This weekend I was in Madison, Wisconsin, on cheese business. (Yes, really!) Of course a visit to the Dane County Farmers Market, on the state capitol square, was on the agenda. The nation’s largest producer-only farmers market, the square was bustling with people browsing cheese curds, fresh baked goods, local meats, and ample spring produce — even though winter only ended about a week ago up here. The mountains of rhubarb were most impressive, and it was hard to resist the urge to pack a suitcase full of it to bring back home.
Isn’t that lovely? I settled with some black popcorn for the kids and, of course, cheese. What’d you find at the market this weekend?
May brings the opening of the seasonal markets to Washington, DC and the suburbs, including two of our favorite, family-friendly Sunday markets: the West End Farmers Market in Alexandria (8:30am-1:00pm) and the Westover Farmers Market in N. Arlington (now 8:00am-noon). Yes, Westover was open through the winter but the full slate of vendors is now back for summer, with quite a few additions since last year.
New vendors at Westover include Cibola Farms (Virginia bison and free-range pork), Spring Valley Farm & Orchard of West Virginia, Shells Yes! with Eastern Shore crab, GrohNola, and Nourish Market from Falls Church selling prepared foods (and the best, naturally-sweetened strawberry lemonade right now).
We got some lovely organic greens from Over the Mountain Farm (MD) last week (pictured below). Fresh Joseph’s, the fresh-squeezed orange juice and mozzarella folks seen at West End, has also joined Westover this season.
Follow these markets on Facebook (Westover or West End) for updates and special events throughout the season.
(And follow Foodie Tots to see what we’re buying and cooking each week.)
A confession: my dinner menu hits quite a rut in the last long, cold stretch of winter. Tired of heavy foods but without fresh spring produce, it’s a struggle to find inspiration in the kitchen. When the weather does finally turn warm (or jumps straight to 90 degrees, as it suddenly was this past week), the produce at the farmers markets still isn’t quite ready. Fortunately, I received some new cookbooks for Christmas that I finally cracked open to plan our recent holiday meals. I’m particularly smitten with Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. (I’m not the only one — the book was just named cookbook of the year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).)
Between the pictures and the background stories I could spend many a evening curled up on the couch reading it — but it wouldn’t be long before I’d feel driven into the kitchen to try a recipe. Not content to try just one, I made two recipes for our Passover/Easter weekend: Saturday night’s seder featured the Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish (pictured above) and for Easter dinner the next day, Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts.
The fish recipe starts with a flavorful red and yellow pepper, onion and coriander sauce — and there was far more sauce than needed for the amount of fish I used. (I used hake, which looked fresher than the cod at the supermarket that day. I’d probably try it with cod next time though.) So for lunch the next day, I reheated some of the pepper sauce, spooned it over toasted bread and topped it with sliced hard boiled eggs, olive oil and sea salt. It was so good I’m actually considering making just the pepper part again to keep on hand.
The lamb-stuffed eggplant gave me a new way to prepare lamb on Easter when it was just the family and I didn’t have an excuse to cook a whole leg of lamb. The recipe is definitely company-worthy, though, and not too labor-intensive. The eggplant is roasted first, then topped with ground lamb and pine nuts and baked some more, until it is tender and saturated with the paprika-infused sauce. Delicious.
As an added endorsement, the colorful pictures also caught the eye of the littlest foodie tot — who likes to flip through the book with me and was eager to help mix the spices to season the eggplant dish.
I will definitely be making the eggplant many more times, especially when local eggplant arrives at the markets later this year.
There are so many more recipes I’m eager to try. Do you have Jerusalem yet? Let us know what we should make next. (Or get your kids in the kitchen and let’s cook Jerusalem together! Need more inspiration? Mardi of Eat Live Travel Write recently made the book’s turkey and zucchini burgers — with her middle school boys’ cooking club. Love it!! And OMG! Yummy hosts a monthly “Tasting Jerusalem” cooking event, with a recipe contest going on right now.)
I’ve said before that one of the reasons we participate in Meatless Monday is to allow our budget to accomodate better meat when we do eat it — local, grassfed meats are significantly more expensive than your average supermarket selection but it’s something I believe very strongly in. After all, I believe the farmers who grow and raise our food deserve to earn a fair living so they can feed their own families. Today, though, I’m joining other bloggers to once again raise awareness of the critical need for food assistance for far too many children and families in our communities — and attempting to make a healthy family meal for under $5. While there are ways to stretch your budget at the farmers market, it’d be nearly impossible to eat meat seven nights a week on a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) budget.
The good news is that there are a growing number of farmers markets that take SNAP dollars, and better yet, markets that offer matching dollars (including several FRESHFARM Markets here in DC) that can help those receiving assistance to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets. The recipe below uses sweet potatoes and kale which are still in season at local markets, but I bought the ingredients for this meal at Giant, a local supermarket chain. It was disappointing to see how difficult it is to buy organic produce on a budget. Many organic items are pre-packaged — which is fine if you can fit five onions into your weekly menu, but I only needed half of one. Same with the sweet potatoes. In canned goods, the store brand organics were more in line with conventional. And when it came to the coconut milk, one Thai brand in the Asian section was significantly less than the American brand (yet the coconut comes from Thailand regardless).
1/2 bunch organic kale ………….. .38
1/2 yellow onion …………………… .47
1 sweet potato …………………….. 1.34
1 can organic garbanzo beans .. 1.29
1 can coconut milk ……………… 1.69
= $5.17 …. and that’s assuming you have olive oil, chicken stock, curry powder and brown rice on hand/in the pantry.
Get the recipe for my coconut, kale and sweet potato stew below — but first, here’s how you can help.
TAKE ACTION: Charity is not enough. The only way for hunger to be eliminated in America is if policies change, so it’s important we make our voices heard.
1. Take 30 seconds and send a letter to Congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation. The more letters we submit, the better!
It always warms my heart to see traffic pick up on my Best Ever Roasted Turnips post as Thanksgiving approaches. Before that, I posted my alternative to the traditional green bean casserole. I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to my Thanksgiving menu — but I do like to experiment with the vegetable side dishes. What can I say, I have a passion for giving misunderstood produce new life on your holiday table. So this year I turned my attention to Brussels sprouts. I can’t remember really eating them as a child, so I don’t have the baggage of a childhood filled with soggy, limp boiled sprouts to overcome. But for those of you who may have experienced such a travesty, I’m here to tell you: it doesn’t have to be that way. There are two schools of thought when it comes to preparing Brussels — cook ‘em in/with/on/under bacon (never a bad approach), or roast ‘em. Either way, the objective is to cook them until just tender inside and a little crisp outside. For this Thanksgiving side, I roasted them and combined them with roasted butternut squash and fresh pomegranate arils to add some contrasting sweet and tart notes and a bit of color.
Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Pomegranate
Makes 6 servings
1 butternut squash
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (arils)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel butternut squash, remove seeds, and cut into small 1/2-inch cubes. Place on rimmed baking sheet, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place in oven and roast 10 minutes before adding Brussels sprouts.
2. Meanwhile, trim Brussels sprouts stems, remove outer leaves, and cut into quarters. Spread on a second rimmed baking sheet and gently toss with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place in oven and roast 25 to 30 minutes, stirring midway through. (Stir squash at the same time.) Brussels and squash should both be tender and browned.
3. Place cooked Brussels sprouts and squash in serving bowl. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper to taste, then top with pomegranate seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.