Category Archives: Produce from the Garden

Downtown Market: Access for All


Downtown Market, Grand Rapids, MI

I’d been looking forward to checking out the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids ever since it opened earlier this summer. With 25,000 square feet of market space, it’s the first LEED-certified market in the country. That’s a big deal! And, it’s designed to be a year-round hub of activity, offering a restaurant, a brewery, a farmer’s market, retail shops, a commercial kitchen, a rooftop greenhouse, and the country’s first hands-on kitchen for kids.

For now, the market is only offering outdoor vendors. So Bill and I stopped by on a recent evening and were pleased to see a number of familiar faces from the Holland Farmers Market, as well as new ones from areas around Grand Rapids–all situated under a permanent outdoor shelter.

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But what I really love about the Downtown Market is its location. This market offers urban dwellers another option for fresh, local produce and food items.

Downtown Market, Grand Rapids, MI

Downtown Market, Grand Rapids, MI

This makes it possible for more people struggling with lower incomes to have access to fresh food, which means healthier options for all. And, it was great to see a van right there in the parking lot, ready to deliver donations to Heartside nonprofit organizations that help residents in the neighborhood.

Downtown Market, Grand Rapids, MI

Downtown Market, Grand Rapids, MI

Can’t wait to see what the Indoor Market Hall offers when it opens later this summer!

For Your Picnic: Tuscan Feta Salad Sandwich


Tuscan Feta Salad Sandwich

Tuscan Feta Salad Sandwich

If you’re going to the beach, on a hike, for a bike ride, or on a road trip, the Tuscan Feta Salad Sandwich is a good companion for a picnic lunch. And now is the perfect time to buy its ingredients in season at the Holland Farmers’ Market.

You can buy everything there (except for olives). Seriously. Even the feta cheese and the bread. And if you need oil and vinegar to make the vinaigrette, just run up the street to Fustini’s.

What I love about this recipe is that it begs for improvisation. Don’t like tomatoes? Try fresh Bell peppers instead. Not a fan of olives? Leave them off and add some capers. Substitute chevre for feta cheese. Numerous combinations are possible!

I was headed to Pereddies’ restaurant and deli in Washington Square to buy kalamata olives for the sandwich, so I decided to try their olive oil bread instead of a big round loaf of sourdough like the recipe suggests. It’s the perfect vehicle for this sandwich!

Below is the original recipe from Southern Living, along with a slideshow of the ingredients and process. It serves 4-6 people.

Tuscan Feta Salad Sandwich

Ingredients

2/3 cup vinaigrette

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 (8-inch) round sourdough bread loaf (about 16 ounces)

2 cups shredded romaine lettuce

1 large tomato, sliced

1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese

1 medium cucumber, sliced

1/2 medium-size purple onion, sliced

1/4 cup sliced ripe olives

Whisk first 4 ingredients. Cut bread in half horizontally. Scoop out inside of bread halves, leaving 2-inch shells; brush inside with 3 tablespoons vinaigrette mixture. Layer lettuce and tomato in bottom half of bread, brushing tomato with remaining vinaigrette mixture. Layer cheese and next 3 ingredients over tomato. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 2 hours. (Place a large plate on top of sandwich, weighting it down with cans, if necessary, to compress sandwich.) Cut into wedges.

Wrap it up and go!

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Asparagus Leek Soup


It began with asparagus season this year. I had learned that you can, in fact, freeze asparagus without blanching it, if you’re going to use it in something for which texture doesn’t matter. Like soup! So I spent most of June freezing bags of asparagus and decided, after eating many meals of fresh asparagus, I’d better try out a soup recipe to make sure I like it. I’ll be making plenty of asparagus soup later in the fall and winter with what I’ve got stored in the freezer.

My recipe was inspired by Jim LaPerriere’s Asparagus and Spring Garlic Vichyssoise. Jim is a local chef who participates in the Chef Series each summer at the Holland Farmers Market. I picked up this recipe from him three years ago.

Since I had missed the window for spring garlic, I decided to substitute sweet candy onion. I also used olive oil instead of butter and homemade chicken stock instead of water. (But this would make a nice vegetarian soup if water were used for the base.) Plus, I skipped the potato. And, I opted for raw milk (with fat skimmed off) rather than heavy cream.

