Monday, July 06, 2009

My Vegetable Love Should Grow

A new enterprise, the Mercado Buen Provecho burst upon the Pátzcuaro food firmament like a nova, one day before the Fourth of July.

It was a great beginning for what promises to be a mecca for gastronomes and foodies alike who crave fresh produce of varieties hitherto unknown or rarely seen in Pátzcuaro.

Lisa, one of the principal movers behind this mercado/tianguis told me that for their first day, they hadn't brought everything that they might have. To my eyes, it was still a dazzling selection of beautiful salad greens, white eggplants, two sorts of earthy turnips and herbs; as well as hen's eggs and freshly killed ducks. There was also a table of specialty fruits, including the fantasy pitahaya, giant Italian lemons like small footballs, Persian limes (not so rare, but excellent, and most tempting of all, red round hothouse tomatoes, just a day or so short of perfect ripeness.*

Panadero Ivo's bakery table had a attractive selection of whole grain and seed breads to sell, but the packages of plump cinnamon rolls were selling like the proverbial hotcakes.

I had to restrain myself from buying more than we could use. I focused on vegetables: mixed salad greens plus arugula. Since all the salad greens were priced the same (I wasn't paying close attention to the prices), mix-and-match was easy.

I also bought some super nice, purple blushed, young turnips with great greens attached. There were red turnips as well, which, I was told were sweeter and had little or no "bite". But as I like "bite", I chose the purple ones.

A branch of fragrant Lemon Verbena or "cedrón, for tea; and a handful of basil, sweet basil, not the small leafed variety common in Michoacán, completed my herb purchases. There was also very robust branches of rosemary, and amazingly fragrant Lavender!

I bought two dragon fruit pitahayas from the second vendor's table, plus over a kilo of medium tomatoes, and one Italian lemon, just to fulfill my lust for lemon lemon LEMON! We rarely can get sour yellow lemon here.

The next morning, we tried one pitahaya for breakfast. It was easy to peel, despite its fearsome apparance, and the vivid vermilion-purple flesh was pleasantly light and tartly refreshing.

Although the baker's table held attractive products, I didn't buy any as I have much home baked bread of my own.
Then came the reckoning: la cuenta. I paid up; it was not cheap, but to me, well worth it for specialty produce of top quality.

When I returned to Hacienda Enmedio de Nada, I laid out all my purchases and took a few photos ** of them.

The following day, inspired by a sample of Braised Turnips I'd tasted at the Mercado, I made my own version.

I first coarsely cut several strips of smoked bacon. Thick sliced would be best, but I used what I had. This was set to slowly frying in a large non-stick skillet. The greens had been throughly picked over (they were in very good shape) and washed in several changes of cold water. They were then cut very coarsely into lengths. The tougher stem toward the root was discarded.

One onion, sliced, was put into the skillet, then very carefully, I put in the greens. It's important to leave some moisture on them. In fact, I added about 3/4 cu of water.
Salt and pepper are added. Go lightly on the salt.

When they begin to simmer, I turned down the heat and covered the pan.

The turnip roots themselves had been peeled and sliced into thick rounds. They went into the pan before the apples.

Next, I cut an unpeeled Granny Smith apple into small chunks, then as the greens began to get tender, added the apple pieces. Next, a tablespoon of white sugar sprinkled over all. I let this caramelize a bit, then added a "glug" of cider vinegar.

At that point, I replenished the liquid with about 1 cup of beef stock, made in this case from Bovril Beef Concentrate and a cup or so of hot water. That is the reason to be very easy on the salt at the start.

After a while, when the vegetables become tender, it was time to check the seasoning.

This was a wonderful, earthy, hearty dish, which went very well with the brown beans I'd cooked the day before and some freshly made Southern Style Buttermilk Cornbread.
*Last night, we tried a couple of the beautiful tomatoes. They were a little disappointing in that despite their brilliant red color and perfect conformation, they lacked any sort of that unmistakeable, sharp fresh tomato fragrance. The taste was o.k. but not what we were hoping for. I found that when I sliced them, they had good acidity, but were improved by sprinkling the slices with salt and a little sugar, and letting them repose about 10 minutes. Best of all, there a much better texture than the watery, pale red balls sold for tomates bolas in the supermarkets here.

** While at the mercado, I acceded to a request to not photograph within the mercado, so that all my photos were taken afterwards, in my own kitchen, at home. I'm hoping that the ban on photography will one day be relaxed, so that the mercado can be shown at its best to others.


Tancho said...

And where is this veritable panthion of flavor situated, exactly...
or is Don Cuevas keeping it's location a secret to himself?

Wow, I haven't seen full,non wilted leaves of Basil like you purchased in Mexico, ever....
I guess my plans to grow it along with Arugula has been squelched..

Don Cuevas said...

Constantino; it's in the former Bar Chopper, next to Galería Rafael y Vicky, above the Glorieta, on the right, heading uphill. It isn't quite to IMSS clinic.

In fact, it's next door to the Hostería San Felipe.

It takes place (so far) only Fridays, 11 to 4.

Don Cuevas

Todd said...

Awww, you bet me to it!

Nice post!


Don Cuevas said...

Todd; Thanks; but Didi Rose beat me to it on Michoacan_Net.

You should post yours. It's nice to have different perspectives.

Today, we had a big salad....but wait! it's your turn.

Don Cuevas

Felipe Zapata said...

Constantino, this Don Cuevas guy must, now and then, be thumped soundly due to his vague (or missing altogether) descriptions of exactly where places are. Had he ever been in the real news business, he would have been pink-slipped in no time whatsoever.

Another question comes to mind: I read on the Michoacan Net forum about this place, and it was vague as to whether it was a permanent business or just something temporary. I remain foggy.

And I have my pink-slip book at the ready.

Don Cuevas said...

Felipe, nothing in life is permanent, but we hope that the Mercado Buen Provecho has a long life.

As I understand it (to the best of my limited knowledge), they plan to be open every Friday from here on. I'm going out on a limb here; dependng on clientele response, they may open more days a week.

Yes, good thing I wasn't in the newspaper business.

I'll bet that if La Guapa Señora were to bring her baked delicacies to sell, many more people would flock to the Mercado.

I'll communicate further with you privately.

Don Cuevas

Tancho said...

So let me get this only Fridays?
Now I languish as to what they do with the items that are not bartered away on this short time period? Hopefully not keep it for the following sales event?
And can they stay sufficently motivated monitarily to repeat the event each week?
I guess time will tell....

Don Cuevas said...

Constantino, They don't bring so much as to have a lot of waste. And, perhaps, they have other outlets besides us retail foodies. ¿Quien sabe?

They are smart, hardworking and experienced food people. They will figure it out after perhaps a few initial missteps.

Will I see you there ths next Friday?

Don Cuevas

Felipe Zapata said...

This couple has been trying variations on this theme around here for quite a while. It always has flopped. Maybe not this time.

Anonymous said...

Don Cuevas - I was astounded by the photo of the pitahaya! I'd have bought one because of it's looks, never mind how it tasted! Tony G in AR

Don Cuevas said...

Tony G in AR;
Good that you dropped in here.

The pitahaya also comes with a creamy white center, but the vermilion (?) one is all we have tried.

The flesh is very pleasant and refreshing. The color is more intense than the flavor. It is enhanced with a squirt of lime or lemon juice.

Look for a PM in the near future.

Don Cuevas