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Monday, April 30, 2012

Grant Park Farmers Market brings back addictions

Extraordinary charcuterie
"Tokens, gotta get tokens," the man next to me said, sighing. It was Sunday, the season's opening of the weekly Grant Park Farmers Market. We were both out of cash and most of the booths don't accept plastic.

So we walked together to the market's main booth, where you can use a card to purchase tokens to pay for the glutton-worthy variety of goods. But the line was long and slow. Soon, the man said he was leaving. "I let myself splurge last year on opening day," he said, "but, after that, I made a weekly list before I came over and wouldn't let myself buy anything else. I should have done that today."

He wandered away, munching on a quite reasonably priced ($7) banh mi from the Dumpling Girl, exactly what I was pining for when my wallet went belly up. I've been craving the things ever since Brad wrote a cheap eats column about them.

The Dumpling Girl
I live almost directly across the street, so I decided I'd walk home to find some cash, instead of waiting in line. But once I got home, I decided there was always next week.

I didn't buy much before my little bit of cash ran out — some assorted vegetables, like kale, radishes, and collards. I got a small package of Merguez sausages ($10) from The Spotted Trotter, Kevin Ouzts' much lauded charcuterie in Kirkwood. The booth was being manned by "John," who gave me some great advice on cooking my favorite sausages. I'm talking detail.

I also bought what is always the most irresistible item for me at the market, the mole rojo from Zocalo ($5.50). You would be very hard-pressed to find a fresh mole like it anywhere in the city.

Best Iraqi bread in town
I made chicken mole that night. A little advice. The mole is not a large volume but it is super rich. I roasted a 4-lb. chicken — yes, natural, organic, raised skipping around a field — and cut it into pieces. Instead of adding the mole to the chicken pieces and heating them together, which is ideal to me, I poured the pan drippings and some of the broth into the mole and heated it separately. That way, you can control the density of the sauce. That's not such an issue with smaller birds. I often make it with cornish hens.

I also bought a mole verde, my second-favorite, and usually cook chicken with it too.

My regret in not returning to the market this week, besides not getting a banh mi, was missing out on the Iraqi flatbread, nan, at Nazifa's Bakery. The booth was also selling various Middle Eastern foods that can be wrapped in the huge circles of nan that have brought Nazifa Garib deserved fame. Her bakery is on the far side of Decatur, in the Clarkston area, so it's wonderful to learn I can buy her bread across the street now.

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