Summer is just around the corner, and farmers markets are once again setting up shop. The Salem Saturday Market is up and running every Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. only a few blocks from campus, offering a wide selection of local produce and handicrafts.
Buying local and in-season is sustainable, affordable and supports small farmers, but it’s easy to get carried away at a farmers market even without knowing all the benefits – everything looks so delicious! But what to do with your haul once you get it home? Don’t just stand in front of the refrigerator staring at the armloads of kale stuffed into the crisping drawers. Leaving the door open like that wastes energy. Instead, close the fridge and get out a spoon – it’s summer cooking time!
Kale is the ultimate cliché superfood, but the hype isn’t for nothing. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, kale is rich in several important vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, the same compound found in carrots that helps vision, and iron, which is necessary for oxygen to bind to blood cells.
This hearty leaf is very versatile and makes a good base for a variety of dishes. For an easy, crunchy snack, coat kale leaves in cooking oil and lay on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the leaves shrink and start to brown. Voilà, kale chips – a great substitute for popcorn or Cheez-Its if you’re craving salt or want something to crunch on during a movie. Feel free to spice them up with pepper, chili powder or garlic powder — whatever strikes your fancy.
Like most leafy greens, kale is great in a salad, but it can be a little on the tough side. To tenderize the kale, shred it into strips and massage it in a bowl with some cooking oil. Just pretend you’re kneading some dough, except it’s oily and kind of stringy. Then, add two to three tablespoons (tbsp) of lemon juice, a dash of salt, a handful of pine nuts and a cup of currants. Add more lemon juice or salt to taste if you’d like, or replace the pine nuts with sunflower seeds for a nut-free version. The lemon juice helps keep it fresh for several days, so enjoy this salad all week long.
Summer is full of flavor, but one of the most iconic summery dishes is corn on the cob, drenched in butter and a sprinkle of salt. The first step to the perfect corn on the cob is to find fresh, in-season corn — imported corn cobs often end up mushy. Corn comes into season in late July in the Pacific Northwest, so don’t go looking in the supermarkets too soon. The best bet for local, in-season produce is always a farmers market.
For the classic cob, bring a pot of water to a boil and put in the corn once it starts to bubble. Cover the pot and leave for about 10 minutes or until the corn is tender. Smother in butter and top with some salt and pepper. For a spicier twist, mix melted butter with chili powder, paprika, salt and cumin. Brush the mixture over the raw cobs and wrap each one in foil, then place them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Make sure to turn them over halfway through, so the roasting is even.
To finish off a big summer meal, there’s nothing better than good old-fashioned fruit cobbler. Cobbler is delicious, easy to make and can feed the entire extended family on the 4th of July. To start, grease a 9” x 13” baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, one cup sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons (tsp) baking powder and 1 ½ cups milk. Pour this batter into the dish and cover with about four cups of your favorite summer fruit. Don’t be shy with the fruit; it’s the main event. Dust the top with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and pop it in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees. It’s ready when the fruit starts bubbling and the batter is golden-brown. For the best results, serve with a scoop or two of ice cream.
Eating locally can be difficult, especially while away at college, but summer is the prime time to dig into some fresh fruits and veggies. There’s plenty to go around this time of year, so before planning your meals for the week, take the time to check what’s in season and stop by a farmers market. There’s no better time to support local vendors and expand your culinary horizons all in one go!