Alexa Rogals

The Oak Park Farmers Market, offering high quality, locally-grown produce, is held in the Pilgrim Church Parking lot at 460 Lake St. from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October. Call for a free pickup and ride to the Market (Tel. 708. 383.4806). Please call before 2:00pm on Friday.

This week I turned over my blogging responsibility to Laura Lencioni. She is the Chair of the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission and knows her way around seasonal recipes. Thanks for celebrating the 6/22 market, Laura. I have no doubt you will all enjoy her market perspectives.

WEEKLY MARKET HIGHLIGHTS FROM LAURA LENCIONI:

There are two main kinds of strawberries grown commercially: ever-bearing and June bearing.

Ever-bearing strawberries produce smaller crops of berries all season long, but June bearing plants produce one big, fantastic crop of berries in June only. For that reason, June tends to be the month when there are lots of delicious strawberries at the market! This week’s strawberry moon was named for the time when Native Americans harvest wild strawberries.

Last week at the market I purchased a basket of small, super sweet organic strawberries from Iron Creek and I snacked on them while strolling through the rest of the market. I was also excited to bring home some huge, deep red beauties from Barry’s Berries (I used those for dessert, see recipe below).

Overheard at the market last week, “At this rate none of these strawberries will make it to my refrigerator” and “I could use a napkin right now these strawberries are so juicy! (a good problem to have, if you ask me). My advice is to buy a little more than you think you need so you can snack as you shop!

If for some reason you end up with extra, strawberries freeze beautifully. Simply rinse the berries, cut off the green tops, and freeze either whole or sliced on a cookie sheet overnight. Once frozen, you can put them in zip-lock bags or in freezer-safe mason jars and the berries won’t stick together.

Also, a pro tip for shopping for soft strawberries or other delicate berries: save the clam shell containers from your previous American Pride microgreen purchases and put your berries in there to protect them. That way they’ll be safe even if they end up at the bottom of your shopping bag.

Speaking of containers, I’d like to take a minute to point out the fact that one of our vendors, Ellis Farms, is selling nifty mesh produce bags for $1. However, if you purchase $10 worth of produce they’ll throw a mesh bag in for free. These mesh bags are washable, breathable and do a great job of keeping produce, even greens, nice and fresh in the fridge. I’ve been using them for a few weeks now for everything from asparagus to kale and herbs. They wash up nicely with regular dish soap and hang-dry quickly, to be ready for your next shopping trip.

But back to the strawberries for a minute. If you make it home with enough strawberries, here are a few classic ideas for including them in your meals; try these recipes for strawberry-rhubarb jam, spinach and strawberry salad, and chocolate-dipped strawberries!

MARKET READY RECIPES BY LAURA LENCIONI:

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

I’d like to point out that my recipe works wonderfully with strawberries or rhubarb, but this classic combination is greater than the sum of its parts so I opt to combine them as much as possible! The recipe is pretty forgiving, so don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. If you are like me and you have a sweet tooth and want a decadent treat, slather the jam on top of a thick slice of cinnamon raisin toast (bread available at the market from the Bread Man). Or, this jam is great on oatmeal (Brian Severson Farms) or your favorite ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of rhubarb
  • 1-2 quarts of strawberries
  • 1-2 Cups of sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin*
  • 2-3 whole cloves (optional)
  • dash of cinnamon (optional)
  • dash of nutmeg or allspice (optional)
  • small slice of ginger (optional)

Directions:

Wash and slice up the rhubarb into 1-2 inch pieces. Wash and trim green tops from strawberries. Coarsely chop strawberries if desired, but the berries will break down in cooking so it isn’t really necessary to cut them up much. Place in a large pot over the stove, in a slow cooker or instant pot. Add sugar and any desired spices.

If using the stove, cook on medium to high for a few minutes while stirring until sugar is evenly mixed in and juice starts bubbling out of berries, around 5 min. Then turn the heat on as low as possible and let it cook until the fruit is soft and mushy (time varies depending on the stove, but probably less than an hour). Stir occasionally and make sure the bottom isn’t burning.

If using a slow cooker, you can set it in the morning and leave it all day, the longest I’ve left it is 12 hours but 4-8 is typical.

Once the fruit is mushy, take a potato masher or similar tool and mash up the fruit to the consistency of jam. Pour into glass jelly jars and allow to cool completely before putting in the refrigerator, or, can the jam according to instructions on your canner. Alternatively, you can freeze the jam.

