Autumn at the Farmers’ Market
~By Emily Paster, West of the Loop
Chicago farmers’ markets are a beloved local institution. Whether you shop at one of the neighborhood markets on the weekends or one of the downtown markets on your lunch break, lugging home heavy bags of fruit and vegetables on the El, almost all Chicago parents have a favorite market that they frequent.
For many families, the trip to the farmers’ market is a treasured weekly ritual and, indeed, what better way to teach our city kids about what kinds of fruits and vegetables are local to our Midwestern home? The changing offerings at the markets as the weeks pass also impart an important lesson about seasonality for kids used to strawberries in January and tomatoes all year long.
October is the last month for most of the city’s farmers’ markets. The last few weeks of the market are bittersweet at best. Gone are the luscious berries and juicy stone fruits of the warm summer months. The fall brings fewer fruits but more vegetables. That’s maybe not what the kids most want to see, but it can be great for parents wanting to put hearty fall meals on the table.
Many of the fall vegetables for sale at farmers’ markets will last several weeks, if not longer, in your refrigerator, so stock up. Winter squash and root vegetables both fall into this category. Even some varieties of apples are very hardy; just be sure to ask the farmer which ones will keep. Cranberries from nearby Wisconsin will be making their appearance soon, and they freeze extremely well. Buy several bags now and you will have the makings of homemade cranberry sauce for the holidays.
Some of the root vegetables that you see this time of year at the farmers’ market may look anything but appetizing, but don’t let their outward appearance fool you. Celery root is a favorite of mine. Its hard knobby exterior belies a fresh, delicate taste. Here, it is used to jazz up ordinary mashed potatoes. If food allergies are a concern, this recipe can be adapted to be dairy-free by substituting margarine or olive oil for the butter.
Potato-Celery Root Purée
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten
Serves 3-4 as a side dish
1 lb. celery root, peeled
1 lb. boiling potatoes, such as Russet or Yukon Gold, peeled
1 cup chicken broth, canned or homemade
2 TBs butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the potatoes and celery root into large chunks and cook them in separate pots of salted boiling water until tender, for about 20 minutes. Then drain. (You can do this step ahead of time.)
Heat the butter and the chicken broth in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking to combine. Place the pieces of celery root in a food processor. Add half of the liquid and purée until smooth. (Do not be tempted to purée the potatoes in the food processor. Doing so will make them gummy.) In a large saucepan over very low heat, mash the pieces of potato with the remaining liquid until smooth. Stir in the puréed celery root. Season well with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Enjoy the season!
[Photo credit: Libraryman/Fotor]