Farmer’s markets and CSAs (and an easy recipe)

Today was a pick-your own day at the CSA we belong to, and we fully intended to have a nice trip up to Warwick, NY, pick peas, sugar snaps, and herbs, and buy strawberries and tomatoes at a farmstand, and get fabulous ice cream at a local dairy. But by 10:00 the temperature was over 90 degrees, so we decided to visit a farmer’s market instead. We went to the Ramsay market, a large one that operates on Sundays from 9:00 to 2:00 at the train station. They were out of strawberries, but we got gorgeous and delicious peaches, apricots, and plums, in addition to vegetables.

If you don’t belong to a CSA or shop at farmer’s markets, I encourage you to do so. The Jersey Fresh website lists both by county. (If you live in northern New Jersey, check out the many small farms that operate in the famous black dirt region around Warwick, NY, at well). You’ll get fresh, healthful, and delicious produce while you help support open space and local agriculture.

There’s no substitute for fresh tomatoes and basil. With tomatoes from the farmer’s market and basil from the CSA, I made a caprese salad that will form an uncooked sauce for tonight’s pasta. Here’s what you do: cut up 1 lb. of Roma tomatoes and about 12 oz. of fresh mozzarella cheese in 1/2-inch dice. Tear about 16 large basil leaves in small pieces. Mix everything in a large bowl (large enough to hold the cooked pasta, too), and season liberally with salt, pepper, and olive oil. You need quite a bit of olive oil.

Cover and leave the sauce to sit at room temperature for several hours (the flavors will blend, and the tomatoes will release their juices). At dinner time, cook 1 lb. of pasta (tubular or shell shapes work best), drain, and mix the hot pasta with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6 people. Leftovers can be refrigerated and then very briefly reheated in a microwave to bring them back to room temperature.

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