The return of the Farmers’ Market for me each season is just about as exciting as Christmas Day. With fresh herbs and local produce on my mind, I love getting up on Saturday morning, throwing on my yoga pants, a tank top, a pair of favorite flip flops and my over-sized sunglasses and heading out the door. Sometimes, I even pack up my 11-pound Shih Tzu, Ewok, and we ride with the radio up and the windows down on the way. Continue reading “5 Farmers’ Market Recipes to Make Right Now”
It may be springtime, but let’s face it: the weather can be crazy and unpredictable. For those not-so-springlike nights this season, I’ve got a recipe for Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Homemade Thyme Croutons that’ll give you an excuse to transform leftovers and get the most out of your farmers’ market finds.
This recipe is a classic example of technique. Once you master it, you can substitute whatever ingredients you choose. Roma tomatoes and onions would be absolutely fantastic with a grilled cheese sandwich. I made Roasted Root Vegetable Soup using leftover carrots and turnips that I’d made for Easter dinner with my Roasted Leg of Lamb and Mint Chutney. I seasoned the vegetables with salt and pepper, then tossed them in a good quality olive oil and roasted them at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. I love reinventing leftovers. It’s ultimately fun to create something totally new with the same ingredients from another dish.
In a food processor or a blender, puree the vegetables until fluid, adding a little chicken broth or water to help the vegetables liquefy. You can also use an immersion blender, but that’s a fancy tool I’ve yet to acquire. If you’d like your soup to have a little texture, don’t puree them totally. Just pulse your blender a few times, leaving some of the vegetables chunky. I enjoy bites of carrot here and there, rather than pure creaminess, but it’s personal preference.
I just so happened to have a french baguette on my counter top that was more than a few days old. What better way to give stale bread new life than to chop it into cubes and make crunchy croutons? I did just that. With the Holy Trinity of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil, I added dried thyme, and roasted them in the oven, also at 425 degrees, for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
If you look closely, you can see chunks of carrot adding texture to the soup. With a pop of green color from my carrot tops for garnish and the addition of my Homemade Thyme Croutons, soup never tasted better on a cool, springtime night.
Here’s a quick look at what you’ll need:
Roasted Root Vegetable Soup featuring Carrots and Turnips
- 1 Bunch Carrots, peeled
- 3 Large Turnips, chopped
- 3-4 cups Chicken Broth
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Dried Oregano
- Parsley or Green Carrot Tops for Garnish
Homemade Thyme Croutons
- Day old bread or Stale Bread, such as a French or Italian baguette
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Dried Thyme
- 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil or enough to coat bread well
Grape tomatoes are abundant at farmers’ markets this time of year, and I’ve got the perfect way to use them up! My recipe for Summer Bruschetta is a scrumptious starter course and makes one fine appetizer with drinks. Fun fact for ya: The Italian word Bruschetta translates to, “slice of toasted bread seasoned with oil and garlic.” If you’ve never cooked slices of bread in melted butter on the stove top, start living. There’s no time like the present!
I’m a firm believer in supporting Georgia farmers and shopping local whenever possible. All of the ingredients in my recipe are locally sourced, but can certainly be substituted wherever you live. I encourage you to visit a farmers’ market near you for fresh, local and nutritious ingredients! This recipe is simple, sweet and satisfying.
Farmers’ Market Summer Bruschetta
- 2 Tablespoons of Georgia Olive Oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- Half of 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
- 2 pints red and yellow grape tomatoes, halved
- Balsamic Vinegar to taste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 bunch fresh basil, separated into leaves, rolled up tightly and sliced (chiffonade)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Sugar Magnolia Bakery & Café Baguette
- 1 whole garlic clove, peeled
- 1 stick of butter
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic and onion and stir for about one minute. Pour into a mixing bowl and let cool slightly.
Add tomatoes, a splash of balsamic vinegar, sugar and basil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss to coat. If time permits, refrigerate for one hour. If not, it is fine to use immediately.
