Fresh, bright and bracing. This might describe the weather today or, in our case, the flavors of the beautiful turnips and kohlrabi dotting the farmers markets, as well as tables full of fresh ginger root. I’ve combined it all into a Sliced Turnip, Kohlrabi and Red Cabbage Salad with a Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette, inspired by my favorite green papaya salad found in Thai cuisine….
Sweltering heat from earlier this week is finally replaced by cooler, more seasonably Fall weather. A crisp breeze and bright sun set against deep blue skies and dashes of color in the trees confirm the season’s arrival at last.
Apples and pears now dominate the farmers market but dinner can still be close at hand. This Apple and Pear Salad with an Apple Cider Vinaigrette can go straight from market to plate using all the different ingredients you can find at a farmers market….
Unseasonably warm temperatures suggest summer while the calendar and market options are becoming decidedly autumn. Blending the seasons seems to be the best strategy this week. Za’atar Roasted Mushrooms and Eggplant with Barley and Tomatoes marries summer and autumn for a filling meal that straddles the seasons with ease….
Corn is everywhere at the farmers market these days. This is probably my favorite time of year. While we enjoy corn on the cob roasted on the grill, we always cook more than we can eat. It is all part of the master plan. What we enjoy the most is our Corn Summer Salad.
My friend, who doesn’t consider herself a cook, introduced me to this perfect summer salad that can keep in the fridge during the week (add tomatoes just before serving), and adapt according to your taste that day. She makes a large batch for the week. Somedays she adds avocados and black beans and other days it is served simply with just corn, red onion and peppers but always with a generous squeeze of lime and dousing of fruity olive oil.
The season for fresh corn coincides with the abundance of all different varieties of peppers. My favorite are poblano. With their dark forest shade of green and crimped body, poblanos vary in intensity from mild to those with a bit of a kick. Younger poblanos are milder and later in the season they kick up the heat. It is impossible for me to know based on sight alone so I take my chances and enjoy them either way. Regardless of the heat level, poblanos have a depth of flavor minus the bitterness of green bell peppers that many people dislike. (Although, I like green bell peppers, too).
I also love the small, narrow serrano peppers that pack much more of a punch and become my favorite breakfast when sautéed with diced potatoes and mixed with scrambled eggs. Beautiful habanero peppers are something I admire from afar for their heat is beyond my ability to tolerate.
Corn Summer Salad is a thirst-quenching salad that highlights the best of summer. It’s casual like a summer day and we don’t know what we would do without it in August.
- (4) ears white or yellow corn
- Grapeseed oil or sunflower oil to season corn to prepare for the grill.
- (3) poblano and/or green, red or yellow bell peppers (about 2 cups, chopped)
- (1 ) jalapeno or serrano pepper (optional)
- (1) medium red onion or 2 small spring red onions
- (1) large handful cilantro (or basil for non-cilantro people), stems removed and chopped
- 2 limes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 15.5-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 1 avocado, cubed (optional)
- 1 large handful cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
- Cook the corn on the cob either by cooking in boiling water for a few minutes, or on the grill. To grill, lightly brush with oil and place on a hot grill only for a few minutes until the kernels are lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- Core peppers and dice into ¼-inch pieces. Place into a large bowl.
- Dice onion and put into a strainer. Rinse with cold water and drain. (This mellows out the flavor so not as pungent.) Add to the peppers.
- Using a sharp knife, remove the corn kernels and add to the bowl.*
- Add the salt, pepper and cumin.
- Using a microplane grater over the pepper and onion bowl, grate the zest of the limes (just the green skin, not the white pith). Juice one lime and taste. Depending on the juiciness of your lime, you will likely need the juice of the second lime, too.
- Add the olive oil. Add black beans, if using, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
- Serve immediately or chill in the fridge. Add optional tomatoes and/or avocado just before serving.
Sinking into the deep summer days of seemingly unyielding heat that saps any desire to cook at the end of the day, I find myself again turning to the Mediterranean for a dish that can be prepared in advance and accommodates the heat. Tabbouleh is a traditional Lebanese dish I almost always order out and thought too fussy to make at home. I finally gave it a try and am glad I did.
With tomatoes and cucumbers in abundance this time of year, sliced cucumber and tomato salads, and gazpacho are constants so it is nice to add one more dish to a repertoire to make the most of the season. Tabbouleh is primarily a parsley salad with tomatoes and cucumbers mixed with bulgur wheat. Quinoa is easily substituted and both just need boiling water to prepare.
