By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
What makes cooking with farm fresh foods at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market a success? In my mind, two things: Let “less is more” be your guide, and have a few basic supplies on hand.
Let me elaborate.
When food comes to market from a local farm, it is about as fresh as it gets. Our freshest foods are harvested within a day or two of the market. Our frozen meats and stored apples, cabbages, potatoes, and other root vegetables are from harvests of just the past fall. Even such shelf-stable items as dry beans and corn come to you straight from the farms where they were grown. This means the flavor is at the peak. Often, just baking, steaming, or a quick fry in a hot pan followed by a low simmer for a few minutes is enough to make our farm foods taste delicious.
Second, cooking is easier and faster when one has a few basics on hand: staple ingredients and simple pots, pans, and cooking utensils.
Staple ingredients include oil, vinegar, and seasonings. Butter or animal fats like pork fat can substitute for oil, just as lemon juice or apple cider can stand in for vinegar. Seasonings as simple as salt and pepper often suffice. Herbs, alliums like garlic and onions, and spices like coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, and others can help enhance the flavor of meals, but they are not necessities. Simply put, a basic oil, acid, and salt and pepper are usually enough to ensure that your market purchases taste as good cooked as they look fresh.
As for cooking, keep your supplies simple, especially if you’re just getting started: a frying pan, a Dutch oven or similar deep oven-safe lidded pot, a smaller stovetop pan for boiling water; a chopping board, a good sharp knife, a spatula, and a couple of wooden spoons are a good start.
Many cookbooks, weekly recipes in newspapers, and preparations featured on popular cooking shows and in videos emphasize the complexity of cooking. And, indeed, there is a creative and dramatic flair to the culinary arts. But there is creativity, too, in cooking simple and in letting the flavors of fresh foods stand alone.
This week’s recipe: Carrots and Sweet Potatoes