Enjoy the veggie bounty from farmers markets

Photo: Michael Kahn

By Margi Lenga Kahn, Special to the Jewish Light

A candy shop renders some of us helpless. For others, it’s a boutique with the latest fashions, or a bookstore or an antique shop or, for the guys in my family, the local Home Depot. For me, it’s a farmers market.

The vibrant colors, shapes and intoxicating aromas of a farmers market make me absolutely giddy, and I lose all perspective — and restraint. No matter that my husband and I arrive at the market on our bikes with only small backpacks or that our refrigerator is already stuffed before we head to the market. I can’t help myself. 

Yes, I realize that countertop space in my kitchen will disappear under the baskets and colanders overflowing with our market stash. And yes, I confess that we are never quite sure what will tumble out of our refrigerator when we open the door. Nevertheless, feasting on this seasonal bounty is such a treat. Moreover, I love the challenge of finding new and exciting ways to prepare everything we bring back from the market.

My approach to the challenge is thus: I focus on creating meals with uncooked vegetables for the first part of the week, and meals with cooked or baked vegetables for the second part of the week. If I have enough time, I can work on something more complex. And if not, I know that I can throw something together and get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. If the prospect of a spectacular meal appeals to you and you are up to the challenge, here are some ideas to get you started. 

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To make a fresh relish or salsa for any plain, cooked fish, chicken or meat:

Gather an assortment of your favorite vegetables. For example, this could include onions, peppers, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, beets or celery. Pull out your cutting board and finely chop all of the vegetables. 

• Transfer those vegetables to a bowl and toss them with a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and a healthy glug or two of olive oil. (You could even add some minced fresh two to three tablespoons of a  combination of fresh minced or snipped herbs. This could include dill, chives, parsley or cilantro. 

To make a side salad from the mixture above:

•Cut vegetables into larger pieces, dress them as described above and toss with two to three cups of fresh baby spinach, arugula or chopped romaine lettuce. Let the salad sit for a few minutes before serving so that the greens can mix with all the fresh flavors.

To make a main course salad:

Add a cup or more of cooked shredded chicken, beef or salmon, or shredded or crumbled cheese such as cheddar, feta or goat cheese, to above vegetable mixture. Consider topping the salad with sliced hard-boiled or even soft-boiled eggs. For added flavor, drizzle salad with some hot sauce, such as Sriracha Granada. Accompany your salad meal with sliced bread or dinner rolls.

To grill or roast vegetables as a side dish:

•Cut vegetables (this could include zucchini, summer squash, onions, potatoes, garlic cloves) into large strips or chunks and transfer to a large bowl. Lightly drizzle vegetables with olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Add a handful of fresh herbs: basil, oregano, dill, rosemary or mint, and salt and pepper. Toss everything together. 

•Let the mixture marinate for at least 15 minutes up to a couple of hours. Then spoon the vegetables onto a hot grill (use a grill basket if the vegetables are too small and would fall through) or into a pan in a single layer in a 425-degree oven, and cook until crisp-tender, not mushy. 

To turn grilled vegetables into a main course:

•Cook a pound of pasta and drain it, reserving some of the pasta water. Toss pasta with the above vegetables, along with two to three tablespoons of olive oil. Toss in some of the reserved water to make it saucier. Sprinkle with grated cheese and a big handful of chopped fresh herbs. You could also substitute cooked rice, faro or quinoa for the pasta. 

And if you have the time and would like to create a party-worthy appetizer or a light lunch or supper dish, consider my recipe below for a delicious summer vegetable tart. Your could use a homemade puff pastry (see recipe below), frozen puff pastry from your supermarket, or a homemade or purchased unsweetened pie crust. 

And most importantly, check out to your local farmers market!

Margi Lenga Kahn is the mother of five and grandmother of five. A cooking instructor at the Kitchen Conservatory she is working on a project to preserve the stories and recipes of heritage cooks. She welcomes your comments and suggestions at [email protected].