As The Bindery's chef/owner, Linda Hampsten Fox, made her way around the Union Station Farmers' Market this past Saturday, she stopped and talked to all the vendors while perusing their goods. Getting to know food producers and purveyors is one of her favorite aspects of the market, and while she shopped for EatDenver's weekly chef's cooking demo, she left with a few business cards as well as armloads of bread, tons of tomatoes and bundles of fragrant fresh thyme.
"I love everything, absolutely everything, from the freshness to the quality of product to the passion of the farmers and craftsmen here," Fox said. "At the Bindery, we are all about the craft of cooking, and everyone here is here for that reason."
The market's vegetable of the week turned out to be summer squash and zucchini, and it became apparent at stands like ACRES at Warren Tech and Micro Farms that the crops are growing strong this summer. The chef selected some bright-green samples from Micro Farms, where she also picked up an impressive bouquet of herbs.
"Summer squash is coming into season, and a lot of people get overwhelmed by the abundance," Fox noted. So she decided that the day's demo dish would center on the vegetable in a panzanella-puttanesca salad, using chunks of bread from Raleigh Street Bakery. The chef also picked up a loaf of ciabatta from Hinman's Bakery to give her creation contrasting bread flavors and textures.
"Panzanella-puttanesca — it's marrying Naples and the Tuscan area, since it's a combination of the two recipes," Fox added, explaining that puttanesca sauce is usually added to pasta. "Originally puttanesca was made to lure fishermen into the beds of women of the night."
Along with zucchini and summer squash, Fox added striped German, Pink Beauty, cherry and beefsteak tomatoes from Rocky Mountain Fresh, as well as the grower's English cucumbers. Pungent bunches of purple and sweet basil from Cure Organic Farm and pickled garlic from Cajun Pickles, a market newcomer, were also procured. The special Spanish olive oil, Calabrian chilis, cured Kalamata olives and flaked sea salt all came from Fox's LoHi restaurant.
As she ripped bread, sliced tomatoes, tore basil and drizzled in olive oil, the chef talked to the audience about life in Italy (where she lived for many years), world travel, her personal cooking preferences and her daughter, who's now in college. She gave step-by-step instructions to the crowd who had gathered in the sunny spot on that hot market day, noting the complete instructions could be found in her new cookbook that's currently available online but will soon be sold at the Tattered Cover.
"It's super-simple and really fun, plus you can decide which vegetables and pickles you want to put in it," she explained of the panzanella, adding that the salad gets better the longer it sits, and making it proves a handy use for old bread. "It's a great idea for a picnic or a home barbecue, too."
The audience left with a great idea for a flavorful salad and a new way to use summer squash; and the chef walked with some new connections for her restaurant. All of the samples were gobbled up by the hungry crowd, even quicker than the just-in Palisade peaches over at the Morton Orchards booth.
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