As I've been making this map of our local farmer's markets, I've been curious about the overall trends of farmer's markets across the country and how Louisiana fit in.
And what's happening, is they are growing by leaps and bounds — more than tripling since 1994. Whether it's a focus on getting healthier or being more independent and self-sufficient . . . it's a promising trend.
One stat that isn't as great, if you look at the map below (make sure to hover over the states to see the number of farmer's markets), is that Louisiana ranks pretty low. Now we're not at the bottom, that distinction goes to Delaware. But Delaware has a population of about 925,000 and Louisiana's population is just over 4.5 million. Um, that's one market for every 33,000 people in Delaware and one market for 70,000 people in Louisiana. So clearly we shouldn't be bragging about beating Delaware.
Anyway, to help our local markets grow, let's make sure to support our local farmers. To find out where to buy local goods, check out my new interactive map of farmer's markets and roadside stands in South Louisiana.
Here's the beginning of a project to make our local produce easy to find.
So check out my new interactive map, and go find yourself some local, fresh and in-season goods.
I'm also in the process of creating a database of these farmer's markets and stands so you can search by location, hours and product type (for example, satsumas or honey). Check back for that, even bigger project . . . .
I love spring/early summer produce and eating foods that highlight that fresh flavor. And my kids love noodles . . . . and couldn't possibly care less what season it is.
So here's an easy roasted tomato pasta sauce I made recently for my family that's got a little kick for you Cajuns, but features the acidic richness and sweetness of fresh tomatoes. AND can be put over any shape pasta for rascally kids (you may also want to decrease the red pepper flakes and cayenne for sensitive little ones and adults).
And did I mention it was ridiculously easy and only dirties a cookie sheet and one bowl (I hate recipes that require every dish/pot/utensil in my kitchen to make . . . because I hate doing dishes)?
And that's fresh Swiss chard and onions from my bundle on the side just sautéed in butter with a little garlic and salt. . . oh, and Chachere's. For those non South Louisianans . . . . that's Tony Chachere's (saa-sha-rees) seasoning that really isn't just a tourist thing you buy at the airport. It's pretty much amazing on most anything you want to add salt to, adding a little kick, a little salt . . . . and a little Cajun.
And I just want to add that not only did my 8 year old and husband like the green blob of Swiss chard (yes, they were skeptical at first . . . .I got a little stank eye), but it's packed with Vitamins K, A and C and magnesium, iron, and I could just go on and on. Basically it's one of those green leafies that is absolutely AMAZING for you. So eat it.
My first recipe from my new Nourishing Kitchen cookbook was strawberries in minted honey syrup with fresh Louisana strawberries, spearmint and raw local honey.
And, I know the cookbook author says it's good with yogurt or whipped cream . . . which I'm sure it is . . . we couldn't help but eat it on vanilla ice cream from my favorite local ice cream company — New Orleans Ice Cream Co.
Strawberries in Minted Honey Syrup
// The Nourished Kitchen
1 cup water
1 cup honey
2 pints strawberries
1 small bunch fresh mint
Bring water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the honey and whisk it into the water until it dissolves fully. Continue simmering over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let syrup cool to room temperature.
Hull the strawberries, cut them in half, and set them in a bowl. Pluck the leaves off the stems of mint, tear them with your hands, and drop them into the bowl with the strawberries. Pour the cooled honey syrup over the strawberries and mint, then cover the bowl and transfer it to the fridge. Allow the berries to marinate for a day, and then serve them with their syrup.
Serve with cultured yogurt or whipped cream . . . or ice cream . . .
Thibodaux's farmer's market is just getting started for the season and it may be small . . . but it's close with truly local goods.
Produce will start coming in in May, so today I got some beautiful farm fresh Araucana eggs, which, as you can see, are a beautiful color. The farmer I bought them from has a goat farm near Napoleonville and also sells pickled foods and goat cheese. Oh and he has a cool beard and straw hat.
I also saw plants, ladybugs, homemade wine and beignets. The true gamut.
The market is Saturday mornings from 7 until 11 by the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Reserve.
Look what came in the mail! When I got back from my trip, there was an unexpected package at my house. My super-thoughtful sister sent me this just released cookbook from one of my favorite blogs, Nourished Kitchen.
