The Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market sends a handy e-mail before every market; the “What’s Fresh and Fun” e-mail lists every vendor and what they’re bringing with them on Saturday. I use it to plan our meals during the week, and even though spring is just getting started, farmers have plenty of fresh, local food to share, from fresh produce to preserved fruit, locally raised meat and poultry and local grains.
Here’s a menu based on all of the vendors who will be at the market this week:
I LOVE the dried herbs and spices from Granni’s Acres – I’ve been sprinkling their dehydrated veggies in everything. (Try adding their dried radish powder or jalapeño powder to soups or to mayo for sandwiches.)
Although the calendar says “late April,” winter has been reluctant to leave us this year. But at least the farmer’s market is here to reassure us that spring really is on the way.
How do you know spring has sprung? Because, in addition to our reliable root staples, at you’ll find a variety of spring greens at the market to help reclaim your sanity after our loooong winter.
Spring veggies also inspire lighter meals with easy preparation. Some spring greens are delicate and tender, and require a light touch with dressing – perhaps just a touch of olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice. Greens like arugula are spicy or even bitter, and are great paired with a contrasting flavor – a sweet dressing or fruit, or something rich and robust, such as bacon or chicken thighs.
The recipes below combine spring greens with other market staples that you should be able to find this week.
Salad for breakfast? Absolutely! This savory “breakfast buddha bowl” features springtime asparagus, greens, avocado, and a fresh egg.
Skipping the greens? Thomas Keller’s BLT fried egg-and-cheese sandwich is probably just as good without the tomato (patience, readers! The tomatoes are coming). You could always top with some locally-made salsa.
Is anything more welcome than spring herbs? Check out these options for herb-based sauces that you can put on virtually anything.
And remember, everyone – this is just the beginning! See you at the indoor market this weekend, and at the OPENING DAY of the 2018 outdoor market on Saturday, May 5 at the square in downtown Bloomington!
Late November often finds us slogging through cold, damp and dark days – hardly the kind of weather that says “bountiful vegetables.”
AND YET, thanks to our farmers, the onset of cold weather hasn’t dimmed the wide variety of fresh veggies available to us in central Illinois. You’ll find greens, lettuces, carrots, potatoes and tons of other root veggies, Brussels sprouts, squashes, fresh herbs – and every year, a couple of vendors work some kind of voodoo and bring along some tomatoes that were picked green and slowly ripened on a window sill or something (get there early for those. You’re already pining for fresh tomatoes, aren’t you? Me too).
Also, if you’re making a traditional mashed potato, be sure to select a variety that is suited for that preparation. The most popular variety of mashing potato in the U.S. is the russet, but keep your eye out for types like Purple Viking. It’s purple on the outside but bright white inside, and it’s delicious. A strategy for freeing up stove and oven space is to cook stuffing in the slow cooker.
People swear up and down that they dislike Brussels sprouts – until they have them roasted with balsamic vinegar (I never bother with the pancetta/bacon and it’s still great) or tossed in a quick sauté with (I KID YOU NOT) chopped pistachios – I promise, this is another dish that I often I bring, people look at suspiciously, try it, and then devour.
I know what you’re saying: no one goes to Thanksgiving dinner to eat salad. Except me. (And I love ALL the Thanksgiving trimmings!) But most of the meal is typically so rich that I always crave something to balance it out – especially a fresh, raw salad. One that I’ve made and served for years is a roasted beet, orange, and arugula salad. And, yes – beets. Every year I bring or serve some version of this signature salad to dinner (because I’m selfish – I want to eat it!) and there are never, ever leftovers.
What’s more traditional for Thanksgiving than pumpkin pie? Here is how to instantly up your pie game: use fresh pumpkin. (Well, not instantly…it takes a bit more work, but it will be worth it.)
You’ll find local grains at the market, too – cornbread muffins, anyone? (I am thinking of leftover muffins with coffee on Friday morning, schmeared with jam.) Plenty of you out there make cornbreadstuffing, too (there’s two links there – one for a “healthy” stuffing and the other…somewhat less so!).
OK…so here are some thoughts for the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving, when you’re going to be on a roll with great food, but maybe you need to counter the richness of that meal with a few days of simple and delicious options. How about:
Fall is definitely here, and so is the end of a fantastic outdoor market season. (The indoor market season continues once every month at the Coliseum.)
The good news is: you get to start planning for the Thanksgiving Market! The first indoor market of the season is Saturday, November 18 – doors open at 10am at the Bloomington (Grossinger Motors) Coliseum. It’s a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season, just in time to shop for Thanksgiving Day meals. Also, we’ll be putting out a special Market Menu just for Thanksgiving.
But for now, let’s make some plans on how you’re going to use the fantastic local veggies you’ll find at THIS week’s market. The colder weather has us thinking of comfort foods to take away the chill, and easy and/or hands-off recipes that let you maximize your time away from the kitchen this week.
I’ve been doing a lot of shopping in the bulk isle, especially for beans, lentils, and other hearty proteins. Green Top Grocery and Common Grounds Natural Foods both have well-stocked bulk aisles – it’s a great place to experiment with new-to-you proteins and grains. Last night I needed a quick dinner that wouldn’t involve takeout and spied a jar of dried yellow split peas in my pantry. Pea soup! I sautéed what I had on hand in the pressure cooker pot: some onions, celery, and a couple of carrots, all diced. I added two diced potatoes and two cups of yellow split peas along with 8 cups of water and broth. I had some roasted tomatoes from the summer in the freezer (a can of tomatoes of any type would also work), so I added those along with a bay leaf. Put the top on, locked it, brought it to pressure and cooked for 30 minutes. Once the pressure released I opened the lid to see a velvety soup – that was dinner! We loved it.
My point is: it doesn’t take much to make a great, hearty soup – some beans, lentils, or split peas, some version of mirepoix, choose a spice profile, and add in whatever other veggies you’ve got on the counter (chunks of potato or diced squash) or in the fridge (add spinach, kale, or collard greens at the end, right before serving).
The following recipes can all be made in a slow cooker, instant pot/pressure cooker, or on the stove top. If you’re accustomed to dried green split peas, you might give yellow ones a try – they’ve got a milder, somewhat sweeter flavor and I think they cook just a bit faster. If you have a pressure cooker, they cook in 30 minutes or less. Like any bean or lentil, there are a gazillion flavor profiles you can choose from for a hearty, delicious soup:
Late fall salads are also on my radar. You’ll find lots of wonderful greens at the market this week – and try thinking outside the “greens salad” box (though I never get tired of a great greens salad!):