Rockporters, once again you can buy, right in town, everything necessary for a beautiful dinner, even without a local grocery store. The Rockport Farmers Market, open Saturday morning from 9 to 1 p.m. at Harvey Park off Broadway, makes menu planning easy.
Sasquatch Smoked Fish served on the adorable cornmeal and molasses Fish Shack Loaf from Seabiscuit Bakery is the appetizer “du Rockport,” as wanton and epicurean as it is local.
The next course is silken homemade pasta tossed in the “World’s Best Pesto” from Pride’s Osteria. Originally from Genoa, now Rockport resident Paolo Laboa partnered with Michael Magner to create a trattoria-type restaurant in Beverly, Pride’s Osteria. In 2008, Laboa won the World’s Best Pesto competition in Genoa, Italy. His pesto is creamy and basil-deep like no other. All of Laboa’s dishes are created with a rapt Italian heart and an artist’s finesse, and many are being sold at the cheerful stand on Saturday mornings at the Rockport Farmers Market. Manned by Magner, Molly, and LaBoa’s wife, Mercedes Flavin, the stand has new treats every week, but always pasta and pesto.
Homemade foccacia is for sale by the slice, or take away a foccacia filled with buffalo mozzarella and heirloom tomato; sandwich perfection. When Mercedes ran out of tomato one week, she substituted paper-thin slices of Mike Raymond’s spring turnip. Perfection improved. Mercedes and Paolo also bake a new flavor of pie and Italian croustade each week. They make dessert; you spend more time at the beach.
Herbaceous, nutty, complex in flavor like a good wine, Rockport’s own Seaview Farms’ grass-fed beef is definitively delicious, a meat we should be proud of raised by the seventh generation of the Lane family in Rockport. A rib-eye steak from Seaview makes an easy choice for a main course. The farm also sells fresh eggs and honey.
Lastly, produce from First Light Farm in Hamilton and Apple Street Farm in Essex is tumbling from tents: lettuces, kale, kohlrabi, garlic scapes, onion, bok choy, napa cabbage, and flowers, all the riches of summer gardens, are here in Rockport on Saturday mornings.
When your own cherry tomato crop overwhelms the deck, bring the overflow to the Rockport Farmers Market “Homegrowers’ Wheelbarrow,” dedicated to people with just a few of their own garden crops to share.
Local grower Marvin Roberts has been at the market with his — whoosh! There it goes! — well, Marvin was selling his rhubarb, but it sold out before the bucket touched ground. If the birds don’t get them first, Roberts may bring raspberries and peaches, but no promises.
An “Ask The Expert” event happens each week at 11 a.m. under a shady tree in the center of the park. One week Mary White was answering gardening questions. Roberts, a Ph.D. in botany, has discussed perennial vegetables and Jerusalem Artichokes. This week he will be talking about native tomatillos and husk cherries.
The Essex Farmers Market also happens Saturday mornings at the Ebb & Flo parking lot on Route 133, near the Gloucester line. Along with Apple Street and Maritimi Farms, the new locally-grown flower business Aster B is there making bouquets.
Melissa Glorieux arrived in Essex from San Francisco, home to one of the lushest farmers markets in the country. There Melissa experienced not just access to opulent local produce, but local flowers as an art form. On just under an acre of cultivated Essex farm land, Glorieux and horticulturist Renee Portanova now grow peonies, sweet peas, Icelandic poppies, sunflowers, nasturtiums, strawflowers, lisianthus, and bouquet-herbs such as verbena, oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender, camomile, fennel dill, and more.
Wedding planners, a steady business for Aster B., are swooning over the homegrown aesthetic, but the winning bouquets are there for all of us on Saturday mornings. As summer flows, the flower palettes will just keep getting brighter.
Our old favorite, the Cape Ann Farmers Market, the grand dame to the young Rockport and Essex markets, still offers not just a bushel basket of farm choices, but a wonderful late afternoon out. Located in Stage Fort Park from 3 to 6:30 p.m., the Cape Ann Farmers Market invites a stroll past an abundance of vendors, a chance to meet friends, and grab some homemade Lebanese flatbread for a snack.
The Cape Ann Farmers Market is the best of marketplace shopping. The parking is easy; the view of Gloucester Harbor is spectacular, and farmers such as Maggie from Mehaffey Farm in Rowley, which has been in the Mehaffey family since 1718, smiles warmly at you as she hands you a magnificent chartreuse Romanesco broccoli grown by her son.
Peaches will be arriving in our farmers markets soon, so I’m offering an unusual and delicious way to turn them into a light summer meal: Peach Burgers!
4 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 large ripe peaches
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
4 crusty round rolls
Mix cheeses until smooth and creamy. Fold in walnuts and mint. This mixture is best allowed to sit for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.
In a small bowl stir together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Slice the peaches in half, and toss halves in the dressing to coat well.
Heat a grill pan or skillet to medium high. (You could also do this on an outside grill.) When the pan is hot, lay peaches cut side down in the pan. Cook for four minutes or until side is dark brown and beginning to caramelize. Flip, and cook for four minutes on the other side, really just to heat the peach, as the curved bottom doesn’t allow grill marks. Remove to a warm oven while you are assembling the sandwiches.
Toast or grill the buns. Spread one half thickly with the cheese mixture. Lay lettuce leaves down on the other half, and lay the warm peach on top. Drizzle any leftover dressing on top. Close the sandwich and serve.
Rockport resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought column weekly. Questions and comments may be directed to email@example.com. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.