Cut the baguette into diagonal slices. Melt half the butter in the same skillet you used for the garlic. Cook the baguette on both sides until golden brown. Rub toast with one whole garlic clove while hot. Repeat with remaining butter and bread.
To serve, stir the tomato mixture and spoon generously over toasted baguette slices.
You’re also invited to join me at the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers’ Market this Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013 from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. I hope you’ll stop by the Celebrity Chef tent to say hi and get a taste of my Summer Bruschetta! Be sure to listen out for my radio commercial (below) on air this week promoting the market.
Local restaurants are the jewels of small towns. You may have your go-to dish at a well-known chain, but exploring indigenous places to eat–that’s where the magic happens. The truth is, I love Red Lobster’s Seaside Shrimp Trio and the Crispy Chicken Tacos at Chili’s. I can’t go to Cracker Barrel without ordering hash brown casserole as my side dish. However, no matter where I travel, these great restaurants will only offer more of the same. To understand the real picture of a city’s culture, people and food, you’ve got to venture outside the chain-restaurant-comfort-zone. It’s there, at places like downtown Statesboro’s 40 East Grill, you’ll find homegrown flavors, and in this case, experience the true vibe of small town America with a modern twist.
Offering lunch and dinner, 40 East Grill opened in August 2012. With a locally focused menu that changes every few months, they pride themselves on cooking with a fusion of native products featuring B&G Honey Farm, cheese from Flat Creek Lodge and beef produced by Southeast Georgia farmers. Chicken and seafood are other great options. My go-to lunch combo is She Crab Soup paired with the Three-Cheese Panini, pictured below. I often add a side of crispy sweet potato fries to round out the meal. My co-workers and I have made 40 East Grill a regular lunch stop. It makes for a fantastic date night too.
The menu, presented on a clip board with a clothes pin, even includes fun drink choices outside the norm, like an Arnold Palmer (half tea/half lemonade) or blended coffee. Most recently, they’ve added a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich to the menu! That’s not something you see every day and that’s exactly what’s to love about 40 East Grill…it’s creative, classy and unpredictable. The restaurant’s best sellers include the Southern River Farms Ribeye , Chicken Pot Pie and the Maryland Style Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes topped with a lemon beurre blanc.
40 East Grill has a quaint, urban feel that’s trendy and warm with exposed brick throughout, a welcoming chalk board at the entrance that lists daily specials, original hardwood floors, earthy paint colors and modern lamp lighting. Outdoor seating is available with a great view of downtown Statesboro, onlooking the Emma Kelly Theater and Averitt Center for the Arts. Live music happens often too, varying from country, rock and bluegrass. Even the talent is local! Additionally, the ladies restroom is among the cutest I’ve seen complete with a luxurious crystal chandelier and vessel sink.
Happy hour is every evening from 5 – 7 p.m. Stop in for a signature cocktail at the 18 foot copper top bar, like the 40’s Perfect Margarita or Cucumber Melon Martini. During Happy Hour, wells and house wines range from $2 – $3. Not quite ready to go home? Stay for chicken parmesan or a 12-ounce bone-in, pan seared pork chop and watch a game on the flat screen TVs.
Aside from delicious food, the thing that sets 40 East Grill apart is the service. Time and again, I’ve been impressed by the servers’ attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile. They’re consistently well dressed, friendly and accommodating. The restaurant is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 – 9 p.m., also on Saturdays from 5 – 9:30 p.m.
When quality like this exists in your own neighborhood, it’ll make you think twice before venturing out-of-town.
Few things get me out of the house before Noon on a Saturday morning, but fresh ingredients and a fantastic recipe was all I needed to get motivated over the weekend. I packed up my Shih Tzu, Ewok and off we went to the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers Market for some locally grown strawberries. We returned home to make Ina Garten’s Strawberry Country Cake featured in the cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Parties. Watch the video below to get the highlights from our trip!
Continue reading “Farmers Market Fun and One Souped-Up Strawberry Shortcake”