Farmers Market Challenge: Week 13

Last week’s market day may have been the first day of fall, but my brain was not letting go of summer. With the sun shining, warming my skin every time it peeked around the clouds, I could not shake summer from the mind.

Neither could my shopping list.

Roma tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and hot pepper filled the definites.

You see, I had recently been gifted Thug Kitchen, a vegetarian cookbook, with, ahem, rather racy language. I love cookbooks, I love looking at the pictures (pictures are key), and I love setting a new cooking challenge for the chef of the house, which is usually not me.

But perusing through the pages it was me who was drawn to the mid-summer, pico de gallo style salsa– everything in it reminded me of summer; everything in it reminded me of market freshness; everything in it screamed I could make it.

fm13salsa
Mid-summer salsa courtesy of Thug Kitchen.

I was dubious at how it would turn out at first, I mean, I’ve been all sorts of loving Muy Rico’s pico de gallo all summer long. What if I didn’t pick out the most perfect tomatoes; what if I didn’t chop the onion the right way; what if I didn’t use enough garlic; what if I made it too spicy, or not spicy enough? Yes folks, these are the questions that dominate my brain when taking over the meal-making reins. Baking, which I love to do, is exact, cooking is subjective – too much room for interpretation.

But here’s the thing, this recipe was crazy, crazy, crazy easy. I made it with a four-year-old running all around me and didn’t get frustrated once. Chop a few veg, don’t burn your fingers or eyes with the hot pepper, mix it together, throw it in the fridge, and BAM, done!

The unique touch: a 20 cent Macedonia hot pepper. Gemma at Zaklan Heritage Farms told me it was on the milder scale of hot peppers, but I was not taking any chances, I’ve been burned by the heat of jalapenos one too many times before!
The unique touch: a 20 cent Macedonia hot pepper. Gemma at Zaklan Heritage Farms told me it was on the milder scale of hot peppers, but I was not taking any chances, I’ve been burned by the heat of jalapenos one too many times before!

Some might associate easy with lacking – don’t do it!

I know I’ve said it before, but wow, the power of ultimate freshness – grabbing those ingredients right off the market tables, ingredients that have been picked fresh that day, and plopping them into your mouth hours later – is HUGE! So fresh. So flavourful. So marketlicious!

All but two of the ingredients (salt and lime) were acquired at the market.

We decided to appropriately pair the salsa with our vegetarian Mexican stuffed peppers (featuring market tomatoes, corn, and cilantro) that we discovered awhile back through this market-buying challenge. I made what I thought was a huge batch of salsa; it said it was good for 4-6 servings. We ate ALL of it. We had leftover fillings for the stuffed peppers, but no leftover salsa. We had leftover tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and hot pepper, but no leftover salsa.

The kitchen was most definitely calling for more!

Mid-summer salsa paired with end-of-summer stuffed peppers.
Mid-summer salsa paired with end-of-summer stuffed peppers.

This week’s loot:

Zaklan Heritage Farm:

  • ~ 2lbs roma tomatoes: $2 per pound
  • 1 red onion: $2.50 per pound
  • 2 sweet peppers: $2
  • 2 bags mustard greens: $5
  • 1 head red lettuce: $3
  • 1 Macedonia hot pepper: $0.20

Ripple Creek Farm:

  • 1 bunch cilantro: $2
  • 2 Georgian Fire garlic bulbs: $3.50
  • 1 zucchini: $2.50
  • 1 delicata squash: $3.50

Bose and Sons Family Farm:

  • 2 corn: $1

Nutrigreens:

  • 1 bag microgreens: $5
  • 1 bag green beans: $2

Jam Shack Preservery

  • 1 jar pear and pineapple ginger jam: $5

Total spent was $41.40. We had 90 cents to spend from the previous week, leaving us in the red for 50 cents.

