by Danielle Boudreau
Whether you’re looking for fresh ingredients, competitive prices or just a change of pace, the Gainesville Farmer’s Market is the perfect place to be. Every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. local vendors gather to sell their organic, farm-fresh foods – and we come to buy them!
I’ve ventured into the farmer’s market several times. Usually, I’ll emerge with frivolous impulse buys: soy candles, jars of jam or freshly baked pastries. However, this past Wednesday I went with a purpose – to make a fresh, healthy meal with farmer’s market ingredients. Recipe in hand, I sought out to complete my challenge. If you’re like me and want to experience the joys of buying local, here are some tips I learned from my trip:
1. Make a list.
The farmer’s market is no Publix. Big crowds, barking dogs and dozens of vendors will surround (and perhaps overwhelm) you. Make a list before you go in order to keep your thoughts organized. With so many unique ingredients for sale, impulse buys are encouraged, but a list will also ensure that you leave with everything you came for.
2. Arrive early to get the best pick of produce.
The farmer’s market isn’t a well-kept secret – it can get busy, and by 7 p.m. you’ll likely be left to pick through the leftovers. Popular items like fresh strawberries sell quickly, so the earlier you arrive, the better.
3. Do a walk-through.
Many vendors carry similar products, so you may not want to buy everything from the first booth you set your eyes on. Look for booths that specialize in organic produce and those with cheaper prices. Walk around and stake out your favorite vendors to make sure you get the best deals.
4. Get creative.
The farmer’s market is home to dozens of items that you can’t find in the supermarket and most are reasonably priced. Don’t be afraid to splurge on that hand-woven bracelet or basket you’ve been eyeing. Some of the best purchases are the ones you don’t plan, like the delicious rosemary-infused lemonade that I’ll definitely be going back for.
5. Don’t be afraid to bring the kids!
Aside from fresh produce, the farmer’s market is host to live music, dancing, dinner and dessert — things the entire family can enjoy! After a fun shopping trip, there’s nothing better than opening some ready-to-eat snacks and relaxing in the courtyard with the kids.
Whether you’re on a mission like me or you’re just visiting for fun, there’s nothing quite like shopping at Gainesville’s Farmer’s Market.
Baked Ziti with Summer Veggies
Baked Ziti is a favorite in my household. With fresh ingredients from the local Gainesville Farmer’s Market, I was able to create this tasty, nutritious meal – and you can too!
• 4 ounces uncooked ziti (whole wheat or quinoa pasta are healthy substitutes)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 cups chopped yellow squash
• 1 cup chopped zucchini
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 2 cups chopped tomato
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
• 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• cooking spray
• Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add squash, zucchini and onion; saute 5 minutes.
• Add tomato and garlic; saute 3 minutes.
• Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper.
• Combine ricotta, remaining salt and egg.
• Stir into pasta mixture.
• Spoon into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
• Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.