“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe
and she laughs with a harvest.”
~ Douglas Jerrold
Farmers market day is my favourite day of the week. As summer slowly winds to a close and the bountiful harvest continues to pour into our city’s farmers markets, I stand in awe of the beauty and abundance that surround me every market day. I’ve been in vegetable heaven for weeks now. But each time I get to the market and take in all the beautiful (if somewhat precarious-looking) pyramids of colorful fruits and vegetables, something strange happens—it’s as if an odd spell has been cast on me, causing me to completely forget the promise I made to myself: Do not overbuy! But I always do—I always overbuy!
I wish that the avalanche of fresh local produce were spread out over a few more months of the year. But it isn’t—it all floods into the markets over a short period of time in outrageously excessive amounts, and if we want to enjoy it all, now is the time. So, even though I’m only preparing food for two, I come away from the market every week with enough fruit and vegetables to feed a small army. For the next seven days, I take great pains to organize our daily menus to ensure that we actually consume (or at least preserve) all the fruit and produce I’ve somehow managed to stuff into our suddenly-much-too-small refrigerator (which is a feat in itself). Since Sweet Bear and I love our fruit and veggies, it’s doable as long as I stay organized.
Three Easy Vegetable Side Dishes
Three side dishes that we especially enjoy at this time of year are Wilted Swiss Chard Greens, Pan-fried Pattypan Squash and Cucumber Apple Mint Salad. These are my own creations and I never use a written recipe when I make them. As my mother used to (rather unhelpfully) instruct me, “Just add enough of this and enough of that until it tastes right.” The amounts don’t need to be exact and the ingredients can easily be adjusted to one’s taste, so if you try any of these recipes, be creative and change things until it “tastes right” to you.
“Abundance is not something we acquire.
It is something we tune into.”
~ Wayne Dyer
Wilted Swiss Chard Greens
This is a tasty side dish and a great way to get your dark leafies. I make it often at this time of year because we love it so much.
- 5-6 large Swiss chard leaves (I like using rainbow chard because it’s so pretty)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple (or yellow) onion
- one finely chopped green onion (optional)
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)
- salt and pepper to taste
- squeeze of fresh lemon juice to taste
Cut out the stems and centre ribs from the Swiss chard leaves and reserve them. (If you are using very young chard leaves with tender centre ribs, this step is not necessary.) Rough chop the greens and thinly slice the stems and centre ribs. Keep the stems and greens separate, as they are added to the sauté pan at different times.
Sauté the purple onion and Swiss chard stems and ribs in the butter and olive oil over medium heat until fork tender. Stir often. Add the minced garlic; stir and cook for about a minute.
Add the Swiss chard greens, green onion, dill and balsamic vinegar. Sauté over medium high heat until the greens have nicely wilted (stir frequently). This only takes a few minutes, so don’t overcook them or they tend to lose some of their green colour. Remove from heat and squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over the top. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. (Serves 2)
The Swiss chard stems and centre ribs take longer to cook than the green leafy parts, so I toss the chopped stems and ribs into the frying pan with the purple onion before adding the more delicate leafy chard greens.
Pan-fried Pattypan Squash
I can’t resist the whimsical look of pattypan squash and always get some when I see them at the farmers market. They have soft flesh and a mild, sweet, slightly nutty taste. This is a super simple but delicious dish.
- 1 pattypan squash per person (you can also use zucchini). Look for small ones, as the very large ones tend to get a bit mushy in the middle when pan-fried.
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the stems and slice the pattypan squash into 1/2 inch rounds. Heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a non-stick frying pan. Place rounds in the heated pan and cook until golden brown at the edges. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown around the edges. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with grated parmesan.
Akane apples (also called Tokyo Rose) are delicious early season eating apples. I just discovered them this year and they are quickly becoming my new favourite. Developed in Japan sometime in the 1930s, the Akane is a medium-sweet apple with crisp flesh and is best as an eating apple. I love it for its perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. It works especially well in salads.
I always keep at least one pot of fresh mint growing in my balcony garden and I use tons of it. Happily, mint is prolific and hardy so it withstands heavy harvesting and grows back very quickly. One of my favourite things to do with mint is toss it into a salad.
Cucumber & Apple Mint Salad
This is a simple, light, refreshing late summer salad, perfect for when the early season apples and fresh figs are at their peak. Again, all these measurements are just basic guidelines. All ingredients can be tweaked to your taste.
- 1/2 organic English cucumber
- 1/2 large crisp eating apple of your choice
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg’s)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- Goat cheese (or feta) to sprinkle on top
- Fresh figs* (one or two per person)
- A bit of honey if you like a sweeter salad
*If you happen to get an unripe fig in the bunch, dip it in a little liquid honey.
- I keep the skins on my cucumbers for this salad, but you can peel them if you prefer. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise, and then cut each half in half (so you have four long quarters). Slice each quarter into 1/4 inch slices (or however thick you would like them).
- Remove the core from a halved apple and slice it however you would like (I like to slice it into small matchsticks for this salad).
- Place all ingredients into a bowl and toss.
- Quarter the fresh figs and add them as a side garnish to the salad.
- Crumble goat cheese or fresh feta on top.
All photography by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2016 madlyinlovewithlife