I found the key to making this dish successful is salting the vegetables before mixing them into a salad. So many summer vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and cucumbers are sometimes best if you salt when raw then incorporate into a dish. It prevents a dish from becoming too watery, which will definitely happen with Tabbouleh after a day. Salting just entails placing your chopped vegetables into a strainer set over a bowl and sprinkling the vegetables with salt. Let sit then stir around occasionally. After about 15 minutes, if you give a stir, the juices will dribble into the bowl and leave the vegetable still crisp. The bonus is that you can now take these juices and heat them with water to prepare the bulgur, which adds so much flavor.
Premium quality olive oil is your best asset this summer so make sure you have a bottle…or two. The choices for olive oil is vast and many are poor quality. When in doubt, the bottle should have on the label a “crush” or “harvest date.” The current date should be within 6 months of that date. Many farmers markets now have vendors with their own press of olive oil. Vordonia Athenolia Extra Vigin Olive Oil is a frequent vendor at the Great Falls Farmers Market, offering pressed olive oil fresh from the family’s olive fields in Greece.
We also have a vendor at the Great Falls Farmers Market, Tyme Foods, who sells an amazing za’atar blend with wild thyme. I featured it here over the winter but we find ourselves using it even more in the summer for grilled meat and vegetable kabobs. The pairing of wild thyme with the lemon in the Tabbouleh makes this dish very special and different. *
While adding za’atar is a special touch, the salad is also wonderful without it. Soaked in olive oil and lemon it is almost thirst quenching and surprisingly filling on hot days when it’s hard to work up an appetite.
I add a handful of sliced almonds to my Tabbouleh just before serving. You could also add goat cheese or feta to make this a little more hearty. Adaptability and flexibility are key this summer and Tabbouleh checks all the boxes.
*I receive no compensation for mention Tyme Foods’ za’atar or Vordonia Athenolia. I occasionally like to share new discoveries, which is part of the fun of shopping at a farmers market!
- ½ cup bulghur
- ½ lb. ripe tomatoes
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and cubed
- 2 bunches parsley (about 3-4 cups leaves without stems), chopped
- 1 handful mint leaves, chopped
- 1-2 spring onions or a small red onion, chopped
- 1 large lemon (or more, if desired)
- ¼ cup olive oil (or more, if desired)
- 1-2 Tablespoons za'atar
- Sea salt
- 1 small head of romaine (optional)
- Peel the tomatoes with a serrated tomato peeler or using a sharp knife, score an "x"
intothe bottom and place in a heatproof bowl, pour overboiling water and let sit for a few minutes until skin begins to lift off. Remove from bowl and cool only long enough until you can handle, then pull off the skin.
- Cut out the core and cut tomato(es) into quarters. Scrape out the seeds.
- Chop tomato into cubes.
- Place the tomato and cucumbers into a fine mesh strainer set over a large glass mixing bowl. Sprinkle all the cubes with salt and give a stir. Let sit in the strainer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes. Press gently to extract as much liquid as you can without crushing. Reserve the liquid.
- Add enough water to the glass measuring cup to reach 1½ cups. Bring to a boil in the microwave or on a stove top. Add the bulghur and cover. Let sit for about 30-40 minutes until soft and fluffy.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, mint, onions, and bulghur. Add the juice of one lemon, 1 Tablespoon of za'atar to taste (or more) and olive oil. Mix gently to combine. Adjust seasoning, if necessary by adding more lemon or za'atar.
- Layer a plate of romaine leaves as a bed for a salad. Or, if you have baby romaine, they make excellent scoops when serving as an appetizer.
- Can be served immediately or keeps well in the fridge for at least 4 days. (If using romaine lettuce, add just before serving)
This week finds us just past the summer solstice marking when Spring hands over the reigns of the season to Summer. The farmers market reflects this perfect intersection. Spring green vegetables still in their prime next to summer’s first batch of green beans. This week, we meld Spring and Summer with an English Pea, Fava and Green Bean Melange with a Lemon Garlic Scape Sauce, scattered with radishes and spring onions.
After spending several weeks trekking through Italy, I was left with great memories of beautiful art, history, sites, and, of course, food. Simplicity rules the meals, as it has for centuries. Beautiful produce needs little to make a delicious meal and often what grows together, makes great sense together on the plate, too.
As temperatures and humidity continue to rise, I find I not only avoid hot meals but I never want anything stark cold either. This dish works with any temperature but is meant to be served at room temperature when flavors really shine. It is an almost elegant side dish that is still laid back enough to make sense aside any BBQ. It also can be a main dish with the addition of white beans and maybe some smoked fish or best-quality tuna in olive oil.
