When Hubby Bryan and I travel, we often search out places that wouldn’t be on many people’s must-see lists.
You readers already know that much of our travel is beer-centric, with stops at craft breweries, brew pubs and establishments with an abundance of beers on tap. We almost always find at least one new brewery/brew pub during our excursions.
But we are also obsessed with farmers markets. If we are in a city and there’s a farmers market going on, we will be there, checking out the seasonal produce, local artisans and other products that otherwise wouldn’t be on our radar.
Such was the case just this last weekend, when we headed to Omaha, hoping for warmer temps and some respite from the sogginess. OK, so it wasn’t that much warmer in Omaha than here in Worthington. But there was sunshine.
And farmers markets. Yes, that’s plural. We visited the Omaha farmers markets on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. It was just the second weekend of the season for both.
The Old Market market on Saturday morning has been a longtime favorite. The vendors are crowded into a parking lot and one-block cobbled street area. While street musicians seeking donations fill the air with tunes, shoppers — many with canine companions on leashes — vie for the best produce deals. Or they might be munching on a piece of Greek baklava, an egg-and-sausage-filled eggroll, giant bearclaw or sampling cheese, wine, enchiladas or any of the other handmade goodies that are available in the market.
I always covet the giant bouquets of flowers — peonies, irises and tulips were prevalent blooms this time around — that I see people toting, knowing there is no way to get such an arrangement home. Instead, I had to settle for a tote full of greenhouse-grown fresh tomatoes and a jar of candied hot peppers.
We saved our major produce purchases for the second market Sunday morning in the Aksarben neighborhood. This was our first time at this market, which is a bit more spread out than the one downtown. We saw a few of the same vendors, but also some unique ones. And once again, lots of dogs on leashes, at times clogging up the aisles as their owners stopped to compare breeds.
We bought fat spears of asparagus. And green onions — vivid bunches with a tantalizing fragrance. Herbs were also on the top of my list — basil, flat-leaf parsley, curly parsley in tiny pots.
I managed to resist (with a bit of help from my husband; if it were up to me, we would have come home with one of everything) the allure of many other items — piles of shiitake and oyster mushrooms, stalks of fuschia rhubarb, all sorts of flowering baskets, round loaves of artisan breads …
For the moment, my farmers market cravings are sated. But it made me anxious for our own local markets to get under way in June. That brings me to the monthly “Minnesota Grown” email I receive from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which puts the spotlight on seasonal produce and is a resource for finding farmers markets across the state. For more information, go to minnesotagrown.com.
The Minnesota Grown newsletter also offers recipes each month using seasonal produce. Here is a cobbler recipe provided by Minnesota Cooks — Food from the Farm:
Birchwood Cafe Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
3 pints strawberries, quartered
¼ pound rhubarb, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 big pinch nutmeg
1½ cups flour
½ cup yellow ground cornmeal
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup coarse large-grain sugar
Filling: Toss fruit into cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into a 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally until fruit is bubbly around the edges and juices are glossy and clear.
Topping: Combine dry ingredients. Cut butter into dry mixture until it has the consistency of coarse sand. Add ½ cup heavy cream and start to mix. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup cream until a soft dough forms. Take care not to overmix.
Break off ¼-cup-size pieces of dough and place evenly over fruit. Sprinkle topping dough with ¼ cup coarse large grain sugar. Return to oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.