Don’t you just love a good farmers’ market?
Talk about a creative excursion… For me, this where culinary ideas spring from fabulous fresh food and translate into incredible feasts. Fresh means fabulous when it comes to cooking! Just one trip to the farmers’ market can easily yield a full five-course meal that rivals the best restaurant in town.
Okay, now it’s time to get your creative juices flowing as we consider just a few possibilities…
Planning Your Farmers’ Market 5 Course Feast
To whet your guests’ appetite… start with a loaf of homemade french bread, some fresh, finely chopped garlic, basil, goat cheese or other soft cheese, and red bell peppers for roasting. With these simple ingredients, you can have an amazing appetizer in no time at all. Cut the bread into thin slices and toast them over the grill while you are roasting your red peppers.
Combine the chopped garlic, basil and goat cheese, spread on the toasted bread and top with thin slices of the roasted pepper. You can substitute prosciutto for the red bell pepper for another possibility.
This is just a simple idea to get you started – the trick is to look around the farmers’ market for inspiration. The possibilities are endless…
Speaking of unlimited options… your salad can be whatever you choose to make it. Just pick up fresh lettuce, of course, but be sure to choose interesting varieties. Look for complimentary produce such as pears, berries or apples to match up with bitter greens such as chicory, arugula, or watercress. Fresh baby bitter greens are a classic match up with sweet fruit.
When it comes to salads, fresh is the word, no matter how you build it.
Kale is another great farmers’ market find. This remarkable green can be eaten raw or cooked. One fun way to serve kale in a salad is as a crunchy topping. Kale, when cut up into small pieces, can be roasted to create a delicate papery thin treat with a very fun crunch to it. Sprinkle these nutritious crispy bites on top of your salad instead of croutons. And don’t forget to look for fresh herbs to create a savory dressing to go on your salad.
Finally, don’t forget the delicious homemade vinaigrettes you can create from your farmers’ market finds. Whisk some good quality olive oil, fresh herb-infused vinegar, dijon mustard, crushed garlic and touch of honey, salt and pepper. If your market offers citrus fruits, even better. Either way, you’ll never want store-bought dressing again.
Depending on your main course, you’ll want to serve a soup that is either hearty and satisfying or light and refreshing.
Who knew piles of potatoes could create so many possibilities? With so many varieties available to choose from at a farmers market, you can’t do much better than starting with potatoes for your soup course. One obvious choice would be potato leek soup. Simple, yet elegant, this filling soup should be served in small bowls with a pretty swirl of yogurt and a sprinkle of finely chopped green onion on top.
Other vegetables that work well for pureed soups are squash, pumpkin, rutabaga, parsnips, and turnips. Mix and match for a splendidly soothing soup to relax your guests just long enough to get ready for the main course.
don’t forget your greens for inspiration for a soup course. A small bowl of beet soup, hot or cold, is a wonderful start to a meal. Hearty mustard greens and collard greens also make a splendid, bright soup that gets the taste buds begging for more. Swiss chard is a wonderful way to brighten up chicken or vegetable broth based soups, as well.
Finally, don’t forget to include the fruit and herbs you find at your market for even more inspiration. Did you know that apple juice and cider make excellent soup bases?
After a start like this, it may seem as if you’ve exhausted all your farmers market has to offer, but this is where the simplicity of the market takes over. Something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich becomes inspired when you layer market fresh specialty cheeses with fresh herbs, greens, vegetables, and fruit, and then grill between slices of hearty homemade bread.
And don’t forget to look for fresh and smoked meats at your market as many farmers raise meat for the table as well as produce. Big pots of peppery greens with lots of smoked sausage makes a bright and flavor-packed entree. During the fall, the farmers market is also a great place to find a variety of fresh beans. You will notice a big difference when you cook with fresh beans as opposed to dried beans. The fresh beans are easier to cook and are very tender. You can easily build a main course around the offerings at your local market.
Talk about saving the best for last… Dessert!
Nothing says farmers’ market dessert like fresh peach cobbler served in a pretty bowl and topped off with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. Grilled peaches are another fabulous ice cream companion.
Of course, apples are a big hit at many farmers markets during the fall season. Apple pie or Apple crisp are the obvious desserts, but don’t forget about other classics like applesauce, apple dumplings, or apple turnovers.
You don’t have to bake or grill fruit to have a dessert worthy of this five-course meal. Sometimes less is more: Sliced apples, peaches,pears, or other fruit combined with a wonderful variety of cheeses is often the perfect ending to a hearty meal. Or you could try a steamy hot mug of apple cider with a fresh cinnamon stick to satisfy your sweet tooth.
So, what do you think? Can you really find enough at your local farmers market to produce a five-course meal?
Please let me know what you think in the comments below! 🙂