The Farmers’ Market

By / Food / October 12th, 2011 / 1

I love Saturday mornings at the Farmers’ Market, wandering through the stalls under a slowly warming sun, the dewy air scented with herbs. Vendors sort through their wares on long tables under canvas tents. Shoppers carry bouquets of sunflowers as they examine bushels of ripe peaches, glistening black grapes, green and orange melons, baskets of trailing impatiens, herbs exploding from tiny pots, baby fingerling carrots with soft leafy stems, papery yellow onions and slender scallions, sweet cherry tomatoes, cartons stuffed with new potatoes and green beans. There are juicy berry pies, tarts and bar cookies baked fresh that morning, baskets of buttery dinner rolls and loaves of shiny-topped egg bread. This is the time of year to discard the grocery list and buy what’s beautiful, plump, perfect, and in season.

Market Salad of Grilled Chicken, Tomatoes, and Basil with White French Dressing
Serves 4
One of the ways I’ve decided to “go green” is to save small jam jars for mixing salad dressings and vinaigrettes. The jar can go right into the fridge after mixing. Most homemade dressings will keep well for about 3 days. To toast pine nuts, cook in a small skillet, over medium high heat, tossing or stirring often until golden. This recipe is all about substituting whatever is freshest at the market. Instead of leafy lettuce, use spinach. Instead of grape tomatoes, try yellow teardrop tomatoes or red seedless grapes. Instead of basil, add a mix of fresh herbs. Try adding steamed green beans, olives, hard-boiled eggs and tiny new potatoes for a Niçoise-style salad. If your market sells cheese, add a few wedges to each plate. And don’t forget the market baguettes!

4 chicken breast fillets
1 tsp olive oil
6 cups leafy lettuce
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil, torn
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill chicken on both sides until thickest part reaches 160˚F on a meat thermometer. Set aside and let rest 10 minutes, tented with foil.

Divide lettuce, tomatoes, and basil among four dinner plates. Garnish with pine nuts. Drizzle with White French Dressing.

White French Dressing
Years ago raw eggs were used to make White French, but in this much safer recipe mayonnaise stands in for the eggs. This dressing is reminiscent of the delicious white vinaigrette drizzled over bistro salads in Paris.

3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp honey
6 tbsp good quality mayonnaise, such as Hellman’s
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil

In a small saucepan, heat cider vinegar and honey until honey melts, stirring occasionally. Set aside and let cool.
In blender, mix vinegar/honey mixture, mayonnaise, mustard and salt. With blender running, slowly add oil.

This bistro salad calls out for a buttery French Chardonnay.

Asian Pepper Steak Stir-Fry
Serves 4
This is one of my go-to recipes when peppers are at their peak. Cooking with a wok is fast and furious so make sure all ingredients are prepped ahead of time and the rice is cooked. To make slicing the steak easier, place in freezer for about 20 minutes. This is a basic stir-fry, so feel free to substitute whatever the market has on hand: snap peas, snow peas, green beans or wild mushrooms. Top with fresh sliced scallions.

2 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb top sirloin steak, trimmed and sliced thinly across grain
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
Cooked jasmine rice

In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp sugar and salt. Add sliced steak, tossing to coat. Set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, combine remaining 2 tsp cornstarch, remaining 1/2 tsp sugar, broth, soy sauce and hoisin sauce, stirring until sugar dissolves.

In a large wok or skillet, heat peanut or canola oil over medium high heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Stir-fry 3 minutes or until onion begins to soften. Add steak mixture and stir-fry 3 minutes or until steak is cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add peppers to pan, stir-fry 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add steak mixture and broth mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Serve over jasmine rice.

Match the peppers’ bold flavour with an equally bold Zinfandel.

Smashed Red Potatoes with Herbs
This is a great chunky side dish with grilled steak or pork chops using those glorious tiny new potatoes piled in little baskets at the market. Use the freshest herbs available. A final sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper is sublime.

1 lb small new potatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

In a large pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt, lower heat to medium high and boil potatoes for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Drain.

Return potatoes to pot and cook, stirring for one minute over low heat to evaporate moisture.

