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!
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...
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.)
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.
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.
In our household, no one likes to cook during the week. I envy those people who say that cooking dinner helps them relax – executing a meal on a Tuesday night is right up there for me with being tied to my couch and forced to binge-watch The Lawrence Welk Show.
So in order to avoid a Weekday Jennifer Meltdown, we (and we is mostly me unless it’s grilling season) do as much batch cooking on the weekends as possible with the plan to get lunches and dinners for two through Thursday. In short, we live for leftovers – prized in our household for thrift, convenience, and the chance to eat more of what you enjoyed a night or two ago.
I’ve also learned to help myself out by stocking the freezer with meal “parts” in the same way you stock a pantry: items that you can pull out, thaw, pair with fresh items (or other leftovers), and get on with your evening.
A great, cheap, nutritious staple to have in the freezer is brown rice. I freeze large batches of brown rice so that I can make Bhudda bowls, a stir fry, or a quick pilaf, and rice is a great supporting character when you’ve got fresh vegetables to use.
The most ingenious way to make brown rice – ready for this? – is in your oven. Alton Brown’s strategy is one that can easily be doubled or tripled and frozen in small batches. (My go-to freezer storage is an old school deli container. For years I hoarded/obsessively guarded a collection of containers from Thai and Chinese takeout until it dawned on me that you can buy anything on the interwebs.) I store 32-ounce containers of rice and take them out a day or two ahead of when I’ll need to use them – or in a pinch, you can certainly defrost in the microwave.
Along with fresh vegetables, I also try to keep things like edamame beans, peas and other frozen veggies around for stir fry.
We’ve got an entire season of fresh veggies just begging to make friends with brown rice, so here are some options to check out to help you avoid Weekday Meal Meltdown:
I recently came home from the market with bags of salad greens and spring radishes, and realized that I had two large bags of carrots left from one of the winter markets last month. I had to make room, so everything went into the oven for soup.
What I love about making puréed soups is that you don’t necessarily need other aromatics, like onions and garlic. Adding those amps up the flavor but it’s not crucial. That’s great when you’re cooking and realize that you ran out of onions!
The basics of puréed soups are usually: aromatics (onion, garlic, celery – though you can get around this), a cooked or roasted vegetable (leftovers work great), a touch of something creamy (coconut milk, yogurt, heavy cream), and something tangy (squeeze of lemon juice). Add-ons and toppings are fun, too (herbs, seeds, avocado, a pinch of cayenne).
Carrot soup is very flexible based on dietary preferences and personal tastes. It’s easy to make it vegan by switching the dollop of yogurt or touch of cream for coconut milk. You can even do this in the slow cooker!
I’ll give you the basics and you can check out some of the myriad of variations in the links below.
1lb carrots, peeled
A lemon or lime
Stock or broth (vegetable or chicken)
Olive oil or butter
Fresh herbs or other toppings for serving (optional) (parsley, cilantro, chives are good choices)
blender or hand blender (immersion blender) (For years, I got by with just an immersion blender)
Sheet pan or Pyrex dish for oven, if you’re roasting the carrots
Knife for chopping
Basically you’re going to cook the carrots (stovetop or roast), add liquid (if you roasted), and purée.
The liquid can be water, though I recommend chicken or vegetable stock.Buying canned or boxed stock can get pricey, and I rely on good-quality bouillon that comes in a jar called Better than Bouillonhttp://www.betterthanbouillon.com/ The grocery stores around town sell it (I usually find it in the soup/broth aisle).
Fresh chopped herbs, a spoonful of yogurt, nuts or seeds, add layers of flavors. Carrots make good partners with range of herbs and spices. If you’re looking for some variations, here are some contrasting recipe options with varied flavor profiles:
Every week in this section, we’ll bring you a preview of what’s expected at the market (depending on availability), and a set of links to recipes that feature seasonal produce, with ingredients to help guide your market and other shopping.
A note about the recipes that follow: they were selected to make use of seasonal local products, with room to alter them to fit your family’s needs. This week features vegetarian recipes, but suggestions for meat additions will be included as well. In the shopping lists that appear below each recipe, we’ll assume that you have the following in your pantry: Garlic, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. Click over to the recipe at its source for complete lists with amounts (and instructions).
