Welcome to day 18 of 30 Days to a Food Revolution. Today’s guest blogger is Susan Russo. Susan Russo, the voice behind the blog, Food Blogga, is a freelancer writer, recipe developer, and author of two upcoming cookbooks by Quirk Books: Recipes Every Man Should Know (Oct. 2010) and Encyclopedia of Sandwiches (TBA). You can also see her piece “Light Potato Salad’ in the June issue of “Cooking Light.”
Susan grew up in a food-centric Italian-American family in Providence, Rhode Island who believed that pasta constituted its own food group. Now that she lives in sunny San Diego, she eats a lot less pasta and lot more fresh, locally grown produce.
When she isn’t writing or cooking, she can be found milling around one of San Diego’s 30+ farmers’ markets buying a lot more food than two people could possibly eat.
Susan’s Recipe: Lemony Pasta with Fresh Peas, Ricotta, and Mint
Susan’s Tip: Make the Most Out of Your Next Farmers’ Market Trip
When people ask why my husband and I live in San Diego instead of moving back to Rhode Island, I usually say, “the farmers’ markets.” I’m joking. Sort of. Really, how many other places have over 30 farmers’ markets that are open year-round? We’re lucky, and we know it.
Fortunately, farmers’ markets are located across the country. So no matter where you live, here are nine ways to make the most out of your trips to the farmers’ market.
1. Be prepared. Before you leave the house, make sure you have some sturdy, eco-friendly reusable bags and plenty of small bills (ones and fives) and quarters. Consider bringing an insulated bag for items such as farm fresh eggs or cheese.
2. Be patient. Resist the urge to purchase the first plump tomato or crisp red bell pepper you see. Always stroll through the entire market once to assess the produce and prices.
3. Engage in farm talk. Unlike a trip to the grocery store, you have the unique opportunity to ask the farmers all types of questions, so don’t be shy. They’re usually excited to talk about their work (provided there isn’t a line of 10 people waiting to pay). If the farmer’s produce isn’t “certified organic,” be sure to ask about his or her farming practices. Many small farmers practice organic farming but can’t afford to have the “certified organic” designation.
4. Plan ahead. Find out how long the season will last for different crops, especially maddeningly short seasonal crops such as fava beans, English peas, or cherries. That way you won’t miss out on your favorites (which has happened to me) and perhaps preserve them for the off-season.
5. Be adventurous. Try something new or strange. If it weren’t for farmers’ market samples, I would never have discovered some of my favorite fruits, including cherimoyas, kumquats, and jujubes.
6. Save money the right way. If you’re looking to save money, then buy in bulk. Most farmers are more than happy to sell you a bushel of peppers or a half a dozen flats of strawberries at a discounted price. It’s considered impolite, however, to ask for a discount on single items or small purchases. Keep in mind that farmers usually set fair prices from the outset; paying full price supports them and the local economy. Another way to save money is to shop just before closing time when farmers often discount their goods to sell before hitting the road.
7. Spread the wealth. We are creatures of habits, so many of us tend to buy from the same vendors each week. Try someone new next time you’re at the market. You might discover a new vegetable, a new recipe, or a new friend.
8. Create good karma. Compliment farmers on their produce. Give them feedback about the quality of their goods as well. Tell them about a recipe you made featuring their goods. If something was disappointing, then let them know in a polite manner. Exchange recipes with them. Or surprise them with a dish made from their goods.
9. Promote your market. Tell your friends, family, and local schools about the farmers’ markets. Host a dinner featuring only locally produced foods, and tell your guests about the farmers who provided it. Blog and tweet about your farmers’ markets. Mention them on Facebook, and post pictures on Flickr. Do anything you can to spread the word.
Lemony Pasta with Fresh Peas, Ricotta, and Mint
Makes 2 servings
6 ounces gluten-free or rice pasta, such as shells or fusilli
4 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
The zest and juice of 1/2 medium lemon (about 1 tablespoon juice)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh shelled English peas
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
2 tablespoons freshly grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Lemon zest curls, optional garnish
1. Cook the pasta in salted water according to direction, until al dente. Reserve a cup of hot pasta water.
2. In a small bowl, stir ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper. Thin it with a little bit of hot pasta water. Stir until creamy but not watery.
3. Drain cooked pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add peas and ricotta mixture and toss well. Stir in mint and grated cheese. Drizzle each serving with extra virgin olive oil and garnish with lemon zest curls, if desired.
Variation: For a meat version, add 2-3 ounces crispy prosciutto or pancetta.
Read more from Susan today on Food Blogga!
In order to be entered to win one of 7 cookbooks, here’s what you need to do to gather entries into the drawing. The more you do, the more chances you have to win!
- Leave a comment on this blog on as many of the 30 guest food bloggers as you like. Each comment is an entry.
- Sign up for The W.H.O.L.E. Gang newsletter.
- Visit that guest blogger’s site and leave a comment there too.
