Peppers are stealing the show these days at the markets, appearing at farmers’ stalls in a rainbow of shapes and sizes, flavours and spiciness. As versatile as they are nutritious (they contain more than 200% of your daily vitamin C intake), peppers can be stewed, stuffed, sauteed, dried, or – our favourite – eaten raw like an apple.
Char them outside on your barbeque for maximum flavour explosion served with a side of garlic yogurt sauce.
String them up for use later in the season – chili ristras make a colourful display in your kitchen and can be added to recipes all winter long.
Freeze them (no blanching required) after cutting them into desired portions. Best used in cooking, not eaten raw.
While peppers are found in many recipes, anyone who’s ever tucked into a bowl of Hungarian lesco or eaten chili rellanos knows that peppers can make for an amazing, stand alone dish.
This week’s In Season recipe, which comes from our friends at Vancouver-based design firm Danica Studio, incorporates both peppers and cherry tomatoes in a panzanella-style dish that serves up all the amazing flavours of late summer.
Sweet Pepper + Cherry Tomato Panzanella
By: Danica Studio
3 sweet peppers
Red wine vinegar
2 –4 slices bread (depending on size)
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup small mozzarella balls (or quartered medium mozzarella balls)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Handful torn basil
Salt & pepper
- To toast the bread, drizzle olive oil onto the bread slices and place in the oven to toast.
- Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and drizzle with some olive oil, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar.
- Slice the peppers into 1-inch pieces and sauté in a pan with olive oil until softened. Drizzle with red wine vinegar when done.
- Toss all of the salad components together and let sit for 10 minutes before serving so the bread can absorbed some of the juices. Add a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper.
Did you know that VFM’s producers grow over 150 varieties of tomatoes – everything from Green Zebra to Black Krim to Brandywine Pink? Many of these will be on display and for tasting at our 16th Annual Tomato Festival, taking place at Trout Lake Market on August 26 and Kitsilano Market on August 27.
With so many colours, taste profiles, and textures, tomatoes are perhaps the most versatile of vegetables (fruits??) and find their way into culinary traditions across the globe. Soups, stews, sauces, garnish, salads, or just eaten raw – tomatoes are both pleasing to the palette and the eye.
How to choose & store: tomatoes taste best fresh off the vine, making farmers markets the perfect source for them – many of our vendors pick them the day before (or sometimes day of) they come to market. Look for brightly coloured fruit that are not too firm – store them outside the refrigerator and out of the reach of sunlight, unless they need an extra bit of ripening time.
Planning to can? Check with your local farmer to see if they sell B-grade tomatoes at a reduced price for canning and preserving.
Roast ’em: Try roasting your tomatoes with garlic in the oven instead of the traditional blanch and peel method for canning – the smokey flavour works great as a base for chilies, soups, and sauces.
Get your vitamins: tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene, and potassium. Cooking tomatoes actually boosts their nutritional qualities, making recipes like the Vegan Cream of Tomato Soup below from gardening blogger Rebecca Cuttler of Abundant City a heart-healthy and cancer-fighting power house.
Vegan Cream of Tomato Soup with Basil-Miso Pesto
- FOR THE SOUP:
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped (romas are ideal, but any variety will work)
- ½ cup roasted cashews
- ½ chili (optional)
- 3 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE PESTO:
- ½ cup walnuts
- 2 cups fresh basil, stems removed, packed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions. On medium-low heat, cook until they are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cashews and chili. Turn up the heat and add the water. Cook until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.
- Transfer to a blender and blend on high until the soup becomes creamy. You may need to do this in two or three batches, using a large bowl to hold the extra blended soup. Once everything is blended, return the soup to the pot, give it a stir and add generous amounts of salt and pepper.
- The soup should have a nice creamy consistency. If it is too thick, add more water as needed.
- While the soup is cooking, make the pesto by combining all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Eat immediately or store for up to a week in the fridge. If storing in the fridge, use the smallest jar you can find to help prevent the pesto from oxidizing (turning brown) and pour a thin layer of olive oil on top. The also pesto freezes beautifully. Use an ice cube tray or mini mason jars to freeze the pesto in portions.
- To serve, pour the soup into bowls and top with a spoonful of miso-basil pesto.
As temperatures rise in the city this week, enlist some foods with a hydrating, cooling quality to help you beat the heat and stay energized. Green foods like mint, cucumber, lettuce, and kale pair well with melons, citrus, and berries to produce light meals that skip a lot of fussy food prep and save you on dishes.
Salads, smoothies, and raw veggies with dip feature heavily in the VFM staff summer rotation, but for true hydration, check out Style By Beauty’s flavoured water recipes, featured recently on their lifestyle blog.
We’ve all stuck some cucumber and mint in our water from time to time, but Style’s Oz and Tarah take it to another level with the addition of berries, citrus, and raw honey. Read their full post about their flavoured waters here.
