I love challenges and paying bargain prices for nice looking veggies. If you’re not that familiar with seasonal produce shopping, then friends let me introduce you to my little friend: the fine art of buying the freshest, nicest looking and great tasting vegetables (and cheaply) from your local farm supply.
Steps to figuring out what’s cheap or what’s on sale:
1. What’s on sale at the big commercial supermarket (though they most likely do carry seasonal items) is not always what’s in season. Just because something’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s in season. The key word you’re looking for is local. Look around you. Don’t be shy if you don’t know. Ask a few older folks — they’ve likely been around the block longer than you and might just know a thing or two about the region.
2. Looking on the web doesn’t hurt. Search the key words: “Farm”, “farmer’s market”, plus (+) your zip code and see what pops up.
3. Last but not least, visit websites like this one (Food2.com, meatlessmondays.com, slowfoodusa.com) where we list what’s local and in season right now, and tell you how to cook up the recipes!
I am very lucky to live nearby a little forest of local Farms (not literal, just describing here folks). At De Piero’s farm in Montvale New Jersey, they grow their own varieties of heirloom tomatoes that just left us recently. If you haven’t been following my farmer posts and where to buy what, check out my heirloom tomato article here.
Right now is the beginning of the Fall Harvest Season. The last “pick your own” farm I visited had ripened pumpkins ready to be ransacked by herds of mommies and their kids. I was very much tempted at grabbing them right then and there, but thought to leave room for the upcoming weeks of cooking, so I left the pumpkins alone. I went there to nab some of the local apples (which are also very much in season right now). I picked my golden, delicious gala apples two weeks ago and managed to cook off a beautifully fragrant apple butter.
This week I’m writing about my $5 Slow Food Challenge. At De Piero’s, I found one of my favorite fall/winter vegetables: Butternut Squash, boys and girls, and for only $.79/pound! I was ecstatic. The sight of the sale-sign (much like the time I found zucchini flowers) and fact that they were local and ripe for the cooking had me planning my meal before I had even picked out the produce. I also managed to pick me up a cute little orange tagine clay pot-cooker-serving piece. Clearly the meal was shapping up.
I found zucchini and squash, too (fortunately, since supplies are limited at this time of year), a beefsteak tomato and fresh cranberry beans. I looked at my little shopper’s basket and visualized a fragrant succotash in my orange tagine, brewing up in my kitchen, its sweet aromas filling up the air, luring little children from the backyard to come back into the house and eat their vegetables. Ok, so maybe there weren’t any children involved, but you get the point — I couldn’t wait to get cooking. So I rushed home that afternoon and made my stirred up Autumn Succotash.
It’s seasonal, it’s sustainable, and the best part of it is that it cost me just about $5.00 to create a beautiful, bountiful fall harvest dish (that DEFINITELY serves more than one person). I’d eat this any day of the week, whether in September, October, November or December, and certainly before any fast food value meal that would cost me more money and health.
So go on, taste the season, and for 5 bucks only.
Succulent Autumn Succotash Recipe:
Yields 2 servings
1 butternut squash, diced
1 zucchini, sliced with mandolin
2 yellow squash, sliced with mandolin
2 cloves garlic
1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
1/2 cup fresh cranberry beans
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
In a tagine, place slices of tomato on the bottom. Add diced butternut squash with cranberry beans. Place sliced zucchini and squash on top. Drizzle olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Simmer on the stove top for about an hour stirring occasionally.
Uncover and enjoy!
Here’s the break down of the food cost for this recipe:
Butternut Squash (in season right now in the NE Coast $1.71 @ .79/pound)
1 Zucchini and 1 Yellow Squash ($1.74 @ 2.99/pound)
2 Garlic Cloves (pennies)
4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (pennies)
1 Beefsteak Tomato ($.98 @ $2.49/pound)
½ cup fresh cranberry beans ($1.15/3.99/pound)
Grand total: $5.58/ dinner for 2=$2.79/person!
You can include bread in your shopping trip if you’re dining as a pair and that would bring the grand total to less than $5.00/person for the $5 Slow Food Challenge!