|Features - Farmers and Markets|
|Written by Lara Zelman|
Since my weekly farmer’s market visits came to an end in November, I’ve been going through withdrawal. Sure, I can pick up fresh produce at the grocery store, but it’s not the same as choosing from the changing weekly selection at the market and chatting with the source. You can only imagine my excitement when an email from Mass Farmers Markets recently popped up in my inbox saying, “Market Open Today – Natick Winter Market”.
In the summer, even if I had already stocked up at my Friday market, my husband and I still took a trip to the Natick Farmer’s Market. We like to support our local community out in Metro West, and they had a good selection of vendors – produce, plants, prepared foods, meat, and crafts. The Winter Market, located inside one of the elementary schools offered the same great mix of vendors. There were about a dozen tables – everything from soap to salsa to squash. Many of the merchants were new to us – they weren’t part of the summer market.
One of the things I love the most about local markets is that the vendors are often the farmer or the creator of the items they are selling. We started at the first table in the gym, and worked our way around making sure to say hello to the vendors (and of course sample their delicious treats). Our first sample and purchase was delicious blood orange marmalade from Fisher Brook Farm in Dover, MA. When possible, their jams and marmalades are made with their own produce. As we approached the next table, Tangerini’s Spring Street Farm, I overheard a woman saying, “It’s so wonderful that you’re here every weekend. Now I can just buy what I need from you every weekend.” Isn’t that the ideal statement - knowing that your local market can be your source for stocking your kitchen year round?
Our purchases at the market were quite colorful. We picked up the blood orange marmalade, cranberries, blue potatoes, grilled asparagus and artichoke ravioli, and winter squash ravioli. The ravioli came from a great chef-owned company, Fior D’Italia from Manchester, VT. The squash in the ravioli is also local – the pasta man told us they get their squash from a farm in Littleton, MA. Other vendors included homemade granola, handmade soaps, tea, and jewelry. The winter market runs through the end of February, so we will be sure to visit often and try something new every time!
Here’s how I used my farmer’s market finds as flavorful side dishes for an easy weeknight meal. If you don’t live close to Natick, there are also winter markets at Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland and a few other spots around the state. View our list of ongoing Winters Farmers Markets to find out which market is closest to you!
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
(Makes approximately 2 cups of cranberry sauce)
8 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup of white sugar (use a full cup if you like more sweet cranberry sauce)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
Place all the ingredients in a medium stock pot and mix. Turn the heat to medium and cook for approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce is done when the cranberries have popped and started to form a jellied consistency. Serve warm, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Smashed Blue Potatoes with Fresh Basil
(Makes two side servings)
1/2 pound blue potatoes, rinsed well
Enough cold water to cover the potatoes
Approximately 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Salt and Pepper
Place the potatoes in a medium stock pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by about two inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-12 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the hot pot to dry out. With a potato smasher, start smashing the potatoes. Add enough chicken broth to moisten the potatoes and continue smashing until desired consistency. Stir in salt, pepper, and basil with a spoon. Serve immediately.
After making the rounds at the market, we went up the street to Downtown Natick for a quick breakfast at the Bakery on the Common. The Bakery on the Common is a local family-owned establishment and they make everything in house. For breakfast and lunch, they use homegrown vegetables, and cook everything to order. We had fluffy French toast and a freshly made Belgian waffle with strawberries and bananas. It was hard to resist their pastry cases – that’s for our next trip.
Lara is a graduate of Boston University and works full time as a marketing manager. Whether it’s family gatherings, vacations, dinners at home, holiday parties, or just a regular weekend, Lara's goal is to make the food a part of the experience. In her spare time she visits farmers markets for interesting ingredients, blogs (www.goodcookdoris) about her adventures in the kitchen, and finds time to fit in a few rounds of golf. She is currently pursuing an MBA degree and working on a plan to make her passion for all things food-related a full-time adventure.