Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dark Days: Meal 2

There is always this chicken-and-egg question when shopping for the family dinner: do we approach our provisioning with a preconceived menu in mind, or do we see what the market has to offer and make our meal around that?

I went to the Dupont Circle farmers market on Sunday knowing exactly what I wanted: a big, ripe chicken to roast on my charcoal spit. The sides for this meal were still a bit vague, but I was sure I would find something in the teeming morass of vegetable vendors.

Sure enough, at one of the vegetable stands I noticed cartons of okra, still fresh and alert. This has to be the last okra of the season. And though I think this is cheating a bit (okra hardly being "dark days" food--more like August), I thought, Why don't we just save the turnips for later?

Then I spied these big, glorious sweet potatoes and a summery menu began to take shape: fried okra and sweet potato salad. Now all I needed was that chicken, down at the Eco-Friendly food stall at the other end of the market. I made a beeline for the poultry coolers, but all I saw were breasts and miscellaneous pieces. A dark cloud of dread began to form over my well-laid plans.

"We didn't have any whole chickens to bring this week," said one of the salesmen, apparently reading my mind. "But we do have these poussins," and he directed my gaze to a display of little immature chickens--les poussins. Too small for the charcoal spit. But fine for roasting in the oven. My plans would not be completely thwarted.

So here you see my take on Meal 2, Halloween Week. Call it the last of the summer menus: Oven-roasted poussin with a sage-garlic rub, fried okra and sweet potato salad with toasted pecans and a orange-maple syrup dressing.

In other words, I will continue with whatever summer leavings the farmers market has to offer, until the November winds blow us right into fall.

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