Our Front Porch

Cream of the Crop: Farmer’s Market Favorites

By Sue Muncaster

You don’t have to be a gourmet cook to make the most out of shopping at the farmer’s market. In fact, the simpler the recipe, the better. Selecting thrifty, choice ingredients requires flexibility. And a repertoire of recipes ensures garden-fresh flavor, making even the most obscure fruits and veggies shine.

When I return from the market, I find myself thumbing through recipes I’ve collected from my travels to places like Italy, Chile, and New Zealand. In these countries, generations of cooks have learned to prepare seasonal recipes with what’s on hand.  

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Swiss Chard Pie

Serves 6-8

You can easily substitute spinach for kale in this recipe. Or, if you want to get fancy, layer sautéed zucchini, summer squash, and thinly sliced carrots in a glass pie pan. For a flavor boost, add fresh shiitake mushrooms to the sautéed greens. 

  • 2–3 large bunches Swiss chard (8-10 cups, approximately 2.5 lbs.)
  • cloves garlic, chopped
  • eggs, lightly beaten
  • tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • tablespoons bread crumbs, divided
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Oil the bottom and sides of a pie pan or 9-inch cake pan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs over the bottom. 2. Wash and boil (or steam) the Swiss chard in a large pot. Drain and cool. Squeeze out the remaining water and chop. 3. In a large frying pan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until it starts to soften. Add the chopped chard and salt. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Cool. 4. Prepare the Béchamel sauce: melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste bubbles—do not brown it. Add the warm milk slowly, stirring continuously. When all the milk has been added, whisk in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Continue whisking and cook until thickened. 5. Add 3 beaten eggs and Parmesan cheese to the chard mixture; gently stir in Béchamel. Pour into a pie pan and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm and lightly browned.

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Savory Muffins

2 dozen regular or 10 jumbo muffins

I adapted this recipe from The Naff Caff coffee shop original. This Queenstown, New Zealand, locale serves savory muffins as an alternative to sweets for clients preparing for an adventure-packed day. They are an ideal way to sneak veggies into a picky eater’s (or kid’s) food. 

Muffins:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups buttermilk 
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Filling/topping:

  • 1 cup grated cheese of your choice
  • 3-4 cups chopped filling (fresh veggies, herbs, and cubed meat)
  • 1/2 cup toppings (nuts, herbs, seeds, or additional cheese)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease two regular muffin tins or two jumbo tins. 2. With an electric mixer, beat together the oil, eggs, garlic, and buttermilk. If using spinach or fresh herbs, mix them in. 3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cheeses. Stir in the filling ingredients. 4. With a large spoon combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir only enough to mix (this is a delicate process, almost like folding). Batter should be moist but not runny. Adjust with extra flour or buttermilk. 5. Fill each muffin tin to the top (the muffins are thick enough not to run over the sides). Sprinkle on nuts, seeds, and cheese, or place an olive on top. 6. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size of the muffin. Remove the muffins when they are golden brown, firm to the touch, and a tester comes out clean. Serve warm.

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Basic Pesto 

1 to 1 1/2 cups

Pesto sauce originated in the city of Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy (pesto Genovese). It traditionally consisted of crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk). Everything was done with a mortar and pestle. Well, we aren’t in Italy and with today’s food processors we can do whatever we wish, right? Pesto is the ideal way to use up any mix of herbs and greens lurking in the refrigerator. It can be served with anything from pasta to 460 Bread and bison burgers to young potatoes. 

  • 1 salad-spinner full of fresh basil (or some combination of basil, arugula, mint, thyme, Italian parsley, cilantro, chives, and oregano)
  • 40 pine nuts, about 2 tablespoons
  • 10 walnut halves, about 1/4 cup (roasted almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, or sunflower seeds will work)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, or other sharp, dry cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil 

1. Fill a food processor with basil, salt, garlic, and nuts and grind them to a paste (the salt will keep the basil green). Add the grated cheese. 2. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the feed tube, while the processor is running, to reach the desired consistency.

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Mangiatutto al Pomodoro 

Serves 8

This Tuscany side dish literally means “eat everything with tomato!” It’s only as good as the tomatoes you use, so be sure they are ripe and flavorful. Basil is a gentle herb. So if you want to add boldness, choose rosemary, oregano, thyme, or garlic.

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh veggie combo (green beans, zucchini, summer squash, potatoes, kale, mushrooms, Swiss chard, or spinach)
  • 5–6  large, ripe, fresh tomatoes, peeled 
  • onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons or more fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup, or more, extra virgin olive oil 
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Water, if necessary

1. Place veggies, tomatoes, onion, basil, and olive oil in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover and heat over medium. Reduce heat after 5 minutes and simmer until veggies are soft, approximately 30 minutes. 2. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add water if the mixture starts to stick to bottom of the pan. 3. Serve with meat, or a slice of crusty bread and a tossed salad.

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All Dressed Up

Nutty Blue Dressing 

2 cups

Puree 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3/4 cup parsley, and 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (try the Sapphire Blue from Teton Valley Creamery) in a blender or food processor. Stir in 1/2 cup of chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and/or hot sauce to taste. This makes a great dip for crudités. Or, use it as a B.L.T. spread. 

Green Goddess Dressing 

2 cups

Adopted from the Chez Panisse Vegetable cookbook, this gorgeous dressing adds flavor to simple greens or heirloom tomatoes.

Blend 1/2 ripe avocado, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 chopped garlic clove, 2 chopped anchovy filets (packed in oil, drained), 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, and a dash of sugar in a processor. Gradually add 3/4 cup olive oil through the feed tube; blend well. Pour into a bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream. Add any combo of: 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, 2 tablespoons tarragon, 2 tablespoons cilantro, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 small chopped shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 3 hours—dressing will separate if not chilled. Re-whisk before serving. 

Warm Bacon-Mushroom Vinaigrette 

1 cup

Cut 4 slices of thick bacon into 1/2-inch-wide strips and fry in medium skillet until bacon starts to crisp. Add 2 cups sliced mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender. Add 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar and 1/4 cup water. Simmer until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Toss, while hot, with spinach or braising greens, or serve over lamb or pork chops.

Maple-Sesame Dressing

1 1/2 cups

In a blender or food processer combine 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos), 1 small garlic clove, 1/3 cup tahini, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1/4 cup water; blend until smooth. This Cosmic Apple Gardens work-share’s favorite goes best with stout greens like mustard, arugula, or braising greens.

All dressings best eaten fresh or within 3 to 5 days.