5 Farmers' Market Recipes for Summer

Stumped when it comes to cooking with beets, heirloom tomatoes, and escarole? Use these easy recipes to combat your fear of the season’s best farmers’ market finds.

Navigating the unfamiliar world of farmers’ market produce can make you want to hightail it back to the supermarket with its limp greens and depressing lighting. At least there you know the difference between a head of lettuce and a head of broccoli. But when you’re surrounded by towering baskets of Hobbit-like ramps and rhubarb or fiddleheads and fennel your culinary know-how can take a serious hit. If you can’t even figure out the basics—Do these go in a salad? Can I eat the stems and the leaves? Do I buy one or a bunch? Do I cook them or eat them raw?—chances are you’re not going to have a game plan for what to do with the newfangled fruits and vegetables when you get them home. Before you abandon your quest for fresh food and skulk back to your old standbys, start here. We’ve got five simple recipes that incorporate some of our farmers’ market favorites along with tips on what to look for when tackling the outdoor produce aisles. 

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What to Buy: Golden Beets (4)

What to Look for: Beets are usually sold with their leafy tops intact—look for ones sporting bright dark green leaves. Pick smooth-looking small to medium-size  beets (about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter); larger beets work, too, but be aware they can take an hour or longer to cook.

What You’ll Make: Roasted Beets

Here’s How:

  • Scrub beets well and chop into half-inch pieces. Place on a large piece of tin foil, close the tin foil to wrap up the beets, and place the packet on a baking sheet.
  • Roast beets in a pre-heated 425° Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes or until tender.
  • Once cool, strip off skin (if desired) and serve on a salad, as a side dish, or tossed with crumbled blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

What to Buy: Butternut Squash (1)

What to Look for: A large butternut squash that is hard to the touch and free of bruises. Opt for one that has a long top area and smaller base; the seeds of the squash are primarily in the bottom while the top will be solid without seeds, making it easier to work with.

What You’ll Make: Soba Butternut Squash Stir-Fry

Here’s How:

  • Use a peeler to remove the squash’s skin and a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into half-inch cubes and toss with 1 to 2 tsp sesame oil (adds a nutty flavor). Place them on a baking sheet.
  • Roast in a pre-heated 425° Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, prepare a package of soba (buckwheat) noodles per package instructions. Toss butternut squash with buckwheat noodles, and if necessary, add 1 to 2 tsp sesame oil and stir-fry together for 2 to 3 minutes in a large skillet or wok. 

What to Buy: Heirloom Tomatoes (1 medium tomato)

What to Look for: Select tomatoes that are firm to the touch. There are hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes that range in color from gold to orange to dark red—go for what appeals to you.

What You’ll Make: Super Simple Tomato Mozzarella Salad

Here’s How:

  • Chop an heirloom tomato into small pieces and toss with ¼ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, 2 to 3 chopped fresh basil leaves, 1 tsp olive oil, and ½ tsp oregano. Serve as a side dish with a meal or as a topping for grilled chicken.

What to Buy: Escarole (1 medium bunch)

What to Look for: Crisp, fresh-looking leaves that are dark in color and not wilted.

What You’ll Make: Garlicky Escarole

Here’s How:

  • Wash a bunch of escarole, pat dry with a towel or use a salad spinner, and then roughly chop.
  • In a large skillet, add 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil and 2 to 3 cloves minced garlic. Sauté garlic over medium heat for 1 minute. Add chopped escarole and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until wilted.
  • Optional: Finish with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve as a side dish or as a topping for burgers.

What to Buy: Watercress (1 bunch)

What to Look for: Crisp, fresh-looking leaves that are dark in color and not wilted.

What You’ll Make: AWT Stacked Sandwich

Here’s How:

  • Toast 1 slice whole-wheat bread. Slice ¼ of an avocado into thin slices. Chop ½ cup of watercress (use the thin stems and leaves, which are known for their peppery taste). Slice ½ of a tomato into thin slices.
  • Lightly spread toasted bread with light mayonnaise, a sprinkle of garlic powder, and then stack avocado, watercress, and tomato slices on top.

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