ASAP likes to share the stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month, we talk with Aimee Ellingsen (pictured with her husband, Chuck Krekelberg) a dedicated market shopper and supporter of ASAP, as well as the owner of CAKE Websites & More).
Q: Tell us why you shop at farmers markets.
Veggies, eggs, and meats from local farmers taste so much better than grocery store items. Also, the produce lasts longer. I feel like I get a better value, even if in some cases the item costs a little more.
Eggs in particular—our local farmers give their hens outside access, which means they get a varied diet and produce more flavorful and nutritious eggs, with golden-orange yolks. The difference really shines in simple recipes. When I served visiting relatives simple fried eggs, they asked me what I had done to make them taste so good. The answer was really nothing but buying local eggs. Like many, my relatives didn’t realize that grocery store eggs labeled “free range” are not from hens that have access to the outdoors. You have to get eggs labeled “pastured”—or simply go to the farmers market.
Q: What early-spring produce do you most looking forward to?
Baby carrots, baby turnips (simmer in a little salted water in a pan until done, adding butter to finish), asparagus (blanch and serve with herbed mayo), garlic scapes (wonderful in any stir fry), and new potatoes.
Q: What have you learned from the farmers you buy from?
You can use carrot tops in pesto or an Italian salsa verde. For a salsa verde, pop the leafy parts of the carrot tops into a food processor with capers, mint, lemon zest, optional garlic clove, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Also, potatoes, though they seem like a storage crop, are best when fresh!
Q: Do you have a special market treat you indulge in on occasion?
A big pile of oyster mushrooms, lox or cold-smoked salmon, or rack of lamb.
Q: Is going to market a social event for you?
Totally! I often see friends there. We’ve also made friends there; in fact, one of our dearest friends was someone we first met at the farmers market. We would run into each other every week at the same stands and eventually became friends.
Q: Are there tips you would offer someone new on how to navigate a farmers market?
Take a quick walk up and down the market to “get the lay of the land.” This will give you a sense of what’s available. I also often start by purchasing heavier cold items, putting those at the bottom of my bags. Then I can put easily-damaged items, such as herbs, tomatoes, and flowers, on top where they won’t get squished.
It can be helpful to have a seasonally appropriate food theme in mind. In spring, Scandinavian meals (salmon, asparagus, potatoes with dill, mushrooms, light salads, the first berries, etc.) are often perfect. In summer, my mind turns to Italian food, with tomatoes and basil as well as the first eggplant; endive and radicchio are also great in Italian meals. Late summer, with the plethora of peppers coming in, makes me think of Mexican meals. Middle Eastern is also great in summer when you can get big piles of parsley and herbs, and tons of eggplant for baba ganoush.