Here’s the recipe:

Asparagus Leek Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 small leeks, chopped
1 lb. asparagus, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup lowfat milk

Rinse the asparagus and snap off the bottoms. (Jim’s recipe, as well as several others I found online, suggest saving the tips and blanching them to use as garnish when serving. Me, I’m too lazy to add another step!)

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and leeks in olive oil until tender, about six minutes.

Add the chopped asparagus and saute for one minute.

Pour the chicken stock into the saucepan and bring to a boil.

Cover pan with a lid, reduce heat, and simmer soup for about ten minutes.

Puree in batches. Season with salt and pepper, then add milk.

It’s best to make this soup a day ahead for the flavors to blend. My chicken stock was made from a Spatchcock Chicken so it was full of fresh herb flavor. You may want to consider adding a little parsley or thyme to this soup as it simmers on the stove.

I think this is a delicious summer soup because it’s so light that it doesn’t make you warm and sleepy. Although it’s not an authentic vichyssoise recipe, you could try serving this soup cold. The leeks and asparagus nicely complement each other.

Asparagus Frittata


Asparagus Frittata Recipe

Memorial Day is the traditional segue to summer. And in the Great Lakes, it’s the start of weekend gatherings–at home, at the cottage, and at the campsite. What’s a quick and easy way to enjoy breakfast together? A simple frittata with seasonal vegetables. And right now, it’s asparagus season.

Most people in Michigan can’t wait for the first asparagus to show up at farmers markets and roadside stands. I’m one of them. As soon as the Holland Farmers Market opened in May, I was there with my basket, loading up on this spring vegetable that can be prepared so many ways. Putting it in a frittata is one of my favorites. In addition to the asparagus, I buy the rest of the ingredients from our local farmers at the Holland Farmers Market: pastured eggs from Grassfields, red onions from Visser Farms, and goat cheese from Country Winds Creamery. (Another reason why I love this recipe? You can cook it over a campfire, too!)

Asparagus Frittata

Serves 4.

3 T. olive oil

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces

8 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Pecorino cheese,  or dollops of goat cheese

Optional: chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, tarragon, or parsley

Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil and vegetables into a large oven-proof skillet. Saute onions with asparagus on medium heat until nearly tender, about three minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from pan. (Note: You can also leave the veggies in and pour the eggs right over them but I remove them and do the next steps first so the frittata doesn’t stick to the pan.)

Add salt and pepper to eggs, then stir. (If using herbs, add them now.) Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat until bubbly. When oil is very hot, pour egg mixture into pan. As edges cook, lift up with a spatula and tilt pan so uncooked egg mixture runs underneath. Continue until eggs are no longer runny. (It will still be slightly soft.)

Preheat broiler on high. Spoon vegetables evenly over egg. Sprinkle cheese or place dollops over entire pan. Put pan in oven under broiler flame and immediately reduce to low. Broil about 3 minutes, checking occasionally. Frittata is done when the edges are brown and the cheese is bubbly (or soft for goat cheese).

Remove from oven and let set about a minute. Cut into eight slices and serve.

Asparagus Frittata Recipe

Cooking over a campfire? Just place foil on over the pan to cook the top of the frittata.

Fighting Food Deserts in Birmingham


Photo via GOOD.com

Photo via GOOD.com

I love win-win stories. Check out this one from GOOD that tells how small farmers in Birmingham, Alabama, benefit from a base of consumers, and a neighborhood gets good food and local jobs. What a way to build community.

The Southwest Fresh Market in Birmingham, Alabama, is a volunteer led program initiated by REV Birmingham. A nonprofit organization working with local government, business, and community partners, its focus is to find solutions to a common challenge: connecting urban, often low-income residents with small farmers looking to boost sales.

More than 40 percent of Birmingham residents live in areas defined as food deserts, since grocery stores have shut their doors and big box retailers moved to the outskirts of the city. Food deserts are a problem because they limit residents’ opportunities for finding healthy food.

Read more about the initiative on GOOD.com.

Chez Marcita Presents: A Classic Rock Trip to the CSA


Join Bill and me as we drive across town to pick up produce from our winter CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Lakeshore Family Farm. In this short video, we’ll explain how a CSA works and show you what we got in our half share one week in February. Special thanks to Grand Rapids radio station WLAV for providing a rockin’ soundtrack for a Wednesday afternoon road trip.

Please share this post with your friends, especially those who might want to learn more about a CSA program.

Keepers of the Seed


You’ve probably heard a lot about Monsanto and its drive to continue producing  GMOs and pesticides. But what is its impact on a person’s livelihood? It can go as far as suicide.

