Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Secret Chef Takes Us to the Farmer's Market

This past weekend we rounded up the monkeys and went to the Farmer's Market. 

Fresh produce makes me all giddy.

The monkeys love the baked goods.

 Poor gingerbread dude lost his head. 

When we get to the plant sale area, I loose my head too.

I do crazy things like talking Pete into buying a giant sea grape tree and stuffing in our van so that our monkeys and our Japanese friend Mutsumi have to ride all the way home with barely any room to move.

Our van was like a wacky greenhouse rolling down the highway that day.  Poor Monkeys! Poor Pete!

Ah, Farmer's Market, how I love thee.  So much to see and do.  I always feel like a total spaz when we are there.  With all that lovely fresh produce, I want to buy everything and usually end up buying nothing because I’m just not sure if those peaches are quite ripe enough or just how to cook those artichokes.  

I shared my spastic Farmer's Market tendencies with Secret Chef.  He had pity on me put together an insightful article on what makes Farmer's Markets so awesome, complete with recipes.  You all are going to love it!  Thank you, Secret Chef!

Market to Market….

As a local Chef, I’ve had some great opportunities to get to know a lot of local folks in the industry.  These can range from chefs, salesmen, sommeliers, baristas, suppliers, distributors, and of course, farmers.  It’s funny how most of them all come out to the same place, at the same time each week.  Where, might you ask?   That answer’s easy, it’s the local farmers market.
It’s one of my go-to places for inspiration.  I suppose it means different things to different people, but in the end it’s all about fresh, local products for the local good.  It pumps money into the local economy as well as helps educate the public on the great products that are all around them.

You're doing a good thing for the environment and local farmers when you buy locally grown produce.

Here are a few more reasons you may enjoy the wonders of locally sourced products.  

Farmers, shoppers and city planners are discovering that these markets provide a vital link between consumers and farmers while also functioning as a vibrant community center. Consumer trends are showing an ever-increasing demand for fresh, healthy, locally grown food.

A significant advantage of farmers markets is that they are generally situated in an ideal location to reach consumers. The fees for a space are usually very minimal and most regulations and restrictions- zoning, sign, health department, business license- are already worked through by the sponsoring group

Plus, they are good for consumers:
  • Consumers enjoy the atmosphere and experience of farmers’ markets, they can interact with the very people that grow these wonderful products.
  • Consumers get fresh, healthy produce usually at competitive prices.   Also, since the food has traveled less and picked much sooner than a store-bought product, it tends to last longer as well.
  • They offer increased choice, and can offer extra fresh, affordable produce in areas with few such
  • They strengthen community - a key factor in the quality of life, being able to mingle and interact, perhaps compare ideas and recipes as well.
  • Good for the environment - food travels less far; there are less “food miles”. 
  • Food has less packaging. 
  • They are an important outlet for farmers selling organic and less intensively-produced food.
Shopping at the farmers markets also lends itself to a great opportunity to try new products.  And these items don’t have to be only produce.  Some of my favorite things to by at the market, besides fruits and vegetables are as follows:
  • Spices – this can be in the form of fresh spices, chilies and also dried spices, spice blends, sauces and marinades
  • Hot Sauces – as a self-admitted chili-hear with an above-average tolerance for heat, I love to see what kind of concoctions local growers are coming up with.  Although I can handle the heat with the best of them, I do enjoy a bit of flavor along with that heat.  
  • Honey – local honey is a great resource to the environment. Besides the great taste, natural sweetness and virtual cornucopia of flavors honey is made from, there are health benefits here too.  There have been countless articles written on combating sinus allergies by consuming a small amount of local homey each day to build a tolerance to the pollen.
Here are a few recipes to celebrate the seasonal goodness that can only be found in local produce.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

4 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 large onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt to taste
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

In a small mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro and lime juice. Add jalapenos little by little to adjust the heat levels to your personal taste.  Add the olive oil last and stir gently.  Salt to taste. Enjoy!

Spiced Peach Carrot Bread

3/4 cup chopped pecans (can substitute walnuts)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped fresh, ripe peaches  
3/4 cup freshly grated carrots
2/3 cup vegetable oil 
1/2 cup milk 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool 15 minutes.
Stir together flour and next 6 ingredients (italic type)  in a large bowl; add peaches, next 4 ingredients, and toasted pecans, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into a lightly greased 9- x 5-inch loaf pan.
3. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  

Refrigerator Pickles

2 pounds cucumbers, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal (about 8 cups)
1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced 1 inch thick
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
Coarse salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed

In a colander set over a medium bowl, toss cucumbers, onion, and celery stalks with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Set aside to drain, 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed, and mustard seed; stir until sugar is dissolved.
Divide cucumber mixture among clean jars or airtight containers, and pour vinegar mixture over. Refrigerate at least 8 hours (or up to 2 weeks).

Refrigerator pickles?  Genius!  I can't wait to take all these recipes into the test kitchen with the monkeys and try them out! Thank you again, S.C.! Oh wait!  I guess that I should ask first before I call you S.C. . Would that be okay?  And here is where I imagine S.C. saying, "Fuhhgeddaboutit!"

Enjoy all the Farmer's Markets out there everyone!



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