Take a chance on new veggie at farmers market

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Bee keepers Dennis and Anne Bukala from Dennanne Farms have a booth at the Oak Park Farmers' Market. | Melissa Elsmo~for Sun-Times Media

Family farm to table lunch featuring zucchini flowers and patty pan squash. | Melissa Elsmo~for Sun-Times Media

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Saying good-bye to spring’s deceptively pungent garlic scapes, teeny-tiny crimson strawberries and horror film famous fava beans may be difficult for some folks, but the advent of summer brings delicate zucchini flowers, misshapen heirloom tomatoes and luscious peaches to our tables.

Cherish these farmers market favorites while you can as these fleeting flavors will soon give way to juicy watermelons, soup bound turnips and ruffled Brussels sprouts.

Wandering through the Oak Park Farmer’s Market with a piping hot doughnut in hand is a weekly adventure worth taking. The market endures a seasonal transformation on an almost weekly basis throughout the summer; missing any given week could mean skipping over an annual delicacy.

Bring some cash to the market and let the bounty of the season a guide what ends up on your plate. I always make a point to select at least one item from the farmers market that my kids are unfamiliar with.

If you are unsure how best to use an unfamiliar local ingredient, don’t avoid making a purchase; simply strike up a conversation with your local famers and learn how to use their wares to their fullest potential at home. As a result, you and your family are sure to end up with an arsenal of exciting new summer dishes to add to your cooking repertoire.

Melissa Elsmo is an Oak Park mom, wife and chef/foodie. She speaks regularly about reclaiming the family dinner hour with nutritious meals. Check out her food blog at www.outofmelskitchen.blogspot.com.

Mel’s Featured Farmer’s Market Vendor

Dennanne Farms

Elgin, IL

Dennis and Anne Bukala are bee keepers and artisan honey makers. Their 100 percent natural, unpasteurized honey is new to the Oak Park Farmer’s Market this year and the Bukala’s are pleased with the well educated consumers at market. Look for the Dennanne Farms’ booth in the northeast corner of the market and bring home a jar or two of their honestly sweet honey to enjoy with a batch of homemade biscuits or in place of white sugar in your favorite recipes.

Summer Farm to Table Lunch:

Ricotta Filled Squash Blossoms and Patty Pan Squash

July brings peak zucchini and zucchini blossom season. I picked up both from the booth run by Nichols Farm at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market and turned them into a delectable farm to table lunch for my family. Seek them out the next time you are at the market; they won’t last long!

1 cup part-skim Ricotta cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, divided

2 Tablespoons basil, chopped

Salt and pepper

12 squash blossoms

12 yellow and green patty pan squash

2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

¼ teaspoon Red pepper flakes

Olive oil

6 fresh basil leaves

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup ice water

In a small bowl mix the ricotta, ¼ C Parmesan, and 2T basil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a Ziploc bag. Leave the bag open, cut a hole in the corner and use it like a piping bag to fill the squash blossoms. Each will hold about 1T depending on size. Twist the top of the blossoms to secure.

Place the patty pan squash in a pan with 1” of water bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and allow squash to cook for 8 minutes. Pour off the water and add the 2T Parmesan cheese and the red pepper flakes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Pour enough olive oil into a deep skillet to come 2” up the sides. When oil is hot fry the six basil leaves until deep green and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Combine the flour and the ice water in a mixing bowl whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Dip the filled blossoms in the flour mixture and immediately drop into the hot oil. Fry on both sides until batter is crispy (it won’t really brown) about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

Pile the hot finished patty pan squash and fried blossoms on a platter and garnish with the fried basil leaves. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Makes 4 Servings.