Chefs’ Picks: Farmers Market Finds

Chefs share their favorite farmers markets and farm-fresh recipes in Seattle, Louisville, Chicago and New York.

Paprika Greenhouse

Red and green bell peppers growing in a greenhouse.

Photo by: Sjoerd van der Wal ©Sjoerd van der Wal

Sjoerd van der Wal, Sjoerd van der Wal

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

As the school year kicks up, it’s also prime time for farmers market shopping across the country. Patrons have their pick of the bounty of late-summer fruit, like luscious stone fruit, and also the early fall favorites: apples, squash and a plethora of peppers. But where to begin? Market-loving chefs from coast to coast share with us their favorite current produce at the market, as well as their easy-to-replicate home recipes for it.

Local Peppers (Chef Annie Pettry, Decca, Louisville, KY)

“At 3 o’clock on practically every Tuesday, from May to October, the whole Decca kitchen crew piles into the back of a pickup truck and heads to The Phoenix Hill NuLu Farmers Market,” says Pettry. “With only five farmers, what the NuLu Farmers Market lacks in size it makes up for in its pristine produce grown by talented and passionate farmers. Currently, my favorite farmers market find is the local peppers that I incorporate into a romesco sauce.”

Annie Pettry’s Romesco Sauce
3 red bell peepers
3 tomatoes
4 Fresno chiles
2 bunches of scallions
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil

Char peppers, tomatoes, chiles and scallions on a hot grill or hot cast-iron skillet. Place in a deep bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and de-seed over a strainer-lined bowl to reserve juices. Add peppers, tomatoes, chiles and remaining ingredients except for the olive oil to the blender. Pour in the reserved juices to cover 3/4 of the way; if there are not enough reserved juices, use water. Puree until smooth. With the blender on medium speed, slowly drizzle olive oil into the puree. Check seasoning.


Peaches (Chef Ethan Kostbar, Moderne Barn, Armonk, NY)

“I usually take my kids to Silverman’s Farm in Connecticut. It’s a five-mile drive from my house. We all get on a track and pick the peaches to bring home for this recipe, salads, peach pie and more. One of my favorite preparations is Bourbon Butterscotch Poached Peaches, served warm with ice cream.”

Bourbon Butterscotch Poached Peaches
1 cup bourbon
1/4 pound butter, melted
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
10 cloves
pinch of salt
6 peaches (peeled, split and pitted)

Place everything but the peaches in a large pot over medium heat, bring to a boil for a minute, stir and strain to remove cloves and vanilla. Return the bourbon mix to the pot, add peaches and bring to a low simmer, then cover for 3 to 5 minutes, until peaches are tender. Serve warm over scoops of vanilla or ginger ice cream.


Fresh carrots

Fresh young carrots on a wooden background

Orange Carrots (Chef Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe, Chicago)

“So often when I’m asked to give my farmers market finds, I tend toward quirky ingredients that only chefs would love. But today at the Green City Market, I saw some really nice, huge and fat — maybe even overgrown — plain orange carrots and thought to myself, ‘What can we make with those homely things?’”

Hammel’s resulting vegan soup yields what he calls “an incredibly rich and silky (almost creamy) texture.” He says, “If the puree and reduction are made ahead, this is a soup you can do in just 10 to 15 minutes on a hot summer day. Store-bought carrot juice could work in a pinch, but nothing makes up for the fresh.” The soup freezes well, so save it for a taste of summer’s best once the weather turns.

Chilled Carrot Soup

You’ll need a high-speed blender and a juicer to make this soup. Garnishes could be any fresh herbs or black lime zest, cilantro, pistachio oil and pistachios, or chilled shrimp marinated in lime juice.

1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
5 teaspoons chamomile tea
3 2/3 cups sherry, divided
Vegetable stock
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 cup cooking sherry
1/8 cup sugar
3 cups carrot juice
1 1/8 teaspoons salt

To make the carrot puree, combine the shallot with the garlic and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sweat the vegetables until tender and colorless, about 5 minutes. Add the peeled and chopped carrots, coriander, chamomile tea and 2/3 cup sherry, with just enough vegetable stock to cover.

Cook until very tender, then add sherry vinegar. Pass the mix through a fine-mesh chinois.

For the sherry reduction, combine the remaining 3 cups of quality sherry and the cooking sherry in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce to about 1/4 cup. Stir in the sugar.

To make the soup, combine the puree, sherry reduction and carrot juice with the remaining olive oil and the salt. Chill and serve with your choice of garnish.


Nectarines (Chef Derek Ronspies, Le Petit Cochon, Seattle)

“When we get to the market we’ll swing by Collins Farm and see what’s poppin’. It looks like they have some nice peaches and apples, but those nectarines look delicious. How about we make a nice nectarine gazpacho with a few of these babies? We’ll ask Marcel if he has any #2 nectarines (#1's are the perfect-looking fruit that you see in stores). The #2’s are not as visually pleasing, but they do have the same tastiness you'd expect, sometimes even better, and for a much cheaper price. We get about six of them to be the base of our gazpacho.

“Next, we’ll head to Alvarez Farms a few booths down and pick up a tomato, two or three medium spiced peppers (I like hatch or goat horn), a small yellow onion, a head of garlic and a medium-sized cucumber. We want the flavor of the nectarines to shine through and don't want the spiciness of the peppers to overpower – just something to keep in mind.

“Lastly, we’ll cruise down to Children's Farm and snag a bunch of cilantro.”

Nectarine Gazpacho

This fruity spin on a classic gazpacho can be garnished with almonds, hot peppers, chile oil, cucumbers or whatever herbs you desire.

6 nectarines (pitted and quartered)
1 small tomato (quartered)
1 medium cucumber (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
3 medium-heat peppers (seeded and chopped)
2 cloves garlic
4 sprigs cilantro
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 piece toast (crumbled)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 bottle white wine (something delicious)

Combine the quartered nectarines and tomato, chopped cucumber and onion, garlic and cilantro in a bowl. Add a generous splash of vinegar.

Break up the toast, and throw it in the bowl, along with the olive oil and a pinch of sugar. Sprinkle the salt over the bowl, then let the bowl sit for an hour or two to allow all the flavors to meld.

Pour the mixture into a blender, 3/4 of the way, and blend for at least 2 minutes, until smooth. Repeat this step until all your ingredients are blended, including juices at the bottom of the bowl. Add salt to taste, and garnish as desired.

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