Divine Dining: Farmer’s Market provides items for a feast

Apr. 17, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

If Heaven is a farmer’s market (which we have no reason to doubt this), I believe it will look like the glorious, busy delight that is the Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Decatur, Ga. I’m betting you have never been there before, but as I was just there last weekend for a friend’s wedding, let me introduce you to that blissful chaos of freshness.

The first thing you notice as you enter the front doors of what looks more like a warehouse than a farmer’s market is the smell: an aromatic, earthly fragrance of spices mingled with coffee and fresh spring flowers. Your eyes catch up with your nose and then you see people, dozens and dozens of them. Like diving into the swift current of a river, in you go, finding yourself jostled in whichever direction the crowd seems to be going.

All along the shore of that current of people are the most beautiful fruits and vegetables you’ve ever seen. There is ordinary produce like strawberries, blueberries, squash and asparagus, but there is also a great assortment of the exotic: Indian eggplants the size of an egg, vivid green star fruit and strange tuberous creatures there’s no hope of identifying. The comfort of the familiar ultimately lulls you, and you can’t resist fresh ears of corn and ripe, plump grape tomatoes. Bunches of basil the size of small bushes beg to be picked up, and because they only cost $1, you do. 

Once you’ve experienced the parade of freshness in the produce area, you let that crowd push you toward an entire wall of spices. A generous tub of smoked paprika can be yours for only $1, and perfect black peppercorns for the same. Now stocked in spices worthy of Marrakesh, you flow in the direction of oils and rustic pastas, picking up golden extra-virgin olive oil and two-inch-wide handmade pappardelle pasta, with its ribbons delicately bundled into nests. Once you purchase these wonderful treats from a delightful Afghan woman who speaks with a velvety accent and smiles with her eyes, you depart that heavenly domain, grateful that you were able to bring a taste of it back with you. Then you lovingly unpack this treasure in your kitchen and get to creating something divine out of it all.

That, my friends, is pappardelle pasta with fresh corn and tomatoes, in a light sauce of white wine and sweet basil.

Pappardelle with Fresh Corn and Tomatoes

Serves 2.

3 ears of fresh corn, husked

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 c. basil, chopped

1/3 c. dry white wine

2 T butter

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 t. smoked paprika

1 t. salt

1/2 t. fresh cracked black pepper

8 oz. pappardelle pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place ears of corn in the water and boil 3 minutes. Remove and let cool. Add pasta to the corn water and cook until firm to the bite, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook 3 minutes. Cut corn off the cobs and add kernels to the pan, along with the tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper, cooking while stirring another 2 minutes. Add white wine and simmer, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and basil. (When making any sauce, a small amount of butter added at the very end will always give it a glossy sheen and luxurious silkiness.) Add pasta to the pan and stir together to combine the flavors well. Enjoy the play of sweet basil against tart tomatoes and smoky paprika, all swirled together with hearty wide pasta ribbons. It’s a feast made in farmer’s market heaven.

Share your beloved recipes with me at heraldfood@gmail.com.

The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.