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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Using freshest vegetables around

Saturday mornings have always been one of my favorite times of the week. As a child, I could always be found in front of the television watching cartoons. These days, I like waking up early and heading to the Farmer’s Market.

Searcy’s Farmer’s Market is open on Saturday’s from 8am-12pm and Tuesday’s from 3-6pm. They are located on the east side of the courthouse. Here you can find locally grown meat, produce and herbs along with locally made sweets. The quality of these ingredients are a chef’s dream.

Today, I thought I would share with you recipes that use these wonderful ingredients: Crab and Corn Pudding, Watermelon Gazpacho and Eggplant and Rice Dressing. Since some of the vendors sell the same items, I will not suggest buying from one or another. I will point out the ingredients that can be found at the market.

This recipe came to mind when I saw the fresh sweet corn on display. You can also use the Free Range Eggs that are for sale at the market. This is a great side dish for any meal.

Crab and Corn Pudding

1 1/2 cups corn kernels

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

1/3 cup half-and-half

1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked through for shells

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Pinch cayenne

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Tabasco to taste

Preheat oven to 350℉. Butter 4 (6-oz.) soufflé dishes.

In a food processor or blender, combine corn, egg, egg yolks, half-and-half, and half of the crabmeat and process 3 seconds. Add flour, salt. sugar, and cayenne and process for 10 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in remaining crabmeat, parsley and tabasco. Fill dishes with mixture and cover each with foil. Arrange dishes in a baking pan and transfer to oven. Add enough water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of dishes. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more, or until just set. Transfer cups to a rack to cool slightly. Serve.

Gazpacho is a cold soup. It is very refreshing during the hot summer months. This recipe uses quite a few items that are found at the market: Watermelon, Cucumbers, Onions, and Tomatoes. This dish is better made in advance, so the flavors can blend together.

Watermelon Gazpacho

8 cups seedless watermelon chunks

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

1 small onion, chopped

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained

1 cup tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup cranberry cocktail juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar

Salt to taste

A generous dash Louisiana hot sauce (optional)

Place all ingredients in a food processor, pulse until almost puréed or to desired consistency. Add more cranberry juice to thin, if needed.

This side dish is a variation of Dirty Rice. The items sold at the market for this dish are Eggplant, Ground Beef, Onions, and Bell Peppers. This dish is a great accompaniment to any main protein, especially ham, turkey and lamb. Make this instead of regular rice dressing. Your family will be happy you did.

Eggplant and Rice Dressing

1 large eggplant, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup onions, chopped

1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped

1 pound ground beef

4 cups cooked long-grain rice, kept warm

1/4 cup chicken broth

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Creole seasoning to taste

Put eggplant in a bowl of water and add salt. Let stand for about 15 minutes, then drain, rinse with cool water and pat dry on paper towels.

In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add eggplant, stirring often, and cook for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add onions and bell peppers and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is brown and no longer pink. Cover pot, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add rice, and stir to mix. Add chicken broth if the mixture becomes dry. Season with Creole seasoning and serve warm.

I could go on for days with recipes using the wonderful local ingredients that you can purchase at Searcy’s Farmer’s Market. These are the freshest products you can find in town. You are also supporting these local farms. I hope to see you out there next week.

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