5 best farmers market finds and what to do with them
Tell me you go to your local farmers market. Please. Just tell me, and I’ll leave you alone. Swear to pie.
Two reasons: First, you can’t beat the capital “F” fresh produce with a stick. I mean, if you’ve never shopped at a farmers market, well, I suppose it’s an exaggeration to say, “you haven’t lived.” You’re alive right now, in fact, reading this article, like some crazy alive person. But, you should still go.
Second: I like to support the little guys. By shopping at farmers markets, we’re literally buying into a food system that challenges the corporate, industrialised farming model that currently rules the world. In other words, we’re sticking it to the man.
Now, I like experimenting with the weird stuff as much as the next guy: kohlrabi, ground cherries, Pyrenees mastodon rhubarb, weasel-throated stretch beans (OK, those last two I made up). Still, being the creature of habit that I am, I have a few go-to items I always like to bring home:
1. Squash and zucchini
Here are some varieties I really like: zucchini, of course, and patty pan squash that look like a 7-year-old’s cartoon drawing of an alien spacecraft. And my favourite: golden zucchini, with its deep, lustrous hue that makes plain old yellow squash look like Jim Nabors next to Rock Hudson.
(Do I need to hip up my cultural references, or what?)
Here’s my basic preparation for any of them: Dice and saute over high heat in olive oil until tender. Next, add some garlic, salt and as much freshly ground black pepper as your nose can stand. Saute until the garlic is just fragrant, about 30 seconds. This is your base recipe. Now add other farmers market gems: fresh tomatoes, basil, mushrooms, etc.
Salads, sauces, salsas… sure, but, listen to this: When I was at uni, working a summer job in a North Carolina mill, we’d eat “mater sammiches”: thick slabs of ripe tomato on bread as pure and white as Mother Teresa’s soul. Just slather some mayo onto the bread, place the tomato slabs on top, season with salt and pepper and, blammo! One of the greatest things ever. Swear to gosh.
At 10 dollars a dozen, you’re probably thinking that’s a bit steep. OK, simmer down now, Griswold: Sure, you can get eggs for a quarter of that price at the supermarket. But, let me ask you: If spending an extra 50 cents on breakfast could turn it into something remarkably better, wouldn’t you do it?
Work with me here: Regular supermarket eggs can lie in the pan as flat and lifeless as a cardboard zombie. Farmers market eggs, though, fresh as a dadgum daisy, straight from the chicken, sit up as high and as tight as a Nolan Ryan fastball. There’s just no comparison.
My favourite breakfast: over-easy egg over leftover legumes — black beans, white beans or Indian dal — with the warm liquid yolk dripping into the legumes, enriching the sauce.
Supermarket rockmelon are small, hard and virtually tasteless. Your locally grown varieties, though, are often huge, juicy and bursting with flavour. Peel, seed and cut one into dice and snack all day long. Or toss the chunks into the blender with some yogurt and ice and a pinch of salt and you’ve got yourself a smoothie that Genghis Khan or James Caan would enjoy equally. Or puree the rockmelon with a splash of Champagne for a spectacular cold summer soup. Or wrap it in prosciutto and drizzle it with a balsamic reduction.
Locally grown beans taste nothing like the pale, bland specimens the national grocery chains have gotten us used to. And consider the tons of beany varieties: yellow beans, purple beans, gorgeous dragon tongue beans and a host of others. Steam or simmer them, then toss them on a nicoise salad with boiled potatoes, olives, tomatoes and a dollop of canned tuna. Or quick-saute them with a little butter (And garlic. And tomato. And herbs. And mushrooms. And more beans. And and and …). Trust me, it will make you happy.
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