Kiwi almost left me over a farmers’ market incident. He has never come out and told me straight, but I’m quite certain it’s true.
Years ago we were in Quebec City—our first trip as a couple, I think—and I casually suggested that we spend the morning at the local farmers’ market. He slowly looked up from his hotel breakfast, clearly bewildered by this idea, and shocked that he had managed to fall in love with someone whose idea of a vacation-worthy morning was a trip to a grocery store.
This was years before farmers’ markets and CSAs became fetishized by the 100-Mile Diet. Kiwi had no idea at the time, but I was on to something.
These days Kiwi is equally likely to suggest a Saturday morning trip to the farmers’ market. Mostly for the taco salads, Belgian waffles, stevia-sweetened lemonade, and the buskers that bring out the groove in our toddler.
I, on the other hand, go to the market in search of the gnarliest Jerusalem artichokes and the sweetest salad greens, and to cross-examine the farmers about whether they sprayed the radishes that week. At this time of year, the farmers’ offerings dictate my meal plan. I buy what looks fresh and tasty, even if I have no idea what I might do with it.
It used to be that a good portion of this market haul would go to waste—dandelion greens bought on excited impulse, now wilting at the bottom of my refrigerator because I couldn’t figure out how the heck to turn them into dinner.
But social media—and Instagram in particular—has changed that. I spend enough of my day with my face buried in photos of beautiful farmstand creations that I’m now overwhelmed with ideas and inspiration.
And today I’m sharing some of that inspiration with you. These are recipes (some my own, some from elsewhere) for seasonal veggie-ful meals and sides that my family has recently enjoyed. I happen to be out on the west coast of Canada right now, where the produce is ridiculously varied and abundant, but in this post I’m highlighting ingredients that you should be able to find at just about any North American summer market—leafy greens, tomatoes, green beans and zucchini.
My intention is to come back to you with more farm market inspiration as the seasons, and produce, change. And in the meantime, I’d love it if you shared your own favourite seasonal meals. Just scroll down to the comments and leave a link or recipe.
Leafy Greens (Dandelion Greens + Swiss Chard)
My kids won’t touch dandelion greens (too tough! too bitter!) but after reading something about the cancer-preventing power of bitter foods, I wanted to incorporate them into our summer meals. I stumbled on this Bon Appetit recipe for Bitter Greens with Corn and Shallots, and it’s a perfect family dinner compromise. The bitter greens (you could use something milder than dandelion greens) are topped with a warm vinaigrette featuring bacon and corn, and there’s enough of it that you can scoop a pile of warm bacony corn niblets onto the kiddos’ plates.
Milder than kale and dandelion greens, swiss chard melts beautifully into this Swiss Chard and Lemon Ricotta Pasta from Food52. Our only complaint about this dish is that there wasn’t enough of it! I recommend that you double the recipe, particularly if you like your leftovers. (*Note: I used brown rice penne to make this dish completely wheat free.)
I could survive an entire summer eating only green beans. They have this nostalgic and summery flavour that I can’t get enough of. While I enjoy them just simply steamed with a bit of lemon juice and and salt, this Grilled Green Bean Salad from Aimee at Simple Bites takes them to the next level. It’s one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten in a very long time.
Aimee’s recipe is just a guideline, and she encourages you to dress your salad up with whatever you’ve got. I topped mine with lemon-infused olive oil, sherry vinegar and shaved parmesan cheese.
Don’t be intimidated by grilling the beans—it’s actually much simpler and more straightforward than it sounds.
I’ve always thought it unfortunate that restaurants offer “caprese” (i.e. tomato and fresh mozzarella) salads all year round. It’s a dish that should be reserved for mid-summer, when tomatoes are at their very best. I could make an entire meal out of this caprese salad, but it’s excellent aside grilled fish or chicken (nothing too strongly flavoured, though—you want to be able to taste the lovely tomatoes!).
To make this version: wedge up 3 large or 5 small ripe tomatoes. Then tear up a large ball of fresh mozzarella (I prefer buffalo to cow’s milk) and a small bunch of fresh basil and scatter both over of the tomatoes. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt. You can add balsamic vinegar if you can’t imagine caprese without it, but when the tomatoes are super fresh and ripe, I think this salad is better without it.
You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten thinly shaved zucchini tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette. Truth. Start with small-ish zucchini, and use a veggie peeler to shave them lengthwise into very thin ribbons. Eat them in a kale or lettuce salad, or all on their own, tossed with the vinaigrette from this salad (or something similar) and topped with chopped fresh herbs, a handful of crumbled feta and toasted almonds.