I have had a connection to the soil since I was a young boy.
This was kindled long ago, when Dad and I would visit my Uncle Oliver’s farm in Westport, Massachusetts. I really looked up to Uncle Oliver, who made his living by growing and baling hay and raising hogs, chickens, goats, sheep, as well as growing fruits and vegetables. I remember being very happy walking the strawberry rows in spring – Uncle Oliver allowed me to pick to my heart’s content. I was also encouraged to help in the harvesting of beans, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers – you name it – and then looked forward to every fall for the arrival of cole crops, potatoes, and the magic of pumpkins.
This must have inspired Dad, too, because not much later he converted a good acre-plus of our backyard in Fall River into a vegetable garden, which we tended together. What we didn’t eat or share with friends and family was put into my little red wagon and peddled around the neighborhood, particularly to Gene’s Market, just a couple blocks from home.
It was this experience that really taught me how a farm works. I made the connection between the food we buy at the market and the people who grow it, and that really stuck with me. Once I became a chef and began honing my craft, I knew the most important thing was to use the freshest and best ingredients I could find.
The Babble Editors have selected three recipes from Emeril’s new cookbook Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh that use farmer’s market fare to evoke these sweet, scrumptious favorites of childhood.
Wow! This flavor-packed limeade is a real thirst quencher during the dog days of summer, when watermelon is at its best. Should a festive occasion arise, it also makes a wonderful margarita mixer when paired with premium white tequila.
Rhubarb and strawberries are a classic duo that appears in farmer’s markets and grocery stores at the same time each year, letting us know that spring has officially arrived. Look for rhubarb stalks that are deep red and firm to the touch, and deep red strawberries that are firm, fragrant, and not bruised.
The rice you use in this pudding will make all the difference, so for the best results, look for a fragrant heirloom long-grain variety. The rice fields in southwest Louisiana produce some of the best rice around; if you can find Louisiana popcorn rice, by all means, give it a try. The nutty aroma alone is worth the price of admission.
Recipes from Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh by Emeril Lagasse. Copyright (c) 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of Harper Collins.