For something more substantial, try local food blogger Sara Steven’s (a.k.a. The Forest & Fig) Mint Greens Smoothie (recipe below). You can pick up most of the ingredients from Natural Village, Cropthorne Farm, or Sole Food at Main St. Station Farmers Market on Wednesday.
No time to make your own? Pick up a ready-to-blend Crimson Wave smoothie mix from The Good Stuff – they’ll be at Downtown Farmers Market this Thursday with a range of pre-made smoothies that are as healthy as they are convenient.
Mint Greens Smoothie
- 1 handful kale
- 1 handful spinach
- 1/2 a medium cucumber, roughly chopped
- 1 lime (peeled and halved)
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 apple (cored & sliced)
- 2 cups water
Blend it up & enjoy!
Summertime, and the eatin’ is easy…
Folks, we’ve officially arrived at that point in the year when you’ll find a dizzying array of fruits and vegetables at the markets – Christmas in July for all us locavores.
It’s the time of year when you often buy more than you can eat, just because everything looks so darn beautiful. In July, you don’t even have to ask yourself what’s for dinner coz you know it’s going to be a big pile of colourful veggies, probably not even cooked.
Zucchini? Slice it thin and eat it raw. Ditto for peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and kale. If you’re vegetarian, you probably have one of those spiralizers that makes everything look gorgeous… or how about grilled peaches with a little grass-fed cheese and baguette for dinner?
Bingo. It’s stone fruit showtime, and local apricots, peaches, cherries, and plums are not going to get any better than they are this month.
Where to buy: the famously delicious peaches from Klippers Organics made their debut at Trout Lake Market last week, and Golden West are bringing the first pick of their organic Bing and Rainier cherries there this Saturday. For midweek stone fruit munching, check out Rai Produce’s selection of cherries, apricots, peaches, and *gasp* early apples at Main St. Station and Downtown Markets.
How to choose & store: when selecting stone fruit, look for vibrantly coloured flesh that yields slightly and has the tell-tale sweet and flowery smell of ripeness. Refrigerate unwashed in a plastic bag and make sure to eat within 2-5 days.
Fruity sipping: try Apricot Ambrosia Chai made with BC apricots from Trudy Ann’s Chai & Spices. Hot or iced, we bet it would pair well with this week’s In Season recipe for a divine-looking Peach & Mascarpone Tart from local blogger and photographer Foodiecouver…
Peach & Mascarpone Tart
3.5 ounces gingersnap cookies
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 ounces cream cheese,
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
1-2 ripe peaches, cut into thin slices
Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind gingersnaps in food processor. Add butter and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of the tart pans with removable bottom. Bake crust until colour darkens, pressing sides with back of spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.
Beat first 7 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in crystallized ginger. Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Top with sliced peaches. Serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours.
It’s high season for berries at the markets right now, and we know you’re all hard at work jamming, baking, and preserving them at their peak.
Our vendors are busy too – not only the farmers, but our artisanal food producers who are using seasonal berries in a number of amazing food items in celebration of our 7th Annual Berry Festival this week.
Look out for micro batched Verrry Berrry Shrub from Mixers & Elixirs, limited edition Blueberry & Lavender Corn Bread Cakes from Nidhi’s Cuisine, traditional Blueberry Pieorgies from Old Country Pierogi, and Blueberry Pakoras from Mandair Farms.
Our friends at Odd Society Spirits are also joining in the berry game with a number of seasonally inspired cocktails like their gin-based BC Bramble and High Stakes Lemonade, featuring BC blueberries.
Our Berry Festival kicks off Wednesday, July 12 at Main St. Station Market and culminates with our annual Berry Pie Bake Off on July 16 at Mount Pleasant Market. Don’t miss farm-fresh berry tastings, kids activities, pie sampling, and special edition recipes like the yummy Blueberry Lemon Pudding Pie below from the BC Blueberry Council.
Blueberry Lemon Pudding Pie
- 2 large (100 g) eggs
- ¼ cup (35 g) cornstarch
- ½ cup (80 g) granulated sugar
- ¾ cup (175 ml) 35% whipping cream
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- ½ cup (115 g) salted butter, softened
- ¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice
- 4 cups (600 g) B.C. blueberries, fresh or frozen – divided
- 1¾ cups (240 g) graham cookies crumbs
- ¼ tsp (pinch) cinnamon
- ⅔ cup (150 g) salted butter, melted
- For the filling, whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar, whipping cream and milk. Cook mixture on medium heat, whisking constantly until heated and thickened for 6-7 minutes. Do not boil.
- Whisk half the hot mixture into the eggs. Return to the sauce pan with the remaining mixture, then whisk in the butter and lemon juice.
- Reheat mixture on low heat for another 3 minutes, again whisking constantly, do not boil.
- Transfer to a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour until cooled.
- For the crust, mix the cookie crumbs and cinnamon in a bowl; add the melted butter and mix. Transfer to a 9” pie dish, and press mixture evenly to the bottom and sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Fold 2 cups of the blueberries into the chilled pudding, then pour into the pie shell and top with remaining blueberries.
- Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours. Serve chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.