Across the country, farmers’ market cooking classes have been growing in popularity as a new way for local foods organizers to interact with community members. Saturday, August 23, High Rocks Grow Appalachia, SNAP Up! Local Foods, and the WV Food and Farm Coalition teamed up to bring a cooking demonstration to the Marlinton Farmers Market.
SNAP Up! Local Foods has supported cooking classes in Lewisburg and Alderson to raise awareness for its benefits doubling program. “Accepting SNAP at local farmers’ markets increases access for all patrons to attain fresh, nutritionally dense, local foods regardless of income,” says Leah Turgeon, an AmeriCorps VISTA with Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The Snap Up! initiative encourages use of SNAP, WIC and Senior Vouchers through dollar for dollar doubling of benefits at the Marlinton, Lewisburg and Alderson farmers’ markets. As the AmeriCorps member for High Rocks Grow Appalachia, I happily agreed to present a cooking demonstration in Pocahontas County.
Garnet Bruell, Registered Dietician and AmeriCorps VISTA for the WV Food and Farm Coalition, enthusiastically volunteered to assist with the demonstration. After setting up our mobile kitchen in the center of the market, Bruell and I circulated the market to purchase our supplies. Rather than having recipes scrupulously planned in advance, we chose to bring a few basic pantry items — salt, pepper, Dijon mustard, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and local bacon — and planned our recipes around what was available at the market. We bought potatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, garlic and summer savory for a garden fresh potato salad, and green beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper and garlic for a seasonal summer stir fry.
At first, customers seemed unsure of what we were doing and hesitated to stop by, but once the smell of bacon and garlic started wafting throughout the market, they began to come over in groups. We were able to draw attention to a few of the more uncommon items at the market, like the Irvines’ mild yellow bell peppers and Tolley Peuleche’s summer savory.
“I like that everything was fresh and local and I like the surprise of the summer savory in the dressing… Many herbs like this are easy to grow and they take any vegetable and make it special,” complimented local herb expert Marcia Laska. Both dishes were very successful, but Bruell’s summer stir fry really stole the show, proving that a small quantity of meat can impart a lot of flavor.
Everything besides the pantry items and the bacon was bought at the Marlinton Farmers’ Market (the bacon was sourced locally from Stompin’ Crick farm). We designed these recipes spontaneously with the idea of creating something seasonal and easily customized. You could add more veggies, like green beans or celery, to the potato salad to decrease the number of carbs per serving. The summer stir fry would be delicious with sweet corn added, or you could sub extra virgin olive oil for the bacon as a cholesterol free option. Don’t like bell peppers? Use onion instead. The farmers’ market offers a bounty of choices for those willing to experiment, and now, thanks to the SNAP Up! Local Foods initiative, it is available to more community members of all income levels.
Garden Vegetable Potato Salad (30 mins)
4 large potatoes (we used Kennebecs, but red, gold or any other thin-skinned variety works fine)
1 clove garlic, or more to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons basil
2 Tablespoons summer savory or other fresh herbs
Salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 medium bell peppers
1-2 small cucumbers
1. In a large stock pot, put about 8 c. of water on to boil (enough to cover potatoes by several inches). While the water is heating, scrub the potatoes with warm water and chop into 1 inch cubes — leave the skins on, they add flavor, fiber and vitamins and save time. Add potatoes carefully to the hot water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 15 min. until a fork can be easily inserted into potato cubes.
2. While you wait for the potatoes to cook, prepare the dressing. Mince the garlic and add to vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. You can emulsify the dressing by gradually whisking the olive oil into the other ingredients, but I prefer to put it into a mason jar all at once and shake vigorously.
3. Halve the cucumber lengthwise. If only larger cucumbers are available, you may wish to remove the seeds with a spoon. Slice thinly. Remove the pulp and seeds from the peppers and dice them. Finely chop the basil and summer savory.
4. When the potatoes have cooked, drain the water, dunk the cooked potatoes in a large bowl of ice water to rapidly cool them, then drain again. (You can also cook the potatoes ahead of time and allow them to cool more slowly in the fridge).
5. Add the peppers, cucumbers and herbs to the potatoes in a large bowl. Give the dressing another shake to combine, then pour over vegetables and stir to combine. Taste the salad and add more salt and pepper as needed. Serve cold.
Seasonal Summer Stir Fry (20 mins)
3-5 Strips of bacon
3 cloves garlic
1 medium bell pepper
2-3 Small summer squash (about 2 cups total; a combination of varieties adds nice color — we went for a combination of zucchini, patty pan, and yellow crookneck)
2 lb Green beans (about 3 cups)
1 ½ pints cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Trim the ends off of the green beans and cut them in half. We opted for stringless Providers for speed, but any variety that you like will work. Blanch them by adding to boiling water, bringing the water back to boil and boiling for 1-2 minutes until beans are bright green and starting to become tender. Drain then dunk in a large bowl of ice water so that they don’t continue to cook.
2. As the green beans are cooking, mince the garlic. Remove Ribs and seeds of bell pepper and dice. Cut the squash into half-moons 1/8 in. thick. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
3. Heat a large skillet on medium high. Add bacon and reduce heat to medium. Cook to desired crispiness, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove bacon from skillet, reserving 1 tablespoon of grease for cooking vegetables.
4. Increase heat to med high. Add garlic and bell pepper to the skillet of bacon grease and cook until they begin to soften and become fragrant. Add squash and green beans to skillet and stir to coat with garlic and grease. Allow to cook about 5 minutes, stirring infrequently so that it can brown. Do not overcrowd the skillet or squash may accumulate liquid and become soggy.
5. Chop the bacon into small pieces. Remove stir fry from heat and stir in bacon and tomato halves. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot. This dish can also be eaten as a cold salad the next day.