At the local farmers' markets, where now, at the end of the season, purveyors are thrusting plastic bags into our hands and begging us to stuff them full of fresh vegetables for just a dollar, produce is at its prime and at a price almost anyone can afford.
For four more weeks, farmers will drive to the Springs in the pre-dawn hours, set up their stands and share the wealth. And though the nights are cold, the mornings hovering just above frost temperatures, the produce at this time of year represents the cream of Colorado's crop -- Rocky Ford melons ripened beneath the summer sun, smoky roasted chili peppers so powerful that their aroma permeates the plastic bags they're sold in, and mountains of sweet corn.
About mid-simmer, the Colorado Farmers' Market Cookbook (3-D Press: Denver, $18.95/paperback) appeared at our local markets, a guide to Colorado's crops with welcome tips on how to prepare them. Culling recipes from Colorado farmers, ranchers and specialty food producers, the authors also included a useful crop calendar, a statewide farmers' market guide and short articles on the care and preparation of specific crops. (Five percent of the net profits from the book will be donated to the Colorado Farmers' Market Association.)
Try this freezing tip for sweet corn found in the cookbook: Husk, wash, remove the silk, and scrape 10 ears of fresh sweet corn of their kernels (try the Peaches and Cream variety; it's fabulous). Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the corn kernels, a stick of butter and a 1/2 cup of half & half in a roasting pan and bake for an hour, stirring occasionally. When it's done, add salt and a little sugar to taste, then cool to room temperature, seal in freezer bags and freeze. To serve it later, just warm it in a saucepan. We tried this recipe and loved it so much we ate all four freezer bags in one session.
Here's another way to prepare sweet corn and celebrate the harvest: Saut chopped scallions and garlic in olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add fresh sweet corn kernels cut from the cob, and stir until hot throughout. Add peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes and one or two peeled, seeded and chopped roasted chilis. Cook until the tomatoes have released their juices and cooked off slightly or until the corn is tender. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.