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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

mixed bell peppers

Melding summer’s produce into a single simmered dish gives you a satisfying vegetarian meal and celebrates the height of the farmers tailgate market season. We’re thinking about recipes like French ratatouille, Spanish piperade, and Middle Eastern shakshuka. These similar dishes all start with tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, and garlic, with additions of eggplant, summer squash, potatoes, or eggs. All of these recipes adapt easily to accommodate market purchases or what you have leftover in your fridge.

There are many takes on the best way to prepare ratatouille, from how to cut of the vegetables (thinly sliced rounds, small dice, or large chunks) to whether you use fresh tomatoes or a sauce to precooking the vegetables individually before simmering them together. Experiment as you want, but here’s our favorite method for the classic dish. 

Start by making a thick sauce of tomatoes, sweet peppers, onion, and garlic—which is also the basis for piperade and shakshuka. In a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat, gently cook a diced onion and bell pepper until soft. Add 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, and cook for another minute or two. Add 8 to 10 diced tomatoes (about 3 cups) and simmer until the sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper, and spread in the bottom of a large baking dish.

Meanwhile, slice 3 to 6 medium tomatoes (such as plum or cocktail), 1 eggplant (slender Asian varieties work well), 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash, and 2 to 3 sweet peppers into 1/4-inch rounds. You can also include carrots if you want. Lay everything over the sauce in the baking dish in overlapping rows, alternating vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with fresh thyme and oregano. Cover with parchment paper and bake in a 375-degree oven until vegetables are slightly brown at edges, about 45 minutes. For a simple main course, serve over whole grain pasta, rice, or barley with crumbled local feta on top. 

For piperade, add paprika (sweet or smoked) to the tomato-pepper sauce. It’s often served over toast or with scrambled eggs, ham, polenta, or potatoes to create a complete dish. Similarly, shakshuka adds cumin and sometimes cinnamon to the sauce before breaking eggs directly into the pan and baking in the oven. Top shakshuka with feta and cilantro. 

Sweet red, orange, and yellow peppers are just starting to come into markets now, but if you can’t find them yet, use purple bell or even green types like Carmen, Anaheim, or shishito. (You could even try a green piperade using green tomatoes or tomatillos.) Try to use local garlic, as it will make a real difference in all of these recipes. Tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash, and onions are widely available right now.

At farmers markets now you’ll also find peaches, nectarines, blackberries, melons, corn, okra, carrots, green beans, salad greens, mushrooms, and much more. Markets are also stocked with farm-fresh eggs, bread, cheese, pastries, drinks, and prepared foods. There are more than 100 farmers tailgate markets throughout the Appalachian Grown region. Find them, as well as farms and other local food businesses, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.

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