We are just starting to see the first signs of spring in Indianapolis. The crocus and jonquils have bloomed, but it is way too early for many fresh grown crops to show up at the local farmer’s market. We are lucky to have a winter’s farmer’s market that has a good selection of cool-season and greenhouse grown crops. So, on a dare, my family and I set out to see if we could find our entire meal from the Saturday market.
There was a large variety of cool season root crops and lettuces. I really enjoy the flavor of arugula, so I picked up a bag and added radish, daikon and greenhouse grown cherry tomatoes to make a salad.
Next, we found some beautiful and colorful Swiss chard for a side vegetable. I like roasted beets, but for the picky eaters at our house, we also found some potatoes we could roast.
We are lucky to have a selection of beef, pork, lamb and chicken at our farmer’s market, but we selected wild caught salmon for protein.
Not to overlook dessert, we found some pumpkins and struck up a conversation with the farmer about how to prepare them. He suggested an old-fashioned recipe of custard filled pumpkin. And just like that, we found everything we needed for a hearty family meal.
Prepared to perfection
To roast the beets, I simply peeled and diced into bite sized chunks. I then tossed with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. We roasted at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes until they were fork tender.
Wilted Swiss Chard:
With the Swiss chard, I washed the leaves, then cut the stems. If they were easy to cut, I put them into the skillet. I then rolled the leaves up and cut into strips and held them to the side for the time being.
With the stems, I added one diced onion and a tablespoon of minced garlic and some olive oil. I cooked these together about 8 minutes until the onions were translucent. I then added the leaves in small batches until they wilted and I could add more. Once they had all wilted and were soft, I drained the extra juice and tossed on some grated parmesan cheese.
The fish I marinated in a soy sauce/rice vinegar mix with some salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of molasses. This was cooked at 400 F for 18 minutes.
I washed the pumpkin, cut the top off and then removed the seeds.
To the cleaned pumpkin, I then added a mix of 4 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1.5 cups milk, 1 tsp vanilla, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon.
I placed in the oven at 350 F for about 1.5 hours until the pumpkin was soft and the custard firm. I placed the pumpkin on a pan, as it will leak while cooking and there is still a lot of moisture in the pumpkin so I skimmed off clear liquid before serving.
A meal for everyone
We sat down to a bright, fresh and healthy dinner from locally sourced food (well, except the salmon). Even our picky eater found plenty to feast on. For the robust eaters, the beets were just shy of being sweet and had a great earthy flavor without being bitter. The chard was my favorite — the onions, greens and cheese made for a heavenly mix of textures and flavors (I am looking forward to leftovers!).
The sharp bitterness of the arugula was nicely balanced with the sweet pop of the cherry tomato, and the daikon radish had a great crispness. We ended the meal with a delightful scoop of the custard/pumpkin topped with whipped cream. We all agree it was a great meal and can’t wait to repeat the challenge in the summer!
Bill Hendrix is Dow AgroSciences' Crop Protection Research and Development Leader for Coastal Crops West, Turf & Ornamental and Urban Pests. He is also an avid foodie.