Too many vegetables, too little time

You know, working from home as a food, etc. journalist can be a conflict of interest. In theory, I have the flexibility to take my time mid-morning at the Wednesday farmers market, perusing, chatting, “researching,” if you will. I have conducted interviews for stories while getting my groceries, but I’ve also gotten carried away and nearly missed the exercise class (that I teach) when the market first kicked off. I arrive with a short list, and then I see the tables and tables of vegetables… that’s where the problem begins.

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You see, I can’t resist those vegetables. Even when my husband’s out of town and I know I’ll have more of an urge to work until midnight than to cook up a big meal for one, I can’t stop myself. I buy a big bundle of the most beautiful produce I can find, escaping reality and dreaming up all the lovely dishes I’ll turn them into. And then lunch comes, and then dinner, and I’m busy. And I realize I’ve eaten three square meals of eggs and/or bananas and peanut butter.

It doesn’t help my cooking goals that I started a new part-time job this week, also from my home office! Along with my regular freelance work, I’ll be covering Virginia’s exciting environmental conundrums, often as they intersect with agriculture, for the Chesapeake Bay JournalI’ll also write some DC and Anacostia watershed stories. So between that and writing about/being obsessed with the Nat’l Spelling Bee, it’s been a busy week.

By lunch the day after the market (yesterday), the guilt I felt when I opened the fridge to see those vegetables patiently waiting was overriding my stomach-grumbling desire to just stuff something in my face. It was already after 1 p.m., but I went into cooking mode. I glanced at the clock, had 20 minutes between interviews, and decided to make a mad dash at making something.

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Realizing I hadn’t eaten meat all week (OK, eggs sort of count), I started with some grass-fed ground beef in the pan, which is never very photogenic. Then I cooked my bevy of veggies in the juices. It was as good of an idea as I thought it would be, but you can easily make this vegetarian style (or try Joe Yonan & Mark Bittman’s farmers market lunch recipe).

Within 20 minutes, I had filled three plastic containers with dishes to carry me through the week — and had made quite a mess of my kitchen. As much as I love fennel and beets, I think I’ll be finding green fronds and blood-red spots all over my kitchen for a while (but, not to worry, the dishes man was due back that night.)

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Though it’s not really a recipe beyond slice-and-throw-all-this-in-a-hot-pan, I’ll share what I got at the market (I got all of this at the market) and what it turned into, in recipe form. Oh, and I guess you could call this a hash, which I’ve written about before. Or a vegetable medley? Farmers market explosion? How about…

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Farmers Market Medley  

  • One fennel bulb thinly sliced (easiest with a julienne), use fronds as an herb to top
  • 5 or 6 small zucchini and yellow squash, sliced into thin coins
  • Beet or other greens: chopped stems separated from roughly chopped leaves (Roast beets in oven for a snack with cheese later on, or as a side.)
  • A half onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic (young and mild at the market this time of year), sliced or minced
  • Herbs (from your garden?) I used thyme and a little lemon sage.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • Coconut milk
  • 1 lb. ground beef, optional
  • A fried egg to top (not optional, in my opinion)

Cook the ground beef in a large wok or pan until crumbly. Set aside. Add onions and garlic to the pan, cooking 2 minutes, then add fennel, squash (and/or carrots or other harder veggies). Cook until just tender. These early season vegetables don’t need much. Salt and pepper and set aside with meat.

Then add beet green stems to the pan and cook with salt and pepper. Add olive oil if liquid is needed. Cook until tender, then add beet leaves. Pour a bit of coconut milk in to help wilt the leaves, stirring. Add lots of salt and pepper (in my opinion), which makes the greens come alive. Once wilted (don’t overcook!), set aside in a separate container. This way you can layer the greens underneath the hash, or leave them out all together (sometimes you have to be in the mood for beet greens).

Eat right away or store for great leftovers. Add a fried egg on top for an Instagram-worthy lunch (serve in your new, beloved bowl from Anthropologie, that your sweet in-laws bought you).

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So, however busy your week is, take time to shop the farmers market and make something delicious. Because all too soon, the summer’s bounty will be gone.


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