I was let out of work this past Sunday so I took full advantage and spent the late morning at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. My sister Marianne was visiting from Tewksbury, Mass. and she said to me, "You love this, don't you?"
I packed my Saab to overflowing and even had to ask Zach from Tree and Leaf to make an additional delivery. I definitely bought too much, but what can I say? I was a kid in a candy store. My haul included radishes, spinach, salad greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, collard greens, celery root, green beans, potatoes, apples, pears, cider, kale, beets, onions, tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, herbs, ricotta, yogurt, and honey.
Among the farmers that were there, Mark from Toigo Orchards, Eli from Spring Valley, Cinda at Gardener's Gourmet, Zach from Tree and Leaf, Heinz at Next Step, Paul from Blue Ridge Daily, and of course my dear friends Jim and Alice from Anchor Nursery.
It is the middle of October, so it is definitely time to go to a football game, take a walk through the woods and kick some leaves, and come home to a pot of autumn soup. Here is what I would do:
Put a whole chicken from the market in a pot, cover it with water, and add celery, onions, carrots, leeks and if you have them, thyme, parsley, sage, bay leaf, and a few peppercorns. Throw in a handful of salt so that the chicken is seasoned as it cooks.
Bring to a boil and let simmer just until the chicken is cooked through. No more, no less, about a half hour. Smell the stock, mmmmm...
Meanwhile, in your favorite soup pot, melt some butter or oil, add some onions, celery, carrots, lots of mushrooms still flourishing after our recent rain and caramelize them. If the stock is not ready when the vegetables are caramelized, turn off the heat under the soup pot and prepare the other vegetables.
Mostly any option from the day's harvest will work, sweet potatoes and/or winter squash, kale or collards or Swiss chard, potatoes, tomatoes. Prep what you like. They all grow together, so they will be happy in the same pot. When the chicken is cooked, remove from the stock and set in the refrigerator to chill. Meanwhile, back to your soup.
Strain your delicious fresh chicken stock into the caramelized vegetables. Bring to a boil, let flavors meld, then add your prepared additional vegetables. Cook for not much more than five minutes, making sure the greens are wilted and the sweet potatoes are just cooked.
Pick the chicken meat and add to the soup. Season with a dash of cider or a bit of Dijon mustard, some fresh sage and thyme, a pinch of red pepper flakes.
At the very end, add some cooked rice or cous cous or pasta and serve with some grated Gruyère and/or Parmesan cheese. Grilled bread or, my favorite, plain old crusty bread with cold butter makes a great accompaniment.
Next week I would suggest going to either the Rose Park or NOMA markets on Wednesday, White House or Penn Quarter on Thursday, or, if you're a weekend warrior, the Arlington, Mt. Pleasant or Glover Park market on Saturday. Make sure to say hello to my friends when you see them. Savor the bounty and cook what you love!