When you’re living with someone, it’s easy to forget how much you enjoy quiet nights at home. You spend so much time with one another during the week that when the weekend rolls around, you want out of the house, cold drinks, and conversation with strangers. You don’t realize that all that time during the week was the stressful, just-got-off-work type of time, harried and worn. You get fed up with rushed dinners, the messy house, curt conversations between tired partners, the prospect of another day of work, and you think going to a party will help all that.
Then it’s Saturday morning, you’re hungover and ghastly. You realize that the tiff you had with your partner, over whether margarita’s should be made with salt or sugar, was impudent, and telling him if you prefer salt, I simply just don’t know you at all, was down-right ridiculous. You cuddle up in the bed for a spoon, and before he has the time to realize he may still be mad, he’s cozy and has forgotten everything. That’s when you realize, undoubtedly, that nothing is better than snuggling up alone, together.
Of course, a good farmer’s market must follow.
The West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market is my favorite farmer’s market in Central Jersey. They have it all, almost. Farm-raised quail, poussin, grass-fed beef and lamb, heirloom pork and smoked bacon, fresh caught seafood, all the veggies you could ever (seasonally) need, fruits, plants, pies, kick-ass donuts and cider, and live entertainment—what more could you ask for? Well, farm-fresh chicken eggs, but I don’t want to nit-pick.
Jim, Champ, and I journeyed the 1.3 miles to the farmer’s market early Saturday morning, grumpy and sloth. At first sight, though, our spirits rose, and almost 2 hours and 100 bucks later, we were happy as hogs in mud.
Of our purchases, I knew I wanted to use the heirloom pork smoked bacon from Cherry Grove Farms for dinner. Heirloom pork is also known as “heritage pork” and is from genetically unmodified pigs who haven’t been selectively bred. They don’t have to commit to new standards set in the 1970’s to lean pork out, marketing to a population searching for leaner meats. Supermarket pork today is much leaner than pre-1970’s, but taste and texture has suffered from the change. If you want pork that doesn’t dry out and tastes, well, like pork, than heirloom is the way to go. Also, heirloom pork is raised humanely and the pigs are treated like living, feeling, in-need-of-fresh-air-and-exercise animals, instead of those poor things factory-farmed across America.
The bacon we purchased was smoked by the farm, and the taste was out-of-this-world—nothing even remotely close to “smoked” bacon in the supermarket. You could taste the wood-fire, the effort that went into it. We would’ve eaten the whole package by itself, but I forced myself to make a proper dinner. Having bought basketsful of red peppers and three gargantuan leeks, I found some pasta and creme fraiche in the fridge and decided on a carbonara-esque dish. It’s absolutely fabulous, roasting the red peppers matched the sweet, smoky flavor of the bacon, but if you’re feeling lazy, try sauteing the peppers fresh, or use the bottled stuff. Crème fraîche isn’t necessary, though it lends a richer taste than you get using only eggs and Parmesan cheese in a carbonara. Make enough for left-overs—it’s even better the next day.
Farmer’s Market Carbonara
- 5 slabs smoked heirloom bacon (or the thickest cut you can find)
- 1 large leek, washed and thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper, roasted, skinned, and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 oz crème fraîche
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 1 pound linguine or fettucini pasta
- generous grating of Parmesan cheese
- knob of butter (about 1 Tbsp)
- Chop the bacon slabs into slices of 4 (about 2 inches long.) Fry in a skillet over low-med heat until crispy. Remove bacon onto paper towels, reserving about 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease.
- Roast the red pepper directly on the gas flame or cut in half and place halves on a baking sheet and broil until the skin is charred and black. Remove from heat, let pepper cool a little and then peel off the skins until a cool tap.
- Thoroughly wash leeks, place slices in a skillet over medium-high heat with a knob of butter. Cook until leeks start to become tender. Add roasted pepper slices and garlic, continue to sauté until tender and the flavors have begun to meld.
- Boil water in pasta pot. Cook pasta al denté. Drain.
- Add pasta back to the pasta pot. Place pot over medium heat. Pour in the reserved 1 Tbsp bacon grease, the vegetables, crème fraîche and grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine evenly.
Drop in egg. Stir or whisk briskly until the egg is just cooked but still very creamy. Remove from heat. Plate and devour. Give your loved ones a kiss.