A Dozen Fresh Must-Have Items in My Refrigerator

Red and white cipollini onions from Immerfrost Farm.
Availability of fresh, locally-grown produce has waxed and waned over the 20 years since my husband and I moved back to our hometown. In 1994, we could not find casual restaurants that served anything but fried food. Thankfully, over the years a new generation of owners and chefs took over area restaurants and most emphasize healthier cooking with local ingredients.

Two new farm markets were organized, one as recently as last summer. July through September, four farm stands operate at various locations across the city and - thanks to the recession - more people are growing vegetables in their own back yards. They share, just as they did in Frenchtown in my grandmother's day.

Many local growers have acquired "hoop houses" that allow them to prolong the growing season. As a result, we now have access to fresh to herbs and many vegetables, as well as fresh eggs, meat and sometimes whitefish for a longer season.

At the same time, local grocery stores now compete with a big new Walmart store that carries food. The Italian market, which has always offered good produce, is no longer the only game in town, and they've responded by improving their already-good produce department. Larger-scale growers sell to local supermarkets, and local products are always featured prominently within the stores.

I love being spoiled by all this freshness here on the tundra. Here's what I cannot do without at various times of the year:

Apples are so versatile. Love Granny Smith!
Apples: Eaten raw with peanut butter, baked into an apple crisp, or made into applesauce or coleslaw, apples play a huge role in everything we eat. I prefer organic apples when possible. A caramel apple is a fall ritual for us; so is a bushel of Mcouns or Macs. My favorite for baking is the Granny Smith, which offers a host of health benefits. (It should come as no surprise that we use nothing but Apple computers at our house.)

Avocado: My favorite way to eat avocados is on a breakfast tartine with tomato slices, a smear of cream cheese, and some sea salt. Avocados play an important role in diabetes, which runs in my family, and provide other health benefits. I need to broaden my avocado repertoire, and I'm looking forward to trying this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen.

Broccoli: I love raw broccoli salads, often alone but sometimes with cauliflower and carrots. I love it stir-fried with ginger and garlic. I love it in casseroles and soups. I could not count the ways I love broccoli; it is one of my go-to vegetables.

I gorge on these juicy little clementines.
Clementines: These juicy darlings are a must-have for me over the winter, and I go through a bag a week, just eating them raw. But if I were going to do something fancy with them, I would borrow a page from Deb at Smitten Kitchen and make this delectable cake.

Cabbage: In farm market season, I sometimes go through a head of cabbage a week. I love coleslaw, and usually make the traditional recipe, but sometimes try a variation or two. I even made coleslaw pizza once. Cabbage is good with pork, and excellent in soups, stir fries and Asian salads.

Garlic: Although I keep a jar of roasted garlic on hand, I'd rather eat it fresh. I love roasting it, too, and it finds its way many one-dish meals, and is used for a rub on steak and chicken. It's great with butter on shrimp.  Here's a spring recipe from Jann at The Traveling Food Lady that pairs garlic with asparagus. I love that we now have different varieties locally.

Garlic braid from the market
Cipollini Onions: I love all onions but since Immerfrost Farm became providing red and white cipollini onions, I can think of little else. I use them in Asian stir fries: they are so sweet and mild. I use them in everything, sometimes in place of shallots.

Eggs: Since I've been buying fresh eggs at the farm market I won't settle for less. I love eggs for breakfast. And who doesn't love scrambled eggs? Even Lady Mary Crawley can make those. Wonder if she had a recipe this good.from Christine at Christine Cooks.

Limes: I always have a lime on hand, but key limes are a favorite in spring. I love them in lemonade, iced tea and with chicken. Or, maybe in key lime pie bars, from Michelle at Brown-Eyed Baker?

Key limes by the bag.
Sweet Bell Peppers: Raw or roasted, in salads, stir fries, with pasta, casseroles and other dishesstuffed, in sandwiches, omelets and more, peppers - especially red peppers - sweet peppers are versatile.  I'm thinking right now that I want this dish from Katie at Thyme for Cooking.

Sweet bell peppers add color.
Shallots: I buy these locally now through the growing season. To my palate, they are best paired with chicken or beef, but they also play well with mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes and other earthy vegetables. Another recipe from Katie at Thyme for Cooking is making my mouth water.

Tomatoes: A food you can eat all day long,but sadly not for all seasons. Those red things found in supermarkets in winter cannot be the same as those fragrant, juicy orbs sold at farm markets and farm stands or grown on vines in your own back yard" They have no aroma. There isn't much you cannot do with a good tomato. My favorite has got to be this one, which is fairly new, or this one for the sheer beauty of it and how well it holds up when stuffed and baked.

Nothing beats a farm market tomato!


Anonymous said…
My mouth is watering, as it usually is when I read your blog. I think the state of the modern tomato is a travesty. My favorite smell in the WORLD is that of the stem of a fresh tomato. By the way, I give you props for "spoiled by all this freshness...."
Unknown said…
Leave it to you to pick up on that! It just sort of slipped in there.

Those things at the stores only LOOK like tomatoes.

"If it looks like a tomato and tastes like a tomato, then it's a tomato." But those things taste like cardboard.
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