Guest Post: Making the Most of Farmers Markets–A Weeklong Menu

I’m excited to announce a new phase in Pestle Mortar’s life–the Guest Post.  I’ve asked a few foodie friends to send me their take on what’s going on in their culinary lives, whether it be where they’ve dined lately, what’s cooking in their kitchen or what tasty trends they’re seeing in their city.  If you’re interested in doing your own guest post, drop me a line at or leave a note in the comment section. 

The first guest post comes from my best gal, Rachel, who is a high powered executive in NYC by day and loving wife and amazing mama by night.  Rachel tells us how she keeps her family well fed for a week by some creative shopping at the local farmers market followed by some stellar prep and planning (and even includes some variation for picky eaters–kids or otherwise).  Even I, Ms. Procrastination 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 (I had a really productive 2009!), could do this.  On the menu this week: Seared Spicy Scallops, Seared Flank Steak with Orzo Salad, Pork Chops with Fennel, Fettuccine with Asparagus and Bacon and Fish and Greens.  Don’t you wish you were at her house tonight?

The Family That Eats Together…

Growing up, all the important decisions in my family were made in the kitchen. That’s because we spent a lot of time there, seated at a table for two. After ballet class, swim practice, rehearsal, work, my mom and I sat down together for dinner every day. Those week-night dinners we assembled were never fancy – pastas, fried chicken, stir fries, fish cakes, tuna casserole. They were the working class meals of a single Mom in the 70’s and early 80s. But they were a time for us to slow down together. To talk about our days. To connect.

I think those dinners saved me from a life of bad choices. (I had to sit down, look my mother in the eye, and recount each day). They enriched me with a feeling of community and gave me routine. As an adult, they sustain me with memory. Now that I am a mom, delighting in my five-year old son’s food revelations and my 6-month old daughter’s brand new love of avocado, I insist upon a home cooked meal. Every night. Together. My commitment to putting homemade food on the table each night for my family of four, however, extends beyond my insistence upon dinner as family time. It is also driven by my obsession with cooking organic food that is grown locally. 

When I was pregnant with my son, I began buying food that was organic and local. It cost a bit more. It took more time — one trip to the farmers market and one to my local market. But five years and another child later, I have never looked back. Living on a single income here in New York City means that my husband and I are a family on a budget, but our weekly food bill is a constant, set amount that I carve out as a known quantity. It is simply too important—for my kids and for our world. 

The other challenge is that I work full time, commuting on the F Train home each night. I get home late, and set in sail a tight ship of family dinner, bath time, stories, and bed. It can be hectic around here, but every night I sit down, hear about my five-year old’s day, feed my daughter, and catch up with my husband over something we’ve put together quickly after gathering it up from local farmers the weekend before. 

So here is how we do it: 

1. Hunt and gather: Every Sunday, my son, daughter, and I walk to the farmers market to pick up meat, eggs, fish, and vegetables. What I find there sets our menu for the week. I am extremely lucky to live in Brooklyn, where the farmers markets are yearlong. There is something incredibly satisfying about watching my son talk to the upstate farmers who grow our greens, catch our fish, and raise our cows. 

2. Make a menu based on what you find there: This week, the meat guys had nice flank steak and the fishermen sold us lovely scallops and a healthy piece of white fish. I figure that’s three of our five meals. Stunning chard, a gorgeous bunch of red onions, ripe cherry tomatoes, and a perfect fennel bulb also caught my eye. The chard will do nicely with the fish, the tomatoes will be part of a salad for the steak, and that fennel will work with some pork chops I’ll pick up at the market. Throw in pasta and I’ve got the week covered. 

3. Forage for the rest of your week: After the farmers market, we jump in the car and go to Fairway, which is a New York market that is like dying and going to food heaven. Here we gather up pork to cook with the fennel, some pasta (with a good-looking bunch of asparagus), and other staples for the week. Fairway is right on the ocean, so we always grab a bagel at Fairway’s ocean-side bakery and take a stroll along the water, too. 

The recipes I’ve created for this week can each be put together in less than 15 minutes. They include seasonal ingredients you can find at your local farmers market right now (as well as a few from your supermarket). They don’t cost a fortune. They are healthy, local, and lend themselves to variations for your toddler or big kid. 

