Farmers' Market Finds: Cooking with the Freshest, Most Flavorful Food
In recent years, the number of farmers’ markets across North America has swelled. What a boon for the home cook! At your fingertips are the freshest, most flavorful foods money can buy. There are so many reasons to seek out farmers’ markets, from supporting the local economy to purchasing food that’s grown with integrity. But the most compelling reason has more to do with seasonality. The food naturally follows the seasons, only travels a short distance to reach market, and is most often picked ripe. Compare that to supermarkets stocked with the same produce year-round, regardless of season, and fruits and vegetables that have been picked unripe (to hold up during the lengthy commute to the grocery store).
Some regions are fortunate enough to have year-round markets, but most operate in spring, summer, and fall. Here are a handful of recipes that utilize everyday and regional farmers’ market finds, to get you started when the selling season arrives.
Kale is a staple in my kitchen. I throw it in everything from soups and stews to sautés and salads. I was pretty sure I had exhausted its culinary dexterity, and then I discovered kale chips. A quick and healthy snack, kale chips can be prepared in about twenty minutes flat. Torn, fresh kale leaves are simply tossed in a little olive oil, sprinkled with seasonings, then crisped in a low oven. I love the inclusion of nutritional yeast in this recipe, as it lends a rich and cheesy counterpoint to this vivid winter green. The addition of paprika gives it a bit of depth. The laid-back preparation makes kale chips a brilliant precursor to a bigger meal or a satisfying snack on their own.
Serves 2 to 4
1 bunch kale (6–7 ounces), stemmed
1 tablespoon olive oil2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon paprika
flaky sea salt or kosher salt
Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Tear kale into pieces slightly larger than the size of a tortilla chip, up to the size of your palm. Gently toss in olive oil, rubbing pieces between fingers if necessary to coat. Toss again with nutritional yeast and paprika.
Lay kale in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes or until chips are dry and crispy, but not burnt.
Baked Eggs and Ricotta in Red Pepper Bagna CÀuda
As warm, bright weather arrives, hens begin to lay their eggs. This is the natural order of things, even if a year-round supply of fresh eggs in the grocery store tells another tale. Of course, we can all be thankful for the unending supply of eggs (what would we do without our soft scramble, soufflé, or deviled eggs in those cold dark months?). But we can truly rejoice when spring brings magnificently fresh farmers’ market eggs with yolks the color of the sun. When the season arrives, I tend to include eggs in both breakfast and dinner fare; this recipe suits either occasion.
1 pound red bell peppers
2 teaspoons olive oil
5 medium-sized garlic cloves, sliced
¾ cup crushed or strained tomatoes¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt½ cup ricotta
To roast peppers: Turn broiler to high. Position rack one shelf from the top. Arrange bell peppers on a baking sheet and broil, lightly charring the skin, and turning every few minutes or so to roast consistently, about 10 to 15 minutes total. Transfer peppers to a bowl, then seal tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to sit 10 to 15 minutes, then peel away skin and discard stem and seeds. Tear into strips and return to bowl with whatever juices have accumulated.
To prepare rest of dish: In a medium pot over medium-low heat, add olive oil. Add garlic and cook slowly to soften, about 5 minutes. Add anchovies, mashing them into the oil and garlic with a wooden spoon, so they melt. Allow to cook a few minutes more, then add the roasted red bell pepper strips. Simmer about 5 minutes more, then add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, and salt. Simmer sauce for 15 minutes. With an immersion blender or in the bowl of a blender or food processor, puree sauce. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Transfer sauce to a 6-by-10-inch casserole dish or split between 4 individual ramekins. Spoon 4 dollops of ricotta, evenly spaced out over the sauce, then crack an egg atop each dollop. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until egg whites are nearly set but yolks are still runny, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with toast.
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