Summer for most people starts around the time the kids are throwing the insides of their binders into the air while singing Alice Cooper's "School's Out" (they still do that right?), but for those of us who love to cook, summer comes with the first JFX farmers market. Yes, I realize that the Waverly market is open year-round, but the start of the JFX is the first hint that the crops are about to start yielding their verdant harvest. Asparagus, strawberries, kale, rhubarb, and peas are on their way to bring sensuous smells to your kitchen and lively flavors to your mouth.
The first farmers market is the harbinger of great meals to come but it's also an excuse to get out of the fucking house again! Months trapped inside with wives, husbands, kids, pets, and yourself have taken their toll and you need to get outside. Even if it's only for an hour or two, the farmers market will save you from having to watch another episode of that BBC show you've been slogging through on Netflix. The sights, smells (they do sell cooked food there), and sounds ("BEST FISH ON THE PLANET!") are worth the Hoth-like stasis you've endured since the market closed in December. But an hour or so is all you need to remind you how much you'd rather be holed up in your kitchen, making food. Bags in hand, you walk away knowing that, by the time you get home, you'll already be anticipating next week's market.
Shopping at the market is also a sport with its own etiquette. Bring your own reusable bags, bring lots of singles (the vendors will love you for this), no pets (they're illegal and the crowds scare the hell out of them), don't stop and talk in the middle of the walkway, and always be on the lookout for new produce. Recently I found a vegetable that I have never seen until this year: kale florets. The product of letting a kale stalk go to flower, these edible beauties are full of vitamins and have a very mild flavor (think broccoli). Best of all, they are cheap! I got them at the Gardener's Gourmet stand for $2 a bunch, and two bunches was more than enough to go around. If you buy a bunch, be careful to check the lower parts of the stalks for woodiness as you would with asparagus stalks by breaking them in half. If they break cleanly, they are fine, but if they bend without breaking, then you will have to look for a place higher up on the stalk to cut through. After playing around with the florets, I found that I liked this simple recipe best and also found a great use for the leftovers.