As I’ve likely mentioned before, my gig as Market Chef for Texas Farmers’ Markets has me visiting the market with no recipe in hand, but a simple and delightful task; to find the best and freshest the market has to offer that day, and create a recipe then and there that is inspired by the task at hand.
Some weekends are easier than others. Some seasons, in fact, are easier than others.
THIS IS THAT SEASON.
ALL of my favorites are in season, y’all. June in Texas, especially this year, is hot as blue blazes. Farmers can barely keep up with their bountiful and burgeoning fields, and the market benefits from their sweaty hard work. Perhaps, because I’ve been a farmer, I am that much more appreciative of the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor. But friends, get thee to the markets because it’s ALL GOING DOWN– peaches and plums and blackberries and blueberries and tomatoes and peppers and basil and onions and potatoes and eggplants, and, and, and…..ALL of my favorites.
Even okra. I’ve become a fan of peak of the season OKRA. But I digress….
Along with tables and bins and buckets lush with ripe, fragrant produce, this weekend saw the debut of FRESH DUCK from Belle Vie Farm.
I love a perfectly seared duck breast and Belle Vie Farm was generous enough to allow me the honor of preparing it for market goers this weekend. It was a huge hit.
|A fan of Fried Green Tomatoes? Find a recipe for the most traditional preparation here, and stop by my Instagram feed to see how Gray Gardens inspired an even simpler way to eat them. With vegetables at their peak, the simpler the better to help them shine brightest. Why gild the lily, after all?|
Now I’d certainly make this for myself– just one of me, and nibble on it for several meals, but where I think it particularly shines is as a light, impressive dinner for a small gathering. It’s a beauty– and don’t we love our pretty foods (check out my Instagram feed for pretty food from every corner of my world, in fact).
Peaches pair particularly well with the richness of duck, and basil pairs particularly well with peaches. I truly adhere to the ‘what grows together, goes together’ principle of seasonal eating, and it serves me well both at the markets, and in my home kitchen, and you’ll see in this salad that the main characters, as well as the supporting cast prove the maxim spot on.
Below, find the processes for creating a memorable summer salad that will have your guests returning for more. The addition of a crusty loaf of fresh bread and the best butter you can lay your hands on, accompanied by a thoughtfully chosen bottle or two of wine– try Gewürztraminer, a lovely pairing with the savory peach components of the salad as well as a great non-red choice for the rich and complex duck breast, and impress your guests, as well as yourself, with a simple, yet far from ordinary summer meal.
SEARED DUCK BREAST AND GRILLED PEACH SALAD PLATTER
1 bunch amaranth greens (Johnson’s Backyard Garden)
3 small cucumbers, sliced (Flintrock Hill Farm)
Several sprigs of basil , destemmed (Johnson’s Backyard Garden)
3 small red onions, peeled and quartered and seared (Johnson’s Backyard Garden)
4-5 small mild banana peppers seared (Johnson’s Backyard Garden)
4 small peaches, grilled (Engel Farms)
1 whole fresh duck breast, skin on, seared to medium rare, and sliced (Belle Vie Farm)
Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette
Prepare ingredients as noted below. On a bed of well washed and dried amaranth greens, compose salad by grouping components and arranging on platter as shown. Dress with Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette, and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve.
Halve unpeeled peaches and remove pit. In a dry cast iron skillet over high heat (alternatively on a cast iron griddle on a pre-heated grill or directly on clean, oiled grate), place peaches, cut side down. Leave untouched until seared fully (either grate marks or seared surface, depending upon method of cooking), then turn and brown on opposite side until peaches are tender. Remove from heat and reserve to assemble salad.
In 2 tablespoons reserved duck fat in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, brown vegetables on one side until well charred, then turn and repeat with opposite side, until vegetables are tender and browned fully.
LEMON PESTO VINAIGRETTE
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup lemon infused olive oil (I used Texas Hill Country Olive Co olive oil)
2 tablespoons prepared pesto (I used Kala’s Kuisine Basil & Walnut Pesto)
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a wide bottomed mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar and dijon mustard. Continue whisking while drizzling in olive oil in a thin stream. When fully blended/emulsified, stir in prepared pesto. Correct seasonings to taste.
SEARING DUCK BREAST
courtesy of Serious Eats
With a sharp knife, gently score duck breasts in a tight crosshatch pattern, keeping the scores 1/8 inch apart. If you prefer a little fat left on the breasts after cooking, just barely score the skin; to render more fat, score more deeply, taking care not to expose the flesh.
Season duck breasts with salt, heavily on the skin side and lightly on the flesh side.
Place duck breast, skin side down, in a large, cold sauté pan. Place pan over low to medium-low heat. To keep the edges from curling up, press duck breasts down with the help of a smaller sauté pan. After about 5 minutes, the fat should begin to gently bubble. If the fat is either silent or spitting, adjust heat accordingly. Maintain the gentle bubble of fat, pouring out excess rendered fat throughout the cooking process, (RESERVING!) until much of the fat has rendered, skin is golden brown, and duck’s internal temperature is 125°F (52°C), about 15 minutes.
Increase heat to medium and further brown skin if needed, about 1 minute, before flipping and cooking on the flesh side. For medium-rare meat, cook until breast registers 130°F (54°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 to 2 minutes. Continue cooking until duck registers 140°F (60°C) for medium or 155°F (68°F) for well-done. Remove duck from pan and set aside to rest. When cool enough to handle, slice thinly to arrange on salad platter.
I’m looking forward to my next visit to the BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW Wednesday market at the Texas Farmers’ Market Mueller location, on June 13, from 5-7pm. If you’re in the area, do stop by to see all of the exciting things in store, including live music, Wednesday-only vendors, and a chef demo by your’s truly showcasing seasonal fresh vegetables and the handcrafted sausage of Taylor Farm.
I would like to see people more aware of where their food comes from. I would like to see small farmers empowered. I feed my daughter almost exclusively organic food. — Anthony Bourdain
STAY COOL out there, friends, and thank you for letting me be a part of your eating lives. Your support has encouraged me to follow my passion, and that has made all of the difference.
Feed yourselves well, rest when you need it, buy yourself fresh flowers, and love life fiercely,