Colour, Colour Everywhere! Beautiful Fruit and Green Space at the Farmers’ Market at David Pecaut Square

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August has been in full swing for just over a week and we are now in a place where we’re lapping up as much patio weather as we can, watching the sun set just a little bit earlier each passing day.  We are fully into August and after months of visiting farmers’ markets all across the city, I can proudly say that I’ve been to 12 markets since the last week of May and 8 of them have been blogged so far, 9 if you include this one!  And if you can believe it, I’m not even close to exhausting all my options!  I don’t mind at all though because taking on the challenge of visiting as many markets as possible is a challenge that I’m happy to take my time with. 

These farmers’ market trips have been so rewarding because they’ve opened up a whole new world for me, in more ways than one.  Farmers’ markets don’t exist in a social vacuum, separate and unaffected by what’s around them.  They’ve shown me their connections to the different neighbourhoods in the city, the relationships built through community, and the beautiful and important green spaces they operate on.  Even though I’m a foodie through and through, I think many of the precious gems in a city are its green spaces.  The parks, the gardens – nature’s aesthetics, you could say.  These markets bring new life to these spaces, attracting people who may not otherwise frequent the area.  They function as social gathering spaces, where ideas are exchanged, knowledge is passed on, and relationships are built.

In the heart of the financial and theatre districts lies the farmers’ market at David Pecaut Square*, just steps away from Roy Thomson Hall on King St. West.  This is a wonderful market.  You know, the kind of market that has so much in it that you have to do a once-over before you can fully make up you mind on what you want to purchase.  The kind of market that has a little bit (or maybe a lot) of everything – fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and vendors selling hot food off the grill for lunch.  It’s the kind of market that makes you want to plop down in the middle of it all with a picnic blanket, taking a morning or afternoon to enjoy the atmosphere, sights, and sounds. 

There was so much delicious food and so much beautiful colour.  There were baskets upon baskets of gorgeous red, yellow, and purple plums, tomatoes and peppers of green, yellow, and red, soft white, beige, and dusty brown mushrooms, and baby red, Yukon gold, and BLUE potatoes!  Oh yes, this is the market that made me squeal with glee over my highly coveted blue potatoes, the ones that I used to make my beloved blue potato salad over the weekend, the one inspired by a recipe in my August issue of Food & Wine.  And I do mean highly coveted.  After I did my once-over and ambled back to the potato table, I snatched up the last pint of blue ones.  Twas my lucky day!

But once again, I had to mentally smack my own hand away and exert control over my purchasing power.  I was a good girl and I walked away with only two things when I really wanted four.  Okay, five.  I came away with my potatoes as well as a little package of lemon pecan cookies, courtesy of More Than Pies Baking Co. Ltd.  You all know I can’t resist a lemon dessert in any shape or form.  These cookies are absolutely divine and if there was some way of bringing home an endless supply of them for the rest of my life, I would be very happy.  They had plenty of cookies and baked goods for sale that day including giant ginger molasses cookies, peanut butter cookies, cranberry pistachio biscotti, lemon bars, and lots of tarts and squares.  I am getting myself a giant ginger cookie next time!

I feel extremely fortunate that I have access to these wonderful markets because not only have they provided me with fresh, local, and delicious food to buy, but they’ve also changed me as a person as they’ve inspired me to get creative with my meals and to take on a more active role in the kitchen.  These market visits are so much fun and ever since I started going to them on a regular basis, I find that I want to learn more, about the food and about the community.  I can’t imagine not going to them now and it excites me knowing that a new season will bring a whole bounty of new things to see and try.  Summer is far from being over though, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and enjoy every minute of it.

*****

The farmers’ market at David Pecaut Square is located at 55 John St., at the intersection of King St. West and John beside Roy Thomson Hall.  The market operates every Thursday from 8am-2:30pm, and will be open until October 20th, 2011 for this year.            

*Formerly known as Metro Square, David Pecaut Square was renamed in honour of David Pecaut, co-founder of Luminato, who passed away from cancer in 2009.

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I’ve Never Met a Potato I Didn’t Love – Blue Potatoes From the Farmers’ Market for a Blue Potato Salad!

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BLUE potatoes?!  Indeed!  I feel like this blue potato salad and I were meant to be.  A little backstory: I love food magazines and any magazine that has an emphasis on food.  I’ve been reading Homemakers’ magazine since I was 8 (and even subscribed to it when I was in high school), I’ve bought Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart Living on an on-and-off basis for the past few years, and I was in conniptions when Food Network magazine debuted on the magazine shelves a number of years ago.  Food magazines have always given me so much inspiration, not only for cooking, but also for my scrapbooking. 

Last Christmas, my best friend got me a subscription to Food & Wine and every month a delicious issue pops into my mailbox and into my eager hands.  A week or two ago, I began leafing through my August issue and came upon these amazing recipes inspired by Jere and Emilee Gettle and their heirloom seed empire.  I looked at the recipe for their two-tone potato salad (blue potatoes with Yukon golds) and thought, “this looks so damn pretty and delicious”.

I had no idea blue potatoes existed until I saw this recipe (even though they apparently sell them in some local supermarkets according to my mother.  Shows how much I’m aware of my surroundings!) and wondered if I’d be able to find them at a reasonable price.  Fast forward to my weekly farmers’ market trip this past week (blog post forthcoming).  I was browsing a table full of baby potatoes and BAM! blue baby potatoes stared right back at me.  What good fortune!  Giant pints of blue potatoes for only $3!!  With supermarket prices ringing in at $3 per POUND, I got myself a friggin’ steal.  It’s like the foodie gods were looking out for me 😀

So my mum and I, inspired by my Food & Wine magazine, recreated our own version of blue potato salad.  These potatoes are so beautiful and so cute and I would buy them again in a heartbeat.  We gave them a wash, let them dry, then boiled them for close to 20 minutes.  The potatoes were drained and after most of the steam had went away, I started cutting them into small wedges and I was so delighted with the colour!  The blue potatoes looked a bit like those blue corn chips on the outside with their blue-brown dusty exteriors but when I cut into them, I saw this gorgeous purple colour on the inside and I thought, “huh, it reminds me of taro without actually being taro!”  They’re so pretty and yes, very yummy.

We made a nice big bowl of blue potato salad with sugar snap peas, cucumber, some leftover breaded chicken, and some chilled shrimp with mayo dressing, black pepper, chopped green onions, and dried chives.  SO GOOD OH MY GOD.  The blue potatoes have this great earthy flavour to them that only intensifies as the potatoes cool after being cooked.  I absolutely adore leaving the skins on for potatoes.  It gives dishes a nice splash of colour and I really like the taste of potato skins.  I put my potato salad on a bed of alfalfa sprouts, added some fresh avocado on top, and went to town.  One of the best summer dinners ever.