I love the summer farmers’ markets—the produce, the roasted green chiles, the flowers. But the idea of a winter farmers’ market made me think of one thing. Parsnips. There aren’t many foods which cause me to wrinkle my nose, and the parsnip—that yellowed snaggletooth of a root vegetable—is number one on the list. It has been ever since my ostensibly well-meaning grandmother introduced me to them years ago. But I’ve been hearing such great things about the Downtown Winter Farmers' Market that I knew I had to get over my prejudice. At the risk of meeting up with my old nemesis, I went on Saturday to shop for ingredients for a lovin’ local Valentine’s Day dinner I planned to prepare for my family.
The Opera Galleria was bustling with shoppers, so much so that I was a bit flummoxed at first and was glad I had a list. Otherwise, I might have come home with soap, yarn, earrings, and dog treats, which are all fine products but don’t make for much of a meal.
With a grass-fed roast from Sun Prairie Natural Beef thawing in my fridge, I just needed the side dishes. At Cresset Farm I found winter veggies for roasting: carrot, beet, onion, delicata squash, and turnip (I do occasionally like those roots. Go figure.). I saw no parsnips…perhaps they had been outmatched by the thuggish rutabagas the size of bocce balls.
The Food Co-op bakery had crusty little baguettes for a dollar apiece. I was pleased that Quatrix Aquaponics was at the market with fresh lettuce, as I had read about them in chef Linda Hoffman’s column in the Coloradoan. I finished off my shopping with mixed mushrooms, and an intriguing mushroom-based seasoning, from Hazel Dell, and a bottle of American Zinfandel from Blue Mountain Vineyards.
On Monday morning, I rubbed the roast with olive oil and mushroom seasoning, browned it, and popped it in the slow cooker with beef broth, red wine, tomato paste, and some of the mushrooms. All I had to do in the evening was dice and roast the veggies, toss the oak leaf lettuce with shredded carrot, slice and sauté more of the mushrooms, and crisp the baguettes in the oven for a few minutes.
I know chocolate is the Valentine’s Day dessert of choice, but it does keep some members of my family awake, which is not ideal on a Monday night. So, for a quick and easy dessert, I poured Morning Fresh Dairy's Root Beer milk (made with Coopersmith’s Root Beer Syrup) into the ice cream maker. And voila.
The meal was not fancy, but everything—from the first bite of lettuce to the last bite of ice cream—was delicious. I know the expression “taste the love” is corny and cliché, but I really could taste it. And it wasn’t because it was Valentine’s Day and I had love on the brain. It was because every one of the food producers involved in bringing the meal to my table cares about what they’re doing and wants to do it in the best way possible. The same may even be said of parsnip growers, but I’ll take their word for it.