Turn a Trip to the Market into a Tasty Travel Meal
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—Whole Foods-type places, full of fragrant culinary creations, and all the best fruits, veggies, meats and craft products the store’s surrounding land and people can supply. My local standby in central Vermont, for instance, is the Woodstock Farmer’s Market. 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—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 to take hiking or skiing, on a road trip, or to your next socially distanced neighborhood picnic.
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 on the go, 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.
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 bagnat, 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 red pepper, arugula, and cucumber are old stand-bys.
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 is an easy side dish: kale, green, quinoa and rice salads all travel well and are readily available in your market’s cooler. Also check the soup selection: if it isn’t far to your picnic spot or powwow, a hot soup can be a lovely side dish (a nice potato leek or a minestrone will accompany your cheesy chicken sandwich perfectly).
For dessert, the options are endless. Fresh pastries are an obvious choice, while prebagged cookies make an affordable and easy-to-share treat to complete and complement your meal.
Finally, don’t forget to peruse the sure-to-be fabulous beverage section at your market. In our current craft beer moment, it’s easy to pick up a tasty local brew fit for any occasion: as a general rule of thumb, go for darker beer (stouts, brown ales, porters) in the colder months, and lighter, zippier beers in the hot ones (session IPA’s, lagers and pilsners, goses and saisons are all choices that will please and intrigue).
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 good suited to your meal.
With all your parts assembled, tos them n your favorite picnic basket, bag, satchel, purse or what have you, and get ready to have an extra special, one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Sea Salt Tortilla Chips with Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Kale Salad with Almond Slivers, Feta and Cranberries
The Main Event
French Inspired Roast Chicken Sandwich with Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese
On the Side
Soupe Au Pistou: A French classic made with seasonal vegetables, pasta, basil, and olive oil
Market-Fresh Fruit Tarts
Home-style Chocolate Chip Cookies