You may have noticed I don’t have exact dollar amounts for the produce acquired at Zaklan Heritage Farms; I admittedly got excited, and distracted, by the Macedonia hot pepper, which I had never seen before!

Loot of the week
Loot of the week

Other market-lovely meals of the week included paella that featured the green beans, onion, garlic, and peppers from the market; weekend frittatas that also used peppers, zucchini, and onion; and a whole thwack of lunch and dinner salads.

My husband and son drooled happily over their morning (and snack) toasts thick with the pineapple and pear with ginger jam from Jam Shack Preservery.

We had hoped to get a loaf of chocolate bread from A Bread Affair, but sadly it wasn’t on the shelves due to quality control. It will again be on the list for this week with fingers crossed.

The expenditure wasn’t all summer, though. With a few of our definites for the week dashed, we had some unexpected money to spend to fill up the budget. On a whim, I grabbed this delicata squash off the Ripple Creek Eco Farm table; I have no idea what to do with it.

What oh what to do with a delicata squash???
What oh what to do with a delicata squash???

Please help – I am looking for any and all suggestions! With the dwindling days of the summer market, just one more left to go (don’t forget, the winter market starts November 5 in Uptown New West), any items you’ll be missing?

The complete series

Farmers Market Challenge: Week 12

Ask and you shall receive.

Two weeks ago there were at least two, possibly three market vendors displaying large, beautifully green and white fennel bulbs, this week, there were none. I was about to settle into panic mode, I was frantically stalking table after table looking for the feathery fronds.

I did NOT want to veer from this week’s plan.

With desperation in my voice, I asked Noella Oss of Ossome Acres if she had any, knowing full well there were none on her tables.

A winking smile spread across her face.

“We have one, but it’s old, from last week,” she said.

She opened up a plastic bin from behind the tent and pulled out a giant bulb. The fronds weren’t the luscious green of the week before, rather a light green, bordering on brown in spots. But the white bulb was large and thick and that’s exactly what I needed.

I told her my plans.

She told me the bulb would suit them perfectly.

Even better at the week-old, discounted price she gave!

And with that, the first cioppino of the season was born.

Ingredients
Ingredients

For cioppino, I usually use the Bon Appetit recipe as it has never steered me wrong. But this time I got a little adventurous and veered from the word-for-word recipe. While I kept to the base, I changed things up a bit to make it more market-fresh.

Because cioppino is usually a cold-weather meal, the veggie content has never been market-fresh. It’s always been canned tomatoes, shipped in fennel, onions, and seafood too. But with Saturday’s forecast calling for heavy rain, I thought it a perfect opportunity to experiment with my cioppino.

Instead of canned tomatoes, I used fresh roma tomatoes that I crushed in the blender; my onion, garlic and fennel were also fresh and local. The major seafood component, pacific cod, was acquired from Ron “the fish guy” at Wild Westcoast Seafoods.

In recipes past, I’ve used halibut for the white fish, but halibut is crazy expensive right now. Ron steered us towards the pacific cod (“chunkies”) that is similar to halibut, albeit a bit chewier, and at a fraction of the cost.

Technically the crusty bread wasn’t acquired at the market, but we did pick the loaf up from Bread Affair at Granville Island, which also has a booth at the market, so it, too, had a market connection.

Honestly, I don’t know if the taste was any better, but I do know it wasn’t worse. I love my cioppino. I’ve loved it ever since my first recollection of it when in San Francisco years ago, and this batch did not disappoint. Every slurp was a savoury adventure of glorious goodness.

Another market score!

Cioppino
Cioppino

This week’s loot:

Wild Westcoast Seafoods:

  • Pacific cod: $8

Ossome Acres:

  • 6 German butter potatoes: $2.30
  • 1 bag of dragon-tongue beans: $2.10
  • 1 fennel: $2.25

Zaklan Heritage Farm:

  • 1 onion: $0.70
  • 4 sweet peppers: $4.65
  • 2 mustard greens: $5
  • 1 garlic bulb: $1.80
  • 4 roma tomatoes: $2.28

Harvest Direct Farms:

  • 5 ambrosia apples: $5

Muy Rico:

  • 1 container pico de gallo: $5

Total spent was $39.10, leaving 90 cents to spend on next week’s $40 budget.

