Celebrate summer and the Farmers Market

23 Jun Celebrate summer and the Farmers Market

by Sydne George

Summer has arrived, and the living is good, especially for those of us who have excitedly awaited the Great Falls Farmers Market season and the bounty of freshly picked produce it brings. Farmers Market is every Sat­urday morning from 7:45 to noon in the Civic Center Park downtown. Starting July 14, midweek Farmers Market will run every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 in the afternoon.

While produce in grocery stores is trucked hundreds of miles, farmers market vegeta­bles and fruits are often grown locally and picked fresh, allow­ing produce to ripen naturally, boosting its nutritional value.

Wandering through the first market of the season, I was pleasantly surprised to see not only the lettuces and tomatoes but also cucumbers, fresh basil, green tomatoes, snap peas, asparagus, avocados, carrots, zucchini, cantaloupe, green onions, green peppers and pota­toes.

My first stop was at the Colby Farms stand out of Chester. Two cheerful young ladies busily filled orders for green tomatoes and cucumbers. Luckily, I nabbed the last two baggies of fresh basil, broad bright green leaves bursting with fragrance.

Then it was on to Glacier Pro­duce from Columbia Falls for tender young asparagus, freshly picked snap peas from Washing­ton and juicy strawberries from California.

My last stop before heading home and into the kitchen was Aaladins Fruit and Vegetables, where Mike Newgard greeted me warmly and proudly showed off the radishes, green onions, carrots and leaf lettuce on their tables. Newgard told me the first part of the season is rough, so they get most of their produce from California for awhile.

“We just follow the crop,” he said, “from Arizona to Texas to  Mexico. We get great melons from Oregon and beautiful pro­duce from Washington.”

By next month there will be more good produce from Mon­tana, Newgard said, and not long after that, he’ll have fresh huckleberries, too.

I could hardly wait to unpack my Farmers Market finds and get cooking.

The asparagus was so pretty I almost hated to cook it, so I gently blanched it and arranged it in the bottom of a crust for an asparagus, brie and chive tart.

The vine-ripened tomatoes needed little more than a splash of basil oil, fresh basil leaves and sliced fresh mozzarella and presto to become a stacked cap­rese salad.

And for the finale, a batch of strawberry shortcakes, making the most of the succulent red berries from Glacier Produce. It was fast, fresh and fabulous, a Farmers Market feast.


ASPARAGUS, BRIE AND CHIVE TART

 1 pound fresh asparagus, stalks washed and trimmed to about 4 inches For the crust:

 2 cups flour

 ¾ cup oil

 ¼ cup cold water

 ½ tsp. salt For the filling:

 2 eggs

 ¾ cup milk

 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

 ¼ tsp. salt

 ½ cup brie, trimmed and cut in 2 inch strips

 2 tsp. freshly snipped chives

Preheat oven to 425°.

Blanch trimmed asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 6 minutes. Immediately drain into a colander filled with ice to stop the cooking.

While the asparagus is cook­ing, make the crust. Combine crust ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir to com­bine.

Form dough into a ball and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper, making a circle about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer dough into 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges.

Arrange blanched asparagus in prepared crust, creating a spoked wheel pattern with asparagus tips pointing out­ward.

Fit brie slices in between asparagus spears.

Whisk together filling ingre­dients and fill tart shell, being careful not to drown the aspara­gus. The asparagus won’t be visible if you cover it with fill­ing.

Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until brie is golden brown and filling is set.

Let cool slightly. Slice and serve warm with chive blos­soms, if desired.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE


 2 cups flour

 ¼ cup sugar plus 2 tsp.

 1 tbsp. baking powder

 ¼ tsp. salt

 6 tbsp. cold butter

 1 egg

 1 tsp. vanilla

 ½ cup heavy cream plus 2 tsp.

 1 cup heavy cream

 ¼ cup sugar

 1 tsp. vanilla

 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced into ½ inch pieces

 2 tbsp. sugar

Make the shortcakes.

Preheat oven to 425°.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder and salt.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender or using a fork until butter is well distributed.

Whisk together egg, vanilla and ½ cup cream until well­mixed.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until combined. Gather dough into a ball and roll out on lightly floured sur­face to ¾-inch thick.

Using a cookie cutter, cut out shortcakes and place about an inch apart on a buttered baking sheet.

Brush each shortcake with remaining 2 tsp. cream and sprinkle with 2 tsp. sugar.

Bake in preheated oven about 15 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to cooling rack and cool.

Whip 1 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form.

Add ¼ cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla and beat until smooth.

Just before serving sprinkle 2 tbsp. sugar over sliced straw­berries.

To assemble, slice each shortcake in half horizontally and place on dessert plate.

Lift off each lid and set aside. Top shortcake bottom with fresh strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Replace shortcake top, gar­nish with fresh mint and serve.

Serves 10.

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