It’s raining yellow leaves in my yard as I type and the little birds are flitting about chirping like maniacs. Such a welcome sight! This week has been true to form for Georgia fall- chilly in the mornings, strip down to t-shirt midday, and layer back up in the evening. People watching always cracks me up this time of year, because some folks are still sporting shorts, while others have committed to their winter coats and scarves for the duration. Good thing I’ve got skills in the kitchen to fog up the windows in my little house when the chill calls for it and embrace the last of the beautiful lettuce during the warm spells.
Last Sunday, we took our time getting to the Grant Park Market, so it was gorgeous when we arrived.
I followed my ears to the park, pleasantly surprised to hear a band playing, providing a soundtrack for one of the Hoopin’ Farmers to do his thang amidst the pumpkins.
A big smile took over my face, and I hadn’t even crossed the street yet. I love this place.
The kids in town were getting a jump on Halloween, already in costume and chillin’ on pumpkins half their size.
First things first, we were starving, of course, and needed a bite to eat. The Little Tart’s table was dead ahead and these pastries caught our attention.
Apples are still ruling the world and this tray of pastries, so I figured either choice would be a seasonally appropriate way to appease the rumbling belly. We opted for the apple cheddar turnover. Come on, cheese makes everything better.
The flavor of the crust was sweet and savory- thanks to the salty cheddar- and I appreciated the texture. Though the butteriness came through, the whole pastry didn’t crumble all over my face at once. Bonus! It kept its shape and provided a sturdy vehicle for the soft, scrumptious apple filling to be transported to my happy taste buds. Yay!
While sharing our breakfast-tizer, we noticed a new and exciting booth filled with handmade pottery of many shapes and sizes.
Ally Built is a small business run by artisan Allison Kruskamp,
a modest and creative sort, pouring her heart into her art. I don’t know about your town, but Decatur has gone growler crazy, with more than a handful of stores now offering giant jugs to be filled and refilled with any number of delicious beers. Allison’s growler has such personality, I thought it would make a perfect gift for a friend. I look forward to seeing more of her ideas transform into handheld, functional masterpieces.
Since we’d lollygagged on this particular Sunday morning, the pickins were slim at some of the market tables. H & F had been mobbed throughout the morning and only had a few items left. The emptiness was strange to me,
but I bet that lone Irish Soda Bread rocks.
Mercier Farms apple table was actually still crowded with folks and loads of apples,
so much so, I could only snap a photo of one basket full of perfect apples.
Oakleaf Mennonite Farm had given much of their produce to the star Chef of the week, Eric Ottensmeyer of Leon’s Full Service, for his cooking demonstration. An honor, I’m sure. Take a look at their ginormous sweet potatoes.
The one on the right looks like an old-school phone, and I had to restrain myself from picking it up and pretending I was blabbing with a girlfriend. I’m sure Adam would have been mortified.
They also had some beautiful baby mustard greens,
which I took home with me. Too cute to pass up, really.
And this was my favorite moment of the day- so quintessential Grant Park Market. As I was standing there, chatting with the farmer, a guy rolled up on his bicycle with a backpack full of basil. He informed the farmer that he and his wife had grown entirely too much basil to use- and would the farmer like to take this bundle off his hands?
Of course, the farmer obliged the bicyclist, and off the man rode- lighter and full of good karma. This is the vibe at Grant Park, and the reason I feel so at home and inspired there.
Tomatoes are still kickin’ here in Georgia, thankfully, saddled right up next to heaps of summer squash
and butternuts too. I wonder how many tons of summer squash were produced in Georgia this year. Lord knows, I have eaten copious amounts of it in every manner imaginable to man.
Since I pretty much tore through my Tulip Poplar honey over the last few weeks, it was time for us to decide on our next honey purchase. Adam did not complain about tasting the sweet, sticky varieties once again.
And he deferred to my pick last time, so the choice was his to make. I assumed he was going with the watermelon honey, because he’s commented on its delightfulness before. Yup. That was the one.