*The amount of gelatin used in this recipe depends on how much fruit you are using and how firmly you want it to set. I use Great Lakes unflavored gelatin, but you could use any brand or even your favorite jello flavor. I don’t like to use flavored jello to reduce any colors or additives, but some people like to use jello. You can also make this as a vegan recipe by using fruit pectin but I’m not sure how much would be needed.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

This is another forgiving recipe, not even a recipe even just more of a salad inspiration.

Ingredients:

  • Spinach (baby spinach works well, but any will do)
  • Baby kale (optional)
  • Green onions
  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Candied pecans (recipe below)
  • Grilled chicken breast or steak, leftovers from the previous night work great (optional)
  • Sliced avocado (optional)
  • Dressing (recipe follows)

Directions:

Wash and spin the greens. Chop green onions. Thinly slice radishes. Using a vegetable peeler cut the carrot into long ribbons; cut ribbons to desired length. Add greens to a salad bowl and set aside. Make the dressing and pecans, add them to the salad with any meat, and toss the salad. Serve with a refreshing glass of white wine (I’m partial to Moscato lately, which is more of a dessert wine, but I think it goes well with the strawberries in the salad).

Laura’s Salad Dressing:

  • Oil of your choice (I use olive and/or avocado)
  • Pinch of rosemary and/or thyme
  • Soy sauce or soy sauce alternative
  • Sea salt to taste (optional)
  • Vinegar of your choice*
  • 1 Tablespoon (or so) of the strawberry-rhubarb jam above or strawberry jam.
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • A small nugget of ginger and/or turmeric root

Add all these ingredients in the blender and blend thoroughly. I like to use about 1 part vinegar to 1 part oil, but you can adjust to taste**. I tend to like a strong vinegar taste so if you want it milder, use more oil than vinegar.

*I use vinegars from Herbally Yours and usually mix a couple of kinds, with the main one being balsamic. My current favorites are black pepper balsamic and tarragon vinegars. Apple cider vinegar is also good.

**The traditional ratio for a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.

Candied Pecans

  • Raw uncooked pecans, whole or pieces
  • Coconut oil, just enough to grease the pan
  • Sea salt or himalayan pink salt; really just your favorite fancy salt
  • White or brown sugar (to taste)
  • A drop or 2 of vanilla extract (optional)

Grease a skillet. I use cast iron, but any good skillet will do. Add the pecans, salt and sugar. Stir constantly  on medium heat until the sugar starts to stick to the pecans and they start to smell toasted. Be careful not to burn, this goes fast. Remove pecans promptly and allow to cool on a plate. Try not to eat them all before they make it to the salad.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

This is also more of an inspiration than a recipe. Use the biggest, freshest, plumpest strawberries you can find for this recipe. This is a great dessert to follow a hearty meal of grass-fed t-bone steak (from Mint Creek Farm or Finn’s Ranch), fresh asparagus and mushrooms (River Valley Ranch), but that’s a story for another day.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh strawberries with greens intact
  • Melting Chocolate of your choice

Directions:

Wash the whole berries, pat dry with a paper towel, and leave the green tops on. Use the melting chocolate of your choice- I like to use Enjoy Life brand semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are free of the major allergens. For that brand I take about a half a cup in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 10 second increments. As it starts to melt I stir the chocolate. Once it is fully melted, I take my giant strawberries and dip in the chocolate while still warm. Allow the coated strawberries to cool and harden on a non stick surface.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • Annual Corn Roast Fundraiser, August 10
  • Pie Bake-Off, September 7 (applications available on website in July)
  • Stone Soup Give-away, October 26 (closing day of Market)

BAKE SALE: Girl Scout Troop #41568

CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES: Face painting by The Try Center (Non-profit working to house homeless teenagers)

 ALTERNATING VENDOR; Sitka Salmon Shares (Line-caught, open water Pacific seafood, sold individually or shares) will be present at the 6/22 market.

While you wait for Farmer John, at American Microgreens, to sharpen your knives for five bucks, sway to the roots music of our famous musicians (they start at 9:00am) while you enjoy a church donut, cup of joe or orange juice.

We welcome shoppers with SNAP/LINK cards at our market! We will match each dollar spent via SNAP/LINK up to $25.00 with a one dollar coupon. Ask for information at the yellow information tent. If you want church donuts and coffee, bake sale goodies or Katic breads: bring some cash. All the other vendors will accept credit and debit cards.

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