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Ris Lacoste

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Easy Like a Sunday Morning

Posted: 12/29/11 10:52 AM ET

Sunday mornings are special. I have just taken them back for my own after opening my restaurant and spending every Sunday morning expediting brunch service. I am free again to have coffee at home, watch my Sunday morning pundits and go to Church -- my Church, the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market.

There was a chill in the air this week and so I put on my Toigo Orchards thick cotton hoodie. I started my journey at the North end of the market, at the corner of 20th and Q Streets, at Spring Valley. I pulled up my truck that looks like a Saab just beyond the "street closed" signs, put on my flashers and pulled up the hatchback. I unloaded last week's empty crates ... now free to roam.

I made my transaction with Anne at Spring Valley, confirmed the order I had placed with Eli on Thursday and proceeded to walk the stalls of her stand to take it all in. It is truly heaven to me. While she was putting the order together I was adding things to the list like a kid in a candy store. But in my Toigo Orchards sweatshirt, I was a farmer as well as a chef. Felt good. Folks came up to me and asked what to do with the sweet potato, how to cook it (roast them plain, skin on! So very delicious on their own, or make a gratin with alternating parsnips or not, sherry caramelized onions, a bit of fresh grated parmesan, a little cayenne in the cream) or how to cook the collards (...wash them really, really well. Strip the fibrous stem and coarsely chop the leaves. Render bacon lardons, add some sliced onions and cook until soft and coated with the bacon. Stir in some garlic and a bit of red pepper flake; add some honey and deglaze the pot with cider vinegar, balancing the taste of the meat with the acid and sweet, enough vinegar to cover the layer of bacon, about ¼" in the bottom of the pan. Let the liquid come to a steam and add some chopped clean collards and use them to scrub the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining collards and cook, covered at first for about half the time and then uncovered until tender but still toothsome. Taste for flavor balance and adjust. Fresh market greens take 25-30 minutes, older greens 45-60.) I was Johnny on the spot answering everyone's questions and loving it. I always wanted to have a job in a super market helping customers with their shopping. The market is even more fun.

We loaded my car and I drove around to the front entrance at Mass Ave and Q and continued on my pick up. Pulled up right by Anchor Nursery and Jim loaded his contribution, beautiful cauliflower, last of the season. Pulled up to my front of market parking spot, grabbed the market cart as Jane yelled out "Santa should buy you a cart for Christmas." Then walked into a conversation between Vas the Asian pear grower from Toigo Orchards and Robert the Asian pear gelato maker from Dolcezzo, the former blaming the latter for the lack of flavor in his gelato, the latter telling the former that he thinks that the problem lies with the maker of the gelato, not the grower of the pears. Apples, pears and cider were stacked, the pile of boxes became a desk for writing the invoice.

Meanwhile, across the way Cinda at Gardener's Gourmet had my spinach and greens stacked under the rug while Zach from Tree and Leaf was loading his crates onto the cart with the apples and pears. I always spend time at Zach's table to stop and admire his work. Stunning gifts of nature. When you know who grows your food and connect with them it is that connection with the food that is passed on to all who eat the food. I love going to the market. My last stop is always with Heinz at Next Step Produce. He reserves lots of his market holdings for Nora as he is a certified organic grower but there are always a few things left for me.