Nourished Kitchen is all about looking back to our food traditions. Traditional foods and recipes made with whole, seasonal and local ingredients. Food that isn't pumped full of fake stuff like preservatives and enhancers and recipes that blend food for the maximum in nutrition and health. Basically everything that food on the grocery store shelves isn't.
My book already has bent pages . . . up first (because of the beautiful strawberries, spearmint and onions I got in my Country Table bundle this week): strawberries in minted honey syrup and roasted tomato salad with mint.
So I took a break. You probably didn't notice . . . but I DID! We took a quick little trip to Tennessee for Easter with my family. And . . . look at the sunset view from my parents' deck . . . can you blame me??
My littlest, who was born and raised in flat-as-a-pancake South Louisiana, thought he was on a huge mountain and asked if he was close to heaven . . . . yes, baby, I think you might be.
Anyway, while we were there, my mom made this awesome creamy but cream-less cauliflower soup — an unusual take on a basic veggie.
Pull outer leaves off of cauliflower and trim stem. Cut around core to remove; thinly slice core and reserve. Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2-inch florets from head of cauliflower; set aside. Cut remaining cauliflower crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices.
Melt 3T butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek, onion, and 1 1/2t salt. Stirring frequently until leek and onion are soft but not browned, about 7 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add 4 1/2 cups water, sliced core, and half of sliced cauliflower. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sliced cauliflower, return to simmer, and continue to cook until cauliflower is tender and crumbles easily — about 15-20 minutes.
While soup simmers, melt remaining 5T of butter in skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring frequently until florets are golden brown and butter is browned and imparts nutty aroma — 6-8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to transfer florets to small bowl. Toss florets with vinegar and season with salt to taste. Pour browned butter in skillet into small bowl and reserve for garnishing.
Process soup in blender until smooth — about 45 seconds. Rinse out pan. Return pureed soup to pan and return to simmer over medium heat, adjusting consistency with remaining water as needed (soup should have thick, velvety texture but should be thin enough to settle with flat surface after being stirred) and seasoning with salt to taste.
Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of browned butter, and chives and seasoning with pepper to taste.
By Cook's Illustrated
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
Anyway, the break was great, but I realized as I looked out of the airplane window and saw the swamp coming into view that I was happy to be back — South Louisiana is now home . . . and where my heart is.
So my very best friend from graduate school — yea, that's my out-of-place-in-South-Louisiana Syracuse license plate frame — made the great suggestion to make French toast with my 12th Street Bakery bread.
And make French toast we did this morning! My boys said they even liked it better than their beloved homemade waffles.
Anyway, here's a quick and fairly painless recipe for French toast from Food Network's Alton Brown, whom I love. . . just because he's so scientific about food.
In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. Pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.
By Alton Brown
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
And we added some pecans from the Bass Pecan Company in nearby-ish Lumberton, Mississippi, and, of course, some Louisiana strawberries. (Oh and that's kiwi from Italy . . . . totally far away, but hey, I'd love to live there and have local kiwi).
A new report came out this week that says Louisiana ranks near the bottom of the country for everyday people's access to locally grown foods. Like only three states — Arizona, Nevada and Texas — rank worse.
The report, called the Locavore Index by a Vermont-based group, ranks states according to number of farmer's markets, number of CSAs, number of food hubs (basically people who collect and distribute food from local farms and producers) and percentage of schools districts with farm-to-school programs.
And Louisiana doesn't look good. I don't know about you, but I've lived in the South long enough that I get tired of all the reports and research that shows the South stinks on everything from education to obesity and now access to local food. And yes, I know most are true. But I also know statistics don't define us.
So with that, I guess I see the discussion, discovery and celebration of local produce and the ways we share our food — I don't think the researchers in Vermont know about all my friends' backyard gardens or the guy that sells raw honey off his back porch — that we can nurture a culture that champions fresh, local foods.
And like the new Saint Francis Vegetable Garden that will start supplying fresh local food to area food banks this year, I see the interest. And everywhere I see the tradition. . . if we can just fight the culture of advertisers and their fast food.
Anyway, I've been thinking about farmer's markets, accessibility and the cost of produce a lot lately. So look for more on farmer's markets, home gardening and untracked roadside/home produce "stands" in Louisiana and the US. All things that make this assessment of accessability more complicated than stripped-down data presents and all the more reason to keep finding fresh.