On Saturday morning Lee and I went to the farmer's market. Though I had visited the Boggy Creek farm stand a couple of times in the past, this Saturday was my first visit to the downtown Austin Farmer's Market, despite years of past intentions to check it out. We parked and walked our way around cranes and construction to the market, where I was immediately overwhelmed by crowds and heat. Not to say that it was either extremely crowded or extremely hot, but my innate reaction to new situations where many people are talking, exchanging, and interacting is to turn into a data-in-only robot who must keep walking, forward walking, to avoid looking like I have no idea what I'm doing in this place. Which is how I felt. Luckily, Lee stopped me and asked if I was as thirsty as he suddenly was, and I led us back to a juice stand I'd spotted earlier.
Sitting in the shade of a cypress tree, apart from the crowd and now observing, my state of sensory overload faded quickly. I drank my cantaloupe-lime-rosemary concoction and watched as young families with strollers, older couples with a bag of produce each, and market staff wearing name badges walked across the square. I also reviewed the tents that we had walked by on our first round, deciding where to shop for vegetables. Before leaving, I bought some okra, a spaghetti squash, four, small purple eggplants, two bell peppers, and several tomatoes.
Last night I made a farmer's market inspired meal of Chunky Summer Sauce over Baked Spaghetti Squash. The strands of the spaghetti squash, oven baked and then tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese, were crunchy, delicious, and very filling with the summer vegetables. The Chunky Summer Sauce is one of my "pasta-with-stuff" recipes that also goes well with chunky pastas like penne, bow-ties, or ravioli. I first started making the sauce during the rainy June of 2003, when my community garden plot was producing huge eggplant, tomato, and basil harvests.
Baked Spaghetti Squash
Adapted from The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the squash with a fork so that the skin won't burst while cooking. Bake the squash for 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, depending on the size, or until the squash is tender.
When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and gooey middle part. With a fork, "comb" the squash flesh (the "spaghetti" will pull off in long strands) into a bowl. Add butter (1 or 2 tablespoons depending on squash size, to taste) to the squash strands and stir to melt and distribute the butter. Fold Parmesan cheese (1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on squash size, to taste) into the squash strands. Serve the squash by itself or topped with Chunky Summer Sauce.
Chunky Summer Sauce
4 small purple eggplants, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/2 inch slices
1 onion, quartered and sliced
5 to 7 cloves of garlic, minced
5 Serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1 medium red, yellow, or purple bell pepper, quartered and sliced
fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced
Fill a medium saucepan about 2/3 full of water and bring to a boil. (Use a large saucepan if you want to use the same water for boiling pasta later.) Cut the top (where the stem attaches) out of the tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 1-1/2 minutes, or until the skin begins to peel. Carefully remove the tomatoes from the boiling water. Rinse the tomatoes under cold water. Remove the skins from tomatoes. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the eggplant and stir to coat. The eggplant will soak up the olive oil. As the pan becomes dry, add more olive oil. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over the eggplant. Continue sautéing the eggplant over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the eggplant starts to brown. At this point the eggplant will release the olive oil that it absorbed earlier.
Add the onion to the pan and continue to sauté on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and Serrano peppers and stir well. Sauté for another minute or two. Add the bell pepper, stir, and continue to sauté the mixture for a few minutes, or until the bell pepper has softened. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well, and cook until the water in the tomatoes has been released. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil leaves. Add fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash.