Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

Watermelons and cantaloupe are starting to come in at farmers tailgate markets, which lend themselves particularly well to no-cook meals for muggy mountain evenings. There are plenty of nights we might just slice up a melon and call it dinner, but if you’re ready to take it up a notch, try these chilled soup ideas.

Chilled cantaloupe soup is simple, refreshing, and delicious—essentially a smoothie in a bowl. Take about six cups of ripe, peeled and cut up cantaloupe (find it from Ten Mile Farm at Asheville City Market and River Arts District Farmers Market) and blend it with a cup and a half of orange juice, quarter cup each lemon and lime juice, two tablespoons of local honey, a quarter teaspoon each of salt and cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Chill for several hours before serving (if the soup separates, just stir to recombine). Garnish with yogurt or sour cream and your preferred herbs (mint is good, or look for lemon verbena).  
Watermelon gazpacho is a lovely variation on the ubiquitous tomato-based cold soup. Puree three pounds of watermelon, seeded, until smooth (Ten Mile and Olivette Farm, also at Asheville City Market, had watermelon this past week). Chop or pulse the following ingredients and stir into the watermelon puree: one small cucumber, peeled; two mild bell peppers, one red and one yellow, seeded; one spicy green pepper, such as jalapeño, seeded; three tender stalks of celery, from the inner part of the bunch; one small red onion; and half a cup of mint. Add three tablespoons lime juice, two tablespoons red wine vinegar, and salt to taste. Chill for several hours before serving.
Want something with a little more heft (or at least carbs)? Ajo blanco is another traditional chilled Spanish soup, made with stale bread, almonds, and garlic. Take 12 ounces of several-days-old market bread (baguette or other white bread is typically used, but experiment with seeded and whole grain varieties) and soak in water until it’s softened. Squeeze out the water, and place in a food processor or blender with two cups blanched almonds and six garlic cloves. Pulse until the almonds are finely ground. With the motor running, add one cup of olive oil in a slow, steady stream, then blend in half a cup of Sherry vinegar, four teaspoons of salt, and about a cup of ice-cold water (depending on the capacity of your blender or processor). Pour the mixture in a pitcher or large bowl and stir in additional water, about four cups total, until the soup reaches the desired consistency. Can be served immediately, or chilled. 
Ajo blanco is often garnished with grapes or poached shrimp, but this is another opportunity to feature summer melons. You can top the soup with half-inch cubes of watermelon or cantaloupe, or take an extra step to cure your melon first. Lay cubes out on a sheet tray or other flat surface and sprinkle with salt. Chill for 30 minutes, then toss with olive oil and pepper. Garnish your ajo blanco, along with an additional drizzle of olive oil and torn pieces of mint or basil.
Markets are packed with other peak summer produce as well, including tomatoes, corn, summer squash, eggplant, potatoes, beans, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, blueberries, fennel, carrots, onions, lettuce, salad mix, kale, chard, microgreens, and mushrooms. You can also find eggs, cheese, meat, seafood, bread, fermented products, baked goods, and so much more.
Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at

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