Like everything else in my shining, new life as a parent of two, food is novel and very fun. I aim to sustain that belief through every eating age. One farmers market and one week-night dinner at a time.

Monday:  Seared Spicy Scallops

Tuesday: Seared Flank Steak with Orzo Salad

Wednesday: Pork Chops with Fennel

Thursday: Fettuccine with Asparagus and Bacon

Friday: Fish and Greens

Monday: Quick Seared Spicy Scallops

Serves 2 

  • 6 large scallops
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic*
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1-cup white or brown rice

Time to table: 12-15 minutes 

Make ahead: Prepare rice. 

Heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Sauté garlic, red onion and yellow pepper until soft, about 6 minutes. Add soy sauce and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add red pepper to achieve desired heat. 

While the vegetables are cooking, heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in another small skillet. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Sear scallops, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Add lemon juice at the last minute. The juice should evaporate and be absorbed into the scallops almost instantly on a very hot skillet. 

Plate a few spoonfuls of rice. Layer the vegetables on top of the rice and place the scallops on top. 

* Use a jar of pre-chopped garlic 

Variations on a Theme for Toddlers or Big Kids 


Rice with Soy Sauce

Miso Soup (with Nori)

 Tuesday: Seared flank steak with Orzo Salad 

Seared Flank Steak 

  • 1 large filet of grass-fed, farm-raised steak
  • Salt, Pepper, and Worchester sauce to taste

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Heat iron skillet on high until very hot. Sear the steak, about 3 minutes per side. Add Worchester sauce at the last moment. Remove from heat, slice, and let stand for a minute or so. 

Orzo Salad 

  • 1-cup orzo pasta
  • ½ cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • ½ cup pitted kalmata olives
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar

Orzo boils up very quickly. Boil pasta. Remove from heat and let cool. Add all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss and serve. 

Time to table: 12-15 minutes 

Variations on a Theme for Toddlers or Big Kids 

Cook a bit of the steak until well done. Slice it into thin strips and serve with a bowl of soy sauce for dipping.

Orzo with butter and salt

Frozen broccoli spears with lemon juice

 Wednesday: Pork Chops with Fennel 

  • 1-tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 organic pork chops
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1-tablespoon chicken broth

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Sauté the sliced red onions and fennel until soft. Add the pork chops to the hot skillet and sear on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Add the lemon juice and chicken broth. Let the chops, the onions, and the fennel simmer for 3-5 minutes. 

Slice the pork and plate it over brown rice, smothered in fennel and onions. 

Time to table: 12-15 minutes 

Make ahead: Prepare rice. 

Variations on a Theme for Toddlers/Big Kids 

Slice pork chops into cubes.

Serve rice with a bit of butter.

 Thursday: Fettuccine with Asparagus and Bacon 

  • 1 box Fettuccine
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • Red Pepper flakes to taste

Sauté bacon and remove from heat when crispy. Add asparagus spears to the pan and sauté until bright green. Boil pasta until el dente. Mix with parm, black pepper, and red pepper. Serve over pasta. 

Time to table: 12-15 minutes 

Variations on a Theme for Toddlers/Big Kids 

fettuccine with butter.

Asparagus with lemon juice.

Bacon in strips.

Friday: Fish and Greens 

  • 1 lb. fresh-caught white fish (cod, halibut, etc)
  • 1 bunch kale or chard, chopped
  • 1-teaspoon garlic
  • Red Pepper flakes to taste

Heat the olive oil until hot. Sautee the greens with butter and red pepper flakes until bright green. 

Sautee the fish in olive oil and lemon juice. Serve over greens. 

Time to table: 10 minutes 

Variations on a Theme for Toddlers/Big Kids 

This one is a tough one, since my boy does not like fish. I keep a bunch of homemade, small meatballs in the freezer for nights like this. I simply de-thaw them, heat them in a saucepan, and serve them with fresh green beans and macaroni noodles.


One Response to Guest Post: Making the Most of Farmers Markets–A Weeklong Menu

  1. H2 says:

    Heather is right: you are amazing, Rachel. Way to feed your brood right! How you juggle all this is beyond me. Blessings to you and your family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: