Fresh food means healthy food, and it doesn’t get any fresher than from the hands of those who grew it. Whether it’s a veggie stand by the side of the road or in a parking lot, or at a bustling farmers’ market, fresh-from-the-patch produce is inexpensive, eco-friendly and good for you.
And how do you select produce at a farmers’ market? Ask what kind of apple or peach you’re looking at. And find out how you pick a good one, and when was it was picked. Also ask what pest control was used.
The fun of shopping at farmers’ markets is the expectation of finding something new—like arugula, a bitterish, aromatic salad green with a peppery mustard flavor. Some say the flavor is reminiscent of radishes, walnuts and bacon. It has long been extremely popular with Italians, but American palates often find its flavor too assertive. Nevertheless, it is a lively addition to an otherwise ordinary green salad.
DANCING WINDS GREEN SALAD WITH FETA
4 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 teaspoon each of chopped fresh basil, rosemary, thyme and parsley
1 small red onion, chopped
8-10 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 pound of spinach greens, washed and stems trimmed
1 cup of arugula
1/4 to 1/2 pound of feta cheese, crumbled
In a skillet, fry bacon until crisp; drain, then crumble, and set aside. Pour off fat. In the same skillet, heat olive oil; add vinegar, chopped herbs, onion and mushrooms. Cook and stir over medium heat until tender. Remove from heat and set aside. Tear spinach and arugula into bite-size pieces and put in large bowl. Pour hot dressing over greens and toss. Sprinkle feta over salad. Serves four.
MIXED GREENS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND CANDIED ALMONDS
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
1 1/2 cups of slivered almonds, toasted
Place foil on work surface. Stir sugar and water in saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with pastry brush. Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan and swirling pan, about 9 minutes. Mix in almonds. Immediately pour out onto foil, separating almonds with a fork. Cool completely—mixture will harden.
4 cups of apple cider
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of grated onion
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of poppy seeds
1 cup of olive oil
Boil apple cider in pan until reduced to a half-cup, about 23 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl and chill until cold. Add vinegar, onion, mustard and poppy seeds. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper to taste.
2 5-oz. bags of mixed salad greens
2 cups of arugula
12 oz. of crumbled goat cheese
Toss greens, cheese and almonds in large bowl with enough dressing to coat. Serves eight.
Here’s a salad with just arugula:
ARUGULA SUMMER SALAD
In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of arugula, 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced, and 2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges. Whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice and red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and gently toss to coat. Serves six.
Here’s another summer salad. Mix bunches of basil, flat-leaf parsley and arugula with a handful of tarragon leaves and some chives in a large salad bowl with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve it with some good country bread you may have found at that farmers’ market.
Food is one of the most important elements of our lives. It quite literally sustains us—we cannot do without it. Yet food is not simply fuel for our bodies and a cornerstone of civilization—good food is one of life’s simplest, yet most satisfying pleasures. So, take those back roads, stop at roadside stands, find where the farmers’ markets are located, meet the farmers and enjoy summer’s bounty—from their hands to your table.
HINT OF THE MONTH: When purchasing arugula, look for bright green leaves. It is very perishable and should be tightly wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated for no more than two days. Its leaves hold a tremendous amount of grit and must be thoroughly washed just before using.
Marian Platt is a food writer who lives in Sequim, Washington.
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