I will be the first to admit that I can get carried away in the kitchen—recipes with a thousand ingredients, multiple steps and endless preparation. It’s what I like to do, I guess. But I know that it isn’t for everyone… just like professional sports are not for me. No judgements, no worries.
Still, while I can avoid professional sports and survive just fine (I know some of you are in disagreement there.), everybody’s gotta eat, right? So if you are a newbie at your local farmers market and just can’t quite figure out how you are going to take all these amazing vegetables—some that sorta look like they came from Mars, maybe—and find the time to prep and prepare them for your way-too-busy weekday meals, I have a couple of suggestions. Here’s one incredibly simple idea for an impressive, delicious, yet embarrassingly easy side dish to go beautifully with that grilled chicken or burger next week. In minutes, you can take a few fennel bulbs, some red globe radishes and a few peeled turnips and transform them from ordinary fair to something entirely unexpected… just toss with oil and salt and roast or grill as follows.
The real beauty of this dish lies not only in its simplicity but also in its versatility, which allows you to go with the flow of the market. My recipe used fennel, radishes (a favorite) and turnips, but yours can include any or all of your market offerings.
- Three or four medium fennel bulbs that have been scrubbed, trimmed, cored and cut in half (Save a few of the fragrant fronds for decoration!)
- Whole red radishes—maybe six to 10, scrubbed well (I like to leave their little tails on—so cute!.)
- Small turnips, scrubbed, peeled and left whole or, if medium to large size, cut in half
- A couple scrubbed and peeled beets or kohlrabi, cut in half or even quarters
- Whole green onions, cleaned with green tops left in tact
- Cleaned and halved leeks (including a little of the green at the top, if tender)
- Small new potatoes, scrubbed well and either left whole or cut in half
- Whole Jerusalem artichokes, skinned or not—your preference—but skinning can be tedious unless you just blanch them. In which case, they may cook faster than the other veggies. (These will probably arrive later this season, not at the very beginning.)
- Washed, trimmed and halved heads of radicchio or romaine
- Toss all your prepped veggies with a good dose of olive oil or avocado oil and a healthy sprinkle of coarse sea salt.
- Arrange them single layer (Do not crowd!) on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes—be sure to give it a check and a stir at 20 minutes.
- I would suggest doing the greens on the grill—they’ll go much faster—say 10 minutes or so—and will need to be carefully turned with tongs.
- As they roast or grill, these veggies will transform their natural earthy bitterness into sweet and creamy flavors. They’ll seem way more special than the small effort it took to prepare them.
Obviously my prep and cook times are estimates. How long it takes to prep the veggies depends on what you are fixing. Many can be washed and left whole, but everything must be of like size in order to have the cooking time right. You can fix as little or as much as you like, as long as you don't crowd the baking tray. Nice, huh?
And that’s it! You have made one of those ultimate in-season, local dishes fresh from the farmers market with almost no effort. And isn’t it pretty! Great with grilled fish and chicken. Perfect over seasoned rice or quinoa. It will be the “something different and fresh” on your dinner table or buffet.
So now that you’ve got a dinner dish done, what about the start of that day? Personally, I just love breakfast, and I’ve been known to get up before dawn to create from-scratch yeast rolls, decadent French toast and scrumptious scones. But, hey, even I don’t do that every day—in fact, these predawn heroics only happen when we have guests or when we celebrate special occasions. Day to day, we are much more simple at my house. And, summer, in particular, is a time when we opt for simple starts. That’s why I was so excited to see two trusted granola selections in the New Hope Network Blogger Box this quarter.
Cascadian Farm cereals have been pantry staples in my house for years. Out of all the overly processed, artificially flavored breakfast cereals on the grocery shelves, there are few healthy and tasty options. So thank goodness for Cascadian Farm! The company has just introduced a new granola flavor that is perfect for summer: Lemon Blueberry! Don and I decided to give it a try for breakfast one morning and ended up fighting over who would get the last few crumbs.
Cascadian Farm is much more than a brand name: it is a real farm. Forty years ago, a young, optimistic guy by the name of Gene Kahn dropped out of college and entered the world of organic farming. Inspired by reading Silent Spring and Diet For A Small Planet, Gene wanted “to go back to the land and farm in a way that would not harm the natural beauty of the earth or her inhabitants. So he set out to farm organically on a little stretch of land next to the Skagit River in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.” Today Cascadian Farm has grown beyond its original farm and is recognized as a pioneer in converting conventional farms to organic.”
In addition to its successful business model in the world of organic farming, Cascadian Farm is committed to doing its part to preserve the Earth—particularly our pollinator friends. From supporting research on bee health to building its own bee habitats to contributing to organizations that support pollinators, Cascadian Farm is a leading force in these important efforts. And you will help them every time you buy one of their products because they donate 25 cents of that purchase to bee-friendly research efforts and programs!
And while Cascadian Farm hits the high note for me, this cereal was not, unfortunately, music to my daughter’s ears. Sure she’s a huge supporter of saving the bees (She’s a gardener, after all!) and sure she supports the efforts of companies like this, but she’s gluten free, and, alas, the Lemon Blueberry Granola is not. Lucky for her, the Blogger Box also contained a sampling of GrandyOats Coconola “Granola”, an organic grain-free tasty blend of coconut, seeds and nuts, all sweetened with good-for-you honey and maple syrup. Love to see my little girl smile.
And Heather has a lot to smile about with this company, from the custom-designed solar electric system that powers their ovens, computers, forklifts, lights, heating and cooling in a retooled abandoned elementary school to the organic, high-integrity, small-batch granolas that are their namesake. Yet one more way to keep summer mornings simple, gluten-free and super yummy, while still being super green. GrandyOats just “crunched” this one! Heather is a big fan and loves this mix as her “sweet and healthy treat” on long afternoons at work.
Another Simple fix: The Moveable Feast!
Delicious Living recipe developer Amy Palanjian makes a great point about cooking and timing—or rather lack of time. “With activities, meetings, appointments and tired kids, evening meals don’t always happen the way you want them to. You can take advantage of fresh faces and morning attitudes by making breakfast your big meal of the day, or, if you really want to surprise the kids when 5:30 p.m. rolls around, serve pancakes for dinner! You can get her simple take on healthy family meals with a recipe for Sweet Potato-Blueberry Pancakes! Then, involve kids in mashing the sweet potato and mixing the batter. Not just saving time but creating quality time in the kitchen! And pancake batter is a great “make ahead” ingredient, so you can whip this up when it is convenient and finish it off later when you are pressed for time. Finished pancakes also refrigerate well and warm back up nicely in a medium oven. And won’t you be sneaky-smart hiding veggies in the pancakes!
Also, don’t forget about the amazing egg—Nature’s perfect little food. Eggs are packed with protein and can be made into everything from these sweet potato-blueberry pancakes to veggie-packed omelets to overnight cheesy stratas. Eggs do double shifts at both breakfast and dinner. Just make sure you have the right eggs, which can be tricky. DL’s nifty downloadable/printable infographic will help you cluck through label jargon. (Lame, but couldn’t resist.) The very best place to shop for eggs is at your local farmers market, of course, but if that isn’t possible, check out this great advice from DL to crack the code (Ha ha!) on tricky terms like: cage-free, free-range, omega-3s, etc.
So I hope you are having a “simply” wonderful start to the summer season. As the days stretch out, we’ll keep exploring good food, in-season finds, quick meal strategies and Blogger Box exclusives. While everything I cook won’t be quite so simple, it will be in tune with the season and the region. We’ll all be green and brave. Share one of your simple but spectacular summer dishes, won’t you?