Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wild Wednesday

Farmer's Market Season! It's officially here in all its glory!

In the five years since I moved to Nashville, the ability to buy directly from the local farmer has increased exponentially. If you schedule yourself properly and are willing to eat "in season", you can buy the majority of your produce at one of the markets cropping up all over.

My mission (and I choose to accept it): Trek to the East Nashville Farmers Market every Wednesday and cook that nights dinner from my bounty.

My inspiration, besides the fact that I have always LOVED farmer's markets, is this book by Deborah Madison .

It is a great book, set up by what is in season rather than by dish. I look forward to using it frequently to plan a meal after I shop.

So for the first Wednesday I made Bright Lights Chard Gratin. The market was full of chard today with its bright red stems and full dark green leaves. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be on our table tonight.

OMG! Garlicky, bitter and creamy provide a taste sensation to dance on your tongue. The scent of garlic wafted through the house while it was baking, making it difficult to step outside for the time it took to grill the shrimp. But because I am a good wife to my shrimp loving husband (and I tend to also love it), I made the ultimate sacrifice and spent some time on the deck away from the oven.

I can't wait until next Wednesday!

And for a final parting thought, every week I will dazzle you with the Top Ten Reasons to Buy Local. I am hoping one will inspire you!

Number One
"Locally grown food tastes better. Food grown in your own community is usually picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet, and loaded with flavor. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a weeklong delay from harvest to dinner plate, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality."

Bright Lights Chard Gratin (Adapted from Deborah Madison)

2 pounds chard, including half of the stems
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons chopped cives
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup mixture of milk and whole mile ricotta (the original recipe calls for milk or cream)
1 cup crumbled goats milk feta

Separate the leaves and chard stems. Wash the leaves in plenty of water, then coarsely chop them. Trim the ragged edges off the stems, wash them well, then dice them into small pieces.

Melt the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has begun to brown a bit, about 20 minutes. Add the chard leaves, sprinkle with
1 teaspoon salt, and cook until they’re wilted and tender, another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F and lightly oil a 2-quart gratin dish. Melt half the butter in a small skillet and add the bread crumbs, garlic, and chives. Cook, stirring for about a minute, then scrape the crumbs into a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

Melt the rest of the butter, stir in the flour, then whisk in the milk and ricotta. Simmer for 5 minutes, season with ½ teaspoon salt, and add to the chard mixture. Add the cheese, then taste the mixture, correct for salt, and season with pepper.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and cover with the bread crumbs. Bake until heated through and golden on the surface, about 25 minutes. Let settle a few minutes before serving.

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