June 2009: A Trip to the Farmers' Market

Each spring there is an outing that a lot of people plan to take just because it’s that time of year – a trip to the farmers’ market. It’s a happening that is fun for the whole family and something different for the cook in the house. The routine starts very simply and may grow into something new as your knowledge of fresh produce increases and your creative cooking becomes habit.
It may even be a way of saving money on your food bill. What ever the reason, it’s a place to go just for a change and our local farmers would appreciate seeing you there.

In late May and early June it is usually cold and the fresh produce is limited but the farmers are there and ready to give you the best that they have. They are always willing to help you make a decision and if you are new to the farmers market they are full of good ideas like helping you start your own vegetable garden.

Just to give you an idea of what is available in early June:

Tomatoes, zucchini, green onions, celery, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, potatoes are the things that I bought. There were also vegetables for planting and flowers too.

The fresh vegetable that I would like to talk about this week is asparagus. If you are an old pro at this you don’t need a helping hand on how to cook asparagus but for those who are new at cooking fresh produce, here are a few main cooking tips.

In a large frying pan bring 2 inches of salted water to a boil. Add trimmed asparagus and cook uncovered until tender. If you want a sauce - stir together ½ teaspoon each of dijon mustard, butter (or margarine) and red wine vinegar. Toss over hot asparagus. Mmmm.

Why not try asparagus in a stir fry? When you have oil, margarine or butter and celery strips, mushrooms, salt, pepper and soy sauce on hand you can add asparagus and some chicken or tofu and you have got dinner! This is a simple idea for a fast meal that takes about 8-10 minutes and you can add what is your pantry such as rice or pasta.

Heat the oil in a frying pan.
Add trimmed 1 inch pieces of asparagus.
Mix well and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add sliced mushrooms.
Season and cook until vegetables are tender crisp.
Stir 2 or 3 times.
Drizzle with soy sauce or your favorite mixture.
Voila! You have a meal and it didn’t come out of a package!

If the weather is still cool, you could try asparagus in a casserole. The ingredients would serve 6 to 8 people or you can make and have leftovers.
You would need margarine, asparagus, canned tomatoes, diced onion, chopped celery, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, basil, sugar and pepper.

Melt butter in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Cut the asparagus into pieces or leave in spears.
Arrange in a single layer.
Top with tomatoes, onion and celery bread crumbs and cheese.
Season with basil.
Cover and back for 45 min. at 350 degrees.

Next month there will be a whole new crop of produce waiting to explore so take advantage of a farmers’ market near you.

Barb Price
The Pantry Manager