Farm Fresh Cooking

Farm Fresh Cooking ~ By Wendy Mitchell

Photo credit: Wendy Mitchell

If you’re looking for farm fresh local produce, cheese and other goodies, look no further than Bethel’s Saturday morning farmers market.  Located at 67 Stony Hill Road, the Bethel farmers market has provided locavores with delicious delicacies for years. For a first-time farmer’s market patron, looking at those rows of tables filled with exotic fruits and vegetables can be a little bit intimidating.  Thoughts of “Where do I go? What should I buy? How do I pick the best produce?” may be racing through your mind. With local farmers markets in full swing, here are some tips for picking the freshest vegetables, how to cook with the freshest ingredients and how to get the biggest bang for your buck:

The Early Bird Catches the Worm (Or Okra)

Showing up early allows you to beat the rush (and the hot sun) and get the best produce that hasn’t yet been overly handled.

B.Y.O.R.B. (Bring your own re-usable bags)

Most farmers markets provide bags for you, but you will want to have a large bag or two to load up with your beautiful bounty.  Make sure to plan to place larger produce on the bottom of the bag and lighter, smaller items on top or you’ll be making stew instead of salad.

Got cash in pocket?

Experienced farmers market shoppers always go with a wad of cash.  In this debit card society we live in, it’s kind of nice to stick to the old cash for stash system.  And checks are sooo 1990’s!

My momma told me, you better shop around

When you arrive do a walk-through before deciding what to purchase. Ask for samples. This allows you to find the best produce to match your taste. Nothing’s worse than buying a basket of fresh blueberries and then finding juicier, plumper, or cheaper ones three stands away.

Don’t ask, don’t tell?

That rule doesn’t apply here.  Local farmers are walking encyclopedias of harvest knowledge and most love to share that with their customers. Ask them the best way to pick a melon, or the best recipe they’ve heard of for endive or kale, or what their favorites are. Just don’t ask for a discount (tacky!). Farmers work extremely hard every day and set their prices accordingly.  The price shown is usually the price you can expect to pay.

Mr. Brown can moo, how about you?

Farmers markets are the best places to buy eggs, milk, cheese and meat and fish to help support your community. Get the freshest food available and reduce environmental impact.

Block it to me!

Don’t forget the sunscreen.  You may end up staying longer than you planned or lose track of time, or go later in the day when the sun is strong.

Farm Fresh Recipes

The Leaning Tower of Eggplant

Eggplant and fresh basil is one of my all-time favorite marriages.  Here’s a recipe for a healthy lunch or a unique appetizer for your next dinner party.

1 large eggplant

4 red bell peppers

½ lb. fresh mozzarella balls

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cloves crushed garlic

1 bunch fresh basil diced (set aside a small amount for garnish)

½  bunch fresh basil (whole for layering)

In large bowl mix olive oil, fresh basil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Slice large eggplant into round pieces  about 1 ½” thick. Slice red peppers in halves, then dunk into bowl coating both sides. Grill for about 4 minutes on each side. Dunk and grill eggplant about 3 minutes until browned. To assemble towers layer one piece of eggplant, one fresh basil leaf, ½ mozzarella ball, one slice of red pepper then repeat.  Stick a long toothpick all the way through to hold together. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil mixture and a few sprinkles of fresh basil.

Very Veggie Stir-fried Quinoa

My nutritionist recommended I eat SEVEN, yes seven, servings of veggies and whole grains per day.  How in the world will I get all that in?  Here’s one way…

1 ½ tsp. olive oil

1 cup raw quinoa

2 tbsp. sesame oil

1 large onion thinly sliced

3 cloves diced garlic

½ tsp. fresh grated ginger

½ cup orange juice

2 tbsp honey

4 cups spinach

Small package of your favorite mushrooms, sliced

1 head broccoli crowns

½ cup soy sauce

Heat olive oil in medium-sized sauce pan. Add the quinoa and toast it, stirring frequently until it smells nutty. Pour 2 cups of water into the sauce pan, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork ,and keep covered. Heat the sesame oil in a separate pan, add onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté over medium heat 2-3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir fry until the vegetables are tender but still slightly firm.  Serve over cooked quinoa.

Peach Pie: Click here for recipe. For more tips and recipes on farm fresh cooking and articles such as “Why Choose Organic” and“How to Freeze Basil,” click here.

For more information on the Saturday Bethel farmers market which runs from 9am-1pm, click here.

For more information on the Thursday Municipal Center  farmers market which runs from 3-7pm, click here.

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Posted on July 7, 2012, in Home and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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