In May, farmers markets around the metro open again. You may take your bag or basket and a wad of cash with the best of intentions—only the items on your list. And then you go, and well, you come back with more. A lot more.
You’ve been seduced by the beauty of just-picked rhubarb, creating its own ombré from dark pink to the palest of greens. Maybe you’ve been seized with desire for baby leeks or morels or asparagus. Maybe you couldn’t resist the brioche from a local baker, a farmstead cheese, or the jar of wildflower honey that was calling your name.
The point of shopping at a farmer’s market is to buy fresh and buy local. So if you don’t use your bounty right away, half of that equation is lost. What you need are template recipes that let these fresh ingredients shine.
With heavy cream, sugar, and lemons on hand, you can turn that rhubarb into a fabulous Lemony Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream from Prairie Home Cooking. Roast pieces of rhubarb sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice at 350 degrees so they caramelize and stay intact; it would be a shame to cook that beautiful rhubarb to a stringy mush. Likewise, make a crumble mixture of softened butter, flour, sugar and lemon zest; bake that on a baking sheet with the rhubarb until lightly browned, then crumble the crumble into tiny pieces. When cool, combine the rhubarb and crumbled crumble with cold, sweetened cream. Place it all in an ice cream maker, process, and enjoy a Philadelphia-style ice cream (meaning, no eggs) with a taste of spring.
Likewise, with baby leeks, morels and asparagus, a simple recipe is best. Morels need to be soaked in salt water to remove insects, then patted very dry. Baby leeks need to be sliced vertically and rinsed to remove any sandy grit. Asparagus needs its woody ends snapped off. Cut the leeks and asparagus on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces. Then, a quick sauté for the veggies in good butter, just a little cream to bind and add a sheen, a sprinkle of kosher salt and ground white pepper, and this spring dish could go over pasta or a slice of toasted brioche.
Or toast that brioche and serve with your farmstead cheese—perhaps a sheep’s milk cheese from Green Dirt Farm—and maybe a drizzle of wildflower honey—for a local cheese course every bit as delicious as what you’d find in the Hudson or Napa Valleys.