With the arrival of spring finally here, I am so enjoying cooking with the light, fresh flavors of the new season. Asparagus, artichokes, strawberries – oh, the list could go on and on! My favorite source for peak-of-season produce? The local farmers’ market. Not only do I pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, many markets also offer locally produced breads, cheeses, other specialty foods……not to mention gorgeous flowers! When I’m planning a Spring or Summer dinner party – it’s one stop shopping – I can pick up my ingredients and supplies for my centerpiece all in one place!
To help make your farmers’ market shopping more pleasurable, here are a few tips from Williams Sonoma:
Bring plenty of small bills plus shopping bags or baskets. Arrive early for the best selection—and to avoid the crowds. Before you buy, stroll through the market to see what’s available and to compare prices and quality. Many farmers encourage customers to taste before buying. And be sure to talk with the growers. They’re happy to introduce you to new and unusual ingredients and to offer cooking suggestions.
Farmer’s Market’s are a great place to gather fresh ingredients – but there is a way to make it even easier on yourself to eat locally and seasonally, all the while supporting farmers and taking advantage of the abundance of each season: by subscribing to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Local Harvest is a CSA program that offers subscriptions all over the country. Each week, you’ll get a box brimming with that week’s harvest. No requests – you will get what is in season at that time and the selection varies from region to region and from farm to farm. But if you like to experiment and love to try new things – this could be a great program for you!
Now that my local Farmer’s Market has begun, I have decided to host a dinner party in the garden using all fresh produce. When you’re cooking from the farmers’ market, keep preparations simple so the garden-fresh flavors can shine. I am going to serve a salad of mixed greens and toasted baguette slices topped with warm goat cheese, and fish fillets with asparagus and orange. For dessert, something lemony… stay tuned for ideas!
I love the idea of setting up an outdoor dining room – use your table as the central focus, place some throw pillows on the chairs, hang a light fixture or lanterns from the trees above the table to define the space. Set up a bar on a garden work bench, and enhance with bowls of fresh fruits and vegetables. Create some ambiance by decorating the space with lanterns. A few ideas for setting the table – use cotton linens and create a loose centerpiece of seasonal blooms and fruit (have a bunch of grapes overflowing, or a few baby artichokes or lemons placed into the arrangement). Use woven charger plates to add a natural feel to the table, and enhance your napkin with a raffia tie and fresh vegetable such as a radish or carrots.
This Famer’s Market dinner party is a recipe for success – great, healthy food, a stunning setting and good friends! What could be better?!