Forcing spring onto the dinner table

Published: March 5, 2014
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I’ve given up on this winter and decided to just pretend that it’s spring.

If you can force tulip bulbs inside, why not just force the rest of it too?

So that meant I had to put away my slow cooker (but not before one really delicious pot of beef stew), forget the potatoes, dried beans and other rib-sticking, soul-warming fare, and embrace what was fresh and green.

If this really were spring or summer, I’d head to the farmers market, pick up some corn on the cob and a couple of giant slicing tomatoes, and voila, dinner would be on the table.

While there are no locally grown tomatoes or corn to be had (and the tomatoes at the grocery store were so bland even my husband refused to buy them), there are farmers markets still going on during the winter at indoor locations in some areas.

When I got to Old Trail School in Bath Township, Ohio, where the Countryside Conservancy was having its recent winter market, the parking lot was full — make that overflowing.

I got there 10 minutes after the market opened, thinking I would be an early bird, but the early birds were already leaving with the cream of the crop, literally.

There were more people there than I remember seeing at some summer markets. Perhaps it is in the dead of a harsh winter when we appreciate freshly harvested foods the most and maybe, like me, the others just needed a jolt of spring to get through the next six weeks.

I enjoyed seeing friends and acquaintances who came out to shop, and found a variety of foods from meat and eggs to apples and pastries.

Unfortunately, I was reminded that we are indeed in the middle of a harsh Ohio winter, when the only fresh green I found was spinach. There were radishes, potatoes, onions and other root crops, but I was hoping for a few more above-the-ground crops.

With a pound of spinach in my bag, I soldiered onward.

Meat was everywhere: beef, pork, buffalo, lamb, roasts, burgers, bacon and sausage. But again, I decided to think spring. For me, warmer months mean lighter fare, so I opted for fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Passing on potatoes and other grains wasn’t a problem when I found a display of fresh pasta and purchased a few nests of pappardelle, or ribbon pasta. I finished up my shopping with some garlic and onions, and I was all set to cook a spring-inspired meal.

I did make a stop at the grocery store for a lemon, which, truth be told, I wouldn’t find locally grown even at a summer market.