Instead of serving the go-to meal of burgers and potato salad at your outdoor gatherings, why not explore your culinary side and try something fresh and different? Entertaining with local vegetables and flavourful garden herbs is easy, healthy and delicious. In fact, farmers’ markets are often the best source for ingredients straight from the garden and offer everything you need for a perfect seasonal soirée. Here are a few ideas:
Before heading out to purchase your ingredients, decide what’s on the menu. Keep it simple. Fresh, local produce is full of flavour and doesn’t need to be used in an especially complex meal to satisfy the taste buds. For an informal gathering, a tomatillo salsa is an easy-to-make accompaniment to fish, chicken or pork and is a delicious snack when paired with baked, homemade tortilla chips. The salsa can be prepared in minutes using a high-powered blender like the Vitamix Total Nutrition Center, so you can spend less time prepping and more time enjoying your guests.
Once you’ve completed your menu, it’s time to visit your local farmers’ market to pick up the ingredients. Arrive early, when the market is less busy, and familiarize yourself with the producers. Ask them questions about when the produce was picked and how to tell if it’s ripe, developing a relationship with them for future visits. If you’re shopping early in the week, make sure the ingredients you’re using for your dish will stay fresh until your weekend party, and ask the vendors for advice on storage.
Have fun experimenting with new ingredients. Pick up a few golden beets, red dragon carrots or purple potatoes, all of which house amazing nutritional benefits and pack a tremendous amount of flavour into any meal.
Clean, Prepare, PairClean your produce thoroughly, and be aware that vegetables from farmers’ markets may have more dirt on them than the ones you pick up at the grocery store as they are fresh from the farm. Keep the preparation simple to allow the natural flavours to shine.
To make your meals pop, plate them on inexpensive bamboo or melamine dinner plates in cheerful hues. Serving trays in dark woods will complement the colourful dishes and simplify the transport of food and utensils from the kitchen to your dinner table or patio.
If you have extra fruit, vegetables or herbs, use them for a refreshing drink, such as cucumber lemonade for the kids, a blended green smoothie or a strawberry basil mojito for the adults. These fresh and delicious beverages will entice the senses and complete your farm-to-table meal.
Try this fresh made accompaniment:
Yield: 1 cup (240 ml) Total time: 10 minutes
8 (272 g) tomatillos, peeled, stewed
2 (10 g) scallions, halved
1/4 (5 g) jalapeño, halved, seeded
1/2 garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
Select Variable 1. Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 7.
Blend for 15 seconds or just until chopped. If necessary, use tamper to push the ingredients into the blades while processing.
Do not overmix. Serve as a dip or as an accompaniment.