Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

After the taste of spring temperatures this past week, you might feel a little disheartened by the cold snap on its way. But you can embrace the last week of winter by leaning into some warm, hearty meals made with ingredients from winter farmers markets. Markets are a bit smaller right now, with winter storage crops thinning and full spring production not yet underway. But you can still find what you need for a delicious shepherd’s pie—a quintessential dish for eating by a cozy fire.

Shepherd’s pie can adapt to a lot of variation, so you can plan your recipe based on what you are able to find at the market and your own preferences. It works with a vegetarian or meat and veg filling—and the meat can be lamb or beef. (Technically, if you use beef, it’s cottage pie instead of shepherd’s pie.) Mashed potato is the traditional topping, but you could substitute another vegetable mash, like winter squash, turnip, or sweet potato. Or add local cheese to your mashed potatoes. Look for potatoes from Highgate Farm, at River Arts District Farmers Market. Ground beef is available from Dry Ridge Farm or Hickory Nut Gap and ground lamb from Warren Wilson College Farm, all at ASAP Farmers Market

For the filling, gather an assortment of three or four types of vegetables. English peas are standard, but instead try using sliced snow peas, which are available from Lee’s One Fortune Farm at ASAP and River Arts District markets. Root veggies like carrots, turnips, or radishes are great (look for them from Highgate Farm or Ten Mile Farm at ASAP Farmers Market). Winter squash is another option (also available from Ten Mile or Highgate). Mushrooms add texture and earthy flavor, especially if you’re not using meat. We like the way Black Trumpet Farm’s pioppinos keep their shape, but you can use any variety you like. (Black Trumpet is at both River Arts District and ASAP markets; mushrooms are also available from Asheville Fungi at ASAP Farmers Market.) 

Wash and cut your vegetables into bite-sized pieces. If you’re using vegetables with different cook times, like winter squash, you may want to pre-roast them or cook separately. In a large skillet, sauté a chopped onion and several cloves of garlic, smashed, in two tablespoons of olive oil. Add one pound of ground meat, if using, and break it up with a spoon. Once the meat is browned, add vegetables and cook for several minutes more, until they are tender. Include herbs like rosemary or thyme, if you like. Add two tablespoons each of flour and tomato paste and stir until fully incorporated. Pour in one cup of flavorful liquid, such as beef broth, mushroom broth, red wine, beer, or a combination. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes, until sauce is thickened. Season with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg. 

Place the mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops of the potatoes start to turn golden brown. You can also finish the pie under a broiler for a few minutes for extra browning. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before eating. 

At winter markets now you’ll also find winter greens like, kale, spinach, bok choy, broccoli rabe, and cabbage, as well as tender lettuce and baby greens. Markets are also stocked with a variety of meats, cheese, rice, pasta, pastries, drinks, and prepared foods. Find more details about farms and markets throughout the region, including winter hours, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.

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