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MARGARET PROUSE: The remarkable goodness at the farmers’ market

From greens and farm-fresh eggs to soup fixings and baked goods, there’s something for everyone on Saturday mornings. SUBMITTED PHOTO
From greens and farm-fresh eggs to soup fixings and baked goods, there’s something for everyone on Saturday mornings. SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Guardian

The regulars shop at the farmers’ market year round, but seasonal traffic diminishes after New Year’s.

Even after all the outdoor crops are a thing of the past, vendors bring an array of wonderful food that would enhance anyone’s dining table.

Lest I be accused again, as I was last Saturday of duplicity, I’ll disclose that my interest isn’t solely in the healthy foods at the market. Almost every week I go home with a sugary treat from one of the bakery booths in my shopping bag along, of course, with mushrooms, greens, eggs and assorted other health-enhancing foods.

I just have to rationalize a little, telling myself that, by sharing the treat with my husband, I’m sticking to a small portion size, and that the pecans in the tarts supply healthy fats.

In addition to the occasional sweet treat, we like having homemade soup on winter days. There are enough soup fixings at the market that you could make a different one every day of the week. They include fish chowder, beef and barley, Scotch broth (lamb), cream of potato, minestrone, French onion and carrot and ginger, to name a few.  

I took home a bunch of leeks and a bag of carrots last weekend to cook with a chicken carcass from the freezer for a chicken noodle soup.  This is especially easy now that I have an electric pressure cooker.

We often have cream of mushroom soup. It’s simple to prepare using sliced mushrooms sautéed with chopped onions in butter. To make the sauce, I sprinkle flour over the sautéed vegetables and melted butter, gradually stir in beef broth and evaporated milk until it reaches the consistency of thick cream and season with thyme and black pepper.  Topped with a few seasoned croutons, it makes a warm and tasty lunch.

What do you serve with the soup? The market has that covered, too. I like toast and cheese, and there is a selection of both to choose from. There is no comparison between grilled cheese made with commercial white bread and processed cheese slices and open-face cheese melts made with artisan bread topped with top quality cheese and melted under the broiler.

Soup and salad is another good lunch menu. And market vendors have fresh local salad greens, spinach, carrots, cabbage, sweet peppers, red onions, eggs for boiling, and sometimes even salad turnips.

I like washing lettuce and spinning it dry, wrapping in paper towels or kitchen towels, and keeping it in the crisper until it’s time to make a salad. It stays fresh for several days and speeds up the salad-making process.

Once a sweet pepper is cut open, any leftover pieces can be kept fresher by refrigerating them in an airtight container with a piece of paper towel to keep them dry. I have found, since someone taught me the paper towel trick, that the cut edges of the peppers stay intact for much longer than when just packed in a plastic bag or container.

Here are several points on peeling hard cooked eggs: the fresher the egg, the more difficult it is to peel and chilling the eggs in cold water immediately after cooking them makes it easier to remove the shells.

The greens at the market are particularly appealing in winter.  The mixed kale that came home with me last weekend will be transformed into this tasty side dish.

Korean Greens

Adapted from The Moosewood Collective: “New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant”. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 1987.

500 g (1 lb) mixed stir-fry greens, coarsely chopped (e.g. collards, kale, spinach)

22 mL (1½ tbsp) canola oil

15 mL (1 tbsp) dark sesame oil

22 mL (1½ tbsp) white vinegar

22 mL (1½ tbsp) tamari soy sauce

pinch sugar (optional)

7 mL (1½ tsp) sesame seeds, toasted

Prepare sauce by mixing together sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce and optional sugar.

Rinse and dry greens. Chop into manageable sized pieces, if desired.

Heat canola oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the greens and stir-fry until just tender, but not overcooked. Pour off any excess oil or liquid.

Toss the greens with the sauce in a warmed serving bowl. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the greens and serve.           

Makes 4 servings

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at prouse@pei.sympatico.ca.

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