Steel-Cut Oats or Whole Oats
No matter the weather, I can always eat steel-cut oats for breakfast. You can cook them the night before and then reheat in the morning, set up in the crock pot overnight, or just cook them in the morning (if you have an hour or so). Alton Brown’s recipe is deliciously rich (containing butter, milk, and buttermilk!). Bob’s Red Mill version is simply oats and water. I like a ratio of 1:3 or 1:4, 1/2 c. oats, 1 1/2 c. water, and 1/2 c. milk (added at the end, so that it doesn’t boil for too long). Very recently, I’ve started adding peanut butter — the fresh-ground kind, which you can grind yourself at Green Top. Optional additions include maple syrup or honey, nuts and/or dried fruit, or preserves. (If you have any fruit left in your freezer from last season, this is a good time to get it out and make some quick refrigerator preserves!). Note: if your oats are whole, rather than cut, you can cook them in that form, too. To release a bit of the starch and make the finished oatmeal more creamy, just pulse them in the food processor a few times.
1/2 c. dry oats will serve 2, with each serving containing 152 calories, 6.6g protein, 26g carbs, 2.7g fat (oats-only). Pantry Check / Shopping List: steel-cut or whole oats, milk (optional), optional additions.
How do you like your lunch routine? It’s easy to get stuck in a lunch rut during the long midwestern winter, but spring greens give you dozens of options. This week, I plan to make four different “salads” (to use the term loosely). There’s no reason you can’t make these for dinners, of course, but the one thing they all have in common is that they can be prepped and stored for a few days, and taste just as good.
Kale Salad with Wheat Berries and Tofu
I really like this Mighty Grain Salad recipe from The First Mess (via Happyolks) as a base for grain salads. It’s flexible enough to make with what you have on hand, but delicious made exactly as written, too.
This week, I’m planning to use winter wheat berries for the grain in the recipe. If you haven’t eaten wheat berries before, you’re in for a treat! They’re nutty and chewy and a little sweet, and available straight from local farmers at the market. Wheat berries can take up to an hour to cook, but they can be cooked in advance and frozen; just make sure to drain them well before freezing. I’ll use carrots and broccoli for the veg, plus chickpeas, curly kale, parsley, sunflower seeds, and cubed firm tofu, with lemon juice for the acid and just a touch of olive oil. If you wanted to add more protein to your meal, add your favorite meat on the side; roasted or baked chicken breast would be delicious with this.
Tip: if you have a food processor, try shredding the carrots with the grater attachment, then switching to the chopping blade. Pulse a few times, until crumbly. Dump the carrots into a large bowl, and add rough-chopped broccoli into the processor bowl. Pulse a few times, until the texture is similar. The image at the right is a simplified version of this food-processor salad, using only carrots and broccoli with lemon juice (hemp hearts optional). It’s super tasty, and keeps incredibly well through the week.
This dish is one of my favorites from Smitten Kitchen, and a great alternative to green salads when you have vegetarians to feed. It’s absolutely amazing when made with locally-grown carrots!! And it’s good with or without the harissa — a spicy, garlic-y paste/spice mix. You can make your own, substitute it with another garlic-y chili paste, or just leave it out altogether — the salad will still be delicious! Pantry Check / Shopping list: carrots, caraway seeds (optional), cumin seeds, paprika, harissa (optional), sugar, lemon, flat leaf parsley, fresh mint, feta cheese.
HB Eggs / Egg Salad Sandwiches with Radish Salad
I’ve been eyeing this Radish and Herb Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing for a while, and it’s the first thing I want to make now that we’ve finally arrived at radish season! I love the combination of rich egg salad with the dry bite of a good radish. You could add some sliced radishes to your sandwich and not bother with the salad at all, if you want to keep it simple. The meyer lemon is lovely, but I think regular lemons are just fine in this recipe. You could also use orange juice. Pantry Check / Shopping list: fresh crusty bread, white wine vinegar, celery, eggs, whole-grain dijon, mayonnaise, shallots, lemon, parsley, radishes, fennel, capers.
Kale Salad with Sweet Potato and Black Beans
This hearty “salad” comes from Cookie and Kate. I say “salad” because it’s nothing like a traditional green salad with dressing; it’s greens and grains, roots and beans, and the dressing is tailor-made for it (and easy to make!) All the ingredients are things I tend to have in my pantry, or can easily substitute or omit. It’s great when made with kale, but you can use spinach or another green if you prefer. The quinoa is quick to cook, but you could use rice or another grain here, too. I’ve often made this with homemade hummus instead of the avocado sauce (since buying avocados in the midwest is a bit like playing roulette). The cumin-paprika-coriander and cilantro-lime are deliciously compatible flavors, so I don’t usually mess around with those too much, but otherwise feel free to experiment!! Pantry Check / Shopping List: quinoa, kale, lime, sweet potatoes, cumin, paprika, avocado, jalapeno, cilantro, coriander, black beans, feta cheese, pepitas (green pumpkin seeds).