A visit to the farmers market this summer makes it hard to say no to anything. With this dish, we don’t need to. It all works together in its simplicity now and always. Mangia!
- 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
- ¾ lb. fava bean pods (1/2 cup shelled fava beans)
- ¾ lb. English pea pods (1 cup shelled peas)
- 2-3 radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly
- 2-3 spring onions or scallions, white and light greens sliced thinly into long strips (vertically)
- 4-5 thin and tender garlic scapes, roughly chopped (about a ½ cup chopped)
- 1 lemon juiced (about 2 Tablespoons lemon juice)
- 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil, or more, if desired.
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Large handful pea shoots or watercress leaves
- Heat a large stock pot half way with water and bring to a boil. *I find it easiest to use a pot that has a strainer insert as we will be cooking the vegetables quickly in batches.
- Fill a large bowl with cold ice water and place on the counter, next to the pot, if possible.
- Remove fava beans from the pod. They will still have a shell covering the bean. When water comes to a boil, place fava beans in water and boil for about 3 minutes. Remove and place into ice water immediately.
- Place shelled peas into the boiling water, cook for 2 minutes.
- While the peas cook, gently squeeze the fava bean out of its shell jacket and place the emerald green beans into a large bowl. Discard the jacket. (I won't lie, it may seem tedious but is so worth it! A few extra family hands and this takes just a minute or two.)
- Using the strainer, remove peas from the water and place into the ice bath.
- Place green beans into the hot water. Cook for 5 minutes or until crisp tender.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove peas from ice water and add to the fava beans in the large bowl.
- Remove green beans and place into ice water (you may need to add a little more ice)
- Remove from the ice bath to a dry towel and mop up any excess moisture. No need to be thorough, they just shouldn't be dripping wet.
- In a blender, combine the chopped garlic scapes, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil
- Blend on high until garlic scapes are almost completely dissolved. The result will be a thick sauce. If you like, add additional olive oil to thin into more of a vinaigrette.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To serve, place green beans on a plater and scatter with the pea and fava bean mix. Toss with the pea shoots and scatter radish and scallions on top. Drizzle with a bit of the sauce and serve remaining sauce on the side. Or, you can toss it all as a salad.
Mother’s Day is a challenge where the pressure is high but honestly, expectations are low. A sane breakfast at home is really the best gift and a Dutch Baby pancake couldn’t be easier. Topped with greens, strawberries and a drizzle of a Rhubarb Vinaigrette, this is an elegant brunch dish fresh from the farmer’s market that will make a big impression on Mom….and anyone else at the table.
Rhubarb is still in the farmers markets even though I could not find it in the grocery stores. When foraging for stalks at the market, look for the reddest stalks you can find. Almost all farms will remove the leaves before selling, if your leaves are still attached, remove and discard. They can be toxic.
Strawberries make their first appearance at the market and will bear no resemblance to grocery strawberries sold year-round. Local strawberries are smaller and juicier with a floral sweetness that makes them just as appropriate in salads as they are in desserts. Try to find organic strawberries, if you can. We are lucky in Great Falls to have an organic source. Strawberries are susceptible to pests and are commonly sprayed. If you have any doubts, rinse the berries with water in a colander for a few minutes to help wash away any residue.
Only rinse strawberries you intend to use immediately. Washed strawberries will not last long, nor will your fresh market strawberries. However, once washed, I find it helps to remove the strawberry tops, slice into quarters and toss with a little sugar. I keep a bowl in the fridge and find the berries last several days longer than raw strawberries.
Making a Dutch Baby Pancake couldn’t be easier and suits both sweet and savory appetites. It just take a blitz of a few ingredients in a blender then a hot oven takes care of the rest.
Impress your Mom and give this a try. You’ll impress yourself, as well. There is no better gift than the ability to serve something lovely and enjoy it together. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
- ½ cup flour or gluten-free 1-to-1 flour (gf)
- ½ cup milk or favorite non-sweetened dairy substitute (v)
- 2 eggs or egg substitute (v)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3-4 stalks rhubarb stalks, ends removed, cut into thin slices
- 2 Tablespoons local honey
- ¼ cup water
- 1-2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- 2 handfuls of baby arugula
- 1 small handful watercress leaves and tender stems
- 1 large handful strawberries, leaves removed and cut into quarters or halves if small.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Place an oven-safe 10-inch fry pan (standard cast iron pan works great) into the oven while preheating.
