Recipes: Spicy Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

With the cooler weather, I’m craving soups and toasty breads. Since I’m the veggie lover in our household – as well as the soup lover – I’m trying to encourage our littlest man to enjoy them too! This soup, however, was all about my tastes since it’s pretty spicy. It was really easy and can be made with minor adjustments (vegetable broth instead of chicken) to be vegetarian and vegan.

  • 3 lbs red bell peppers halved and cleaned
  • 1 head garlic (or less, if you prefer)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • crushed red pepper or hot sauce to taste

Preheat oven to broil (around 350 degrees). Lay the red bell pepper flat, skin side up on a cookie sheet (I put down a layer of aluminum foil first for easier clean-up). Core the tomatoes, wrap in aluminum foil, and set them on the cookie sheet as well. Cut the top off the head of garlic so a few of the cloves peek through, drizzle in olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Place foil wrapped garlic on pan too.

Place the baking sheet under the broiler for 15 to 20 minutes or until the skins of the peppers blacken. Turn off the oven, pull out the peppers, and toss them into a gallon sized ziploc to steam. Return the pan to the hot (but off) oven and let the tomatoes and garlic finish roasting.

In a 2-quart pan, drizzle olive oil and heat over a medium-high heat. Add thyme, bay, and onion. Sauté until onion is soft – 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth. While broth is heating, pull out peppers and rub to remove skins. Add each pepper half as you have removed the skins. Remove tomato and garlic from oven. Add whole tomato and squeeze out as many of the garlic cloves as you like. (I like my food garlicky, so I added 7 or 8.) Add rice wine vinegar. Continue to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Remove bay leaves. Using a stand blender or immersion blender, process until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt, pepper(s), and/or hot sauce to taste. Serve hot!

Johnson’s Honey – Vendor Highlight – East Nashville Farmers Market

If you’ve spent any time at our East Nashville Farmers Market at all, you’re sure to have seen Mr. Thurman. Per his apron, he’s known as the “Old Drone”, but sales representative Thurman Harris comes across as dear and sincere – “old” is not the first descriptive that comes to mind. When I interviewed him for this highlight, he shyly told me how he doesn’t use computers or have an email address. There is no web site for the business, but the product is delicious nonetheless!

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His table offers a variety of bee products and the honey is packaged in a multitude of sizes. He has honeycomb as well as pollen available for purchase. The jarred honey is available in Wildflower, Orange Blossom, and the diabetic-friendly Tupelo (from the blossoms of the Tupelo tree).

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Additionally, honey sticks are a favorite delight at his table. My brother-in-law loves to keep them at his desk to add to his tea at the office. I’ve seen several little ones make a bee-line (pun intended) for the table begging for one as a treat. They come in traditional honey as well as several flavors: apple, grape, blueberry, raspberry, and cherry.

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Drop by the table today to chat with Mr. Thurman and peruse the sweet treats!

Sunday Morning Pancake Mix – Vendor Highlight – East Nashville Farmers Market

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Samantha Williams has a sunny smile and a winning spirit about her. She told me that she started Sunday Morning Pancake Mix as an experiment on her kitchen counter. Her husband had started making pancakes every Sunday for their family, and it made her start thinking. She enjoyed having this fun new tradition, but what was the cost to her family nutritionally?

As a compromise, they began mixing whole grain flours. Soon they were milling bulk grains in a one-cup coffee grinder. Their final recipe includes nine freshly-milled, organic grains: wheat, rye, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, oats, spelt, milo and cornmeal–with a little flax for good measure.

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Samantha’s goal was achieved – they had turned an over-processed, nutritionally-deficient breakfast staple into a wholesome, nutritious meal that is still easy to prepare and is locally sourced. She describes the finished product as “heavier than a regular pancake but lighter than a hoe cake with a delightful flavor and hearty texture.”

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You can find Samantha and her beautiful pancake mix (and usually a kiddo or two) at the East Nashville Farmers Market each week as well as on her Facebook page: My Friend Who Loves to Cook. You should also know that Samantha isn’t finished with her kitchen experiments; she has a gluten-free product in the works as well!

