Fresh Thinking: 9 Farmers Market Recipes
Napa Cabbage Spring Rolls
"Spring rolls are a great way to utilize fresh vegetables as they become available at the market," says Kevin Shinn, chef-owner of Bread and Cup in Lincoln, Nebraska.
This fresh soup from Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Cafe in Chicago uses pea shoots—the tiny, tender leaves and vines of young pea plants—found at farmers markets in June and later. Can't find them? Substitute baby spinach.
Asparagus fritters are a spring customer favorite at Bread and Cup in Lincoln, Nebraska. "I refer to the humble fritter as a blank canvas on which we paint the colors of the season," says chef-owner Kevin Shinn. "With the basic batter recipe, you can simply change the vegetable. We start out with asparagus and move to sweet peas, to green onions, to sweet corn and so on.
"They are very simple to make at home. In the restaurant, we serve them with a bit of local honey or our lemon garlic aioli."
Pesto usually starts with basil, but Kevin Shinn, chef-owner of Bread and Cup in Lincoln, Nebraska, uses arugula because he likes the nutty, peppery taste.
Vegan Chocolate-Blueberry Parfait
"This is one of our signature vegan desserts," says Sarah Slater of Casa Nueva restaurant in Athens, Ohio. "Any kind of berry will do. Just buy what's in season. Vegans and nonvegans love it."
Peach Pecan Vinaigrette with Spring Green Salad
Sarah Slater of Casa Nueva looks forward to fresh peaches appearing at her farmers market in Athens, Ohio. This is just one way she uses the juicy fruit.
Napa Cabbage and Black Bean Slaw
Jicama adds crunch to this slaw from Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Cafe in Chicago. Use leftover dressing as a dipping sauce for chicken nuggets, cooked shrimp or fries.
Crisp Portobello Mushroom and Spring Carrot Salad
Goat cheese and chives top golden skillet-cooked mushrooms and cooked carrots in this recipe from Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Cafe in Chicago. Homemade honey-mustard vinaigrette adds a pleasing tang.
Sarah Stegner: Farmers market buying tips
Make good relationships to get better products. Get to know a farmer, and you can ask about what's coming into season, what is at its peak of flavor and for something special to be grown for you. And you can comfortably give feedback on a product.
Ask for samples. Most farmers are willing to let you try before you buy.
If you don't see something, ask. Maybe the farmer can tell you who has that product or when it will be available. Farmers markets are food communities.
Bring cloth bags. Or you'll end up with lots of plastic when you go home.
Kevin Shinn: Farmers market buying tips
Make a deal on scratch-and-dent produce. For sauces and many salads, slightly damaged fruits and vegetables are just fine.
Arrive early for specialty items. If you're buying common items like sweet corn in mid-July, you don't have to be there when the market opens. But for specialty items such as the pea and sunflower sprouts Kevin uses in salads and risotto, show up first.
Focus on quality rather than price. Instead of haggling over every item, focus on quality and building a relationship with the farmer. "Better to pay a quarter more for nicer produce or a better relationship with a vendor."
Sarah Slater: Farmers market buying tips
Walk through the market before you buy. Sarah reviews the entire market, taking notes along the way, then decides what to purchase.
Take a few chances! Try something new or combine ingredients in a different way. Sarah fills enchiladas with squash and eggplant and uses fresh peaches in barbecue sauce.
Challenge yourself. Make a whole meal using only products you buy at the market.