The super fun honey girl only had a large watermelon honey bear left, and Adam was a-okay with that. Not a bad problem to have in the scope of things.
Right next door to Hidden Springs is the Hooping Farmers’ booth. A very happy place to be.
These awesome red velvety looking flowers sold for five bucks, including the hand painted can! What a deal!
And beneath the flowers, I spotted a huge crate full of peppers.
I was told to help myself- to whichever ones i wanted for a whopping two dollars. Woohooooo!!! Yes, please.
The Hoopin’ Farmers also had okra and peas,
and radishes, of course.
Who knew radishes were so plentiful in Georgia this time of year? The Radish Party has been going on for weeks now!
When I turned around from the table, manned by one Hoopin’ Farmer, I spied the other one.
He kindly posed for me after hooping up a storm, impressing the children who watched him with wide eyes. These guys are too cool.
Next, I was thankful to find a momentarily idle Nazifa, a warm and wonderful woman, eager to share her nan, falafel,
and special spice mixture with the community.
I liked her immediately, and was glad to have the opportunity to give her positive feedback about the pizzas I made using her amazing nan. It is evident that her heart is in her work, something of an epidemic around these parts, and she instructed me not to ever cook her spice rub. It is to be used strictly as a finishing touch or a flavoring for cold or room temperature oils or sauces. I trust her.
We actually sprinkled our homemade croutons with the spices – after they were cooked!
Mmhmm. Thank you, Nazifa!
Our next stop was at the Spotted Trotter’s booth- because we just can’t walk on by.
As Kevin was sharing the list of items he had left in his cooler, the words “Pork Belly Bacon” came out of his mouth. Adam and I looked at each other and nodded our heads in agreement. I was eyeballing those words on the sign myself, but hearing them out loud confirmed my need to try it out. Sweet, salty, rich and delicious. So glad we did.
And that brought us to Turtle Band Farm’s table full of beautiful leafy greens like red russian kale,
This week, I cooked those greens with my collard greens, as they have quite a similar texture and appearance. As for the bulbs (a cross between an apple and a turnip in my mind), I employed them in a Mexican mixed green salad with roasted pepitas and cilantro lime vinaigrette, a Japanese inspired quinoa salad, and a tasty slaw.
Their Scarlet Queen Turnips were looking good,
as well as their eggplant.
Talk about a long growing season! Lucky that we can use eggplant in so many different ways!
Towards the end of the row of vendors, Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet’s table was festive with a diverse collection of seasonal goodies.
Again, their beautiful herbs drew my attention, and I walked off with a lovely bag of bright basil leaves.
Lastly, we got to grab a few ripe tomatoes
at Ivabell Acres. Funny, I started tomato season off buying her tomatoes,
and she’s still got some beauties now.
The simplicity of this bouquet made me smile once more before we headed out of the market.
That’s my second to last bag of joy from my CSA with Turtle Bend for the season.
Thinking about the end really makes me want to cry…so I’m not gonna talk about it just yet.
Back at the old house, we took stock of our bounty
with gratitude and excitement,
and got ourselves prepared to cook up a Japanese inspired meal: Teriyaki Grilled Chicken with Black Quinoa Salad and Hot Apple- Pineapple Relish in Lettuce Cups.
Did you know that teriyaki sauce is just a mixture of tamari or soy sauce and Mirin? It’s true! I’m not sure why I’ve never made my own before this week, but I know it won’t be long before we do it again!
We marinated our chicken, breasts and legs,
in the teriyaki sauce, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes
for about two hours in the fridge while preparing the other components of the dish.
First, we whipped up a quick dressing for our quinoa salad.
2 T sesame oil, 4 T mirin, 2 T low sodium tamari, 1 t dijon mustard, the juice of a lime, several cloves of garlic, a nice hunk of ginger, and a good pinch of red pepper flakes.
