Are we really two months into market season? It’s been a great one so far: beautiful spring greens are about to give way to the veggies that come with the heat of mid-summer. Are you ready? Yeah – we are, too!
So what’s new this week at the market? TOMATOES! We should start seeing early-season tomatoes coming, though getting some is probably going to require your showing up in time for the starting bell. I heard a rumor that, last week, one farmer brought a small number of her first tomatoes to the market and (thoughtfully) rationed them to one per customer to an eager line of tomato-lovers. That’s the kind of pent-up demand for “real” tomatoes you see in June at the market!
Here’s a question that farmers at the market get a lot: what makes a vegetable an “heirloom” variety?
Commercial tomatoes sold in most grocery stores have been grown from plants that were developed to withstand cross-country shipping and distribution. In short, they are bred for durability rather than taste. Heirloom tomatoes are often very delicate, come in a range of colors (even striped!) and have distinctive flavor profiles.
In season in June: Green beans, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, cucumber, spinach, squash, potatoes...
Hot outside? A cucumber-pineapple smoothie is going to be a nice way to keep cool.
If you’re one of the lucky shoppers who got the prized early tomatoes, slice one up and enjoy it with a crispy egg and whole grain toast from one of our market bakers. (What? You’re not doing the crispy egg? My friend, we have to talk.)
Enjoy some berries from Normal’s amazing Refuge Food Forest over yogurt and homemade granola (way easier than you think!). (Feeling adventurous? Consider making your own yogurt – both Common Ground Grocery and Green Top Grocery carry Kilgus Farms dairy milk. It is way easier than you think!)
This is the time of year when I start to keep a bowl of cucumber salad in the fridge at all times. I keep making it, and we keep eating it. I usually don’t do much beyond slicing cucs, putting them in a bowl with enough water to cover, and add a bit of vinegar and sugar (a teaspoon or two each) until I like the balance (here is a recipe for something very similar). My grandmother made them this way, and also sometimes with sour cream. Like many salads, there are wonderful variations on this theme across a world of cuisines, which should keep you from getting bored of cucumbers for quite some time.
You might pair this with a healthy and hearty lentil salad or chick pea salad. In our household, we try to cook extra proteins over the weekend if we are grilling so we can add leftovers to salads, too.
Caprese salads have become a summer standby – grab some basil and fresh mozzarella to go with your farm fresh tomatoes and you’re in business.
Other salad ideas for lunch or dinner: broccoli salad (again, so many variations here). My version includes a slightly sweet dressing (yogurt, vinegar or lemon juice, a teaspoon of sugar) and sometimes raisins, apples, and/or carrots.
Summer can mean that meals get a lot simpler. I’m always looking for shortcuts because I’m not eager to spend too much time on cooking (but I still want to eat well!). So…
Rotisserie chicken. Grilled hot dogs with chowchow, a southern condiment staple. We love our bratwurst in the midwest – how about some homemade sauerkraut? (Here is one thing I don’t mind spending time on: a good meatless burger. Impress your vegetarian friends this summer.)
Here’s a great tip: get some really great bread and grill it when it starts to get a little stale and you need to use it up.
I had some great local bread from Chad at The Garlic Press and it was a few days old. My parents were visiting and my mom sliced it, and grilled it in a pan with a bit of canola oil (olive oil is too delicate for this) and sprinkled sea salt. It was phenomenal. (Evidence is to your left.) We ate it with pasta and a salad and it might have been the best part of a fantastic meal.
Happy marketing and bon appetit! – J.S