Remove potatoes from heat and mash coarsely with potato masher. Add milk or buttermilk and butter. For creamier potatoes, add a bit more milk or buttermilk but keep potatoes chunky. Stir in herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

If serving with grilled steak or pork chops, pour a full red such as a Spanish Rioja.

Cucumber Salad
Whenever I have a cucumber and red onion in the fridge, I make small batches of this dish as an accompaniment to grilled meat or fish. Slice the cucumber on a mandoline or box grater. Raw onions should be soaked in cold water for about 15 minutes to tame their harsh edge. Make this just before serving, as the cukes tend to water down the sour cream if made too far in advance. The dressing is not one of those scientific recipes — use more or less vinegar, sour cream and sugar to suit your tastes and to compensate for drier or juicier cukes.

1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in water, drained and patted dry
1/4 cup cider or rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp chopped fresh dill, optional

In a large bowl, mix vinegar with sugar until sugar dissolves. Stir in sour cream. Mix in cucumber slices and red onion. Season with dill (if using), salt and pepper.

Tomato Bruschetta
When tomatoes are at their peak, there is nothing better than a simple sliced tomato with a sprinkle of sea salt. But when you need something a little fancier, try bruschetta, a great starter for any summer party. This appetizer was hugely popular in the early 90s and is worth revisiting during tomato season.

Bruschetta Toasts
1 loaf crusty Italian bread or French baguette
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

With a serrated knife, cut bread into 1/2 inch thick slices. Grill on barbecue or under broiler about 1 minute per side or until toasted. Watch closely as they burn quickly! Rub one side of each toast with garlic and brush with olive oil. Serve with Tomato Bruschetta Topping.

Tomato Bruschetta Topping
Add balsamic vinegar, minced red onion, fresh mozzarella, feta, ricotta salata, chives, crushed red pepper, chopped arugula or anything else your heart desires. The main star of this recipe is the tomato, so look for the freshest and best you can find. Heirloom tomatoes work beautifully, but this time of year just about any tomato will do.

4 ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
3 basil leaves, chopped

Mix tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Dollop each Bruschetta toast with the tomato mixture. Serve immediately with Napa Brut sparkling wine.

Zucchini Pancakes
What to do with all those zucchini? These crispy cakes are similar to potato pancakes and make a delicious change from the usual vegetable. Instead of oregano, use dill, basil, rosemary or mint, depending on what you find at the market. Serve as a vegetarian main course or as an accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.

1 1/2 lbs green or yellow zucchini or a combination (about 4 medium zucchini)
1/2 small onion
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1 clove garlic, pressed
3 scallions, sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp canola oil (or more as needed)
Sour cream, for garnish

Shred zucchini with a grater or food processor. Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Grate onion into a large bowl. Mix in egg, flour, garlic, scallions, oregano, salt and pepper.

Rinse salt off zucchini. Squeeze zucchini to remove excess liquid. Wrap in a paper towel and squeeze again until zucchini is dry. Stir into flour mixture.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Drop 1/4 cup batter into the skillet, gently pressing to form a 1/2 inch thick pancake. Repeat. Cook in batches over medium heat for about 9 minutes or until golden brown, turning once and adding more oil as needed. Serve with sour cream.

Try with an Australian Riesling or Vouvray.

Apricot, Peach and Raspberry Crumble
This is a great dish to take warm to a potluck. Feel free to substitute whatever stone fruits you can find such as nectarines or plums. Blueberries or blackberries can replace the raspberries. To peel the apricots and peaches, blanch in boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove, cool slightly and peel.

1 lb apricots, peeled and cut into quarters
1 lb peaches, peeled and thickly sliced
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel
2 cups raspberries
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract

crumble topping
1 cup flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tsp cinnamon
10 tbsp butter, chilled, cut up
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Heat oven to 375˚F.

In a large bowl, toss apricots and peaches with 1/4 cup brown sugar and lemon peel. Pour into an 11 x 7 baking dish. Add raspberries. Combine lemon juice and almond extract. Sprinkle over fruit.

Make topping: In food processor, mix flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon and butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Serve with a Vidal Icewine.


Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

Comments are closed.

North America’s Longest Running Food & Wine Magazine

Get Quench-ed!!!

Champion storytellers & proudly independent for over 50 years. Free Weekly newsletter & full digital access