When we opened our doors on a cold and rainy November morning, we made a promise to ourselves to use fresh, seasonal, local produce in our café, on our dinner menus and to sell in our market. And though I love a good root vegetable – beets, turnips, radishes, winter squashes and potatoes – no one was happier than me to see the weather turn from winter to spring, bringing with it a new produce season.
First came the mushrooms, and not just the usual cremini and portabello but beech mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and maitake mushrooms as well! Hot on their heels came the rest of the goodies. I have never been so excited to see rhubarb, spring garlic, and, at long last, tomatoes and strawberries. Hallelujah, now the fun begins! For starters, we will be eating everything straight up raw, or maybe with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. We will also be experimenting with the produce – cooking with them, adding them to pasta and soups, making desserts and pastries – seeing how to best capture their natural flavors to enhance our favorite dishes.
Stop by and enjoy the bounty at Via Umbria! Take our produce home to prepare in your kitchen, or if you’re not up to cooking, you can enjoy them in our café or at a dinner event. If you see something unfamiliar that you don’t know how to cook – ask! We are ready to help.
Via Umbria gets deliveries from Tuscarora Farms every Tuesday and Friday. Come early and come often because now every day is Farmer’s Market Day! Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy this week’s delicious haul:
My favorite way to eat them? Definitely just straight out of the carton (probably before I even make it home)! And of course, they’re fantastic on top of gelato, zabaglione or in a tiramisu with cream and prosecco. But strawberries aren’t just for dessert, try them tossed in a salad with wildfire lettuce, almonds and parmigiano. If you love trying new things, drizzle them lightly with aged balsamic. Sounds a bit weird, but tastes amazing!
Asparagus tastes great on its own, but there are many ways to really ehance the flavor: roasted with hearty olive oil and sea salt, wrapped with guanciale and grilled, or roasted with rhubarb and toasted pistachios. You can combine it with pasta sauce, guanciale and fresh tomatoes served with homemade tagliatelle. And for a lighter dish, lightly steam the asparagus and serve in a baby lettuce salad with roasted chicken and sliced tomatoes.
Sometimes simple is the best way to go! Tomatoes taste great sliced and served with a drizzle of Olio Verde and Sea Salt from Cervia. But if you want to experiment with flavors, try a traditional dish like Caprese salad with fresh Mozzarella from DiPalo’s (arrives fresh every Thursday!) and fresh basil from the farm. Tomatoes are also a primary ingredient in Bruschetta (everyone’s favorite!) – simply mix with olive oil, garlic, and a hint of pepperoncini. Another way to enjoy them is diced with red onions, Firefly Creamery’s Black and Blue Cheese and a drizzle of balsamic.
A culinary secret! Because spring garlic hasn’t yet fully developed, it has a milder flavor than regular garlic. Slice and use it in everything, either cooked or raw. Try it with aioli, stir fry, in a vinaigrette, tossed with handmade pasta and olive oil, and add it to salads.
Ramps, or wild leeks, have a sharp flavor that tastes like a combination of garlic and onion. You can use them any way that you would normally use leeks or onions. Try them grilled and served as a side drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, in scrambled eggs, a frittata, or simply toss them into a salad. If you aren’t ready for Ramp season to be over, pickle them and use them all year long!
Everybody knows rhubarb! It’s quite tart, so the best way is to add a bit of sugar. It’s great in a crumble, crisp or buckle (whatever it’s know as to you) topped with a sweet dough or oatmeal and brown sugar and baked. And of course, rhubarb pie – with or without strawberries – is a classic! You can also cook it down with sugar to make a compote for a crostata, to serve over gelato or to spread on toast. Rhubarb is a great addition to savory dishes as well, it can be diced and cooked with wild greens served with freshly grilled Umbrian Sausages.