Cooks Exchange

Load up on fresh vegetables and herbs and get cooking

As farmers markets spring back open, be sure to take advantage of the fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, herbs or other specialties.
As farmers markets spring back open, be sure to take advantage of the fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, herbs or other specialties. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Let’s hope the sun shines on the first Herb Fest at Florence Gardens in Gulfport. I for one am ready for the rain and gray days to stop and to let the sun shine in.

The spring farmers’ markets, festivals and arts and crafts venues have me wanting to hit the road. I love exploring and can’t wait to make good “finds.” At the food markets, I am ready for fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, herbs or whatever the vendors bring.

Sunday, April 7, is a big day for the Florence Gardens Farmers Market. Admission is free to the first herb fest there, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the center of Florence Gardens, 12321 Preservation Drive, Gulfport. This market is open on Sundays, which gives me a chance to hit a couple on Saturday and this one on Sunday afternoon.

Besides the produce and food vendors, an herb walk is planned with local herbalist Lynda Baker, mini-workshops and tastings are planned. Even pets are welcome to tag along.

If the skies are gray, pack an umbrella, too. This event goes on rain or shine.

Gulfport Harbor Farmers Market is back for another season, Wednesdays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Barksdale Pavilion.

Long Beach hosts its farmers market and arts and crafts day a day before Florence Garden’s Herb Fest. The 2019 Arts and Crafts Day will be April 6, and continue the first Saturday of May, October, November and December. Organizers hope to showcase community artists and offer them a chance to sell their wares, along with the variety of food and produce growers. The farmers market is every Saturday in Long Beach.

Several other farmers markets offer fresh produce and specialty items in South Mississippi.

Now, let’s see what kind of fresh produce to expect. Go for the greens: broccoli, cabbage, green peas, green beans, pole beans, kale, kohlrabi and greens. Do not forget to check out the strawberries, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

OK, so you have bought fresh veggies, now what do you do? Cabbage is an easy fix but be certain to season it well. Greens take plenty of washing. A friend of mine used to wash hers in the washing machine to get the dirt off, which I do not recommend. Be sure each leaf is washed well to remove any dirt or grit on the leaves. Who wants to fix a mess of greens only to have them be gritty?

Broccoli and cauliflower also are easy ones. These can be steamed, sautéed or even roasted with garlic, salt and pepper. A favorite way to do sweet potatoes is to pop them in the microwave and bake like white potatoes. After cooking, split the potato open, put in a pat of butter and a little sugar and cinnamon.

Here are two full-blown recipes for preparing these late March and April veggies. Both recipes can be done in 30 minutes. Imagine that, fresh veggies for dinner as quick as opening a package of processed food? The broccoli and ham quiche is gluten-free and low-carb.

PASTA CARBONARA WITH CABBAGE AND MUSHROOMS

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems remove, sliced into 1/2-inch strips

6 ounces bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch strips

8 ounces tagliatelle or linguine

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more

1 medium heat of cabbage, about 1 pound, cored, sliced into ¼-inch ribbons

2 large egg yolks

2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, divided, plus more for serving

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over high. Cook mushrooms and bacon, stirring often, until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Reserve fat in skillet.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid.

Heat skillet with reserved fat over high. Add cabbage, press into an even layer and cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes; season with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Turn cabbage with tongs, then continue to cook, undisturbed, until lightly charred in places and still crisp in others, about 2 minutes more.

Whisk egg yolks, 1 ounce Parmesan and 3/4 cup pasta cooking liquid in a large bowl until a smooth, glossy sauce forms. Add pasta and stir to coat. Add reserved mushrooms and bacon, cabbage, pepper and 1 ounce Parmesan and toss again, adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed to loosen the sauce.

Divide past among bowls. Top with more Parmesan.

– From www.epicucurious.com

CHEESEY CRUSTLESS QUICHE WITH BROCCOLI AND HAM

Vegetable oil spray (for the pan)

1 medium stalk broccoli, stem and crown

5 ounces ham steak, cubed

1 1/2 cups grated cheddar (about 7 ounces)

2 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare the oven and baking dish: Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round ceramic baking dish or pie pan with vegetable oil. Have a baking sheet on hand.

Prepare the broccoli: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cut a sliver off the bottom of the broccoli stem and peel the stem with a vegetable peeler. Slice the stem into 1/2 inch-thick, bite-size pieces. Cut the broccoli crown into small florets.

Cook the broccoli in the boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Strain the broccoli to remove the water and spread the broccoli over the bottom of the baking dish.

Add the ham and cheese to the baking dish: Distribute the ham cubes over the broccoli. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cheese to sprinkle on top of the filled quiche. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the broccoli.

Make the custard: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks together. Whisk in the cream, salt, and pepper. Pour the cream mixture over the filling in the pan and sprinkle the top with the reserved cheese.

Bake the quiche: Set the baking dish on the baking sheet and place it in the oven. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Bake the quiche for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the center puffs but is still slightly wobbly in the center.

Cool the quiche: Set the baking dish on a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into wedges. Quiche can be served warm or at room temperature. Serve with fresh strawberries.

– From www.simplyrecipes.com

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.
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