A VISIT TO ATWATER MARKET, MONTREAL
Montreal's iconic Atwater Market has been in operation since 1933. The four season market is housed in an Art Deco style building a stone's throw from the Lachine Canal. Before wandering the stalls, it's probably a good idea to don your favorite stretchy pants. The care in which vendors display their goods is quite staggering. And unlike our typical farmers' market mauling, Canadians are pretty respectful of the produce. Making thoughtful selections with far less touching is the norm, not the exception; something we could take a lesson from.
Inspired by the splendid selection of stone fruit and berries, I returned to my kitchen and assembled a raspberry-nectarine pie with a toasted almond crumble. As summer draws to a close, tree ripened stone fruit and garnet berries are on their way out. Nearly any combination of fruit will yield winning results as long as you allow the fruit to do its job and don't over-sweeten things. Live a vicarious Canadian life and consider sweetening the fruit with just a touch of good quality maple syrup. Counter the incessant back-to-school sales swirling around you with a slice of warm, end-of-summer fruit pie and pretend you're on vacation.
Popovers are some of the most dramatic dinner 'rolls' to grace a table. We were lucky to enjoy them fairly often as kids. Other than admonishing my siblings not to jump and make a ruckus when popovers were in the oven, Jessie baked them fairly often, and with little fanfare. I was an integral part of the process, meticulously buttering the Pyrex cups, making sure no one opened the oven door mid-bake to take a peek. Jessie had heat-resistant fingers, enabling her to gingerly transfer the crisp/custardy bakes from oven to napkin-lined basket without flinching. We devoured them with plenty of butter because fat and cholesterol didn't concern us in the least until much later. Reliant upon few ingredients but dependent upon well greased pans, high oven heat to start (followed by lower heat), and most importantly, no peeking, my take was that popovers were magical. I don't own a popover-specific pan, opting instead for the simplest of ovenware, the same individual Pyrex custard cups Jessie used for decades. Room temp ingredients and a very ready 450 degree F oven encourage success; ditto well-buttered bakeware.
Opening the oven door mid-bake will surely cause the high climbers to topple and the baker to weep. The addition of sweet corn, summery herbs and a serious hit of freshly ground pepper yield popovers well suited to mid-summer suppers. A classic popover recipe is plenty riff-able and easy to mix by hand using a whisk. Following the rules will deliver a basket of airy popovers that much like summer, are ephemeral and should be enjoyed post haste.
FARMERS' MARKET IN AUGUST
There's a long, snaking line at the farmers' market. Waiting amidst the melting shoppers, I'm juggling too many ripe tomatoes, feeling like a last minute Cirque du Soleil understudy forced to go on. Twisting, shifting tomatoes from right to left, (yet fearful of losing my place in line), I gingerly tuck one tomato in the crook of my neck and embrace the remaining heirlooms, cautiously hugging them against my white t-shirt. In short, I should have snagged a basket. The woman next to me is pawing through a collection of garlic scapes, turning them over and over, asking no one in particular, "What should I do with these?" I long to respond, "Stop touching them, for starters" but bite my tongue. Inching my way to the front of the line, I debate whether picking up a few ears of corn means sacrificing the tomatoes.
"Next?" Is my access to the produce scale. Not-so-gently setting the tomatoes down, I turn around and grab half a dozen ears (six for $5.00 is agreeable; more so when you stop to think about the farmer who is tending the cornfield in this heat) and two of the garlic scapes because they're within reach, and I love them. The corn refuses to lie still so I slip the garlic scapes over my wrist. "Whose tomatoes are these?" the cashier asks the crowd. Sheepishly I plunk down the corn and hold up my garlic scape bracelets. "Yes, yes," I confirm, "and these," pointing to the corn, "and these" displaying my garlic scape jewelry. "Do you want to buy a dozen eggs?" the cashier asks innocently. I can't even imagine navigating the tomatoes and the corn in the tiny canvas bag clutched in my sweaty palm. Adding a dozen eggs to the mix? Perish the thought.
There are plenty of superlative chocolate chip cookie recipes for the baking. But perhaps the best chocolate chip cookie is simply the one you conjure in your food memory. Polka-dotted with semisweet chips from the classic yellow bag or studded with chunks of almost-too-bitter bittersweet artisanal chocolate. Your cookie of choice might be made by Freihofer’s or available nationwide in the blue resealable Nabisco bag. It’s possible you align yourself with the Entenmann’s box on top of the fridge in your grandmother’s kitchen. Maybe there’s a neighborhood bakery that sells a crispy-chewy version by the quarter pound, tucking them into a waxy bag before handing it over the counter. Some folks have not so fond all-nighter memories associated with a certain dough boy and cylinders of slice ‘n bake.
Whether you swear by walnuts in the mix or opt for nut free, chocolate chip cookies are often the first cookies many of us learn to bake from scratch. Today’s kitchens are well equipped with cookie scoops and parchment paper, but plenty of us learned to maneuver teaspoons of dough onto buttered cookie sheets, carefully removing them from the oven while clutching a potholder. (Odds are the potholder was something woven during an arts and crafts class.) I think we can all agree that the most challenging parts of the process were a) not eating the raw cookie dough and b) waiting for the cookies to cool before diving in.
The happy accident of adding semi-sweet chocolate bar pieces to a classic butter drop cookie is Ruth Graves Wakefield’s doing. For many of us who turn to the brown sugar/butter cookie for solace and sustenance, it is often our undoing, but worth every bite.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm