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On Your Mark, Get Set: Tapping into Roots of Color

2011 February 1
by sarahamaine

by Sarah A. Maine

Multicolored Carrots

After my earlier success hunting down kale at the Union Square farmer’s market in the first week of January, I felt confident that I would be able to find a selection of greenhouse-grown greens to relay off Brianna’s Warm Gingery Greens with Quinoa.  Specifically, I had visions of spinach – and a delicious spinach pie… but the market gods had other plans.  Spinach pie was not to be, not this time around at least.  I could only get to the market on a Saturday and D&J Organics was no where to be seen.  That’s not to say that there was no one at the market selling greens, there were (Two Guys From Woodbridge, Windfall Farms), but it was late in the day and the pickings were slim – mostly micro-greens, pea shoots, some bok choy.  Either too delicate or too bitter for my imagined layered spinach extravaganza.  I have to say I kind of panicked – was I going to be able to relay?  Off what?  It was cold and gray and I was drawing a blank.

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I settled on onions, which kind of felt like cheating – unless I made them into some kind of showpiece.  I headed to the Paffenroth Gardens stand and burrowed through the baskets of onions, loading up one of my oft re-used plastic vegetable bags.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a splendid sight – something that truly lifted my heart.  Carrots.  Burly, wedge shaped carrots.  Orange, purple and yellow.  I felt a little warmer, more relaxed as I filled another bag, this one with a rainbow of carrots.  My idea had a new life – a carrot pie!

I charged around the market with renewed purpose – collecting buttermilk from Hawthorne Valley Farm, ricotta cheese from Tonjes Farm Dairy, eggs from Quattro’s Poultry & Game, and flour from Cayuga Pure Organics.  A pie would come together after all, based on onions and carrots, supported by luscious local dairy, all nestled in a crust of wheat from upstate farmers… wait, what was that smell?  I walked by a smallish tented stand with clear plastic walls.  From a gap that served as a doorway a heady aroma sliced through the cold and (literally) stopped me dead in my tracks.  Basil.  I felt disoriented.  I stepped into the stand and was greeted by pungent bright green stalks of basil and baskets of scarlet tomatoes.  This bubble of summer was the fruit of Shushan Valley Hydro-Farms’ hydroponic greenhouses 8 hours north of New York City.  A basil plant came with swift instructions: place in spring water half way up the root cube and it will keep on your counter for two weeks (apparently chlorine and fluoride in NYC tap water are inveterate basil killers).

By the time I left the market, my dish was taking shape in my head – my spinach pie had turned into a carrot and basil quiche, relaying onions, and as a gentle hint at Brianna’s piles of greens – aromatic basil.  Check back on Thursday for the full recipe!