Friday, August 15, 2008

A beautiful Saturday morning at the San Antonio Farmer's Market

I am feeling guilty about dogging on San Antonio farmer's markets so often in my posts. The truth is that San Antonio does not have a lively farmer's market scene. It cannot stand up to the markets I have been in other cities, like Boulder, where the farmers' goods stretches on for a solid city block and includes dozens of farmers, artisan bakeries, cheese suppliers from local creameries, and honey and jam vendors. I even saw a booth at the Boulder farmer's market a few few years ago that focused entirely on all varieties of fresh garlic. I bought eight different kinds of cloves! It comparison, the San Antonio scene is very minimal.

Yet, at teh same time, minimal is far superior to absent. And what minimal market we have was thriving with honest, kind, and proud farmers showing their produce from very small local farms. So in truth it was the essence of what a good farmer's market should be. I found it delightful. Sam and I went to the market early Saturday morning and wandered. The pretest booth was a vendor selling ripe Hill Country peaches and flowers out of metal buckets. We did not buy any flowers, alas, but we did purchase tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, a watermelon, and TWO POUNDS of fresh figs.

Oh they were good. And so cheap! I paid $9 at the grocery store two weeks ago for six - yes, count them, six - ripe figs. Yet at the farmer's market they were sold about 15 figs for $5. A royal bargain. I have an Italian fig ice cream that I have been holding onto for this exact moment, so I made it for a dinner party this week. It was ripe fig perfection.

I served the ice cream with a very salty shortbread cookies and it was a perfect compliment. Several guests crumbled the cookie on top of their frozen dessert, and I followed suit to much delight. The salt and the creaminess of the ice cream really spotlighted the fig flavor. And I love the texture of tiny little fig seeds, and they gave the tiniest hint of texture to the ice cream. They are so fun to chew, fresh or frozen. Fig seeds are so gentle, the just pop in the mouth. It is like the champagne of fruit!

Gelato di Fichi - Fig Ice Cream
from Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan

I modified the recipe by reducing the sugar and increasing the dairy fat. My changes are noted in the recipe below. The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup sugar, and 2/3 cup water and 2/3 cup milk. As you can see, I cut back the sugar, and I subbed half and half in place of the water. What can I say, I like a creamy ice cream. My ice cream confidence is also still smarting a bit from a Cooking Light recipe I tried recently that used 2 percent milk in place of cream, and it just ended up crystallized. I like ice CREAM, hence the half and half. My final product tasted delightful, very rich but not too sweet. Definitely cut back the sugar if you figs are ripe and sweet, you want to taste the fruit over the taste of sweet.

1 pound fresh figs
1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup half and half

1. Wash the figs, remove the protruding stem, but do not peel.
2. Blend figs and sugar in a food processor. Puree to a creamy consistency.
3. Add the milk and half and half and process a few moments more, until the sugar is dissolved.
4. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according the the manufacturer's instructions.

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