- Tweet about this project using both of these in your tweet so I’ll find you #30days2 #foodrevolution
When the initial 30 days of guest posts are over on June 4th, we’ll pick the winners.
Great farmers market tips! I am lucky to live in California too, and I should go to farmers markets more often. (Sometimes it's hard when I already have to shop at 3 different stores to get everything I want!)
Looks like a great recipe to use with my Tinkyada shells that are in my cupboard! Dumb question: is there another name for English peas when I am looking for them in the produce section?
Wonderful recipe, Susan.
we recently found a market about 10 minutes from our house. we've gone a few times. I was wondering if the produce was organic or not, I guess I should just ask. 🙂
thanks for the tips!
alison-It's not dumb at all. They might be called "green peas." I'd ask your produce manager about them too. It's true what they say: Ask and you shall receive. 😉
mama-Definitely! Just ask!
I have one farmer's market in my town, but only a few booths are organic. The primary one is someone who loads up on Costco produce and resells it (not good). Next market is an hour away. I do stock up when I go out of town, so I plan my trips around the market days. Good looking recipe too, I'll have to try it. Thanks for the good tips Susan, and see you on FB.
Thanks for the great tips on Farmer's Markets. There are not many near me and I found one I really like. I take my boys and they love picking out new and unusual things to try and are more eager to try new foods.
They family that owns the market always lets the kids have bananas while we shop and are super friendly 🙂
I recently moved to San Diego and I can't wait to start checking out each of the 30 Farmers Markets (and the food 🙂
Thank you for the tip and the mouth watering recipe.
This loooks like a great recipe! Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the farmer's market tips. I live in MI where it definately is seasonal and I need to be going much more often during the times they are open.
We're just starting up farmers market season here in PA (I can't wait!!!), this is great advice!
The recipe looks especially tasty too 🙂
What a great recipe! And I checked out Food Blogga and had to comment on your beets post!
Alison, in the Northeast they call "English peas" "shelling peas." Unlike snow peas and sugar snap peas, the shell is inedible. (Though I add them to my "stock bag" in the freezer and use them to sweeten up veggie stock.)
I love the farmers' market. For us it is just a seasonal market, but that season will be starting soon!
Great spring pasta recipe! And thanks for tips on farmer’s markets, unfortunately we don’t have many locally and the ones that are here are not organic but I’ll continue to look around!
Thanks for the recipe and tips! I love our local farmers' market. There's not a lot of produce yet, but there are lots of baked goodies and fun crafts. They're starting to catch on to the fact that many people in the area need gluten-free options. One of the bread makers told me he's researching gluten-free breads right now. Another family sells raw crackers that are gluten-free and sugar free. I love that people are willing to learn and experiment and make new things for those of us whose diets are limited.
This looks great! You've reminded me that a farmer at the market last weekend told me he'd have fresh peas this weekend – yay! I definitely agree about talking it up and trying new things! I love that I"ve made friends at the farmers markets near me. It's always fun to go.
Susan, thank you so much for the Farmer's Market tips. As we have begun this adventure to eating better, visiting markets are our plan for this summer. Great timing.
The pasta looks great. Is there a dairy free alternative to the ricotta cheese? We have recently omitted dairy, and I am still learning about dairy free options.
Terri-See you on FB!
Sarah-I love that you're teaching your children about fresh produce while having fun doing it.
amber-Welcome to SD! Let me know if I can give you any suggestions!
michelle-So true. And you might be inspired to preserve for the winter!
aubree-Thanks! Have fun at your market!
stephanie-I'm so happy to hear that! Visit anytime. 🙂
jenna-That's great news! Enjoy!
christa-I agree with you. Many of our markets have options for people with food-sensitivities which is a great idea. Be sure to give those people feedback/suggestions, etc. You never know what can come of it. 🙂
alta-Yay, indeed! Have fun shelling the peas. I love that part. Shell one, eat one, shell one, eat one….
michelle-Thanks for your note, Michelle. I would suggest Googling "non dairy ricotta," and you'll find several recipes for making your own version with tofu. All the best!
I love the idea of being adventerous with food.
Thanks for the great post, Susan! We met briefly at BlogHer Food last year. 🙂 I was one of the Diane's pals while she was doing her little video interviews. 😉
Having 30+ farmers' markets is just incredible … truly awesome. Our local farmers' market just celebrated its one-year anniversary and is growing slowly, but surely. As the season progresses, more farmers join in. The rules are very strict … what's sold has to be grown/made in our county. There are two more farmers' markets in the city a half hour away. I admit I don't get to go that often because we travel to our mtn property (weather-permitting) every weekend during warm weather.
Love that pasta recipe (and the dish it's in!). I love all things peas. Fresh ones are beyone amazing to me. I think it's too early for peas here, but we may be home this weekend (rain predicted! LOL) and if I go to the farmers' market, I'll look for them.
Great tips on using the farmers' market, too! I think we forget about the small guys still following good practices without necessarily being able to afford special endorsements.