Some days I’m pressed for time and speed shop through my farmers’ market, stopping only long enough to grab the goods and move on. On more leisurely days, I meander from farmer to chef, getting the juice on what’s growing and cooking.
I love those days.
One bright Thursday, as I made my way to Radical Roots’ tent at the Westport Farmers’ Market, the chef with the flowing mane of bright red curls called out a monosyllabic greeting of “RED!” We gingies do that, knowing that it’s only acceptable to use the “R” word if you are one of our small circle of fair skinned, brightly hued, freckled chicks.
Cassandra Purdy is one of only two vendors at the market (Riverbank is the other) who cooks and sells prepared food using seasonal produce, exclusively.
Just a few short weeks ago, you noticed those kale salads, swiss chard based soups, pesto with arugula and pungent garlic scapes. The early spring yielded loads of greens, not the “glory veggies”,as Cassandra calls the more varied bounty we celebrate as we move full steam into summer.
I take advantage of being able to buy thoughtfully prepared foods from this vegetarian chef, thrilled with the knowledge that Purdy sources her veggies from friends who tend or own farms in her corner of CT. Supporting those farming friends is an integral element of her determination to eat inside our own food shed.
And she knows how to coax great flavors from these freshly picked local goods each and every time.
“It can be delicious but it’s much more challenging, in early spring”, she told me.”Once we’re in season with more variety growing, the choices feel endless and abundant. Eating seasonally, exclusively, is like a huge pleasure delay.”
Luckily, Purdy jars the goods in the late summer and early fall, so we can buy flavorful reminders of late summer tomatoes and other veggies that benefit from resting in their jars over the barren winter months.
For sure, we are on the verge of welcoming the return of Purdy’s herbaceous gazpachos and salsas, garlicky ratatouille, and eggplant caponata, lemony zucchini soup.
In the meanwhile, I’ve been content to smother fat pastas with pesto spun from arugula and garlicky scapes (no garlic YET!), or to throw some white beans and greens over whatever grain we are eating that eve.
I especially love the fat Israeli cous cous with asparagus and greens tossed in for added crunch and a bright burst of color. Many of her dishes are non-dairy, making them perfect for the vegan and kosher crowds.
Find her recipe for this easy combo, below.
I learned that Purdy has a whole other business called Pizza to the People, a vegetarian, mobile, wood-fired pizza oven, “born of friendships between the kitchen and the field.”
Purdy caters private parties and pulls her rig up to (mostly) New England music festivals all summer long. Sourcing fresh vegetables from farmer friends at Riverbank, Marble Valley, and Good Field Farms ensures that the produce comes directly from the fields, raised without pesticides (if not certified organic) and ever-changing.
“We use only the finest local, organic, seasonal produce grown by us or our friends… plus the best cheeses we can get our hands on, local whenever possible.”
“We built the oven, we grow the veggies, we mix the dough, we drive the truck, we make the fire!”
I’m looking for an excuse to see that wood fired pizza oven fired up near my own backyard. I can already taste Purdy’s creations like pizza with roasted roots veggies, onions, garlic and goat cheese with thai chili oil.
Before then, I will continue to stop at Radical Roots at the Westport Farmers’ Market each week.
Feel free to e-mail Cassandra with special requests or for catering information: <email@example.com>
- 4 c. Israeli couscous, cooked according to package
- 1 cup steamed asparagus, cut on diagonal into 2" lengths
- 1 cup steamed fiddlehead ferns or sugar snap peas
- 1/4 cup sliced scallions
- 1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1-2 TBS chopped fresh mint
- 1-2 TBS. chopped fresh dill
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup xv olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Toss all ingredients together and let rest in the fridge until flavors are married.
- Serve with wedges of lemon.