Kitchen Witch - To market, to market

I could wax philosophical on why I shop at farm markets. I could preach about the environmental do-goodness, the connectivity one develops to the seasons and how satisfying it is to deepen the pockets of local farmers vs. that of a multinational agri-biz executive.

But at this time of year, the reasons for showing up at market are simple and practical: Mother Nature offers her version of instant food. With the summer growing season at its glorious, brief crescendo, the choices in fruits and vegetables are primo, perfetto, massimo.

In fact, the fruit and veggies are so brilliant, so inviting, so luscious that there’s no good reason to eat meat until after the first frost. Vegetable combinations are many and varied, and there’s a culinary freedom akin to taking off your clothes under the moonlight.

So, if you’ve been harboring doubts about the value of farm markets, this is the time of the year to become a believer. In celebration, I’m offering up an impromptu dish that is made with ingredients from my local market in northern Virginia. More than a veggie sauté but not quite a slow-cooked braise, this beauty showcases the best of summer produce and reminds me why it’s still my favorite time of year.

Although I served it over store-bought rice, I can envision a pillow of couscous or pasta working just as well.

Impromptu Summer Veggie Thang

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/2 chile pepper, seeded and diced

1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned

1 handful okra, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

2 ears corn, kernels removed from cob

Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half or 2 larger tomatoes, quartered

1/4 cup white wine, or juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup rice, cooked

• In a deep skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic, onion and both peppers. Cook until soft and onion is translucent. Add okra, corn and tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes, then add white wine, bringing mixture to a boil.

• Partially cover and cook until desired tenderness. Season with salt and pepper; serve over rice. Serves two.