Farmer’s Market near where I live – Pensacola, Florida

The concept of farm fresh food is gaining steam these days as Americans are looking at eating healthier. One way to accomplish this is by stocking fresh fruit and vegetables in your refrigerator. Farm fresh foods are superior to food that you purchase from the grocery store because they come directly to you from the farm. The fewer steps there are between your food’s source and your table, the less chance there is of contamination. Also, when you know where your food comes from and who grows it, you know a lot more about that food.

Now, with the local growing season in full swing, getting fresh produce is easier than ever. Farmers markets, produce stands and even roadside vendors are your best source for the freshest and most nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.”When you buy locally grown, you’re getting the produce at its peak form,” says Darlene Price, senior nutrition resource educator at Orange County Cornell Cooperative Extension. “It’s ready to eat right now. When you buy your fresh produce in a supermarket, you’re never really sure how long it’s been sitting.”

Seemingly endless varieties are yet another advantage local farmers have over their giant commercial counterparts, who are restricted to crops that can survive long storage and the arduous transportation process. Local farmers plant what’s delicious, healthful and in local demand. “The large commercial farmers have to plant foods that will survive a lot of abuse,” says Louis Schultz, coordinator of the Florida market. “We’ve gotten very removed from our food. The average supermarket potato travels 1,500 miles. Local farmers don’t have to worry about factoring all that in. They can plant anything.”

The diversity available at the local markets means that a larger range of nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals — which give fruits and vegetables their bright, deep color — is there for the taking. Nutritionists advise us to “eat the rainbow,” and the color spectrum at a local farmers market is simply unrivaled.

Photo: Silver King Sweet Corn Patch--mid-April 2013

Corn growing at my CSA – Jeta Farms

Besides shopping at a farmer’s market you can join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) as a way to ensure a steady supply of fresh, local produce. Community-supported agriculture is a food production and distribution system that directly connects farmers and consumers. Consumers buy “shares” in a farm’s harvest in advance.The term “CSA” is also used to refer to an individual farm’s CSA program.

Farmers earn important early-season capital and have a guaranteed market for their produce. Barring a disastrous harvest, consumers enjoy overall lower food costs, field-fresh produce and greater access to high-demand fruits and vegetables, such as long-stem strawberries and heirloom tomatoes. Most CSA’s provide weekly deliveries or pickups, farm visits and other special events for members. For example, my CSA provides a fresh Christmas tree in December for all its members.

The recipes in this post take advantage of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Cherry Tomato, Fennel and Arugula Salad 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 lb. baby arugula leaves
  • 1 large or 2 small bulbs fennel, stalks trimmed, outer layer removed, and cored
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or substitute 3 medium tomatoes cut into bite-size pieces, about 2 cups)

Directions:

In a food processor, blend the Parmesan cheese, buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, mayonnaise and lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put the arugula in a large bowl. Using a mandoline set at a very thin setting or a vegetable peeler, shave the fennel and add to the arugula. Toss with a little of the dressing; just enough to coat the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the salad among 4 large salad plates and mound slightly. In another bowl toss the tomatoes with the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a little salt and pepper; scatter on the salads. Serve immediately, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables

Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables

Add color to baked ziti with yellow squash, zucchini and tomato.

4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces uncooked whole grain ziti pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Coat an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan. Add squash, zucchini and onion; saute 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper.

Combine ricotta, remaining salt and egg in a small bowl. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon pasta into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.

Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Chicken Cutlets with Bell Pepper Ragout

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs ripe plum tomatoes (6 to 8), cored, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 medium red or orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, cut into medium dice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium clove garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced into cutlets
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and patted dry

Directions:

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler heating element and heat the broiler on high.

Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil. Put the tomatoes cut side up on one side of the pan and the peppers and onions on the other side of the pan. Drizzle everything with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with the paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix the seasonings into the peppers and onions.

Broil until the tomatoes are collapsed, about 7 minutes. Turn the tomatoes over, mix the peppers and onions again and broil until the tomato skins have large black spots and the peppers and onions are tender, about 5 minutes more.

Use tongs to pull the skins off the tomatoes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a cutting board.

Put the peppers and onions in a large bowl and add the garlic paste. Chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl with the other vegetables. Mix well. Keep warm.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Put the flour in a shallow pan. Season the chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; dredge in the flour.

Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and top with the ragout.

Wipe out the pan. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and fry the capers over medium-high heat until they pop open and become crisp, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle them over the chicken and ragout.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Topping

Fresh Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Topping

Ingredients:

Serves: 6

  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons light frozen whipped topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 cups assorted fresh fruit (such as cut up mango, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple chunks, kiwifruit or strawberries)
  • Lime zest for garnish

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, whipped topping, the 1/2 teaspoon lime peel, powdered sugar and lime juice.

Divide fruit among six dessert dishes. Spoon 1 tablespoon sour cream mixture over fruit in each dish. If desired, garnish with additional lime zest.

 

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