One of the best things about summer is the fresh local fruits and vegetables found in the roadside stands and farmers markets in the area.
The stands may be as simple as a neighbor with an abundance of summer squash or zucchini setting up a card table and a cash box by the side of the road or a more organized weekly event where local farmers sell their goods.
I love it when friends share their harvest with us. There is nothing quite as good as just-picked beans or squash cooked for dinner, or a strawberry shortcake made right after coming home from the pick-your-own farm, topped with freshly made whipped cream.
Growing up in Northern Berkshire, I made many trips with my parents to pick up fresh vegetables at local stands, especially those selling fresh corn on the cob. But it wasn't until my friend Donna and I moved to Boston for graduate school that I went to a farmers market -- and what a market it was -- and still is!
The Haymarket, located on Blackstone Street between Faneuil Hall and the North End, has been around since the 1830s. Vendors sell huge varieties of fruits and vegetables from open wooden stands and pushcarts. Specialty grocers sell cheese, fish, meats, spices and other goodies from small shops in the basement of an adjacent brick building.
Open only on Fridays and Saturdays, from roughly dawn to dusk, it is a farmers market on steroids. The shops and pushcarts are packed into a two-block area
Donna and I would take the subway to Haymarket Square, armed with our canvas shopping bags, and come home with enough veggies and fruit to last us all week -- and all for less than $5 or $6. We would get exotic cheeses from one of the shops and occasionally splurge on fresh turbot filets right off the boat. What great fish and chips it made!
I took my husband, Guy, to Boston shortly after we were married. Included on my 50-cent tour of the city was a trip to the Haymarket.
At the market, the vendors attract buyers by hawking their wares -- "Grapefruit, two for a dollah!" -- only to be drowned out by another vendor two pushcarts down countering with "Grapefruit, three for a dollah."
Now envision at least 100 vendors all screaming at the same time, a crowd of people elbow-to-elbow and the smells of produce, flowers and humanity, and you have the Haymarket.
We had ventured only a few feet into the throng of people when Guy grabbed my arm and shouted in my ear, "Did you hear that? Someone said something about quahogs." And he took off in the crowd.
I listened and heard a vendor hawking, "Quahogs, two for a dollah!"
Knowing Guy's affinity for fresh seafood, I headed in the direction of the voice and sure enough, there was Guy, with a quahog on the half shell in each hand and a bottle of hot sauce on the pushcart shelf next to him.
I have nothing good to say about eating raw clams. I tried one once and I still want to throw up. So the sight of these giant slimy clams did nothing for me.
He slurped them down (which I will never understand -- if they are so good, why shoot them past your taste buds?) and then looked at me and asked, "Did you hear that?" I grabbed his shirt tail as he took off again, pushing his way through the crowd.
"Quahogs, three for a dollah," a vendor a few pushcarts down cried.
Guy plunked down his dollar bill and took three shells brimming with quahogs and hot sauce. We finally left the Haymarket two vendors and $2 later.
This recipe for a zucchini casserole was given to me by a co-worker at the Transcript. It provides another option for using what at times is an over-abundance of fresh zucchini.
Lorraine's Zucchini Casserole
Boil 4 cups sliced zucchini for 1 minute. Drain well and set aside.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
Salt and pepper
Fold in zucchini and pour mixture in greased 1-quart casserole dish lined with bread crumbs. Top with more bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender.
Another recipe that makes use of farmers market finds is this one for a marinated veggie salad. Although it calls for microwaving the veggies, I blanche them instead and proceed from there. I've also used Italian dressing instead of the Caesar.
Marinated Vegetable Salad
3 cups broccoli florettes
3 cups cauliflower florettes
3 medium carrots, sliced
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion
1 large red pepper, roasted and cut into strips
1/2 cup light Caesar salad dressing
Place broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in a 3-quart microwave-safe baking dish. Sprinkle with the water. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, turning back one corner to vent.
Microwave on high until vegetables are crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring after 1 1/2 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well. P
lace in a serving bowl and stir in onion, red pepper strips and salad dressing. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.