by Jolene Lamb
It’s the start of the summer farmer’s market season. This time of year, markets are gearing up with the fresh offerings of spring. Central Illinois sees an explosion of fresh produce early in the season. Some of my favorite vegetables can typically be found this time of year; rhubarb, asparagus, peas and radishes are all in season.
One of my favorite ways to utilize rhubarb is more savory than sweet. Commonly found paired with fruit, rhubarb makes an excellent pie filling or jam and is often thought to be a fruit itself. However it is classified as a vegetable and can be used in savory dishes. Rhubarb actually makes a pretty tasty salsa with the addition of sweet bell pepper, cider and a little local honey. It’s a unique tasting salsa that will have everyone asking “what is in your salsa?”
Grilled asparagus is my go-to cooking method when it’s in season. The charred smoky sweetness from grilling seems to be amplified in fresh spring asparagus. In addition to better flavor, I also find the stalks of the asparagus are often less woody when it comes fresh from the farm versus store bought, out-of-season asparagus.
Another go-to dish for me this time of year is a fresh asparagus, snap pea and radish salad. All the vegetables are in season, which translates into tremendous flavor!
The Illinois Products Farmers’ Market kicked off Thursday, May 9. The LLCC culinary department works in conjunction with Springfield Clinic to provide healthy cooking demonstrations, featuring in-season produce on the first and second Thursdays of the month. Last week I demonstrated and sampled my rhubarb salsa. This Thursday, May 16, I’ll be back at the market whipping up the asparagus, snap pea and radish salad. I hope you stop by, try a sample and enjoy the seasonal products offered at the market this time of year!
1 stalk of rhubarb (1 to 1 1/2 cups), diced
1/4 cup of sweet bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons of diced white or red onion
2 tablespoons of diced scallions
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
1 to 2 tablespoons of cilantro, diced
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pepper to taste
Heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan to boiling. Blanch rhubarb by placing in the boiling water for 10 to 20 seconds. Quickly remove the rhubarb and place in a colander. Run cold water over the rhubarb to stop the cooking process. Blot the rhubarb with a paper towel to dry.
In a separate bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, scallions, jalapeño, and cilantro. Add rhubarb and mix ingredients.
In a small separate bowl, dissolve the honey in the lime juice and apple cider vinegar. Drizzle this dressing over the rhubarb salsa and stir. Add the salt and pepper. Mix well.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Asparagus, Snap Pea and Radish Salad
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
3 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 teaspoons pure honey
8 ounces feta cheese or goat cheese, crumbled
8 ounce snap peas, sliced
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook asparagus, in batches, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Run batches under cold water to cool; pat dry.
Whisk together lemon zest and juice, oil, thyme, and honey in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss together snap peas, radishes, cooked asparagus, and vinaigrette. Top with crumbled cheese. Serve.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org