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Farmer’s Market Dinner

A visit to a local farmer’s market proved to be a wonderful experience.

Just because summer is nearing an end doesn’t mean your local farmer’s markets are.

In California, we’re blessed with a variety of produce year round, but tomatoes are a summer crop, so you won’t find them in the farmers market in the winter. (You may find some tomatoes as early as March at our markets, but those are grown in hot-houses and usually phase out when field-grown tomatoes return in the summer.)

The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are the freshest and tastiest available, based on what’s seasonally available. While tomatoes can be found in grocery stores year round, those winter tomatoes are generally transported from long distances, which means they’re grown and harvested with storage times and durability in mind, instead of ripeness and flavor. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging.

Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you—no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage.

What a way to support local growers and revamp the creative juices in my kitchen. There are so many good choices at farmer’s markets but I narrowed down my list and chose mint, opal basil, baby potatoes, a red bell pepper, mango, corn, fresh local-grown, ripe tomatoes, an orange, bananas and an avocado. I plan to use them during the week and have posted a few recipes and ideas below.

The mango and orange were sliced for a rather delectable breakfast treat. The mango literally tasted like candy, it was so ripe! I plan to try more tropical fruits the next time I go – there were many from the area that I have not heard of before.

The tomatoes were astounding – they were so ripe, juicy and delicious. We ate some of them sliced fresh with just a little oil, vinegar and black pepper. Later on in the day I roasted some of the tomatoes for a simple angel hair pasta dish with roasted marinara, complete with the opal basil that was also at the market.

Why should you attend a farmers’ market?

  • A fun family outing
  • Exercise and Vitamin D from walking around outside
  • Learn more about local in-season produce
  • Try new foods
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Get produce that is fresher, better tasting, and naturally ripe
  • Support local growers
  • Motivation to cook at home more

Here is what you should bring:

  • Cash (some vendors only take cash, however there are those vendors that have the capability of accepting cards)
  • Comfortable shoes and sun glasses
  • A shopping bag(s) to carry your items home
  • Cooler with ice in case you have other errands to run afterwards – some items like leafy lettuce and fresh herbs may not hold up that well in a hot car.
  • If you arrive early there is more parking and selections. But if you arrive later you can often get more bargains. 

Check online to see where your nearest Farmer’s Market will be or make it a trip and venture off to another Farmer’s Market out of your area.

Here are favorite recipes using Farmer’s Market Ingredients:

Farmer’s Market Salad:

1 cucumber, partially peeled and seeds removed

1/4 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1/2 tsp olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh sliced basil

black pepper – freshly cracked – to taste

garlic parsley blend

Toss together and serve.

Serves 4. Each 1/2 cup serving: 13 calories, .5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, .5 g fiber, 0 g protein.

Open-Faced Fish Sandwich Dinner:

1 fillet of fish, baked

1 slice whole grain toast

2 slices fresh tomatoes

1/2 tsp low-fat mayonnaise

  1. Assemble sandwich with toast on the bottom then fish and tomatoes on top.
  2. Serve with these items on the side to make a complete meal:

• 2 cups leafy green salad tossed with fresh lemon juice

• 1 potato made into oven fries with salt-free ketchup (bake sliced potato wedges for 20 minutes at 425 degrees)

• 1 cup fresh mint tea (boil fresh mint for one minute and then chill over ice)

Serves 1: 432 calories, 5.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 43 mg cholesterol, 384 mg sodium, 10.5 g fiber, 72 g carbohydrate, 27 g protein

Angel Hair Market Pasta

8 ounces angel hair pasta, dry

3 large, ripe tomatoes, cored, halved and seeded

1/2 onion, peeled and quartered

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil dash granulated garlic

dash dried oregano

4 tablespoons grated parmesan

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions then drain and hold.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven broiler. Place tomatoes and onion side up in a large baking dish.
  3. Roast the vegetables under the broiler until skins turn very brown and blisters – about 10 minutes. Place herbs and onions into a food processor or blender. Puree briefly until basil is chopped fine then add the tomatoes and puree until almost smooth. Reheat sauce and toss with cooked angel hair pasta. Sprinkle 1 grated parmesan and fresh cracked black pepper over the top of each.

Serves 4. Each 1-1/2 cup serving: 256 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 81 mg sodium, 47 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fiber, 10 g protein.

Simple Boiled Corn:

Husk the corn and boil in a large pot of water for 3 minutes. Drain and serve hot. We like to top with fresh lemon and spray margarine. If you prepare a large amount in advance you can use the leftovers in salads and salsas during the week.

Per cob: 156 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cho- lesterol, 399 mg sodium, 36 g carbo- hydrate, 4.5 g fiber, 5 g protein.

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DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information is for informational purposes and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any illness. Consult a physician before taking any action.

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