It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been to the farmer’s market due to a very inconvenient city worker’s strike here in Toronto that temporarily shut down some of the markets. However, it appears that the affected markets are going to re-open this week and luckily there are others that weren’t shuttered at all. Good thing, because our summers are extremely short and there is a limited amount of time to get the great fresh produce that our local farmers have to offer.
Despite the unseasonably cool and damp weather this spring/summer in Southern Ontario, I was excited to see that the summer harvest has begun. Strawberries were the main attraction and there is still a lot of asparagus available. The very first cherries and zucchini are showing up and peas are in full swing. Green beans and tiny baby potatoes were also abundant. Fresh lettuces, beets, green onions, various peppers and a variety of carrots were available as well. There is easily enough available now that you could design a menu around strictly local produce that would offer great variety and abundance. Such a nice change from a few months ago!
Here are some simple suggestions for using what’s in season now:
Undoubtedly the star of the markets right now, strawberries are at their peak and don’t require too much dressing up to taste good. Slice a few, sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and enjoy with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. You can also mix them into some vanilla yogurt. I enjoy a few strawberries sliced on top of my cereal in the mornings and it only takes a short time to whip up some biscuits and jam for a weekend breakfast. Stay tuned in the days to come for some new strawberry recipes I’ve been working on.
Asparagus will be nearing the end of it’s season soon so it’s time to take advantage of this seasonal delight before they’re gone. I’ve posted quite a few recipes this year including a crustless quiche that’s perfect for breakfast or lunch, asparagus orzo, grilled asparagus spears with goat cheese and prosciutto and a divine roasted asparagus lasagna that is fantastic (if a bit rich!). Check out the archives at epicurious.com for many more great asparagus ideas.
Although stored potatoes are a winter staple, the first new ones of the summer have a flavour and texture that is more sweet and delicate than older potatoes. They require little embellishment: just boil or steam and serve with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. Or make a classic vinaigrette and toss with small boiled potatoes and fresh green beans for a refreshing and simple side dish. Keep it simple and save elaborate potato recipes for fall and winter!
Fresh new peas are so sweet that they bear no resemblance to the the canned kind (or even the frozen ones that I use through the winter). Simply boil until just cooked through (NOT to mush!) and finish with a bit of butter, salt and pepper – yum! If you are able to find ones that are very small, they don’t even need to be cooked before adding to dishes such as pasta. A couple of months ago, Food and Wine magazine featured a pasta with asparagus, sage and peas that was delicious. I added a bit of chopped ham to add some protein. It also takes advantage of the fresh asparagus and herbs that are available now. Click here for the recipe: Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas.