Roast fresh tomatoes, onion, sweet pepper and seasonings for a summer vegetable puree that tops whole wheat or white pita bread rounds. Smoked mozzarella adds another punch of flavor in this recipe from Sarah Slater of Casa Nueva restaurant in Athens, Ohio.
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."
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.
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.
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."