This recipe is the result of a mistake that I decided to run with. It’s super tasty if you love spinach, and might even be tasty if you don’t love spinach (yet!). The spinach is blended into a sort of sauce, which is added to rice as it cooks. So if your dislike of spinach is based on the texture, rather than flavor, this may be the perfect recipe for you (and perhaps your kids). The original recipe was the green rice portion of these sweet potato bowls. My mistake is that I used about 3x as much spinach I was supposed to, but I loved the results. I now make it as the base of a buddha bowl, or to serve alongside grilled meat or fish or baked tofu. I’ve also tried it topped with feta and sunflower seeds for a sort of one-pot / stovetop version of Mollie Katzen’s Spinach Rice Casserole.
Pantry Check / Shopping List: brown rice, vegetable broth, spinach, cilantro, jalapeno or serrano pepper (optional), shallot, plus whatever you’re serving the rice with.
Vegetable Frittata with Greens and Potato
Using a base recipe for the frittata (we’re a fan of base recipes here!), I’m going to use fresh kale, chives and potatoes, and some fresh goat cheese if I can find it this week! Add some meat, if you like; fresh pork sausage would be delicious. If you’ve never made a frittata before, never fear! The Epicurious recipe linked above is easy to follow and gives you a blank slate for all sorts of add-ins.
Pantry Check / Shopping List: chives, spinach or kale, eggs, potatoes, milk, sausage (optional), goat cheese (chevre).
Polenta with Greens
Polenta is cornmeal which has been boiled, giving it the creamy texture of hot cereal. It may be served hot as a porridge, or cooled and sliced and then fried. This recipe from Food.com uses it in its porridge form, adds swiss chard and a topping with dried fruits and nuts, as well as cheese. I plan to make it exactly as written, as it’s simple and quick! Note that you can use the same type of greens as in the salad above, if you want to get double-duty out of them. Pantry Check / Shopping List: Swiss chard, crushed red pepper flakes, golden raisins, yellow cornmeal, milk, grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts.
Bow Tie Pasta w/ Arugula Gremolata
I love this recipe from Mollie Katzen of the Moosewood restaurant and cookbooks. A gremolata is a chopped-herb topping usually consisting of lemon, garlic, and parsley. This version uses arugula instead, and it’s a delicious way to get the peppery flavor of young arugula. I’ve come to think of this recipe as soon as I see arugula in the spring, it’s so simple and tasty. Best of all, it works as a hot dish or as a cold salad making for excellent leftovers! Pantry Check / Shopping List: bow-tie pasta, gorgonzola cheese, golden raisins (regular raisins are fine), cherry tomatoes (I omit until we get local tomatoes!), walnuts, arugula, lemon zest.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
Asparagus season is nearly behind us, but I wanted to include this recipe in case you come across any more. It’s my attempt at a very light curry flavor, without losing the delicious asparagus flavor. It’s a simple, quick soup to make, and can easily be made vegan: just substitute coconut oil for the butter.
Heat butter in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pot until it starts to bubble a bit. Saute the shallots for 1-2 minutes, until they soften. Add the asparagus and a pinch of salt, and cook about 5 minutes, until they turn bright green and are tender. Turn off the heat and put the asparagus and shallots into your blender. Add the coconut milk — be sure to use the canned stuff, not the cartons sold for drinking. They’re two very different things! You can use the low- or full-fat versions depending on your preferences. Blend until smooth, taking care to “burp” between pulses if it’s still quite hot.
Return to the pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the sour cream and water, the spices, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir periodically to incorporate, and make sure it doesn’t burn. I like mine with a dollop of sour cream on top, but feel free to leave it out.
Rhubarb crisp! This NY Times recipe is quick to assemble, and might be nice to bake this weekend while it’s still so chilly! 1) Chop rhubarb, toss with sugar and lemon and put it in your casserole dish; 2) mix up the crumble ingredients (butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, rolled oats, pecans) and spread on top of rhubarb; 3) bake at 375F for 45 minutes. The recipe calls for a food processor, but honestly you can mix the crumble part by hand or with a fork. Gluten-free flours such as rice or oat will also work well here, if you need to substitute for the (wheat) AP flour. Pantry Check / Shopping List: butter, rhubarb, lemon juice, brown sugar, AP flour, cinnamon, rolled oats, pecans.
Stay tuned for next week’s Market Menu, to see what’s new!