The produce paradox


After a particularly long and harsh winter, spring is bursting onto the scene in the northern part of the US. Along with the rapid greening and pleasant temperatures, produce is beginning to pop up at farmers’ markets across the northland. However, I’ve noticed a paradox concerning the bounty of luscious vegetables and fruits: a scarcity of available time to properly cook and enjoy them. 

Yes, quick salads with locally-grown ingredients can make a lovely meal, but if you are like me, you can only handle so many salads in one week. I yearn to make more complex and sophisticated dishes from the farm-fresh ingredients that appear but for a fleeting moment. The violets that peppered my lawn two weeks ago are but a memory now. Thankfully I found time to candy a few of them and make a violet syrup for cocktails, but this came at the expense of necessary housecleaning and garden tending, and I could only make use of a small percentage of the lovely purple blooms, one of the first harbingers of warm weather. 

Gardens (and houses) require an investment of both money and time. The paradox is that if I want to have a productive and attractive garden, it means I will have little to no time left over for enjoying the literal fruits (and vegetables) of my labor. After working 60 hours per week (two jobs plus a lengthy commute), there is scant time left to make dishes like the gorgeous vegetable tian that is coming in Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Everyday Dorie

Exhausted after a day of hanging garage doors, weeding, planting, staking newly planted trees, laundry, and a host of other small but necessary tasks, I shamefully find myself ordering takeaway or throwing a frozen pizza into the oven. It’s ironic that in the dead of winter I have oodles of time on my hands for baking projects and making complicated dishes, only to be underwhelmed by the produce section at the supermarket. 

I realize that this dilemma is a fortunate one to have and am not complaining (okay, maybe I am just a little bit). My plan is to make the most of the largesse available to me via farmers’ markets and my own garden. To make sure that this summer is not a repeat of previous ones, I have armed myself with a host of books that should keep me from the dreaded drive-thru dinner.

I’m hoping that David Tanis Market CookingSix Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, Onions Etcetera, and The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook will allow me to find easy yet delicious recipes to make use of the summer’s bounty during the times when I’m too tired to innovate. What’s your secret to making the best from summer produce when your schedule is crammed full of activity? 

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