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Farmers' Market Desserts
By Jennie Schacht

The Vegetarian Table: America

By Deborah Madison BUY THIS BOOK

Vegetables Moving to Center Stage

The American frontier was no place for vegetables. People always on the move didn’t have time to learn how to grow them under local climatic conditions. So livestock filled the void in the frontier American’s diet. Vegetables, meanwhile, "have always rested on the periphery of our plate," observes Deborah Madison in the introduction to her latest cookbook, The Vegetarian Table: America (Chronicle Books, 1996).

Perhaps it is no surprise that in California, where the frontier ran out, vegetables have crept back toward the center of the plate. Madison, the founder of Green’s restaurant in San Francisco, is one of many chefs who credit farmers markets with helping spur the trend. The new American "passion for vegetables" has been accompanied by a growing awareness that the quality of the produce depends on how it is grown, "which is why the garden and the farmers’ market have become such important resources for anyone who wants to cook easily and cook well," she explains.

Madison has chosen a selection of recipes intended to highlight "traditional flavors." Thus, she presents succotash, blue corn enchiladas and Concord grape pie. She updates one California traditional flavor by dressing the salad that follows with a walnut vinaigrette. "Years ago one would have found it dressed with a sweet poppy seed dressing, once a California favorite," she writes. Walnuts, which firmly place the dish in California, where most walnuts are grown, are paired with potatoes in the second recipe, which Madison credits to the wife of the governor of Michigan in 1914. The governor’s wife declared that the croquettes "are fine and make a good substitute for meat."


and Pink Grapefruit Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

  1/3 cup walnut pieces
1 large pink grapefruit
1 tbs champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 shallot, finely diced
3 tbs walnut oil
1 head butter lettuce, or 3 large handfuls of arugula leaves, long stems removed
1 large or 2 small Haas avocados

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Lightly toast the walnuts until they begin to smell good, about 7 to 10 minutes, then remove to cool.

2. Using a sharp knife, cut a slice off the top and bottom of the grapefruit. Stand the grapefruit upright on a cutting board and slice away the peel, following the contours of the fruit and removing the white membrane to expose the pulp. Holding the fruit in one hand over a bowl, cut along both sides of each segment to free the segments, capturing them and the juice in the bowl. Set aside.

3. Combine 1 tbs of the grapefruit juice, the vinegar, salt and shallot in a small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes to macerate the shallot, then whisk in the walnut oil.

4. If using butter lettuce, discard the ragged outer leaves, separate the inner leaves at the base, wash, and dry well. Gently tear them into large pieces or leave whole. If using arugula leaves, wash and dry them. Place half the lettuce or arugula I a bowl, add half of the dressing, and toss to coat. Divide the green between two plates. Halve, pit, and peel the avocados then slice crosswise onto a plate. Spoon the remaining dressing over the avocado slices then divide them between the plates, tucking them in between the leaves. Ad the grapefruit sections and walnuts, and serve right away.

Copyright 1997 Seasonal Chef