The weekly market is about more than just stocking up on produce. It’s a social gathering place, a music event, educational arena, and a place to discover things you never knew you wanted or needed.
Most markets in our area are once a week, unless the “city” here in Vermont is on the larger side, in which case it might happen twice. Anyone who is not from New England would laugh at the population I’m talking about.
But for the most part, we plan our Friday, or Saturday, or Tuesday around the market day and look forward to not only finding the freshest, best, and most diversified produce available, but just about everything else from lemon-pound-cake-scented candles to dandelion, chive blossom, and goat cheese pizza. And, of course, beautiful breads of every size, shape, and flavor.
I often bump into folks I haven’t seen in a while and take some time to stop and catch up, and it is always delightful to chat with one of the vendors and learn how they grow their mushrooms or ferment their beets. You can pick up lots of good tips along the way, and discover old time techniques that are as relevant today.
My favorite finds one recent week included smoked local creamery butter (out of this world!), a rum and coke bread, (not much rum flavor, but absolutely delicious anyway), four varieties of locally grown mushrooms from wild spore, and fermented radishes. In fact, these days, one can find just about anything fermented! I chatted with a woman about the timeless process of making sauerkraut, a recipe she learned from her grandmother.
Kids love the market, whether helping to pick out the vegetables or selling their own lemonade! Since my grandkids have been in strollers, they’ve accompanied me on the weekly shopping trip, often helping me pick out something to bring home to their parents. Although I suspect what they like the most is eating the cheese crêpes and sampling the cheeses and pickles.
Cheeses are abundant in Vermont farm markets as one would expect. There are so many incredible varieties that are not available commercially except at these markets and small farm stands, and they are among the best Vermont dairy. We get to sample, and there is always something special. Recently, I purchased “Tractor” Cheddar from Shelburne Farms, and it was seriously delicious! It is billed as having “strong or unusual flavors that keep the engines running,” and the taste and texture vary from block to block. The one I chose was really sharp, and on the harder side perfect to grate over a bowl of pasta.
Anyone who has ever grown a garden knows how much longer fresh produce lasts in your refrigerator, and the fresher the veggie the more nutrients are retained. You can stock up on all your week’s supply on market day, and they will keep all week, saving you shopping later. Fresh milk, fresh eggs, these last longer as well since the time between gathering and getting to the consumer is less. The flavor? Well, of course it is better than a variety that is grown with a priority of shipping and storing and not flavor.
If you time your travels right, and hit the morning markets early, you can snack on breakfast and coffee while you shop, pick up a freshly made samosa for lunch, and gather what you need for a beautiful stir-fry supper.
And you might make a few new friends along the way.
Market Day Stir Fry
We pretty much know what we’ll have for supper on Friday or Saturday night –– something we just picked up from the farmers market! Often it is a simple Stir-Fry, using whatever we find that is the freshest and most alluring. Sometimes, if it is really hot, we’ll just have plain vegetables, steamed or roasted, with nothing else but a little butter, or a salad of fresh greens and tomatoes.
Plan your menu by the market
This week’s stir-fry included beautiful summer squashes, green beans, shiitake mushrooms, rainbow carrots, broccolini, and radishes, both bulb and greens. I found some wonderful gluten-free all buckwheat pasta to serve as the base, and the “Tractor Chedder” to sprinkle over the top. In the time it takes for the pasta water to come to a boil, everything is prepped and in the pan.
The actual recipe isn’t that important. You will need an onion or leek or shallots, whatever you find. A carrot or perhaps some celery, or both. Some garlic to liven things up, and a few cups of whatever vegetable is freshest and most appealing to you, keeping in mind to mix up the colors for the broadest range of vitamins and minerals.
Prep veggies, then cook in order
Heat a wok or large skillet and add a little oil of choice. Start with the onion and other aromatics such as the carrots. Then add veggies according to what cooks longest through to those you only want to keep in a pan a few seconds such as shoots and herbs.
Here’s what I used recently to serve four. It is a simple stir fry with no special sauce. It is basically seasoned veggies over pasta with a little cheese thrown in for good measure. You can add any number of ingredients along with the vegetables, sesame seeds, bean sprouts, chili peppers, a protein. Make a sauce, or add spices, some heat, whatever you want to make it yours.
Farmers Market Stir Fry
12 ounces buckwheat or other whole grain spaghetti
2 tbsp. olive oil
12 ounces of local mushrooms, sliced
1 new onion, sliced
2 new carrots, diced, save a few fronds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
Handful of green beans, chopped on diagonal
2 summer squash, one green one yellow
1/2 a small bunch of broccolini, chopped
A few radishes and their leaves, both chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
3 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated, optional
Put a pot of water on to boil. When bubbling, salt the water and add the pasta. Set the timer for its shortest amount of cooking time and check.
In the meantime, prep your vegetables and have them ready before you start to cook.
Heat the wok or skillet and add the olive oil.
Over medium high heat, sauté the mushrooms until lightly browned. Set aside.
Add a bit more oil to the pot and cook the onions and carrots for a couple of minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the garlic and ginger followed by the green beans. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes, then add the summer squash, broccolini, and radishes, and pour in the wine and soy sauce.
Cover and let cook for another few minutes until the veggies are where you like them, salt and pepper, and taste. Add the radish leaves and carrot fronds and stir it all up again.
Drain the pasta, and plate.
Spoon the veggies over the pasta, top with the mushrooms, and garnish with the cheese.
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