Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Serve Fresh Food From Appetizer To Dessert - A Farmers Market Feast

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Your famers market is the place to get ideas and fresh fruit and vegetables for tasty and fresh meals for the holiday season and even all your celebrations. Here great ideas and great fresh food explode into incredible feasts. You can make one trip to the farmers market and gather enough ingredients to make a full five-course meal that will rival any fancy restaurant. Allow me to get your creative juices flowing as well as your taste buds jumping as we walk through a sample of what you might find to create your very own farmers market feast.


You want to give your guests something to snack on while they are waiting to see what's coming next. Look for a loaf of homemade french bread, some fresh dill, goat cheese or other soft cheese, and red bell peppers for roasting. With these simple ingredients, you can have an amazing appetizer that will keep your guests well fed and eager for more.
Simply cut the bread into thin slices and toast them over the grill while you are roasting your red peppers.

  • Combine the dill 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.
  • The idea is to look around the farmers market for inspiration as well as ingredients for the first course as well as for the main event.
Your salad options are as long and varied as the rows upon rows of displays at the market.
Pick up: Fresh lettuce, of course, but be sure to choose an interesting variety.
Look for complimentary produce such as:
  • pomegranates
  • pears
  • apples
Match them up with bitter greens such as:
  • chicory
  • arugula
  • watercress
  • frisee.
Fresh baby bitter greens are a classic match up with sweet fruit. And don't forget the berries. 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. If you have citrus in your market, let that be your inspiration for your homemade vinaigrette.
3. Soup
Piles and piles of potatoes mean just one thing; inspiration! No, the potato is not a lowly vegetable, not when you have the varieties available to choose from at a farmers market. For the soup course you can't do much better than starting with potatoes. One soup that should come to mind is 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 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.
Look also to the bins of 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. Depending on your main course, you'll want to serve a soup that is either heartyand satisfying or light and refreshing. Don't forget to include the fruit you find at your market and the herbs for soup inspiration. Apple juice and cider make excellent soup bases.
4. Main Course

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. A main course can feature something as simple as a perfectly executed sandwich. Pile seasonal cheeses on top of homemade multi-grain bread that has been slathered with herbed butter, then topped with a mix of ingredients for crunch. This can include sliced apples, greens, or a thin slice of sweet onion, or everything. 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. 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. All it takes is filling your basket and using your creativity and your good taste, and you'll fill your table with a main course that is very satisfying.
5. Dessert
Now comes the moment we have all been waiting for. Dessert. Nothing says farmers market dessert like fresh peach cobbler served in a pretty bowl and topped off with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream. 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 to think about applesauce, apple dumplings, or apple turnovers.
But, you don't have to bake fruit to have a dessert worthy of this five course meal. Sometimes less is more. Sliced apples, pears, or other fruit combined with a wonderful variety of cheeses is often the perfect ending to a hearty meal such as this. Perhaps a steamy hot mug of apple cider will satisfy the sweet tooth at the end of the evening. If oranges are in season in your region, try making orange sugar cookies. Not quite dessert-worthy in your book? Melt some chocolate and dip the cookies about half way in to make treats that looks like, and tastes like, they came right out of a fancy mail-order catalogue.
Can you really find enough at your local farmers market to produce a five course meal? You sure can! And not only five courses, but five star courses! When cooking, fresh means fabulous. When creating each course to compliment the next and you can't go wrong. Your guests will not want to go home after they've been treated so well. So I will suggest that you start making up the guest room before you even serve dessert. Enjoy!