Farmer’s Market Favorites: Fall Lunch Ideas
Fresh Food First
In this era of local food and fresh produce that emerged out of the slow food movement of the early 2000’s, a new wave of regional food markets has cropped up. You know the kind of store I’m talking about—local, cooperatively-owned, full of fragrant culinary creations, and all the best fruits, veggies, meats and craft products the store’s surrounding land and people can supply.
A trip to “Farmer’s”, as it’s affectionately known, is a mouthwatering, serotonin-releasing experience that borders on sensory overload. In the summer, overflowing pints, bushels and pecks of the freshest berries and fruits from just up the road greet you at the door, beckoning visitors in with their vibrant green leaves and decadent scents. A long deli counter shows off glistening slabs of fish and prime cuts of meat, while steaming pastries and fresh breads lure folks to the other end of the store. This time of year, local apples and pumpkins are piled high, while nutmeg and cinnamon waft both out of the bakery and above the barista’s steaming station—but I’m getting carried away.
The point is, stores of this awesome quality—full of all things delicious and nutritious, grown or prepared with the utmost care for and pride in the finished products—are everywhere these days. If you go into your local market with some semblance of a plan, you can easily emerge with the perfect meal for a low-key lunch at home or a cozy autumn picnic in the park.
Gourmet Sandwiches, Made Easy
First, let’s take a page from Subway’s book and start with a stroll down the bread aisle. A sandwich is a fabulously easy and delicious meal, and it all starts with a good loaf. Actually, better than a loaf, for our purposes, is a roll. I tend to go for something with a big of zing, so a sourdough roll—but aim for whatever looks fresh and whets your palate. Ciabatta and rustic rolls are also good straightforward options. I opt for a roll since it is practically a pre-made sandwich: one cut down the middle and you have yourself the base for an excellent entrée.
Next, the fillings. Here, we depart from Subway’s style, and seek something a bit more sophisticated. Obviously, you can take your ‘which to whatever level of complexity and culinary achievement you wish—so if you don’t have access to the kitchen implements suggested here, or really can’t stand anchovies in your tapenade, feel free to swap ingredients and make whatever sounds good to you. The idea is to pack some flavor and complexity into something simple and comforting: as the days get colder and shorter, adding bit of excitement to lunchtime routines is a great way to keep up your summer energy!
I wasn’t joking about the tapenade. That with some goat cheese and roast chicken makes for a wonderful cold sandwich in the vein of a French pan bagnet, that can be prepared quickly and carried anywhere. If you have kitchen access and fifteen spare minutes, making homemade tapenade is an easy and delicious addition (though the store-made option is of course tasty too). First, select a mix of your favorite black and green olives, or whatever the olive gurus at your shop recommend. Also toss in some olive oil, capers, garlic and fresh parsley—and yes, anchovies, if that’s your cup of tea. Simply blend a cup and a half of olives, a tablespoon of capers and a quarter cup of olive oil, adding parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
For the chicken take advantage of your market’s prepared foods section—a quality rotisserie chicken (either whole, or breasts—white meat tends to be more conducive to sandwiches and salads) is a quick way to add excellent flavor and protein to your entrée. As any good food market is a local hub for fine cheeses, you’re sure to find a chevre that’s smooth with just the slightest tang—and is likely made from your neighborhood goats. The additions for this simple sandwich are really up to you, but roasted red pepper, arugula, and cucumber are old stand-bys.
5 Minute Side Dishes
For extra munchies, be sure to toss a bag of tortilla chips (Late July makes some especially delicious varieties) and a house-made or tasty organic salsa, some good crackers to mop up extra goat cheese.
A premade salad or soup makes for an easy side: look for a fall-flavor-packed kale and sweet potato salad topped with pumpkin seeds or a delicious butternut squash soup in a quart container (or perhaps a potato leek soup for something a bit more filling?). In a pinch? Pick up a bag of mixed greens, an apple, walnuts and goat cheese. Toss these together with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the mélange makes for a perfect autumn appetizer.
Tasty Beverages and Seasonal Beer
Finally, don’t forget to peruse the sure-to-be fabulous beverage section at your market. To accompany this toothsome lunch we have planned, perhaps try out one of the many innovative seltzer-soda drinks that have emerged in recent years. Sap! makes several maple flavored seltzers and sodas that bring a natural, refreshing sweetness to the party, while Minna combines the lightly caffeinated, herbal zip of green and black teas with the fizz of seltzer water. Also be sure to pick up an autumnal beverage to enjoy once happy hour rolls around: in our current craft beer moment, breweries ranging from the micro to the macro have jumped on the centuries-old seasonal beer tradition. Especially in the fall months, this means there’ll be plenty of excellent nutty brown and punchy red ales, malty black IPA’s, and rich, subtly sweet Oktoberfest style beers brewed locally. For me, this means tasting Von Trapp’s Oktoberfest, Bent Hill’s Maple Red Ale, or the Red Fort Ale from Wunderkammer Beer.
Also keep an eye out for some wines you may not have tried. The folks at these markets are quite well versed in their wares, and will be happy to give you advice about what’s particularly suited to your meal.