This early in the growing season, we still head to the Boulder farmers’ market for our week’s supply of fresh, local veggies. Our CSA won’t start for another few weeks and the closest markets tend to be heavy on prepared goods (pies, cupcakes, pasta, and the like) and light on produce. That will change as the season progresses and farmers have more to go around, but for now we think it’s worth the time and gas to hike up 36.
Last weekend, however, we tried out the Sunday market at East High School, near City Park. As expected, of the 28 or so stands, less than a handful were staffed by farmers. And one of those was depressingly empty: the truck had broken down en route to Denver, leaving me with a list of desired items and an empty bag.
As a last resort, I wandered over to McCurry Farms, a conventional (i.e. non-organic) farm based in Pueblo. Seeing sweet corn, zucchini and yukon golds on the table, I was skeptical that anything was homegrown. But when I asked, I was told that while one side of the table was indeed full of purchased produce, the other side — the one featuring radishes, greenhouse tomatoes, asparagus, lettuce and green onions — was theirs.
Yes, pickings were slim. The lettuce was wilted, we’d already eaten a season’s worth of asparagus, and green onions don’t exactly a side-dish make. I somewhat dejectedly walked away with radishes (more on those another day) and two greenhouse tomatoes — not exactly the arugula or shelling peas I’d been hoping for. My husband, however, was not at all dejected. Indeed, he was so delighted with the prospect of a Caprese salad that we picked up the fixings on the way home.
While the kids checked the garden (“look at how big the peas are!”), I sliced the tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, julienned the basil and brushed olive oil on the baguette before running it under the broiler. Just before serving I drizzled the salad with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled it with the basil, kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper and added a handful of mixed olives to the plate.
Were the tomatoes as good as the vine-ripened ones we’d picked last summer? No. The flavor was spot on, but the texture was lacking. But even a foodie like me knows that sometimes a meal is about more than the ingredients. It’s about being with family, eating al fresco, feeling the arrival of summer and, yes, the promise of better tomatoes to come.
Click here for the recipe for Caprese Salad.