiso had gone to seed. But the warmth of summer–it’s 82 and sunny as I type this today with the week ahead holding weather in the 70’s–and the warmth of summer foods will stay with us yet. As evidence, I found more ground cherries, gherkins, tomatoes, tomatillos, and even sweet corn at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market earlier in the day (Update: Not surprisingly, the same was available at Headhouse Square on Sunday).
After another scallop run–this one only aided by lemon balm–I found out I wasn’t the only one holding on.
Center City Debra told me how she washes and carefully dries big boys, beef steaks, and yellow tomatoes ahead of wrapping them like presents in newspaper. In paper bags they sit in a dry, cool, dark closet off from the kitchen, these remnants from her shore house garden, her family’s shore house summer. She checks them at least once a week. Occasionally, one or two have to get tossed, and of course there are the ones that get snacked on here and there. But many she says, make it to late December, to be unwrapped on Christmas morning.
“The flavor isn’t as bold as they were in summer, but they’re better than anything you can get in the store. Everyone is happy just to have a tomato with salt and olive oil–I don’t want to mess them up,” she says.
Many happy returns to you all.