Ritual or Regimen

Some people think of grocery shopping as a chore and a bore. They couldn't care less whether they shopped at the supermarket or farmer's market, just as long as it is quick and convenient. And then there are those of us love to shop for food.
It is almost like a sacred ritual. I would drive out of my way for a good loaf of sultana fennel bread and sweet cream butter.
I even sometimes pretend I am shopping like the europeans do, moving from store to store until the daily sustenance is neatly tucked into the straw market basket ready for a delicious feast. Minus having to travel by car and missing the delightful hymn of a foreign language, I can trick myself into believing that I have traveled back in Italy at the local market in the small town piazza saying "buon giorno" to the shopkeepers who tend to their cheese and bread and meats like their own children.

I collect market baskets and keep them in various places, at work, in my trunk, at my back door, so I will have one ready on hand whenever a cheese ripens and an the freshly baked bread comes out of the oven.
New York's union square market and San Francisco's Ferry Market Plaza are my two favorite places to shop away from home on this side of the pond. The Union Square market is unpretentious and ever changing, a bit rough and tumble and clearly an everyday event with loyal regulars and weekenders in town. The Ferry Market plaza has changed over the years and is now a more serious affair, both more expensive and exclusive, but nonetheless, rich and ripe with this season's finest offerings.
I always manage to find myself at Mcevoy's ranch outpost to buy a one-gallon pot Olive Tree to take home and watch how it flourishes by the side of others that have matured over the seven or eight years I began this ritual. I have been known to lug flowers and tomatoes on the plane, as if I would never return. I never regretted the work and always appreciated the fruits of the labor in my kitchen just hours after landing. Heavy jars of Italian specialty goods from Buon Italia is always on the shopping list. Located in Chelsea marketplace in New york, this no-frills store is one of my favorite places to shop for hard to find, inexpensive and authentic specialties from regions around Italia. Never one to mind my wallet when shopping for food, this excursion always costs me a small fortune, but many delicious memories and meals around the table enjoying whatever I have brought home to sample and savor.

Grilled Fig wrapped cheese with chestnut honey glazed figs and marcona almonds

8 figs, cut in half
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil
salt and pepper
1- 6 oz. . piece of haloumi cheese, drained on paper towels.
1- 6 oz. jar olive pesto
½ cup Spanish Marcona almonds
crusty Italian bread, like a fennel and sultana raisin

To grill figs:
Gently toss figs with olive oil and season lightly with kosher salt and pepper.
Place figs cut side down on grill over low flame and cook just until soft and almost jam like , about 3minutes . Remove to platter. Drizzle with chestnut honey.

Place cheese in center of two overlapping fig or grape leaves. Spoon olive pesto in middle. Wrap leaves around to cover and secure with two soaked skewers in criss coss fashion. Grill over med high flame on both sides until leaves are crisp and cheese begins to soften and melt. Place on platter and to top with squeeze juice of ½ of lemon.

To assemble cheese platter:
On large platter, place figs to one side. Open up leavesto expose the cheese. Sprinkle a mound of almonds between the cheese and figs . Serve with toasted flatbread.

Buon Appetito!
Copyright 2007 Alisa Barry

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