One year ago this week, I was terribly unhappy. Then, the Farmer’s Market changed my life. Hyperbole, you say? (Congratulations on your extensive vocabulary, incidentally). I say, truth. (My vocabulary *is* smaller than yours). After a very depressing winter, an unclear career direction, and a severe case of the blahs, I made a decision. The decision was to hit the reset button on my life, starting with my diet. The most profound change I made being to basically eliminate most processed foods from my diet. (Exceptions being minimally processed foods…like, I’m not going to go out and grind my own flour or anything. Some food innovations are OK; let’s not get crazy). A year later, I haven’t even had things like deli meats, candy (nope, not even Halloween or Easter), sodas, Subway™, or cereal (other than plain oatmeal). I don’t miss it. Possibly because, I’ve also been undeniably cheerful, felt amazing and rocked the best skin I’ve seen in years. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
After the decision, I basically had to learn to make a lot of food from scratch. I’m a runner and not a dainty eater to start. A girl’s got to feed herself. Problem was, I had my safe little dozen or so of fruits and vegetables I felt comfortable with and from which I had never really strayed. (In fact, one year I even made a New Year’s resolution to start experimenting with greens. Every week, I would purchase a new green to try. The greens would then sit in my vegetable bin until they turned into a liquid, and I threw them out. That’s *kind of* an experiment, right?!) Boredom was bound to set in quickly. The Farmer’s Market changed all this. I began finding local markets in the D.C. area to inspire myself to cook with new and different ingredients.
And it worked! Wandering the aisles, blinded by vibrant colors, helped by friendly farmers, enticed by amazing scents, I began to experiment a little more with my vegetable cooking each week. My diet got healthier. I got happier. Then, I got a job. Followed by, a whole career; part of which is doing demos teaching *other* people how to use that fresh, gorgeous produce in their own homes. See, I wasn’t kidding. The farmer’s market has enlivened and enriched my life.
Now, I’m one of those encouraging people at the market, showing off all that a good farm can offer. And I’m going to bring a little of that to you in this weekly column: Melissa@Market. So, come to the market with me. Explore the aisles. Pick a new ingredient. Listen to the farmer who says, “Go on. Try it…You’re just going to love it.”
It might just change your life.
Garbanzo Beans and Greens
Adapted from a 2011 Cooking Light recipe
Serves about 4
Oh, oh, oh- greens you have come a LONG way in my life. From your mushy pile in the depths of my fridge, you have risen to become the star of my kitchen. Kale, Collards, Escarole- I don’t care which hearty green you use in this recipe, because they are all spectacular.
And yes, this recipe calls for bacon. Bacon is my little secret to getting people who think they don’t like vegetables to eat vegetables. A little goes a long way, and that smell…well, I think we all know about the smell. Enticing, to say the least. I buy responsibly-raised local bacon at the market, but if you’d prefer you can substitute 2 tablespoons olive oil (or one tablespoon olive oil, one tablespoon butter for that richness).
2-3 strips bacon
1 cup chopped carrots (about 3 medium)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3-4 cups vegetable broth (depending on desired thickness)
2 15-oz. cans garbanzo beans, drained (if you’d prefer fresh, just pre-soak and cook them)
4 cups kale (or other hearty green), chopped or torn
Toppings: Plain Greek Yogurt (I get the 2%), Feta crumbles, lemon wedges (optional)
1. Cook bacon in a dutch oven or soup pot on medium heat. Remove bacon with tongs and leave fat. (Alternatively, just heat olive oil or olive oil/butter combo in pan.)
2. Crumble bacon and set aside.
3. Add chopped carrot and onion to bacon fat (still over medium heat). Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring.
4. Add garlic and stir for a minute or so longer.
5. Add paprika, salt, cumin and crushed red pepper and stir for about 30 seconds.
6. Turn up the heat and add broth and beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.
7. Add kale and cover the mixture and simmer for about 10 minutes.
8. Sprinkle in bacon crumbles (if desired) and stir.
9. Top with desired toppings. Serve with pita, naan or crusty bread for a delicious meal.
Life’s already too short- eat your veggies!