The Perennial Plate recently went to India and interviewed environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva on the reality of these issues. Watch this video called “Two Options” to learn more about Dr. Shiva, a farmer named Bija Devi, their network of seed keepers,  and their fight to preserve heirloom seeds in India.

Another Way to Cook Turnips


Yukon potatoes and purple turnip

When I got inundated with turnips from my winter produce CSA last week (after trading my beets for more turnips), I started thinking of how to get creative with recipes. The first attempt was Bill’s spontaneous root vegetable melange. The next attempt was something you may have had with Thanksgiving dinner: mashed potatoes and turnip puree.

I had one very large purple turnip and only two Yukon potatoes. Ideally, I would have added a couple more potatoes, but it still turned out pretty tasty. All I did was peel and dice both vegetables, making them uniform size. Then I put them in a big pot of water and cooked the vegetables until tender (about 15-20 minutes). This also turned into a science lesson: I learned that turnips are less dense than potatoes and float to the top!

Boiling diced turnips and potatoes

When they were done I simply mashed them and added a little buttermilk leftover from making butter, along with salt and pepper.

Mashed potatoes and turnips with buttermilk

It was a delicious side dish to accompany roast chicken with gravy and oven-roasted carrots.

Roast chicken with carrots, mashed potatoes and turnip puree, and gravy

My Winter CSA: Lakeshore Family Farm


Half share of produce from Lakeshore Family Farm

For a few years now, Bill and I have been getting greens from a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Mud Lake Farm. I love having fresh greens in the dead of winter, grown in the farm’s greenhouse. But this is the first time we’ve tried a more traditional CSA program–the kind where you sign up and pay for a share or half-share of produce and get a “grab bag” of vegetables for the  week.

One reason we haven’t tried it before is because just two of us live in our household. Even a half share seemed like a lot. Another reason is because I stock up on produce at the Holland Farmers Market straight through December, squirreling away squash and onions and carrots and apples in the fridge or coolers in the garage. We also have a variety of frozen veggies and berries in our freezer from last summer. The third reason is because, frankly, I wanted more control over what veggies I got. (I really hate beets.)

But I kept seeing Lakeshore Family Farm’s posts on Facebook about what was in the CSA share for the week and, even with beets as a potential vegetable, we decided to try it out. I think the clincher was the “trade table.” I’ll explain.

If you haven’t participated in a CSA program before, here’s how it works with Lakeshore Family Farm: You sign up and pay in advance for an eight-week program. For their Winter CSA Program (half-share of produce) it’s $120. That comes out to $15 per week for fresh, local veggies. And all I have to do is drive across town to pick them up at a community location on my pick-up day (Wednesday).

Today was the first day, and what did I find in my share? Beets. Why aren’t there any in the photo? Because there was a bag of turnips on the trade table and you’re allowed to swap one item. I gladly left my bag of beets and took someone else’s turnips. Check out the photo above to see everything we got: apples, onions, celery root, acorn squash, turnips, sweet potatoes, more turnips, and carrots. (Can you buy all that for $15 or less at the grocery store?)

IMG_1997_CSA3

Yes, we have a lot of turnips. So watch my blog to see what we do with them. But, really, isn’t this the way we’re supposed to be eating anyway, in season? It’s like strawberries: When they’re ripe in Michigan I eat them almost everyday. Their season lasts about a month, and then I don’t eat them anymore except for what’s stored in our freezer. But it’s better than consuming produce from thousands of miles away. And what I like about Lakeshore Family Farm is they post produce recipes on their website so you can get inspiration for what to do with all those turnips (or beets!).

It’s Winter, and It’s Farmers Market Season!


Graphic via Grist.org

Graphic via Grist.org

Great news for locavores and anyone else who is trying to buy more fresh, local produce where you live: The number of winter farmers markets–those operating at least once between November and March–has risen by 52% this year!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number has increased from 1,225 in 2011 to 1,864 in 2012.

Graphic via Grist.org

Graphic via Grist.org

The graphic shows California, New York, and Florida topping the list, but here are the 2012 top 10 states for winter farmers markets:

1. California with 284

2. New York with 196

3. Florida with 105

4. Maryland with 70

5. Texas with 63

6. North Carolina with 62

7. Massachusetts with 59

8. Pennsylvania with 58

9. Georgia with 55

10. Virginia with 53

It’s great to see a few states in the snowy North making the list!