It’s April in the Ozarks and flowers aren’t the only things in bloom. The Farmers Market of the Ozarks continues to grow every week. The market has already shifted to summer hours: Saturdays 8 am to 1 pm and Thursdays 4 – 8 pm. The warmer temperatures and growing number of vendors has spread the market out from under the heated pavilion and into the parking lot and courtyard.

I’ll admit the vegetable selection is still small. You’ll find various shades of green and red in the form of lettuce, kale, asparagus and rhubarb. I have no idea what to do with rhubarb but I have no problem with asparagus. Grill it, sauté it or put it in a frittata. You really can’t go wrong. It even tastes good raw. Wrap a thin slice of swiss or provolone cheese around it (and some turkey if you’re a meat eater) for a quick and balanced snack.

I am not normally a big salad eater but when the greens are this gorgeous it’s hard to resist. I didn’t have Caesar salad planned for Saturday dinner but that’s part of the beauty of shopping fresh and eating with the seasons. Sometimes you just need to let the market decide the menu. I bought a mixed bunch of red and green romaine for $2.50 knowing I had everything else I needed at home to make the vegan dressing that goes along with it. The dressing is a simple recipe from Clean Eating Magazine (the March 2011 issue if you’re interested in the salad recipe).

  • ½ cup light firm silken tofu
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp each sea salt and ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

I put all the ingredients in my Ninja to mix them to a cream consistency. Then I pour over the chopped romaine and diced cucumber, toss and serve.

I was on a mission for one ingredient specific ingredient on my last visit: mushrooms.

Mushrooms are an often forgotten but amazing vegetarian source of protein. Not only are they a good source of protein but also they are also naturally gluten free and high in vitamin D. If you need to add a meaty texture to a dish without using soy or “faux meat” products mushroom will do the trick. The also happen be very plentiful at the farmers market right now.

As I have mentioned before, I am not a mushroom expert. I would never dare try to gather my own. If they are unlabeled I often have to ask what variety is which. Even with a clearly marked display I managed to buy the wrong kind of mushrooms. Excited by a sale on shiitake mushrooms, I bought a pound of them despite the fact I had written down oyster mushrooms. There are two important lessons to be learned here: if you have a list, look at it and don’t be afraid to improvise.

The Millet and Mushroom Bowls turned out to be delicious with the shiitake (instead of oyster) mushrooms roasted with onions and a dressing made with some fresh thyme.

If the mushrooms are still plentiful on my next visit I may do portabella burgers or try a vegan “scallops” recipe using king oyster mushrooms (this time I’ll triple check the list). If you’re a mushroom lover you might also try this Mushroom Minestrone recipe from my friend Kira.

Have I mentioned another tea vendor has appeared at the market? Keen Bean Coffee Roasters is serving up organic blends by the cup or to take home. I’ve been enjoying a cup of their English Breakfast tea as I stroll the market but I fully intend on giving their jasmine green a try.

Coffee or tea as you shop the market? What’s your favorite way to eat a mushroom? What do you do with rhubarb?

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