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Join popular Arkansas food blogger Heather Disarro of Heather’s Dish as she strolls Arkansas Farmer’s Markets for end of summer goodies and shares her Ricotta Pie recipes.
Every time I get a chance to go to an Arkansas Grown farmers market, I have a routine. I get out of the car and take in the competition. Is that man in the fedora going to snatch up the best bunch of peaches? What about that lady – she looks like she’s on the hunt for some peppers – I hope she doesn’t get those glossy, brilliant red ones that I love. Don’t get me started on the zucchini and eggplant and those precious older women in front of me – I pray they don’t get that basket in the middle I’m eyeing!
The flowers welcome me warmly, even on the rainiest of Saturdays – sunflowers, zinnias, lilies are a decadence to the eyes as much as the fresh chocolate croissants are to the tongue. Just as sweet are the exchanges between the flower growers and their regular customers; the warm, cheerful gestures and discussion of how to care for the flowers reminds me of what a true farmer’s market should be. Markets are not retail, they are relationships, carefully cultivated over time with a common appreciation for where our products come from.
I make my way through the initial flower crowd and start taking in the rest of the products that have been brought to market that morning. On my right are local food trucks, tempting me to divert my attention from the Arkansas growers with delicious smells and the promise of a fabulous, albeit extended, breakfast. Forging on (and making a mental note to stop on the way back) I slowly walk by the stands selling local eggs, chicken, beef and handmade cheeses, dreaming up dinner ideas for the week. There are so many options, and there’s something about seeing the people who make those ingredients that sparks a deep-seeded creativity for meals to come.
Studded in between the produce stalls are local bakeries, coffee shops, artisan sauces and spice mixes, all just begging to be sampled. You never have to ask me twice to try food, so I sample my way down the line, inserting the new-found creations into the mental menu. I talk myself down from counting a container of hummus and a spoon as a meal, but decide it would fit into the snack category just fine.
Finally, I start looking at the fruits and vegetables spread so gorgeous out in front of me. The colors are vibrant and inviting, making it hard to stick with just the items I’ll actually need and use. The only way to talk myself out of buying out the entire place is the realization that my home is not a restaurant, and therefore anything more than needed would be waste. And wouldn’t it be a shame to waste such beautiful food?
This week, I’m on the hunt for those end-of-summer staples: zucchini, sweet peppers and peaches. I sadly refuse the shiny eggplant, knowing that it just won’t fit into the menu this time around. Grapes, okra, yellow squash and sweet potatoes are all shouting to me to buy! eat! enjoy! I make a note on my iPhone about meals I want to make the next week so that I can snatch up some of the other food next time.
Since cooking seasonally and locally is ripe with inspiration, I decide that sharing these late-summer treats is an even better way to spend my time and money. Ricotta pies are simple and versatile, and they make a fantastic canvas to showcase beautiful produce. It starts with a simple store-bought puff pastry, whole milk ricotta cheese, and two eggs. From there you simply mix and match flavors as needed: a little local honey and cinnamon pair perfectly with peaches, but freshly chopped herbs and Parmesan go so delightfully well with vegetables. You could take these ricotta pies on a Southwest adventure by adding chili powder and cumin, or even put an Indian twist with curry powder. There’s really no wrong answer, and the magic of the market will lead you in the direction you should go.
Makes 9 individual pies
Makes 9 individual pies
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