Robin Anish | The Table is Set: Feasting on Mother Nature's bounty

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I can attest that there is truth in the adage "you eat with your eyes first," as I feasted on the tantalizing array of picture-perfect fruits and vegetables beautifully displayed at a farm stand set up outside Berkshire Medical Center on Thursday afternoon.

Every Thursday from 2 to 5:30 p.m. throughout the harvest season, you'll find Forthill Farm selling its own vegetables, fruits, flowers and eggs just outside the BMC cafeteria on Wahconah Street.

Over the past few years, when traveling over Fort Hill Avenue, I always took notice as a spot of acreage slowly transformed into a viable farm culminating with a newly erected farm store. I don't know why I've driven by many times and admired the farm, but I've never stopped to check out the wares.

Well, I won't fail to stop ever again after shopping at the farm stand last Thursday. The produce was the best I've ever seen. I bought way too much!

I brought home meaty tomatoes, purple and white striated eggplant, a basket of new potatoes, summer squash, peppers, onions, a fragrant sweet melon, blueberries, strawberries, two dozen eggs that have rich, golden-yellow yolks, and way too many string beans!

I did over do it, but I promptly made good use of everything I brought home. The tomatoes, squash, onions, peppers and eggplant were sliced and layered with plenty of garlic, fresh basil, olive oil, mozzarella and Parmesan then baked into a luscious vegetable gratin.

The melon and berries were spot-on ripe and sweet. No need to embellish, so I've enjoyed just snacking on the fruit.

The eggs I bought made the creamiest scrambled eggs and leftover gratin made a nice filling for an omelet.

It's not often that I find potatoes that have just been harvested, but when I do, I like them boiled with the skins on until just tender, buttered and seasoned with salt and pepper.

But now, what do I do with two pounds of green beans?!

GREEN BEANS GRATIN

INGREDIENTS:

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2 pounds fresh green beans

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 cup shredded mozzarella

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

Salt and pepper

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and trim ends of green beans and arrange in a shallow baking dish. Scatter garlic and lemon zest over the beans then pour cream over all. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake 20 minutes or until beans are just tender. Remove foil, sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Combine panko and olive oil with a pinch of salt and sprinkle over the beans. Return to oven, uncovered, and bake until cheese is melted and crumbs are golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Kudos to Forthill Farm and all the farms throughout the Berkshires and Southern Vermont. Fresh produce, organic meats, cheeses, butter, milk, cream, honey, maple syrup and glorious flowers ... we have it all! Thanks to our farmers!


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