5.13.2012

Rites of spring: A trip to Brimfield and a spring onion soup recipe


Note to self: don’t go to Brimfield by yourself again.

It was one of those perfect New England days. A slight breeze, puffy clouds floating in deep blue, temperatures hovering in the low seventies. I was having breakfast with my friend Louis when he told me he had been to Brimfield earlier in the week with his new friend. Snap.

You should go. It’s still early, he insisted. Just get in the car and go.

But you went with him, I replied, feeling slightly miffed. I had forgotten all about Brimfield. I’m still living in March and we’re in the middle of May. That’s how life is right now. I count on Louis to remind me. It’s just something we usually do together in the spring.

Well, after all, it was a beautiful day, and my planned work involved paying bills and other secretarial duties in the interest of keeping this family on track. Blowing it off in a nano-second was a no-brainer. The trip takes about an hour, so I could easily be there by noon. Not. We’ve never encountered much traffic before, but the three-mile crawl from the main highway added an extra hour to the trip, so by the time I got there, I was hungry, thirsty, cranky.

I’ve learned a few things about trips to Brimfield with experience. I have seven rules.

1. Have no expectations.
2. Bring no more than $100.00 and when it’s gone, you’re done.
3. Eat as much junk food as you want, no guilt.
4. Bargain even though you hate to.
5. Go on the last day for the best prices. (I broke this rule.)
6. When in doubt, walk away. Bookmark the location in your head for later. Good luck.
7. Eat no more than two donuts. (This contradicts rule #3) (I broke this rule, too.)














I’m just here for the donuts.

I don’t even like cake donuts, but the donuts at Faddy’s stand at Brimfield….Let’s just say, I’m glad their donut shop is outside of Hartford (Connecticut), too long a drive for impulse donut consumption. I hesitate to talk about them or I will find myself in the car on my way to the last day of Brimfield five minutes from now. Luckily, I'm still in pajamas as I write this. By the time I change I will have reconsidered. 
The donuts are made with whole wheat pastry flour and apple cider. They’re small, so two donuts count as a normal portion size (rationalization here.) You can actually hear the crunch of sugar and crust as you slowly take the first bite. Inside is warm and soft, but not too soft, and not too sweet. The way a cake donut is supposed to be. Who knew? I have never eaten a cake donut before or since like a Faddy’s donut. Sometimes I bring them home for the family, but often they don’t make it there, unless I put them in the trunk of the car. Anyway, you can’t really replicate a warm donut just out of the fryer.



After I took these pictures of Mike and his donuts, he handed me another one. I guess three donuts are lunch. I didn't mind that they crowded out the other junk food I was anticipating on my long, slow drive. I missed Louis’s company and his keen eye for good stuff, so different from my own. I did find a few small treasures, but the pickings were slimmer than usual, or else I just found it hard to focus without a companion to keep me on track. It was worth it just for the donuts, though. And when I came home, I had some spring onion soup waiting for me, an excellent no-fuss light meal, not to mention, the perfect antidote to over-consumption of junk food.

If you want to go: Brimfield is a huge antique fair located in Brimfield MA. 
Upcoming dates for 2012: July 10-15; September 4-9


About spring onions:

So what is a spring onion, exactly? The nomenclature is confusing, but a spring onion is not, as one might presume, a scallion. Rather, spring onions are simply regular onions that are pulled in the spring (April and May) to thin out onion beds. They look like large scallions with fat bulbs that are one to two inches across. If left in the ground, the bulbs grow large and round, the ideal size for storing over the winter. Spring onions, like other spring vegetables, are sweet and mild. After the fairly dead season of late winter produce, you can really get excited about cooking with them. That is, if you are the sort of person who gets excited about vegetables. And I am that sort of person (smiley face here).

That said, I was disappointed when I returned for more of them at the market last week. But we cooks must learn to improvise, so I picked up a couple of large leeks instead. (Note, leeks must be scrupulously cleaned in abundant water since sand often lurks deep in the layers.) The tough green stalks of both vegetables should be removed. Slice them and tuck them away in the freezer in a plastic bag to use for stock. They’ll keep for about 3 months.



Spring onion soup recipe
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
3 spring onions OR 2 large leeks, white part only, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small zucchini, sliced
10 ounces (2 cups) fresh or frozen peas
4 cups light vegetable stock or water
1 large handful baby spinach leaves
1 handful parsley leaves (about 1 cup packed)
Finely grated zest 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Suggested garnishes: thinly sliced radishes, chopped chives and/or crème fraiche

Method:
1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onions or leeks, celery, scallions, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently, stirring now and then, for 7 to 9 minutes, or until soft but not brown.

2. Add the zucchini and stock, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes longer. Taste and season with more salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and add the spinach leaves, stirring for about 30 seconds, or until they wilt. Stir in the parsley.

3. Puree the soup in a blender, half at a time, until fairly smooth; you are aiming for a slightly nubbly texture. Return the soup to a clean pot, and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Heat, and taste again. Season with more salt and pepper if you like. Serve garnished with one or all of these: a few thin slices of radish, a spoonful of crème fraiche, some chopped chives.








6 comments:

  1. nice shout out to Louis! I love Brimfield but am always too scared to go solo, now you've reminded me why......

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  2. Nilou's mom, Well, the donuts helped. It's just so crazy and over-stimulating! But I'll go back again. Happy Mother's Day!

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  3. I have that exact same colorful plate in the picture. :)

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  4. Sally, I just happened upon your blog via A Food Centric Life. Beautiful Blog! I was fortunate enough to attend Brimfield once a few years ago. I live on the West Coast so it isn't an easy accomplishment. I LOVED it and will definitely go back again soon. I agree with your "seven rules", but I broke every one of them. Oh well! I also related to your post on Vegetable Stock and Cooking 101. The whole reason I began my blog is because I became an empty nester when sending my only child off to college a few years ago. Ahhh, yes, life does go on - thankfully!

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    1. Mary, life certainly does go on when your kid(s) head off to college. I know what you mean.But at times I do miss that "College Boy" of mine. I look forward to trying some of your recipes. Let me know if you return for another Brimfield excursion.

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