- Into a blender, place the milk, eggs, flour and salt, in that order. Pulse a few times, scrape down the sides and then blitz until completely blended and smooth. Set aside. (you can also use a food processor, stand mixer or electric mixer but it is laborious to mix by hand as the batter should be completely smooth. This takes just a few moments with any of the above electric mixers.)
- While the oven preheats, place the rhubarb into a saucepan with the honey and water over medium heat and stir occasionally until the rhubarb completely breaks down. Set aside to cool a bit.
- When the oven is preheated, carefully remove the hot fry pan and add the butter quickly so that it covers the bottom and sides. (I just use a knife to swirl it around). Immediately add the batter to cover the pan evenly and place back into the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, checking periodically. It is done when the edges are dark brown and the center is light brown and puffed. (When you remove, you might feel as if you have grown an alien but be assured, it will deflate once it sits.)
- While the pancake is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Place the rhubarb mixture into a blender with the vinegar, blend until smooth. While blending, pour in olive oil in a small but steady stream. Taste and season with salt to taste.
- Remove pancake from oven and let deflate for a few moments. Toss greens with vinaigrette.
- Add greens and strawberries to the top of the pancake. Garnish with mint, if desired.
- Serve immediately.
This time of year, the weather is bit unpredictable. Today it is sunny and 85 degrees, tomorrow 60 and rainy. Regardless of what the day brings, the market is featuring a beautiful collection of Asian spring greens, as well as our first sighting of spring garlic and a small supply of baby beets.
Asian Greens with a Warm Spring Garlic and Beet Vinaigrette blends the cool with the warm, which seems to make sense with the indecision of the season. Beet greens are the star in this salad instead of the small root attached, although it will serve an important role. I prefer beet greens with a little heat while baby napa cabbage and baby bok choy are too tender and best raw.
Rinse these tender farm-fresh greens in a bowl covered with cold water then swirl around with your hands a few times. Let rest just a minute to allow any grit to sink to the bottom of the bowl, just a minute or so. Then, carefully lift the floating greens out of the water and either wrap in a clean towel or give a few whirls in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture.
Spring garlic resembles spring onions with a distinct difference as the taste and smell is distinctly garlic. Unlike the pungent traditional dried garlic found in the grocery, market-fresh Spring garlic has a delicate flavor that won’t overwhelm any dish.
The beet is cubed and sautéed with their greens and some spring garlic in toasted sesame oil. Just as the greens begin to release, a drizzle of soy sauce, rice wine and honey finish this simple vinaigrette. It is poured still warm over the cold greens. Together the warm with the cool suit our days and our appetites, regardless of the weather. It’s not confusion, it’s Spring.
- 1 baby beet with greens attached, peeled and chopped into small cubes
- 4-5 Spring garlic bulbs (the same size as scallions, usually only found at the farmers market)
- 1 small head of baby napa cabbage
- 2 handfuls baby bok choy
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1½ teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons honey
- 2-3 Tablespoons sesame seeds or slivered almonds (optional)
- Remove beet greens from the beet and cut off the end of the napa cabbage.
- Rinse all greens and dry wrapped in a towel or using a salad spinner. Cut into bite-size pieces.
- Remove roots from spring garlic and the top 2 inches of the greens, chop small, reserve 1 Tablespoon of greens and whites and set aside.
- Put the sesame oil, beets and remaining spring garlic in a medium frypan over medium heat and saute 5 minutes until beets slightly soften.
- Add the beet greens and saute until just beginning to wilt.
- Meanwhile, place the bok choy and napa cabbage into a salad bowl.
- Add soy sauce, vinegar, honey to the pan and stir until the honey is dissolved.
- Pour warm vinaigrette over the greens, toss to combine. After plating, top with reserved Tablespoon of garlic and sesame seeds or almonds, if desired.
As March blows in with its familiar bluster, I find myself uncomfortably on edge, teetering between the seasons. Not quite in one season or out of the other. It is probably caused by the glorious taste of Spring we enjoyed early in the week with almost balmy temperatures, only to be thrown back into Winter by the end of the week with a cold force that remind us it is only March.
This Warm Root Vegetable Salad with Quick Pickled Onions and Thyme is a bit like that. …
Shredded Beet, Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad with Walnuts and an Orange Vinaigrette, utilizes fruits and vegetables that are in abundance at the winter farmer’s market and proves that when you have local organic vegetables, you need to do very little to create something special. In this recipe, you don’t need to even turn on the stove. …