April 2011

Spring is Farmers Market season at our house.

I try to be among the first shoppers to arrive at the downtown train station at around 7am on Saturday mornings.

Last season I headed there at noon after teaching the morning yoga classes. But I had a sense that I was missing out by going so late in the day. So this season I’m showing up at 7am sharp to get the first look at the goods.

First thing in the morning, the vendors’ tables are full to overflowing with veggies, fruits, flowers, plants, and crafts.

The goods are one thing, but the people! Ah, the people! Some of the coolest peeps you’ll ever meet. Kinda like the people who practice yoga….just good people. Friendly with a sense of calm optimism. These people are just plain easy to be with.

The lettuce man (on the West side of the market wearing the overalls) has all kinds of greens. And this week we got some of his beets and beet greens.

Bonnie Blue Farms award-winning goat cheese

A favorite purchase this past week was the rich goat cheese from Bonnie Blue Farms (“award-winning goat cheese,” the man will surely tell you).

The lady from Westwind Farms with the long ponytail and glasses. She always has lots of organic meat. You can get pork, chicken, turkey, and more. If you’re lucky enough to get it before it’s gone: lamb.

And my husband and I always stop by the Whitton Farms booth to buy a big bouquet of flowers — the past 2 weeks, big multi-colored tulips. He carries the flowers and I carry the food.

The Memphis Farmers Market vendors must offer only locally-grown, locally-produced and locally-raised stuff.

I have more fun cooking up healthy meals during the Spring and Summer months because I love my Saturday morning market adventures. Standing in my kitchen hovering over the stovetop, I enjoy turning the raw goods into delicious creations.

Check out the Memphis Farmers Market site. And come shop the market with all us early birds this Saturday!

Springtime Goodness Salad

Beautiful salad plate before dinner

Springtime weather has me hankering for green stuff. During the cold months of winter, I’ve warmed to soups and big pots of beans. But the sunny weather of late has made me crave salads.

This delicious salad I call “Springtime Goodness” is full of diverse flavors and textures. Prep takes a bit of work, but it’s not hard and the results are an amazing salad that can be a complete meal in itself.

You can choose to serve it as a side salad with fish or chicken, but the beans and the cheese provide plenty of protein for the non-meat eater.

I adapted this recipe from one I heard on NPR’s The Splendid Table.

Ingredients for salad:
Fresh salad greens (a mix of arugula and baby spinach work well)
Sugar snap peas
Garbanzo beans (aka “chick peas”):
Cherry tomatoes
Red onion
Ground cumin
Goat cheese
Almonds (I buy the raw kind & toast them)
Chives – chopped
Hot chili powder (can mix chili powder with a touch of cayenne)

For zesty orange dressing:
1/3-cup Olive oil
3 tablespoons Orange juice
½ teaspoon Orange zest
2 tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
Splash of balsamic (optional)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Toasted whole cumin seeds

Rinse and chill salad greens and set aside.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix garbanzo beans, halved cherry tomatoes, and chopped red onion with a tablespoon of olive oil and half teaspoon of ground cumin. Spread garbanzo bean mixture out in one layer onto oiled baking sheet. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes, stir and roast another 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

For goat cheese balls:
Roll the goat cheese into little balls (anywhere from ½” or 1” in diameter). Roll the balls in the chopped toasted almonds to coat. Then roll in chopped chives, and dip into hot chili powder. Just dip the ball in the chili; do not roll the ball in the hot chili powder. You only need a tiny bit of chili for flavor.
Combine ingredients for zesty orange dressing and whisk to emulsify the dressing.
Mix the greens with the whole sugar snap peas. After coating the greens with dressing, lay a bed of greens on each plate. Top with roasted vegetable mixture. Add 5-7 goat cheese balls to each plate.

Enjoy!

Beautiful salad plate after dinner

To toast the almonds:
I buy raw almonds with skin on to save a little bit of money. To remove skins, blanch the almonds for 1 minute in boiling water. Rinse. When the almonds are cool enough to touch, the skins will peel off easily.
Lay the almonds out in one layer on a separate baking sheet. Toast the nuts in 325-degree oven for 10 minutes, stir and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and chop when cool.

To toast the cumin seeds:
Heat a pan on the stove to medium-high. Stay away from using a non-stick pan, and keep pan dry (no oil). When pan comes to temperature, put 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds on the heat. If the seeds pop, turn the heat down a little bit. Shake pan often and toast until the seeds turn a dark shade of brown & are fragrant (doesn’t take long). It’s a bit like roasting coffee beans.