SOJ Chef Demo 08.11.12

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This week at the South of the James Farmers’ Market cooking demo, Chef Sam Baker cooked fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables as the morning went from damp and dreary to warm and bright. With grey puddles underfoot, Chef Sam shopped the market and found some cool fish and shrimp as well as some vibrant tomatoes and large mushrooms. He quickly got to work on the tilefish from Barham Seafood.

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The spicy seasoning on the fish helped heat things up as the rain clouds teased us with an off-and-on light drizzle. The Chef explained that tilefish is a rare treat, as he seasoned it with tarragon, cayenne pepper, curry powder and sea salt. As the fish cooked in a pan, Chef Sam cozied up to some mushrooms from Haas Shrooms.

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After sautéing the mushrooms with some red onion, a splash of water and a bit of salt, Chef Sam stuffed them with Goats R Us dill chevre and pan seared tilefish, then topped them with pan roasted tomatoes and a sliver of fresh Asian pear.

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The stuffed mushrooms paired well with the weather, as the market had a certain damp earthiness that morning.

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After the Chef completed a couple of demonstrations, the clouds parted and the sun came out.

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Shoppers with dogs on leashes and children in strollers showed up. Iced coffee sales spiked for the morning. As the market steamed up, Chef Sam decided it was time to put the shrimp on.

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For his next act, Chef Sam made zucchini and yellow squash boats, complete with shrimp “passengers.” He made a barbecue sauce for the shrimp by reducing a pot of tomatoes and peaches with a splash of water to a thick sauce, then adding some Empress Farm habanero blackberry jam. I tasted the sauce and it was out of this world! It had a great balance of sweet and spicy. After bathing in the sauce, the shrimp hopped aboard zucchini and yellow squash boats stuffed with sautéed zucchini and red onions.

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The shrimp were a big hit, and it was cool to see that I wasn’t the only one who thought it was picture worthy!

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For the final demonstration, Chef Sam made a vegetarian pasta dish that was bursting with fruit ingredients. He used Bombolini Pasta’s herb ditalini as a base. Over the pasta, the Chef layered some seared Asian pears with ground black pepper. These were incredible. If I had been left unattended I would have eaten the whole plate before the Chef could assemble the dish. I was so happy that Kyle had picked up a bag of these pears while shopping that morning! I had plans for a pear pizza and watching this come together got me in the right mindset to pull it off.

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In addition to pears, the pasta dish featured sautéed zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and a tomato peach marinara sauce. This fantastic sauce included tomatoes, peaches, red onion and basil. Some of the plates were topped with a dollop of dill chevre to mix in.

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Whether it was stuffing mushrooms, filling zucchini halves, or packing flavor into a sauce, Chef Sam made sure that every dish was full of flavor and fresh produce. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, summer is the best season for packing in a lot of flavor with little effort. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chef Sam creates for the rest of this season, and what he has up his sleeve for the Fall. Come find out for yourself at the South of the James Market, every Saturday, eight to noon.

Thank you to Barham Seafood, Bombolini Pasta, Drumheller Orchard, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Haas Shrooms, Norma’s Produce, Rocking F Farms, Saunders Brothers Orchard, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Farm, and all of the other featured market vendors for providing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients!

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Farmers’ Market 8.4.12

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If you haven’t been to the farmers’ market lately, do yourself a favor and go this weekend! It is the absolute best time of year to go. Every table is completely packed with summery goodness. Peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, eggplant, melons, peaches… the list goes on. This is the time of year that we accidentally buy too much produce and scratch our heads over what to do with it all. It is the time of year for canning tomato sauce and freezing berries for later use in winter months. Kyle celebrates by buying a quart of jalapeños right when I start to get low. He brought home an eggplant this week that we ate for three days. Personally I believe this is the real season of excess – the very best kind.

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So many vegetables!

This week’s haul:

  • Rainbow chard
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Poblano peppers
  • Sweet peppers (not pictured)
  • Eggplant
  • Jalapeños
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • And from my friend Melissa, 5 gorgeous peaches (not pictured)

This weekend at the farmers’ market may be steamy, sticky and crowded. It may require you to roll out of bed a little early. But it will absolutely be worth it.

SOJ Chef Demo 08.04.12

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This week’s South of the James Market cooking demo featured a variety of ripe, juicy fruits paired with savory complements. The raspberries and blackberries are peaking right now, as the figs are just starting to ripen. This week was about celebrating local fruits right as they are bursting with flavor.

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First, Chef Sam made a berry, basil and mint reduction with a few spritzes of fresh lime juice. The raspberries and blackberries came from Agriberry and Pleitez Produce. The vibrant colors cooked down to a brilliant sweet sauce for the first dish.

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Figs from Amy’s Garden played a starring role when the butane torch came out and a small crowd began to gather around the demo tent.

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The figs were sliced most of the way through into quarters, but Chef Sam left them partially intact on the bottom to form little fresh fig flowers. The caramelized figs were perched atop Tater Dave’s jalapeno chili bread crostini, stuffed with Sullivan Pond Farm grapevine ash chevre, and topped with the berry, basil and mint reduction and a sliver of seared sweet pepper (say that ten times fast!).

