Tag Archives: garden produce

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


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 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.

The Perennial Plate: Episode 81

I skipped a couple of The Perennial Plate episodes (number 79 and 80) in my plan to cover their Real Food Road Trip from Season Two since Daniel Klein and Mirra were on a bit of a hiatus. So here’s Episode 81, which covers two of my favorite topics: growing food and New York City. And, one of my favorite places on the East Coast: Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

It’s a Farming State of Mind.

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.

One Way to Cook Turnips

Diced turnips with sliced carrots and chopped leeks

Remember all the turnips Bill and I got in our CSA share this week? Here’s the first dish we used them in. Bill cooked last night and created a melange of sliced carrots and diced turnips, plus last fall’s chopped leeks from our freezer—all sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper. Simple and delicious. I like how the leeks balance with the flavor of the turnips.

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?)


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!

Truly Local: Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City

The Sara Hardy Farmers Market in downtown Traverse City, Michigan, was hopping on a beautiful fall Saturday, the last of September. Also known as the Cherry Capital, Traverse City is the largest city in Northern Lower Michigan and home of the National Cherry Festival. The farmers market is located in a central spot, as Bill is pointing out on the map.

Although the cherries are long gone by September, there’s still plenty of local produce to enjoy in the fall in Michigan. I love seeing how many people come out to support the area’s farmers.

Usually when I visit Northern Lower Michigan I spend my time in the Leelanau Peninsula so I tend to visit the Leelanau County farmers markets. This is the first time I actually stayed in Traverse City. And what a fun weekend it was. The fall produce was amazing….everything from potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and apples to honey, leeks, kale, and pumpkins.

Once you’ve got your produce, it’s a short drive to a number of wineries in the region, such as Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery. Fall is a great time to visit Northern Lower Michigan!

Who Wants Parsley?

I’m not sure what the name is for my style of gardening. Half-assed? Amateur? Laissez-faire? Thankfully, I look at gardening as a creative release—without the perfectionism I apply to my writing profession—but you gotta wonder what the heck happened when you have a garden full of parsley.

I already mentioned in my post about okra that my garden is nothing to speak of this year. I am the one to blame, although the heat and drought didn’t help. But I also love the experimentation of gardening, which is why I have collards and onions and kale scattered among a couple rows of planted (by me) carrots. So when the parsley decided to go to seed–when? last fall?–I let her go. My parsley is free!

There’s nothing like going out to snip fresh parsley for pasta or taboulleh. But I’ve got more than I can use, especially since Bill isn’t a big fan of it. I gave away a plant. I put some chopped parsley in the freezer. I’m sure I’ll put more in the freezer. (Drying herbs isn’t an option at our house because of cats and another prolific species: spiders.) And I plan to repot some plants for my winter herb garden. Or, I can just leave it tucked cosily  between the tomato plants to seed itself next year.

So last weekend when I was at the Holland Farmers Market, I was telling one of the farmers about my prolific parsley. He suggested selling it to a local organic food store but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through the red tape of retail. On the way home I thought: Why not barter?

This post is an advertisement for my local community: If you want parsley and you’ve got something to trade for it, I’d love to barter with you. If you’re a nonprofit in need, I’m also willing to donate. And, I’m also open to suggestions for preserving and sharing my bounty!

Fulton Street Farmers Market in Winter

Last month I was excited to learn that Michigan ranks in the top ten states for its number of winter farmers markets. Even though the Holland Farmers Market, my most local one, isn’t open in the dead of winter, the Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids is. Generally, it’s a bit of a drive for me on a Saturday morning, but Bill was planning to be in town today so he paid a visit, picked up some produce from Visser Farms as well as some bratwursts from Crane Dance Farm, and took these photos. For now, the market is temporarily located in the Salvation Army parking lot while construction is underway to expand and upgrade the current site, including the addition of permanent roof structures to provide shelter for this open-air market.

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Thanks to these hardy folks for enduring the elements each week to provide us their local goods!