Since the Montford Farmers Market opened last month, I have been indulging a rather serious love affair with the simple act of walking from my office, across the bridge into Montford, armed with a camera, about $20 and a couple of cloth shopping bags. I start at the end of my day, around 5 p.m., and manage to catch the farmers in the hour right before they pack it up. Then I walk back, climb into my car, and head home to cook up a seriously good local feast to celebrate the end of the day.
Though some of the best produce has been snatched up by the time I get there, there are some deals to be found. Yesterday, one baker offered me a dollar off his last loaf of bread, simply so he could close up shop and wander over to the Asheville Brewing Company stand to buy a pint before the market officially ended. Look, that’s just charming. And yes! This market has beer!
Yes, yes. I know there are other Wednesday farmers markets, as this detail is frequently pointed out to me when I talk about how excited I am for the Montford market. There’s the French Broad Co-op Market, the Asheville City Market South and the Weaverville Tailgate Market. None of them are as pleasant of a walk for me, but maybe they are for you.
And the Asheville City Market on Charlotte Street might offer more variety, but it’s on Saturday mornings. Technically, it ends in the afternoon at 1 p.m., but I’m particularly lazy on weekends. It’s the only time that I don’t feel like accomplishing anything beyond making a gigantic breakfast without changing out of whatever I slept in. But I’m sure plenty of you put wandering around a farmers market once a week at the top of your list on a weekend morning.
Whenever you do it, including a trip to the farmers market in your weekly routine is likely to be one of the healthiest and happiest things you can do with an hour of your time.
I manage to squeak by on about $20 worth of produce a week if I shop at the Montford market with a frugal eye — meaning no unnecessary treats (although one of these days I’m going to have a spree and load up on all of the cheese, jam and desserts I can carry home).
Sometimes I grab some N.C. seafood or some tempeh from the Viable Cultures booth. Getting by on that little bit of money (which sometimes goes to feed one additional mouth) requires a little bit of planning and creativity to keep from getting bored. I’ll continue to post market-inspired ideas throughout the growing season on www.mountainx.com/dining.
Here is what I made last night. It’s a simple but good meal that you can make if you have a little extra time on your hands. For exact proportions, you’ll just have to wing it by taste. Have faith in yourself. All of the produce (except for citrus), herbs and seafood were procured at the market.
Seared N.C. coastal mahi over Napa slaw with yellow tomato-cucumber relish and roasted baby potatoes.
For slaw, toss together:
Thinly sliced Napa cabbage
grated red onion
pinch of celery seed, caraway seed, salt and pepper
dash of seasoned rice wine vinegar and squeeze of lemon
spoonful of mayo (optional) or dash of sesame oil
Work the slaw with your hands until the acids and salt break down the cabbage a bit. Set aside.
For relish, toss together:
diced yellow tomato and seeded cucumber
basil chiffonade (cut into tiny ribbons)
minced red onion
dash rice wine or cider vinegar
couple of pounds of tiny potatoes, all roughly the same size
peeled whole garlic cloves
coarse ground salt and pepper
whole rosemary sprigs
butter and olive oil
Method: preheat oven to 350. Heat skillet of stove top on medium heat. Toss everything together in the skillet, then throw the whole pan in the oven and roast until soft. So easy.
Completing the dish:
Pat fish dry, then add salt and pepper, smoked paprika (if you have it on hand). Sear on both sides in a bit of oil (heated until nearly smoking) until just cooked through. Serve over potatoes and slaw, spoon relish over fish.
Enjoy with viognier or pinot grigio or another favorite white.