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Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese – Vendor Highlight – East Nashville Farmers Market

Meet Jennifer Starks, of Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese:

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Her friendly face and bubbling personality won over my little lovebug in about 5 seconds flat. My camera, however, could not hold his interest. Jennifer does the Tennessee Sales and Marketing for Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, and you can find her at the market every week offering delicious samples of amazing cheeses such as these and more:

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Kenny’s Cheese was inspired by a trip to Europe fifteen years ago. Kenny Mattingly decided he would try using the milk from his family farm of 120 dairy cattle to produce Gouda cheese using Old World, handmade techniques. As you can see from the varied menu above, the venture was a success, and they now offer a much wider variety of cheeses. I’m a huge fan of the new Yazoo Sly Rye Cheddar as well as the Tomato Basil. Truth be told, I have yet to find a Kenny’s Cheese that I haven’t liked!

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All of Kenny’s cheese are made from raw milk which preserves the naturally beneficial enzymes in the milk that aid in the digestion of lactose and promote the absorption of calcium while providing a richer depth of flavor that you have got to try to believe. Additionally, Kenny goes a step further and uses vegetable-based rennet to coagulate the cheese keeping their products vegetarian-friendly.

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All of their cheeses are aged, hand cut, and packaged on the family’s 200-acre farm in southeastern Barren County, Kentucky near the community of Austin. You can taste the care and passion that they pour into their products.

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This week, my family and I tried out one of the farm’s newer cheese offerings – their Fresh Mozzarella. I tried a slice, and it was amazing (I know, I know – I keep saying that, but it’s true!). The cheese was milky and fresh and creamy. However, what you need to know is this: My husband is the definition of a picky eater. He only eats cheese melted on or into his food, and he’s ridiculously picky when it comes to his mozzarella. He has officially declared this to be the best mozzarella he has ever put into his mouth! We made chicken parmesan with the fresh mozzarella melted over the top. It browned beautifully and melted perfectly. As you can see, I couldn’t wait to take a picture until after I’d dug in:

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I can’t wait to get to the market today and try another of their cheeses! Maybe I’ll choose the havarti . . . or the horseradish cheddar . . . or maybe the new curds?

Recipes: Broccoli Potato Soup

I know, I know – we’re in the heat of summer, and here I am making soup. But it was REALLY good! Also, my husband doesn’t like soup (so weird), so sometimes I make it just for me. This was one of those times. I had all these lovely vegetables, and this recipe was just calling my name! Plus, it’s a one pot dish – lovely for those of us who hate washing dishes.

Broccoli Potato Soup

  • 1 head fresh broccoli (around 10 ounces, trimmed and chopped)
  • 3 or 4 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth could be substituted)
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (more if you’re like me!)
  • half an onion (I used 3 green onions)
  • thyme (1 tsp dried or 2 Tb fresh)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add and saute onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant. (I added a diced hot pepper at this point for heat in the soup. Crushed red pepper would work too.) Add 2 cups of broth and the quartered potatoes. Bring to a boil. Add the chopped stalks of the broccoli and the thyme. Cover, turn the heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and continue to simmer for five more minutes or until the florets turn bright green. Using an immersion blender or transferring (carefully!) to a stand blender, process until smooth. Serve hot.

I added a dollop of Noble Springs chevre to mine. You could easily add sour cream or some variety of cheese from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses – delicious!

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Recipes: Freestyle Frittata

For those of you who didn’t grow up in an Italian family, the frittata is the Italian take on an omelet. Maybe it’s familiarity, but to me, it’s the easier version. For one thing, there’s no flipping or folding involved. The best thing to me, however, is that it’s a handy recipe for using a variety of fresh produce. With the appearance of zucchini and yellow squash today in the Delvin Farms CSA share, it seems like a good time to get the frittata recipe out for a quick and fresh breakfast (or breakfast for dinner)!

You can use whatever combination of veggies (and meats) floats your boat. I like to add at least one, if not two, cheeses. I’m thrilled that eggs are available at our Farmer’s Market, and I really do think that they taste worlds better than the regular supermarket ones. In the recipe below, I like to use cheeses from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese and Noble Springs Dairy. I love the way that the tomato basil cheddar melts and the tang that is added by the goat cheese.

Freestyle Frittata

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini and 1 small yellow squash (about a cup when diced)
  • chopped green onion (about 1/3 c)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 handful spinach, chopped
  • 2 ounces Kenny’s Farmhouse tomato basil cheddar, diced
  • 2 ounces Noble Springs plain goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and milk until well combined. Set aside.

