Fabulous food from the Farmers Market
tepping into the wonderland of the Salisbury Farmers Market dazzles the senses. Over here are sweet sugar snap peas and crisp bok choy. Over there, rainbow swiss chard and feathery fennel. There’s cantaloupe, South Carolina peaches and mouth-watering baked goods.
Where to start?
If you are well prepared and have recipes, it’s easy to find what you need. But if you are a little more adventurous (or bad at planning), you look for what’s gorgeous and fresh and then work out how to use it.
Because you can find plenty of protein at the market, from cheese and eggs to chicken, pork, beef and lamb to fresh Outer Banks fish, you can easily create a complete meal in one trip.
Shop early to get the best of the best. Some vendors encourage shoppers to pre-order so they’ll be sure to have what you want. This is especially a good idea for Outer Banks Seafood and for Wild Turkey Farms. If Wild Turkey Farms has chicken, it won’t last long. Everyone wants free-range chicken.
On an early weekend at this year’s market, we bought andouille sausage from Wild Turkey Farms. Over at Lee Ly’s table, we found pea shoots, something new and unusual. The Lys say you can use anything green in a stir fry, and they’ve never steered us wrong.
My husband and I got pea shoots and thin, crispy pea pods, along with fresh spinach and fresh garlic.
At David Correll’s tent, we added deep green broccoli and a bit of his asparagus, which comes and goes quickly. He’ll let you know what’s coming in and going out of season.
You may wonder what Cajun andouille sausage is doing in a stir fry, but it worked. We’ve also made a version using beef kabobs from Wild Turkey Farms and that was superb. We cut everything up, sauteed the sausage (or beef) first, then did the vegetables, starting with the broccoli and ending with pea shoots and spinach. We added a few dashes of soy sauce and a couple tablespoons of thick Hoisin sauce. In less then 10 minutes, we had an emerald green delight.
On another visit, we got bulk chorizo sausage from Wild Turkey Farms, one of the most flavorful, fresh chorizos we’ve ever tasted. We got more spinach from David and a big bunch of cilantro from the Lys and greenhouse tomatoes from Eagle Farm.
We’d picked up some buffalo cheddar in Mount Airy from Ashe County cheese, so we thought — quesadilla. Another quickie.
This time, we needed a couple things from the store — an avocado, because it’s delicious, black beans and a little sour cream. That meal is worth repeating several times over the summer.
The seafood from Outer Banks Seafood is some of the freshest I have ever tasted. I had forgotten that fresh shrimp has a hint of sweetness. We’ve had mahi-mahi, monkfish (very interesting), red snapper, shrimp, scallops and a special treat, halibut, flown in from Nova Scotia. My childhood memories of halibut involve my mother and grandmother and her favorite ingredient — butter, which is a fabulous way to cook fish, just salt, pepper and butter. The halibut was white and firm and had so little “fish” smell that the cat wasn’t the least bit interested.
We looked up a simple cooking method that involved less than 5 minutes stovetop and about 10 minutes in the oven. We’ve done it twice, and it has been perfect. A pound makes for two generous servings or three smaller ones.
This meal was almost all market — fish, potatoes, napa cabbage, green onion. We made a side of hash browns and a light slaw with the cabbage and carrot. We have dill growing on the front porch, and it made a delightful accompaniment. Fresh dill is very delicate and not at all overpowering.
Your greatest downfall will be the urge to buy everything you see. We end up with a refrigerator full of food and not enough meals to use it all before it starts to wilt. Try to restrain yourself, unless you see tomato basil bread at the Bread Basket.
The Farmers Market is a great way to see friends, including the vendors. Once you get to know a farmer, he or she will learn what you like and make suggestions, even save something for you. If you’re a regular at the market, you’ll see the same folk week after week. One patron has suggested a social tent where people can gather and chat, or even plan meals.