farmers’ markets: from farm to table–it’s what’s for dinner

This past weekend, I had the opportunity for a girls’ night out with a dear friend.  We picked a restaurant that we

Rosebank Farms, SC

knew would be quiet  and relaxed but not necessarily lauded for its food.  We were delightfully surprised when the waitress laid down the extra menu with local “farm to table” selections.  Wow!  I was impressed as well as grateful to the chef for advocating for local farmers.

My friend and I could not resist the heirloom tomato Caprese salad with fresh basil and homemade mozzarella.  And yes, it was as delightful as it sounds!

Other offerings that night–a salad laced with fresh cherries, apples, and goat cheese; local trout; and a lamb and mushroom appetizer, just to name a few.  Got me thinking about meals that can come straight from the farmer’s market (or farm) to the table.

I know there are zillions of great recipes out there so rather than listing specific ideas–I’ll just plant a few seeds for types of meals that are easy and can literally come straight from your cloth or recycled shopping bag to the kitchen to the table.

1.  Salads–ok, this is a given, I know, but there are so many easy and delicious combinations, you could never get bored.  Don’t forget, salads don’t always have to include greens or lettuce.  Sometimes, just some lightly marinated vegetables mixed in with some white beans and fresh herbs can be a nice change.  And who said you can’t combine veggies and fruit?  I love me some blueberries with chard–it’s a great combination of sweet and bitter.

2.  Soups–for summer, I’m thinking of a nice gazpacho but for cooler weather, I love any kind of pumpkin or squash soup or a corn chowder.

3.  “Country Dinner”–this one is a tribute to my Granny and Pop.  I don’t necessarily go all “Southern” in how I prepare the vegetables, but I do make some corn on the cob, freshly sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper, sauteed green beans or okra, and pinto beans.

4.  Cobbler, Crisps, and Shortcake–oh, it’s ok, dessert for dinner now and again is not going to hurt anyone.  My personal favorite is, blackberry, but I’ve also been known to go back for 2nds for strawberry-rhubarb.   Gluten intolerant like me?  Make a crisp with a gluten-free oatmeal, brown sugar/honey, and almond topping.

5.  Veggie lasagna–oh yum!  No can do pasta?  Just thinly slice squash, zucchini or eggplant and use as the “noodles.”

6.  Veggie stack–I’m sure there’s a more clever name for this, but I like to take a large portobello mushroom cap, a couple of slices of eggplant, some sun dried tomato slices, and some spinach then layer then with small amounts of goat or parmesan cheese in between.  Bake a bit (depending on how soft/crunchy you like your veggies) then serve one per plate.  Can also top with marinara sauce.

7.  Cheese, nut, fruit and jam plate–I could seriously snack all day on this one.  My favorite combo right now is my

Rosebank Farms, SC

spicy blackberry cayenne jam on goat cheese on an apple slice.  Although I’m not a fan of a really sharp cheese, I have been putting a bit of my blueberry lavender jam on some apple smoked cheddar.  Mmmmmm.

8.  Pizza–there is nothing better than fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, spinach, and artichoke on a pizza–unless of course you add some feta cheese!   If you can put it on pasta, try it on pizza.

9.  Grilled food–most anything you get at the farmer’s market can be put on the grill.  A few tips–different food groups cook at varying temperatures and for different rates of time, marinating food can enhance the flavor, and charred food is not healthy for you

10.  “Stuffed” food–hollow out a tomato, a zucchini, or a pepper and fill it with delicious stuff–a great option for both vegetarian and not vegetarian folks sharing a meal.

11.  Stir fry or saute–so there’s the same old standard of broccoli, carrots, and bok choy with soy sauce and such, but it’s summer, and there are more options available.  Try some new combinations and different sauces, oils or vinegars.

12.  Chips and salsa–oh, summer brings with it a new set of of salsa options.  A friend of mine made a tangy plum and peach salsa that included red onion and cilantro with a bit of jalapeno.  It was amazing!

So, instead of looking in the freezer section for a quick meal or stopping by that drive-thru, consider one of the delicious, healthy and quick options mentioned above.  I guarantee you, your body will thank you, and your local farmers will thank you.

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