Creating a market day menu for me is like being on one of those cooking shows every time I shop. In my own village, Certaldo, we have our large weekly market on Wednesday. They bring it all in, not just food. This is like the mall coming to you, you can get almost anything you need, that the small specialty shops in town don’t carry. Curtains, cushions, kitchen ware, shoes, clothing, plants and then the food trucks with prepared foods or simply fresh fruit and vegetables. But not all the fruit and vegetable stands grow what they sell, many are simply like a shop, buying their produce at the main market in Florence.
Of course, in Florence, we have the Mercato Centrale, the central market, but there are not farmers there. In Florence, there are a few special markets which bring in the small farmers to town.
Usually you can tell the real farm stands by the smaller selection of seasonal produce. In Certaldo, I have two or three farm stands I can choose from. Saturday morning, there is another small market in the main piazza in town. Once a month, I like to travel to another town on Saturday to shop. I can go to Castelfiorentino, which is having their large weekly market or to Montespertoli, which has a small farmer’s market in their town square.
I was thrilled to see these lovely beets at the Montespertoli market, not just for the beets, but I adore the beet greens. The color was so electric and the flavor is distinct. In Italy, we twice cook greens, boiling or steaming first to tenderize them, then drain and saute to cook with garlic, peperoncino and EVO.
We went to the market especially to buy some cheese from our friend, Guido Tosi, Formaggio del Dottore. He has a small farm about 30 minutes from us. He also grows chickpeas. Locally we use a lot of chickpeas and chickpea flour. He had some pici pasta, a local thick extruded spaghetti, made with 30% chickpea flour. He also had some of the tiny Florentine chickpeas for sale, which i picked up. I can never have too many legumes in the house. The rule of thumb is rosemary with chickpeas and sage with white beans. A clove or two of garlic and cover with water, a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and be sure to add water when they need them. I adore cooking in clay and have the time, so just put on to cook and go about my day here. I understand that pressure cookers do a great job. I just don’t have one.
The beet greens and chickpeas reminded me of a recipe i did when reviewing my friend Pamela Sheldon John’s book, Cucina Povera for a recipe which was stewed chickpeas, which is sometimes called a cacciucco ( named for a fish soup from Livorno). But the fish soup doesn’t have any greens in it. We do have a wonderful recipe called Zimino, often written as Inzimino, which is a stew with a tomato base, leeks and then greens and normally squid. Often people don’t like squid, so I do this chickpea version.
There are no measurements for this as you can easily fake it and adapt to any number of portions. As a guideline, equal parts cooked greens and chickpeas ( like 2 cups each) then add as much or as little tomato sauce as you like, I tend to go light, about a cup. As it cooks it will all amalgamate.
The traditional recipe uses squid, cut into pieces, lightly sauteed first then removed from the pan and put back in when you add the tomato.
Great served with slices of Tuscan fettunta, toasted bread rubbed with garlic.
I am going to start doing some cooking videos as well as taking you to local markets with me.
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