Flavor is in Season!
The farmers markets are open, which means overflowing bins of fresh, in-season produce to choose from! Grab your reusable shopping bag, fill it up and give these delicious, healthy recipes a try.
By Zara Abbasi, Photography by Katie Childs
Spring is here! It’s hands down my favorite time of the year in Arkansas. The temperature is just right, things are blooming and you can finally get back outside to enjoy the Natural State for all the beauty and bounty it brings. One of my favorite things to do during this season is to invest in allergy medication…I mean…wipe the pollen from all the surfaces in my home…I mean…OK, so spring comes with its own set of issues, but one of my all-time favorite things to do to make up for the allergies is to hit up the farmers market and make it worth the literal headache. In Little Rock alone, I think we have 4-5 different markets on the weekends. I love talking to the farmers and asking them what they recommend. Stand there long enough, you might just get them to spill their own favorite family recipes. I’ve learned so much from the farmers at these markets. They’re quick to answer questions, greet you with a smile, and throw in a few extras sometimes. I don’t just love the produce I haul back, but also the conversations.
So what does all this talk about farmers markets mean and why am I bringing it up? Because for eons, people have known that you should eat what’s in season where you live. Why does that even matter, though, when you can get whatever you want from a nice, air-conditioned grocery store. It matters because in a grocery store, you might not know where your food came from or what’s in season. At a farmers market, however, they will have only the produce grown at their farms, and will have only what they recently picked (thus, in-season produce). Not to mention you get to help out local families sustain their farm.
But either way you choose to go, eating in-season produce is the goal! It not only saves you money because there’s an abundance of it and food mileage goes down, but it also tastes better and is better for you. Fruits and produce are picked at the peak of their freshness so they have very little time between picking, shipping (if not local) and getting them to your kitchen; this means better quality and flavors. And, dieticians (like my sweet father) have beat it into my head that eating seasonally is more nutritious for you. Because plants get their nourishment from the sun and soil, produce and fruit that are picked when ripe and fully developed will have had more sun exposure, which may create higher levels of anti-oxidants (unlike produce/fruits out of season picked before their peak around the world so that they can sustain the transit time without rotting).
So, there you go! Spring equals another chance for renewal and being a better person by choosing to eat seasonally when possible. OK, so next step is figuring out what is in season and when! This isn’t as hard to do as you think. Go to the farmers market and see what they’re selling and talk to the farmers themselves. If going to a grocery store, look around at the fruits and produce and keep an eye on the prices. If there’s a sale on something there’s probably an abundance of it, which might mean it’s in season. You can also check out eattheseasons.com for a handy list of what’s in season and other helpful links.
So for the month of April, a lot is in season: asparagus, broccoli, leeks, beets, citrus fruits and so much more. I challenge you to find out what else is in season and give the following recipes a try!
Asparagus Parmesan Risotto
I love making this dish. It’s essentially elevated comfort food. It’s vegetarian and chock full of flavors, nutrients, and a culinary hug. And we’re using quite a few seasonal ingredients such as shallots, asparagus, peas and citrus. Hope you give this a try.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 shallots finely chopped (or one small onion)
2 teaspoons minced, fresh garlic
1 cup sweet green peas
1 pound asparagus, washed, peeled, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
1½ cups arborio rice
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup heavy cream (1/4 cup coconut cream to make vegan)
1 cup Parmesan (omit if making vegan)
3-4 basil leaves, chopped
Zest of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium low heat. Add in shallots or onions coking for 4-5 minutes. Add in garlic and stir to incorporate.
2. Add rice and stir to coat with butter mixture.
3. Stir in ½ cup of the broth until absorbed.
4. Add in asparagus and continue adding broth in ½-cup increments until absorbed, making sure to stir after each addition.
5. Add in cream, cheese, basil, peas and zest. Taste for seasonings and add additional salt if necessary and a touch of freshly cracked black pepper.
6. Enjoy as is or serve alongside grilled salmon or roasted chicken.
Cauliflower Fried Rice
I don’t know about you but I have a love affair with my Chinese takeout guy…OK that came out wrong—the MSG might be making me crazy. What I mean is, I love Chinese takeout! So much so that my kids ask for Chinese food as much as they ask for Chick-Fil-A! True story! But here’s the thing about my beloved Chinese food: It’s not always that great for you. Insert super sad face, wailing emoji. But I’m not too shabby in the kitchen and have attempted to make many of my favorite dishes at home with great success! I don’t like all the work when I could just hit that speed dial, but I know it’s better for me in the long run. Le sigh.
So one of the things I like to eat…er…make…is Cauliflower Fried Rice. It’s not an abomination, guys. Just hear me out. It’s healthy, in season and tastes the same!
1 tablespoon oil
2 eggs, plus 1 teaspoon oil mixed
1 small head cauliflower (not a big head because they’re so conceited)
¾ to 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
2 green onions chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1. Mix 1 teaspoon oil and eggs and set aside.
2. Chop cauliflower into big chunks and then grate using a grate plate in the food processor.
3. Measure out 4 cups of the grated cauliflower.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat and add in cauliflower, green onions and mixed vegetables and cook 4-5 minutes. Add in garlic and stir.
5. Make a hole in the center of the mixture by moving all the cauliflower mixture aside, then add in the eggs and scramble slightly, then mix into the rest of the pan.
6. Add in soy sauce and test for salt and pepper.
7. Garnish with more chopped green onions and Sriracha (optional).
8. Serve with your favorite protein such as teriyaki chicken or mix it into the rice dish. Enjoy!