Market Menu: September 2

I don’t have any idea how we got to September already. I mean, SEPTEMBER?! Where did July and August go? Every year, the summer seems to fly by, and I find myself wondering if it was all just a dream. But then those tomatoes keep coming, and I know it wasn’t a dream. (though with our weather forecast tonight, those tomatoes might need some cover soon!)

What should you expect to see this weekend at the Bloomington market?

The return of some salad greens! Arugula, lettuce, and some other cooler-weather (spring/fall) greens, in addition to kale. Also, the return of some cooler-weather vegetables like radishes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, and swiss chard. Plus, all the midsummer veg like tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, onions, scallions and herbs.

So, what could we make from a market haul?

Breakfasts:

Is there anything at the market this week that might change your breakfast selections? I’m not above having toast with butter or cream cheese and tomato for breakfast… or for second breakfast, or elevenses. Enjoy those beauties while you can!

Slightly cooler weather, even a temporary string of it, definitely makes me think of hot cereal in the morning. Don’t forget about those berry preserves and syrups you made while the berries were coming so quickly! They make a tasty addition to oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, or any other hot cereal.

If you’re in the mood for something hearty, these breakfast frittata squares from the Food Network might have to be a weekend freezer prep, they look so simple and good. And I can’t imagine why the squares couldn’t be shrink-wrapped and frozen. You’d have to experiment with thawing and heating temperatures and time, but my first instinct would be to thaw overnight and heat in the microwave for about 40 seconds. They look eminently portable though, and that’s a huge plus.

Mark Bittman first made a name for himself as a food critic in the New York Times and has recently become an evangelist of a “mostly plant-based” diet. Check out his ideas for breakfast bread pudding and other unique breakfast ideas (recipes in the article). You can easily sub the fruit in the recipes for whatever is in season.

If your weekend includes hosting guests for brunch or a snack, check out these easy lime buttermilk scones. (I vote for adding a handful of ripe, seasonal berries, too.) Local buttermilk is available from Kilgus Farms at Common Ground Grocery and Green Top Grocery.

Lunches:

Are you a fan of Medici in Normal? It’s easy to make their popular Moroccan Ragout at home, and it takes to variations very easily. A close match is the harira recipe on Epicurious. Although this recipe uses chicken, I usually leave it out (doing so makes it a very close cousin to the Medici soup).  Add zucchini or some diced potatoes for additional heft and flavor.

You know what’s great about your having already bought local buttermilk for scones? (See: breakfast.) We are headed into prime lettuce season once again, and you might be craving a great bibb salad with homemade creamy dressing. In this quick recipe, you can use those precious summer tomatoes (and, really, any kind of sturdier lettuce lead will work great). If salad is your midday meal, you could also add chick peas (or any bean) or chicken for protein.

We’re still inundated with summer vegetables, and this is the time to enjoy them (they’ll be gone pretty soon!). Peppers are prolific right now. You can toss chicken or beans into any of these raw sweet bell pepper salads:

Mediterranean Pepper Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Feta (tips on roasted red peppers here).

Broccoli and Pepper Salad

Dinners:

Cooler weather inspires us to bake and to cook satisfying, one-pot meals – I’m thinking chili and cornbread. Chili is so flexible (we know, we know! Please don’t report us to the Texans…) and you can pile in the veggies. Get inspired by summer vegetable black bean chili or beef and summer squash chili. Here is a summer vegetable and pork chili that you can do in your slow cooker while you’re at the Labor Day BBQ.

And you can’t have chili without buttermilk jalapeño cornbread…yet another justification for that buttermilk.

Use those radishes that are coming back as a topping for your chili or slice them in a cucumber radish salad on the side.

And then there is THIS chili-lime melon salad. I will leave it at that.

 

Summer Fizzy Drinks: Spirited Version

This post was largely inspired by the Briar Patch cocktail, and the blackberry-chile syrup that is responsible for the bulk of its flavor (101 Cookbooks). It is everything good about summer, to my mind: fresh, sweet (but not too sweet), hot (but not too too hot), fruity and fizzy, and as boozy (or not) as you want. The cocktail, which originally called for blackberry simple syrup, features bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup and bitters (plus egg white if you like it shaken and foamy — I don’t, so I leave it out). It’s riff on a Maple Leaf, I suppose, with a smoky-hot twist!

 

This is just one of many cocktails that you can make using local berries and herbs; if you haven’t thought to make your own syrups or infusions before, we have some suggestions for getting started!

Some recent posts I’ve been admiring on this subject:

by Stacey Spensley (via Flickr)

From Food and Wine, the Garden Elixir features cilantro and celery in variation of the gin martini. They also add green Chartreuse, apple juice, and lime juice to bump up the green. Don’t worry if you don’t keep Chartreuse on hand; it’s very distinctive and certainly adds to this cocktail, but it’ll be delicious without it as well. I’d definitely go with a little fizz on this one, maybe using lime soda instead of the lime juice, but it’s up to you.

 

Pepino’s Revenge, also from Food and Wine (via Wolfgang Puck) uses cucumber and basil in a margarita-like tequila cocktail — SO refreshing on a hot day!

 

via Pexels.com

From The Spruce, try a blueberry martini!! Making the juice is as simple as blending the berries (no need to strain, unless you want the juice to be clear).

