The farm to table movement has become more and more popular in recent years. From restaurants and cooking shows, to cookbooks and food related media, it is the new normal. People are more mindful about what they are eating and where it comes from. When you make the decision to shop local you are contributing to a growing core of people supporting local agriculture.
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Farmers markets have gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent years being called elitist and unaccessible to the average family. In reality, you can often get some deals and you get to know where your food is coming from all while supporting the buy local movement. Most research shows that organic produce is generally cheaper at farmers markets than in the grocery store.
It is important to note that not all produce at farmers markets is organic, but it is all local. I think it is fair to also fully acknowledge that you might decide to spend a bit more for heirloom produce that you would not find at a supermarket. At farmers markets you have to be flexible in terms of what you are looking for – you are not going to find strawberries in February. Shopping at farmers markets reminds us to eat what is in season and to appreciate foods at the times they are meant to be consumed.
While we don’t always think of going to farmers markets in the winter months, some of the best vegetables can be had during this season. What better time to enjoy rustic root vegetables and try out a few simple ways to stretch your produce budget while insuring your food is flavorful and fresh. I set out with fifteen dollars, two children and a camera to see what I could purchase at the Stonington Farmers Market.
The Stonington Farmers Market began in 1997 and became year round in 2008. They have over 20 listed vendors selling vegetables, fruits, jams, breads, pies, baked goods, cheese, eggs, poultry, pork, meat, fish, shellfish, flowers, honey and syrup. The winter market is open from 10-1 on Saturdays at the Velvet Mill located at 22 Bayview Avenue in Stonington. We loved that the farmers were willing to talk to us about their farms and to also teach our children the correct way to select vegetables. Every grower that we encountered was absolutely lovely.
We came home with leeks, celeriac, turnip, fennel, onions, potatoes, Cippolini onions, thyme, and rosemary. My hope was that I could turn this little stash into a variety of meals for the week ahead. Too often, in the past, we were the family finding produce that had gone by stuffed in little plastic bags in our veggie drawer.
This past year we made a concentrated effort to utilize all the produce and shop smarter. We did not want to waste food or money. Having a plan for how you are going to use your produce helps with this, but so to does checking in with your veggie drawer towards the end of the week to see what is left before it goes bad. You can utilize leftovers for pasta sauces, vegetable stock, omelets or pizza toppings. Taking five minutes to do this means you are not wasting the produce and gives you the most bang for your buck.
With our farmers market haul we made roasted vegetables, two soups, a puree, vegetable stock and an omelet. We supplemented these recipes with a bag of carrots that we already had in our fridge from last week.
We started with a simple roasted vegetable recipe. Roasting vegetables not only browns and caramelizes them, it adds a much more concentrated flavor. We used four carrots, two potatoes, small chunks of fennel, celeriac and turnip, a small handful of Cippolini onions, one leek, rosemary and thyme. The chopped vegetables and herbs were tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and were roasted on an edged baking sheet in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes.
The end result was a lovely platter of roasted vegetables to accompany our family meal. I saved the leftovers for a roasted veggie salad the next day. A little hint for peeling those Cippolini onions…drop them into boiling water for three minutes and then peel them. The skins will come off very easily.
The remainder of the carrots, one onion and one potato were used the following day to make a fantastic carrot soup with North African spices. This soup has been one of my family favorites for a long time now. Coming directly from Annie Sommerville’s Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, it is super easy to make and a quick soup at that. It can be made with either vegetable or chicken stock and freezes very nicely. You can find the recipe below.
There was enough celeriac left to make a velvety puree, which we often use as a substitute for mashed potatoes. This goes great with fish as it is not too heavy.
If you decide to go to the Stonington Farmers Market you should arrive early as parking was nearly impossible. Bring cash and a canvas bag of some sort to carry your produce in. Give yourself lots of time because this great location also houses artists studios, a bakery and a flea market. We can’t wait to go back next week and focus on local cheeses. Maybe we will see you there!