Last Saturday was the opening weekend for the 2010 Charlottesville City Market. I awoke bright and early that morning, positively giddy with excitement, ready to greet old friends and fill our basket with local meat, cheese, eggs, coffee and greens. I not-so-gently shook Brian awake, bounced down the hall to brush my teeth and tame my hair, pulled on jeans and slipped into sandals all in the amount of time it typically takes me to fumble around groggily looking for the ‘snooze’ button on my alarm.
We arrived beneath a sky washed with shades of pink and blue, just as the cool morning air was pierced by golden sunbeams slipping between historic brick buildings. Our bodies cast long shadows on the sidewalk as we made our way towards the parking lot full of rainbow-hued tents, listening to the chatter of vendors and patrons mingled with the strum of a banjo and the bark of a dog. The intoxicating smell of sizzling, smokey breakfast sausage wafted our way as the folks from Babes in the Wood grilled plump links for the line of people curled around their booth, ready to get their fill of a market favorite missed for the last four months.
We made our way down the already-crowded aisles, stopping to admire a booth of freshly cut tulips resembling painted Easter eggs swaying atop fluorescent green stems. Our first destination, always, is Double H Farm, where we're sure to receive a big bear-hug from Richard and a bright, happy smile from Jean. It was no different last Saturday, and even though we saw each other every few weeks through the long, cold Winter, we greeted each other as if it had been months since our last visit, all so excited that Spring is finally here and we'll be able to catch up every week.
After a brief chat, our basket was filled with a dozen eggs, arugula, kale, sliced ham and a 6-pack of lettuce plants. Goodbyes were said alongside "see you next week!" and Brian and I moved on to explore the rest of the market. We stopped at the Shenandoah Joe booth for our morning cup of coffee and a pound of whole beans for the week, before moving on to Night Sky Farm for some samples of chevre and the purchase of fresh feta cheese. We wandered between booths, waving to familiar faces and introducing ourselves to new vendors, until finally our basket was filled to the brim and our wallets were empty.
Once home I surveyed our purchases, planned our menu for the week and penned our grocery shopping list. I love this time of year, when local, seasonal produce begins to inform our meal choices, when the trip to the grocery store happens only after a visit to the farmer's market.
Greens will play a prominent role in our diet for the next few months, until a greater variety of locally-grown produce becomes available. I'm okay with that, as it seems that there are endless possibilities for the leafy, fiber and vitamin-full vegetables. Last week we tried kale chips for the very first time, after seeing them pop up on many of my favorite blogs. We used green curly kale and, although not as crispy as a potato chip, they were really quite tasty. Next time we'll try lacinato kale, as it seems that the thicker leaves will make for a more substantial chip.
We also spread the baked kale across whole wheat pitas brushed with olive oil, and then topped the 'pizzas' with thinly sliced red onion and thick slices of fresh mozzarella. Delicious, and such a healthy, quick dinner.
Baked Kale Chips
- one large bunch of kale (I used the green, curly variety, but I think that Lacinato would be even better)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 350*
- Rinse and dry kale as best you can with paper towels or in a salad spinner. Tear into bite-size pieces, discarding tough central stems.
- Toss kale with olive oil, just to coat very lightly. Spread kale across baking sheets in one layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly grated parmesan.
- Bake at 350* for 10-15 minutes, until edges are starting to brown and kale gets mostly crispy. Remove from oven and remove from tray, laying kale chips out on a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve immediately.
Our City Market lost someone very dear this week. John Coles, founder of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (VICFA), longtime food advocate and producer of incredible, artisanal goat cheese, has passed away. His presence at the City Market and as a member of the local food community will be missed greatly.
You can read Joel Salatin's tribute to John here.