We whirred it all together in our little food processor, streamed in olive oil while we blended, and created a dressing that definitely felt Japanese to me.
The dijon mustard almost lent a wasabi sort of sensation to the profile. Nice.
Next up, our hot apple- pineapple relish.
This idea came to fruition because of the affinity that pineapple and teriyaki have for one another. Rather than just make a pineapple salsa or chutney, we wanted to incorporate our fresh apples as well.
Knowing that the relish would come together quickly, we got our mise en place in order before heating our pan.
We started by sauteing minced shallot in a bit of olive oil.
Shallot has a subtle flavor that worked incredibly well in this instance to create a savory base.
Once softened, we added
our apples, pineapple, and a pinch of salt and pepper. We let the fruit cook down a few minutes
before adding garlic, tamari, and Sriracha sauce.
Mmmhmm. Good things happening. After just another couple of minutes, it was time to add the finishing touches-
fresh local jalapenos, scallions, and cilantro. Spicy and sweet, this relish had serious flavor,
and I knew we were building in layers of goodness that would be well worth their weight in the end.
With the chicken out of the fridge, coming to room temperature, we got to work on our quinoa salad.
First, I soaked the quinoa in cold water for about 15 minutes.
We rinsed our beautiful bok choi,
and chopped the stems and leaves, placing them in separate bowls.
We chopped the kohlrabi into little cubes, diced up our sweet peppers nice and small, and made matchsticks of our radishes.
Then, I strained the quinoa and added it to a pot over medium heat.
I like to toast the quinoa for a couple of minutes before pouring in the broth.
The quinoa to broth ratio is just the same as with rice: one cup of quinoa to two cups of broth. I added a pinch of salt and pepper, a clove of minced garlic, and brought the liquid up to a boil. Then, I turned down the heat, covered the pot, and let it simmer for about 25 minutes. If you’re using white quinoa, it won’t take quite as long to cook.
In my wok, I heated a bit of olive oil and added one clove of minced garlic to set the stage for the remaining vegetables.
We added the kohlrabi and bok choy stems
and stir fried them for just a couple of minutes so they would be crisp tender.
I transferred the hot quinoa to a large bowl where my bok choi ribbons were waiting,
and I tossed them together, wilting the bok choi gently. Then, we added the remaining salad ingredients,
drizzled our dressing over the top, and tossed it all together.
I was so pleased with the flavors and textures in this salad. I knew it would complement our teriyaki chicken perfectly.
Speaking of, after getting a good scald over the charcoal,
we used our hands to pull the juicy meat apart. And we may or may not have enjoyed some of the skin while we performed that task…
Ready to plate! All we needed was our fresh, local, amazing lettuce from Turtle Bend and a couple more radishes.
And this makes for a very fun, interactive meal. We laid out all of the components,
and then built each little lettuce cup to our liking.
Quinoa salad on the bottom, chicken, relish, and a little radish on top. Each and every bite was refreshing and crunchy, spicy and sweet, surprising, and distinctly Japanese in flavor. The way the relish mixed with the savory quinoa salad was magical. Every peanut was like a prize from a cereal box. The bok choi and kohlrabi were just cooked enough to be soft on the inside with wonderful crunch on the outside. And the chicken was so tender and lovely in the middle of the cup. The fresh, local ingredients were vibrant and satisfying. This dinner was a home run.
Please feel free to try out any or all of the components of this dish, or switch up the ingredients based on what you’ve got on hand. The quinoa salad is totally versatile and works well as a side dish in just about any situation- just alter your ingredients and dressing to reflect the mood of the meal. Maybe you’ll create your own lettuce cups focusing on an entirely different culture of cuisine. Or, you could marinate shrimp in the teriyaki sauce and grill them up while the weather holds and serve them over rice. Whatever you’re cooking up in your kitchen this week, I hope you’re pushing your boundaries a bit, embracing the fresh, seasonal gifts around you, and sharing with your loved ones.
Happy cooking and eating to you,