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Farmer’s Market Jackpot

What a haul we got at the local farmer’s market yesterday. I thought I was buying enough to last the week, but it all looked so good that I cooked up most of it yesterday and now, barely 24 hours later, about two-thirds of it is already gone (but not forgotten!).

Dinner last night was chopped zucchini, spring onions, and tomatoes, all tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted until tender. Before serving, I added about a cup of fresh basil and tossed to combine.  It was so delicious.

We also had some of the corn — and it was fantastic!  I often find that the very early corn and the very late corn of the season aren’t all that flavorful, but this stuff was great.  While I had the oven on, I also roasted the little potatoes, ostensibly to use in potato salad tomorrow — but, of course, we had to sample them at dinner, tossed with fresh parsley and a little Earth Balance.  I roasted the beets too, but somehow we managed to leave them uneaten for now — we’ll probably have them with dinner tonight. 

Not shown in the photo is some lovely leaf lettuce that I also got at the farmer’s market, along with peaches and a nice-looking watermelon — a 4th of July tradition at our house.

Hope you all have a happy and safe holiday weekend and be sure to keep the animals inside so they’re not frightened by fireworks!

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From the Asian Market

The nearest Asian market is a little over an hour away, so I usually keep an ongoing list and when it gets long enough or we feel like a drive (whichever comes first) we hit the road and bring back a carload of goodies.

The Grand Mart in Centreville Va has a huge fresh produce section. I always make it a point to buy at least a few things I’ve never had before along with some favorites — they have such good prices.  The photo shows a selection of this week’s haul.  In addition to perfect smallish Italian eggplants, a ton of Thai and Italian basil, and tiny potatoes, I got some pipiane squash (they look similar to zucchini); round yellow Indian cucumbers (they look like tennis balls); batata yams; and a huge bag of Shanghai tips (like baby bok choy, only really small).  I also got some perfectly sweet yellow mangos.

Now I just have to decide how to prepare everything!

Vegetable Treasures

Since the shopping choices are limited where I live, whenever we travel to DC as we did this past weekend, we always include a stop for groceries in Centreville, Virginia on the drive home, where we visit the Trader Joe’s and a huge Asian market across the street.

I like to think I know my way around a produce department, but every time I go to the Asian market, I find something new and interesting. This time it was tindora, tiny finger-sized squash that look like miniature cucumbers. I also got some gorgeous Swiss chard, kabocha squash, baby bok choy, Thai chiles, and tiny purple eggplants. Oh yes, and a quince.

Half the fun of shopping for these treasures is discovering interesting ways to cook them. I asked an Indian man scooping tindora into a bag how he prepares them and he explained how his little girl enjoys them. I noticed a woman examining a quince with great care. She told me that she likes to use quince in a stroganoff-type recipe, and now I’m obsessed with trying it that way. Not present in the photo are some oyster mushrooms, beets, and arugula that I also brought home.

I decided to cook up the chard first and sautéed it with lots of garlic, onion, chiles, and some sliced vegan sausage. I tossed it with a grain blend I picked up at Trader Joe’s that included Israeli couscous, orzo, red quinoa, and baby chickpeas, which I cooked in vegetable broth. The combination was wonderful, very homey and comforting, but with lots of great flavors and textures. I plan to use the leftovers to stuff that kabocha squash, and I’m still trying to decide how to enjoy those adorable tindora, so stay tuned.

In the meantime….

Go to Vegan.com for not just one but five chances to win a copy of 1,000 Vegan Recipes. And while you’re there, be sure to check out my Thanksgiving recipes.

Veggies for Dinner

A trip to my favorite farm stand this weekend didn’t disappoint. While my own vegetables are still working their way up through the earth, the produce sold at a farm near my house was lined up and ready to go. Among the booty I brought home were tender green beans, sweet onions, baby red potatoes, and several rare and irresistible “black” tomatoes.

Whenever I see a vegetable display such as this I can only think one thing: Salad Nicoise, that lusty Provencal composed salad accented with Nicoise olives. Sure, the traditional version calls for tuna, but I like mine with thinly sliced pan-seared extra-firm tofu. Arrange the components on leaf lettuce, drizzle on some vinaigrette, and dinner is served.

Does anyone else out there have a favorite way to enjoy these veggies?

Jazzing Up Veggies

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is how to make vegetables more interesting, especially when there are resistant family members. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

• Try different cooking methods. If you’re used to steaming asparagus, for example, try roasting it instead. Simply arrange trimmed asparagus spears on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees until tender and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes (depending on the thickness of the asparagus).
• Liven up veggies, salads (and grain and noodle dishes, too!) by topping them with chopped toasted nuts or seeds to add flavor, crunch, and protein. Experiment new dressings, sauces, and condiments to perk up your meals.
• Use fresh herbs to make everyday dishes extraordinary.

I’ll share more tips on another post. In the meantime, do you have any favorite tips or success stories that you’d like to share?