Last week Aaron Oss encouraged me to take a chomp out of one of his purple and white dragon tongue beans. It was crisp, it was juicy, and by golly that colour tugged at my pretty little taste buds.

Beans
Beans

I had hoped to throw the beans into a salad, but got so bogged down with my first week of physics, I didn’t end up using them beyond mixing them into a stir fry and eating them raw with hummus. Both of which were fine, but I wanted to really showcase their uniqueness. So for this week, I tracked down a salad recipe that called for fingerling potatoes, which I switched out for German butter potatoes.

I baked the potatoes, made my own viniagrette, blanched the beans, which were supposed to change from their pretty spots to green, but in the end only partially changed, mixed it all together.

Wow!

Every bite was an explosion of succulent flavour. So tasty. So good. So going to be making again.

Dragon Tongue Salad (recipe from:
Dragon Tongue Salad Recipe

Can you guess what I’m making next week?

I’m on the hunt for tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro and salt. It’s something already offered at the market, but something I’m going to try my hand at making market-fresh, homemade.

What are you on the hunt for?

Farmers Market Challenge: The Importance of Lists

Seven weeks into the Farmer’s Market Challenge, we’d fallen into an easy and familiar routine; call up the list of vendors on the market’s website on Wednesday evening and craft a meal and shopping plan for the coming week.

It was time to shake things up a bit.

Katie had a meeting with one of her instructors at Douglas College and late Thursday afternoon was the best available time. But that’s Market Time! she exclaimed.

Not to worry, I replied. I’ll do it. After all, I do the cooking, and the bulk of the grocery shopping. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: The Importance of Lists”

Farmers Market Challenge: The Best Laid Plans

Going into market day, I try to plan as much as possible. I research the website, price out as much as I can, and plan our meals and shopping list accordingly. We only have $40 to spend, I want to make sure we’re spending it wisely, getting everything we need, and hopefully a couple extras on the list, too.

Sometimes, however, plans just don’t go according to plan. Because the products at the farmers’ market are so reliant on weather and crops, you’re not guaranteed the same stuff week in and week out. What you loved last week may not be there the next week. Something new may be stacking those tables instead – throwing your plan completely off kilter. And that’s the adventure of it.

For us, purslane was the culprit this week. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: The Best Laid Plans”

Farmers Market Challenge: Microgreens – Small Size, Big Flavour

Not sure what this is about? Check out the intro to our series for info.

“Daddy, why are you putting dead flowers onto mommy’s salad???”

Oh child, those aren’t dead flowers, nope, those are microgreens, and you better be liking them because they’re a new must-have staple in our market-buying groceries. (Note: Microgreens do not look like dead flowers; this was the observation of a three-year-old.)

When I walked past the Nutrigreens tent at last week’s market, I looked at my list and sure enough microgreens were there, but only on the maybe side. That meant that only after we got our necessities for the week purchased could we splurge on the maybes.

We are working with a budget after all; we’ve got to stick to the plan. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: Microgreens – Small Size, Big Flavour”

What Can You Get for $40?

DSCN1740What can you get for $40?

Some believe, when it comes to Farmer’s Markets, not much. Because the food isn’t mass produced on a level of say Safeway or Costco suppliers, surely the prices are a premium?

The Royal City Farmers’ Market is challenging that notion. They believe that with a little bit of resourcefulness, $40 can go a long way at the market.

Every Thursday, from now until the end of the summer market season, we’re going to put that belief to the test. I will be spending $40 to fill my fridge and pantry with market staples. I’ll write about the successes, and the failures. Continue reading “What Can You Get for $40?”