Or try their Garden Patch Smash, which combines tequila, blueberries, raspberry-lavender syrup, lime, and lavender soda.

And, we couldn’t leave out the tomatoes… and neither could Serious Eats. They have a wonderful fresh tomato martini that absolutely wouldn’t be the same without that perfect local tomato. The recipe calls for tomato and vodka blended together, and then strained gently but thoroughly to yield clear tomato-flavored vodka. To 3 oz of this, you add 1/2 t. dry vermouth, and 1/4 t. white wine vinegar. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass. It’s a bit unusual, but so summery and delicious.

Why not experiment with your cocktail recipes, and include some local ingredients? Let us know if you have a favorite!

 

 

 

Summer Fizzy Drinks: Non-Alcoholic Version

There’s almost nothing I like better on a hot summer day than a refreshing fizzy beverage. With only a little bit of work, you can make a variety of syrups to add to club soda for refreshing drinks all summer long!

 

Syrups

Ever tried making your own soda/pop/flavored fizzy water at home? Instead of buying syrups at the store, you can make them from just about any fruit you choose! Then, just add to club soda or water or iced tea, or the beverage of your choice. The post linked above uses a ratio of roughly 1 part fruit, 1 part water, 1 part sugar. There are variations of this, depending on the tartness or sweetness desired, but keep in mind that traditional simple syrup is 1 part sugar to 1 part water. You can simply squeeze & strain fruit and add to a simple syrup, or boil fruit down (strain if you want to remove seeds). With berries like blackberries, you’ll notice a change in flavor as the juice cooks down, but it’s worth trying it both ways to see what you like best.

The sky is the limit here, in terms of fruit:

Use what you love! It’s an excellent thing to do with fruit that you’re afraid will spoil before you have a chance to eat it all. Berries, peaches, plums, take your pick.

You don’t even have to use fruit! You can make your own flavored syrups for adding to coffee and other drinks, too. I’ve been making an almond rich simple for my iced coffee this summer, and it’s delicious. Saveur has ideas for everything from rose to thai spice. And as they note, you can use these syrups in club soda, in coffee or cocktails, or on ice cream, pancakes, and other dishes.

Shrubs

Shrubs are a drink that’s making a comeback! They’re a vinegar-based drink, making them the perfect thirst-quenching refreshment for hot midwestern summer days (not that we get any of those here). Historically, it’s been a non-alcoholic drink, thriving during the temperance movement in the U.S., but leave it to the college students to add liquor. Today, shrubs are making a comeback both as bar novelty and alternative to alcoholic drinks. But you can make your own, so easily! And by incorporating some of the bounty of the summer’s berry bushes into your shrub syrups, you can preserve local fruit and enjoy them, too!

Basic Proportions:

2 c. Fruit
2 c. Vinegar (anything with a 5% acidity content or more)
2 c. Sugar

Feel free to play around with the types of fruit, vinegar and sugars you choose; I’ve loved peach and honey with apple cider vinegar and a touch of vanilla;  strawberries with balsamic and white vinegar; blackberries with turbinado and red wine vinegar.

The best part, perhaps, is that you can use “seconds” from the market or field. Local farms will often sell #2 or seconds for preserving, where the fruit doesn’t have to look perfect. You don’t have to fuss over the trimming of your fruit when making shrub syrups; just clean and trim anything that doesn’t taste good. The only downside is that you have to wait about a month for them to hit peak deliciousness. The fruit stays in the vinegar during this time, infusing it with flavor.

The Ball Blue Book is full of vinegars — blueberry-basil, cranberry-orange, lemon-mint, loganberry, blackberry, and sweet cherry. They’re all canning recipes, so they’re shelf-stable!

 

Kombucha

If patience is a virtue you cherish, and you’re still with me on the sour drinks, then perhaps you’d like to move on to kombucha? As a fermented drink, kombucha takes some time to, well, ferment! Like when making sourdough bread, you’ll keep a starter (called a SCOBY, in kombucha-making) going from batch to batch.

For your first batch, you can get start from a friend who has been making kombucha long enough that their SCOBY has babies (they tend to separate into two over time), or you can actually purchase a dehydrated starter. Common Ground in downtown Bloomington carries dehydrated starter, shown at left, as well as starter for kefir (for another day!).

 

The kombucha-making process is relatively simple — very simple, if you’re used to making sourdough bread.

Each time you make kombucha, you’ll be keeping a small amount of your previous batch, along with the SCOBY, and you’ll feed it so that it continues growing.

Brew some tea, let it cool to room temperature, add sugar, vinegar, and the scoby. Wait 1-4 weeks, and bottle or otherwise transfer into a container for drinking — retaining a small amount of the finished kombucha and the SCOBY for the next batch.

So what are you waiting for?! Go get your fizzy drinks made before the next heat wave!

p.s. As always, be sure to follow a recipe if you plan to preserve these for shelf-stability. Or, freeze them (be sure to leave enough head space for expansion), and avoid the boiling water baths.

p.p.s. For the fizzy part, I highly recommend the SodaStream. It’s not cheap, but it’s more than paid for itself in savings on soda pop alone. Plus, I find that I drink more water when I have a fizzy option.I have the $99 base model, but I’m starting to see them on sale as people trade up for larger quantities, so keep your eyes open!