Straight Ahead by Mike Floyd, The Courier-Times

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for coming out to the cooking demonstration last Saturday. April 14, at the Person County Farmer’s Market.  Despite the nagging wind gusts, our crew hung in there and served up some great food and even had a few laughs.
By crew, I mean my friend and fellow journalist Grey Pentecost, local chef Pauline Porterfield, NC Extension agent Bess Hester-Whitt and J.Ed Hall, chief volunteer and market manager.  Without their help, I’d still be loading dirty pans and pepper grinders into the back of my Honda Civic!
According to J. Ed, there were over 140 visitors/shoppers that showed up to buy all the fresh produce and watch us cook and then taste our goodies.  I have done many food shows, wine/food pairings over the past 20 years and this was apparently a huge success according to feedback of the 15 or so vendors present.  We prepared a lot of their produce in a simple fashion so that freshness was featured and contrasted well with the Italian pork sausage, meat sauce and fresh sour dough baguettes (very long, loaves of bread).  We cooked with local kale, Swiss chard, spring green’s mix, ground beef from Roger’s Farm, kalamata olives, Angel’s Nest Bakery rolls and fresh North Carolina asparagus!!  We seasoned freely with fresh garlic, olive oil, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.
The dual reward for people like Grey and me is that we’re actually demonstrating that delicious, healthy fresh food is not that difficult to prepare.  A nice, hefty chef’s knife, a large cutting board and a steady rocking motion with your hand will make fast work of any root or leafy vegetables.  Shoot, our “crew” whipped up enough food for over 100 people to sample in about an hour and watching the people enjoy it and ask questions made it all worthwhile.
The second reward comes when we explain that you can buy your entire groceries for supper at the market that day and make a great meal at home that night.  All you have to do is supply a starch such as rice, pasta or potatoes and you’re eating fresh, delicious healthy and so much more cheaply than eating out.  Plus, you can cook a double batch and have another great meal in a day or so.  It’s expensive to have lunch out every day, you know.
The market is open on Wednesday and Saturday and I feel that if these vendors are going to take the time to bring in their products, set up a display and bring the local consumers a fine selection of spring vegetables, the least everyone can do is stop and check out what they have and what’s going on under that big, free standing roof across from Cook-Out on 501 in town.  You may be very surprised at how interesting it is talking to the actual growers of the food and their knowledge of its nutritional value and how to prepare it.
I really, really enjoy watching people taste sautéed Swiss chard with onions, fresh garlic in a fruity olive oil and dressed with nice red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and sprinkled with grated Italian cheese.  For me, I love it on toasted bread (bruschetta), or stirred into my pasta sauce or even matched up in nice, 3-egg omelet (they sell country eggs at the market, too!) with a good havarti or cheddar cheese.  Throw a little hot sauce on there and you’re right down Broadway, mon ami.
Many of you are familiar with collard, mustard and turnips greens and I love them, too.  But, I think Swiss chard and kale have a deeper, richer “greens” taste and are more versatile.  Adding Swiss chard and fresh mushrooms to a stir-fry will guarantee a big taste wallop with chicken or pork.  You can try this following recipe with some grilled pork chops, fresh, sliced mango (it pairs well with the Swiss chard) and a short-grain brown rice pilaf.
Recipe:  In a 6 quart Dutch oven, add 1/3 cup of good quality olive oil, bring to almost a medium heat and add 1 medium onion, chopped.  Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Then, add 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced and stir about another minute.  Meanwhile, Chop up 2 large heads of fresh, clean Swiss chard (clean out all sand thoroughly) while onions are cooking, leaving in the center stalk if the leaves are fresh.
Add all chopped chard to pot, cover with pan and let them cook down for 3 minutes.  Since they contain more water than collards, they will reduce much quicker and become softer sooner, too.  Add about a teaspoon each of kosher salt and ground pepper, stir and cover.  After about 3-4 minutes, turn down heat to medium low; add about 1/3 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar and stir.  I usually add about a tablespoon of the olive oil and that point and sometimes a little hot sauce or dried pepper flakes.
Stir and cover and shut off heat.  The Swiss chard should all be dark green and glossy from the olive oil. Let cool and then check for salt and pepper and add if desired. Kale can be substituted but I would remove center stalk from it, as they are pretty chewy.
These greens are now ready for just about thing you want to use them for.  At the market last week, I stuffed some into a roll, put in a grilled Johnsonville Italian sausage, covered with Italian meat sauce and grated Romano cheese and even I was surprised at how great they were.   I say you owe it to yourself to come down to the market on the Boulevard and see what kind of new goodies you can cook up.  And go check the nutritional value of fresh kale and Swiss chard on the Internet.
It is a bona-fide super food full of vitamins, great fiber and minerals and it’s about time you added it to your diet, for Pete’s sake!
Check out the PCFM website:  personcountyfarmersmarket.com for more info or call 336-599-1195

Posted with permission of Mike Floyd, The Courier-Times

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