Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saturday Shopping Challenge

Vicki at A Mark on My Wall which, coincidentally, is one of my favorite blogs in the neighborhood, posted a challenge a couple weeks ago to see how far $20 would go at a local farmer's market. Up for a challenge, but not so much the shopping or cooking part, I thought I'd play along and see how far that $20 would get me in local produce that didn't require much fussing before tasting good.

Jersey tomatoes are just in and will be sublime in another couple weeks. The four I bought today for $6.13 (ouch!) don't have much flavor, but mixed with garden-grown basil and my splurge for the day - locally-made mozarella - just under a pound for $8.81 and drizzled with olive oil and a dash of sea salt and black pepper made me very, very happy this evening. Once the supply increases the prices will go down and there is nothing finer than a Jersey tomato, let me tell you! Our growing conditions are perfect for them here, tho we have to wait until August for the really delicious and juicy ones that we make into kitchen sink sandwiches with lots of mayo and pepper. Heaven between two slices of bread!

I was hoping for corn, but there was only Georgia sweet corn for 49 cents an ear. Too steep for my budget today. Last week I bought nice Jersey bi-color corn that I made into corn salad with red peppers. Yummy. Sweet corn should be available by month's end and is creamy, tender and scrumptious. I know quite a few people who can make a meal of it all by itself. Not me; it doesn't agree with me and I have to limit myself to just one ear, preferably on the BBQ.

Mid-July is only the start of farmer's market season here in NJ, so there wasn't a great variety. Greens are in season: kale, collards and swiss chard, but I think of those primarily as bunny food, so discounted them for today. Beets are local and cheap - just $1.89 for a nicely sized bunch. I love fresh beets, but don't often go to the trouble to stain the kitchen or my hands purple with making them. Steaming-hot and drenched with butter is the way I like them best, but today I mixed them with some red onion and raspberry vinegar and fresh-squeezed orange juice for a cold salad. We'll see how that turned out tomorrow once it's had a chance to pickle a bit.

The real story locally is the berries. These are the most local of berries, grown in the farm fields just off my backyard, and they sit on the bushes until they are at the peak of ripeness and flavor. There are red, purple and black raspberries, as well as blackberries grown out there and were it not for the deer fence surrounding the fields, I think I would raid the bushes on my walks with Luka. I bought a pint of red raspberries for $4.99 and a pint of Jersey blueberries for $2.99 and cooked them gently with sugar and poured the sweet mixture over some vanilla ice-cream. The left
overs will be added to plain yogurt mixed with honey and some granola or eaten anytime I walk through the kitchen!

All that's missing until the late summer is peaches. Jersey peaches should be available at farmer's markets by next weekend. California peaches are sweet and juicy now, but I passed on them today in favor of NJ produce.

If you're a stickler and do the math, you'll see that I went over budget and spent $24.81. I could have left off the raspberries in favor of being under budget, but I just love them too much! I don't think my money went very far today, but as I said, it isn't quite the season of abundance here.

If you're up for the challenge, I imagine Vicki may be doing this in the weeks to come. Maybe you'd like to join in the fun. Why not at least stop by her place for links to see how others spent their $20? Or read about her adventures as a docent at a zoo in Chicago? Or her home-away-from-home in Florida? Really, her blog is great... stop in and say hi.

11 comments:

KGMom said...

You are hitting all my favorites. I love tomato/mozarella salad drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then garnished with basil. Yum yum.
And berries--oh oh oh !
Last--peaches. I just bought some the other day and made a peach cobbler (another EASY recipe--although it does involve peeling and slicing the peaches)!

John said...

I love tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwiches. I bet the fresh version was really good.

There is a farmer's market in town, within walking distance, but unfortunately it is only open on Fridays during the day. So I keep forgetting to check it out.

Jayne said...

I couldn't have left the raspberries either Laura! :c) Now I am hungry.

nina said...

I love the concept of buying local--and wish there were farmer's markets around here.
You'd think in the middle of aAmerica's heartland, there would be an abundance of fresh produce!
Unfortunately, there are just a few more commercially oriented set-ups, but they seem to ship in just about everything in oredr to offer a wide supply to their customers.
As a result, I'm no better than going to the grocery for veggies!

:-(

cedrorum said...

Dang, those pictures have made me hungry. Especially the top one with the basil, tomato, and mozzarella. Guess I'm going to have to hit the local produce stand.

NCmountainwoman said...

Heck, I spent my twenty dollars for gas getting to the market! We have "tail-gate markets" here in which local farmers bring their goods and sell them in a parking lot. I love going there.

How can you lose with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella? And the berries? Yum

Anonymous said...

Check out this new way of making a good sauce and pasta.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=qBjLW5_dGAM

By the way, if you can buy fresh like you do, and pull it together like you do, I don't think you need sauce recipes. You need to invite us all over for lunch!

Heather
Wayne, PA

Rabbits' Guy said...

Aaaaggghhhh .... hot sweet crushed berries on vanilla ice cream ... no fair!

There is a detective in a series of books who makes a sandwich which he must eat over the sink too. Best way to do it, unless outside!

LauraHinNJ said...

KGMom: Summer delights - all of them.

I still haven't learned to like cooked peaches - maybe I haven't had the right cobbler yet.

;-)

John: Yeah... it's the same thing here. Asbury has one on Sat. and Red Bank on Sun.

The best locally, I think, is Belmar, but I'm not sure that one's started yet.

Jayne: They are habit-forming, yes.

Nina: That's too bad, really.

Cedrorum: Happy shopping!

NCMountainWoman: That sounds like fun... and good eating.

Heather: lol!

You're all invited for a potluck, then.

Rabbit's Guy: They were very delicious that way!

Glad you got the kitchen sink reference.

;-)

Mary said...

Well, gee, that's funny... I always said there's nothing better than a Maryland home grown tomato! Jersey/Maryland - no difference, really.

Hey, now I'm starving since I had lunch for breakfast.

LauraHinNJ said...

Mary: Um... don't think so.

;-)

Heather: BTW, I just watched that video - crazy!