Chop and prepare all vegetables. Place a 10 inch (oven safe) skillet on a medium low heat. Pour in the olive oil. Add garlic and green onions and sauté until soft and fragrant. Add zucchini, squash, and spinach. Stir frequently until squash is soft and spinach wilted. Pour in eggs and scatter the cheddar. As eggs begin to cook, scrape the bottom gently toward the center of the skillet with a rubber spatula, making sure that the veggies stay even distributed as you move the cooked egg from the edges of the pan and allow more egg to cook. Once the egg is about half cooked and still very soft, drop dollops of the goat cheese onto the top and slip the skillet into the oven to finish the cooking. Let bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned, cheese is melted, and the top is firm. Let cool slightly, slice, and serve. Serves 4.

You can adjust this recipe as you please – use more or less cheese, add in some bacon, leave out the spinach, add mushrooms or tomatoes – anything goes!

Go For the Real Deal: Producer Operated Farmers Markets

by Jas Faulkner

How much do you trust the people who supply the grocery store you support or the kitchen manager of your favorite restaurant to provide food that is safe?

In a very telling incident, food journalist Michael Pollan visited a farmer who grew potatoes for McDonald’s french fries.  During the interview, Pollan asked the farmer if he fed the potatoes to his own family and the answer was an emphatic, No!’ The farmer grew his own organic spuds to feed his own clan.  Later in the story, Michael asked for a drink of water and was warned away from filling his glass at the tap.  The farmer’s wife explained that the local water was full of pesticides and they bought bottled water to drink.

That was a sad example of a farmer knowing his or her food, and also knowing that he didn’t want to eat it. It brings up an interesting question of how well the people behind the tables at farmer’s markets know their produce. Can they tell you where the seeds came from or whether their stock was exposed to chemicals that might remain not only on t he outside of the fruits and vegetables, but have permeated the flesh?  Did those potatoes come from a county away?  A time zone away?  Did they come from another continent altogether?

Once upon a time…

A farmers’ market was exactly what the title suggested.  It was a place where people who grew fruits and vegetables or raised animals for meat could sell what they raised. The advantage was one of both quality and trust. There was a greater sense of accountability on the part of the producers and customers knew that they had a responsibility to support farmers if they wanted to buy food that was locally produced by people they trusted. This worked well because most metropolitan areas were surrounded by farmland. There were enough farmers to feed everyone who cared enough to maintain a locally centered food economy.

As more people moved to the city and the land surrounding those urban areas was devoted to housing, people got comfortable with the idea of buying everything they ate from large corporate producers who created factory-perfect food-like stuff that could come from anywhere. Zero plotline development and the loss of connection to family traditions such as the household kitchen garden cause people to lose a sense of what it meant to eat with the seasons.  The demand for shipped in produce grew and with it, the loss of seasonal eating except for certain holidays.

Over time, people began to miss the feel of buying from a farmers’ market, so they sought out places where they hoped to buy fresh, in-season produce.  One thing many of these shoppers didn’t think to ask was: “Where did it come from?”

Not All Farmers’ Markets Are Equal

A farmers’ market is a farmers market is a farmers market?  Right?  Well, on the surface, that might be true.  The open air ambiance, the smell-of-the-week of whatever is in season, the atmosphere that makes it feel more like a large outdoor party; these are all things that draw people to farmers markets.

So what is the difference and why does it matter?

There are two different kinds of farmers’ markets.  The first is the traditional market where farmers sell what they raise.  The second, and sadly more common in many urban areas, is really more of a reseller’s marketplace.  These people often go to food wholesalers and buy large lots of produce.  In some rare cases, they might know the person they are buying from without ever actually seeing where their wares come from.

When you buy from a market that allows resellers,  you run the risk of buying food that might have been raised in less than ideal circumstances. Do you or they know exactly what into the items you’re considering for your pantry?  Chances are the person behind the cash box knows exactly as much as you do, which is nothing or pretty close to it. Is that a risk you want to take?

Know Your Farmer

Traditional farmers’ markets are worth the investment of time and money.  Eating locally means you are more likely to eat in season and eat in a way that will contribute to your overall good health.  It means that you have the confidence of knowledge and the power to make your own choices about what you put into your body.  It means that you help keep the local economy robust and  food sources close by which is a smart, sustainable way to feed your community.

Most important of all, know your farmers means that you are buying from people who are selling you the same things they are feeding their own families. They get  your support of their hopes and dreams and you get the benefit of years of agricultural education, family experience, and strong personal values that go into organic family farming.

So the next time you think about visiting a farmers’ market, look, ask, and make informed choices. Your local farmers will thank you for it!

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