A change in seasons

It's easy to feel disconnected in a large city, I think -- to feel distanced from everything that matters, some social graces or common courtesy. A trip to the market can offer a sort of cure-all for the disease that is City Irritation, a remedy for those plagued by stress and anxiety.

I woke up with the sun this morning. It usually happens despite my best intentions. I sat around drinking strongly brewed chai tea, made breakfast in a clean kitchen, read the Globe and Mail online and caught up on my reading. I walked to St. Lawrence, grabbing a coffee along the way -- you can say what you will about Starbucks, but hats off to Howard Schultz for carving that empire -- and walking by St. James Church, admiring the architecture.

I love that at the market, you are confronted by choices you once never thought possible. Freestone or clingstone peaches? Early Redhaven, Garnet Beauty, Harrow Dawn. They sound like beautiful women in a fairytale. I like the small peaches that first come out in July the best. They're amazingly sweet and the juice runs down your arm freely with wild abandon. I buy a few, but I'll need to wait a few weeks for the canning variety, I'm told. No freestones yet.

There's melons of every variety - cantaloupes, muskmelons, sugar baby, watermelon. Heirloom tomatoes and fava beans. Fresh garlic, strawberries still holding on, baby cucumbers slightly soft to the touch, corn-on-the-cob. A man stops me when he realizes I'm blindly picking my cobs. "You'd think they're all the same," he says, "but they're not." He pulls back the husk on one to expose a few black bits. "Here, this is a good one." I leave with six ears of good corn.

The blackberries have grown bigger since a couple of weeks ago. The first of the season were tiny and tart, like the Shiro plums just coming into season. These blackberries are plumper than the ones are the grocery store but still tender to the touch, still delicate, but extremely sweet.

I pick up a large cucumber from a man who drives all the way into the city from Leamington, close to my home town. I always try to purchase something from him. Maybe that's the nostalgia in me talking. Jalapenos and poblano peppers. Beautiful purple flowers from the Mennonite growers who are here every week selling the most gorgeous bouquets. They are always busy, the barrels filled with female gawkers. When you don't have a garden, it's the next best thing.


Welcome back to Aubergine Land

Some interesting things have been occurring lately in Aubergine Land.

Just last week, while walking back to work from a library lunch -- no, I did not eat the books, though I may have nibbled on some of their covers -- I so fantastically caught one of my heels in a subway grate as I caught a glimpse of this glorious book in a storefront window.  I recently discovered that a burger joint around the corner from me has been offering a gluten-free bun option on all of their burgers for some time now -- for a whopping $.75 extra. Apparently I am finished eating sausages with mustard at midnight, leaning over the counter like the uncivilized eater I am.

 On Saturday, while picking up things to can and freeze at the St. Lawrence Market (North), the owner of Acropolis came up to me. "Do a shot of olive oil with me!" he exclaimed. It's 9:30am, I thought to myself. But then again, how often do Greek men approach me asking me to do shots with them? And who would I be if I were to refuse? I'd barely recognize myself. So as I stood there in the middle of the market, weighed down with fresh local fare, I did a shot of extra-virgin olive oil with my left leg up, muttering 'Opa!', as, according to the man, it makes the oil taste more delicious. The thing is, it was. Grown in a bio region on the island of Crete, it's brought over in oak barrels and bottled in Canada. Light and grassy, I imagined it would add the perfect finish to a serving of asparagus risotto. We followed this with a shot of honey balsamic, which was terrifically sweet and syrupy, and a couple varieties of black olives. 

And most interesting, at least to me, is these veggie burgers. Now I'll be the first to admit I do not care one bit for the words "veggie" or "burgers." Too cheerful? Cheesy? I'm not sure what it is. But when I spotted this new release, I gave in. Most of the recipes that appear in the book are not gluten-free and, according to the author, not easily adapted, but a few are and they are worth trying out. This is the first and only recipe I sampled from the book and am therefore ill-equipped to provide a thorough review, but I'm impressed with the flavours and how easy so many of the recipes are to pull together. This one is no different. From beginning to end, this recipe takes a maximum of twenty minutes -- and that's stretching it.  What I loved? It's nutritious, healthy and comes together quickly. It's delicious and economical. What I didn't love? The instructions provided insufficient detail as to what the finished batter should look like, and some of it didn't make sense. I've revised the recipe here in hopes of making it easier for you so that you, too, can enjoy them. Now, these will not form easily into patties. My ingredients bound together, but they were too moist. Instead, I spooned batter into a hot cast iron pan and flipped them once the first side was cooked through. Once heated through, these burgers stay together well, though, and freeze easily.

Chickpea Spinach Burgers
Adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
Yields 5-6 burgers

1.5 chickpeas
5oz fresh baby spinach
2 eggs
2 - 3 tbsp lemon juice, or as needed
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
Chickpea or garbanzo bean flour

Combine 1.25 cups chickpeas, spinach, eggs, lemon juice, cumin, and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles a chunky hummus. Add to a large bowl and set aside. In the bowl of the food processor, add the remaining chickpeas and process until just crumbly. Add to the other mixture and stir to combine. Sprinkle in chickpea flour until the burger mixture thickens. You may not be able to make patties with this mix exactly, but the flour will bind the burger together nicely once cooked. I take 1/3 cups of the mixture and plop it into a cast iron skillet over medium-high. 3-4 minutes on each side yields a burger that is crispy on the outside but deliciously moist on the inside. Serve with your favourite condiments on a bun, or on a bed of butter lettuce (my preferred way.)
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