For a long time I didn't love to prospect at farmers markets, if only because I had no clue how to use them. As a home cook, when I wanted to make a meal, I paged through my cookbooks looking for inspirational pictures, wrote down a massive ingredient list and then hit the grocery store. That's not so easy to do if you want to hit up a local farmers market. Most of the time you'll have no idea what you'll get until you're there, and if you don't act fast and buy quick, many of the choice ingredients have already been cleaned out.
To make the best use of your local farmers market you have to stay flexible. You have to be able to look at what's available, come up with a recipe or two in your head, and then execute it. Otherwise you'll be the guy standing around with a coffee next to Luscher's Red Hots and wondering why everyone else is having so much fun.
That's why I loved Chad Houser's cooking demonstration this past weekend at the White Rock Local Market at the Green Spot. With the exceptions of salt and pepper, the chef restricted himself to ingredients that were on sale at this weekend's market and sought to create a simple dish that showcased the best ingredients available now.
Houser picked up a baguette from Empire Bakery and some mushrooms from Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms. He sautéed the mushrooms in a local, smoky olive oil until they were deep golden brown and then toasted the bread in the resulting earthy oil. A black and white vinaigrette provided acidity with the subtle sweetness of blackberries that rounded out the whole dish that was subtly perfumed with local herbs. With a glass of crisp white wine (I wonder if you'll ever be able to by wine at markets like this) the salad would have made an amazing lunch. And every component in the salad was as local and fresh as it gets.
Sarah Perry, who organizes the market, says she has plans to have more chef demonstrations as resources permit at future markets. I hope she pulls it off. It would be a lot of fun to watch these recipes evolve through the growing season as different vegetables and other ingredients become available.