Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bonjour summer!

I'm incredibly excited about the onset of summer.  Sure, summer means there is no cooking without sweating - and, if you're me, there's no cooking with pants - but it also portends that a sumptuous bounty of amazing produce will explode into NYC from all the surrounding farmlands.  And that's sweeeeet.

For the past couple of months, I've been working as one of the managers at the 79th Street farmers market on the Upper West Side, and it's become more and more clear to me that supermarket produce just is not real.  I'm sorry, but have you ever placed a tiny, candy-red, freshly-picked strawberry next to a gigantic, bleached-out, water-logged supermarket strawberry?  In this particular case, bigger is not better, and the producers of these monstrosities should be ashamed!

But let's not blame it on the agro-giants, evil as they may be.  Let's take matters into our own hands, buy local produce, and vote with our dollar.  Hell yeah!

Ok, that's all for the rant.  Here's what I had for lunch:

Mediterranean Orzo & Chickpea Salad (printable version)
(serves 3-4)

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cook whole wheat orzo
1 green cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
2 scallions, trimmed and sliced thin
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
feta cheese (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, orzo, cucumber, tomatoes, scallion, and mint.  Using a microplane or fine grater, zest the skin off of the lemon (clean it well first, and be careful not to zest the white pith - it can be bitter), then juice the lemon into the bowl.  Add the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Crumble cheese on top, if using.  Let chill at least 30 minutes before serving, so the flavors can marinate.

* Note: Oil-cured black olives would make a nice addition here.  And canned tuna also works in place of the chickpeas, for a non-vegetarian version.

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