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The vibrant color and sweet juicy taste of the berry reduction inspired us to make summer berries the Veg of the Week. Did you know that blueberries and blackberries are a great source of Vitamin K? Most veggie lovers associate Vitamin K with green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, but it turns out that you can get a good dose of it from a handful or two of fresh berries.

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The second dish that Chef Sam prepared was an Empress Farm turkey roulade, stuffed with sautéed squash, goat cheese, and the berry sauce. He prepared full roll ups as well as bite size servings for market goers, and he used two different types of goat cheese. Half were made with the grapevine ash chevre from Sullivan Pond Farm and half were made with roasted red pepper chevre from Goats R Us.

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After serving the elegant poultry dish, the Chef prepared a vegetarian dish for those of us who lean more towards the Tofurky end of the spectrum than the turkey end. The creative use of blackberries in this last dish was quite impressive. Chef Sam made a tomato sauce with yellow-orange tomatoes, red onion, Grayhaven Winery White Sangiovese, roasted red pepper chevre, basil, black pepper, salt and. . . blackberries.

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As the sauce simmered, the Chef explained how the blackberries did double duty in this recipe. Most people add a little sugar to their tomato based pasta sauces. Blackberries substituted for the sugar in this case, to add sweetness with a greater depth of flavor that echoed the familiar smell and taste of mid-summer in central Virginia. In addition to sweetness, the blackberries added a deep red color to the sauce which helped it appear just as rich as it tasted.

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The blackberries in this sauce subtly hit all your senses, in a way that was barely noticeable if you hadn’t seen the whole demonstration, yet unmistakable if you knew they were there. The tomato sauce was served over Bombolini black pepper penne and sautéed patty pan squash and Revolution sweet peppers.

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By the time this dish went out it was pretty hot outside to eat a steaming plate of food, but we had no trouble finding takers for the free samples. The feedback was all positive. Chef Sam had served Summer on a plate, which had people coming back for seconds.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if a few market shoppers tried out this sauce at home. I was so intrigued by the concept, that I know I will be experimenting with double duty ingredients like these blackberries soon.

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Thank you to Agriberry, Amy’s Garden, Bombolini Pasta, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Grayhaven Winery, Norma’s Produce, Pleitez Produce, Rocking F Farms, Root Force Collective, Sullivan Pond Farm, Tater Dave’s, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Produce, and all of the other featured vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients!

Guest Post! SOJ Chef Demo 07.28.12

This week’s market chef demo post comes from Adrienne, who blogs over at Hippie Itch. Adrienne agreed to assist Chef Sam Baker at the South of the James farmers’ market this week while I was out of town. Read her recap below, then check out more at hippieitch.wordpress.com.

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Hi Vegology readers!

I have to tell you, I’ve got a thing for the show Chopped on the Food Network. It amazes me how quickly these Chefs can come up with a delicious, creative dish. They’re artists. They’re amazing.

This past Saturday Lauren gave me the chance to be her substitute at the SOJ Chef Demo. I watched a real-life episode of Chopped and smiled up a storm while I soaked it all in.

I learned SO much from Chef Sam Baker while watching him do his thing. While he cooked on the fly, he taught the visitors (and me) all they wanted to know about the dishes.

The morning started off with a summer salad. He began by collecting a variety of overly ripe tomatoes. He told me that these tomatoes are sweeter because of their ripeness and would work well with his other main ingredient.

Which was yellow and red watermelon.

Have you ever seen a twofer? This red watermelon was pretty funny looking. We got a kick out of it and so did the customers.

In a flash he chopped up the fruits and moved onto the sauce.

The sauce couldn’t have been better. It included: honey, blackberry fruit spread and FROG jam. The final touch was a few leaves of chopped up basil. The basil really helped tie the whole dish together.

In what felt like seconds, he finished the first dish then started the next. Juice from the first salad was poured into a pot and heated up along with more blackberry fruit spread and a couple pieces of cantaloupe. The sauce was cooked low and slow into a reduction.

He ladled the reduction over a couple of gluten-free butternut rice dumplings made by Roscabon’s Valley Delights and then plopped a fresh cube of cantaloupe on top. Voila! An appetizer.

It was said a couple times that the cantaloupe reduction would also be delicious over vanilla ice cream. I couldn’t agree more!

Did I mention that so far everything is Vegan? An added bonus.

With Chef Sam moving so fast through the dishes, I completely forgot to take any of the third dish! I’m so very sorry.

BUT it was quite similar to the first with only the dressing being the difference. It was a great example of how you can add variety into your cooking. If you have some leftover ingredients, you don’t have to make the same dish! This is totally something I needed to see. I often make the same favorites over and over and then I get tired of them.

So again, the main part of the salad included watermelon, cantaloupe and tomatoes. He then squeezed fresh lemon juice and poured it, as well as a little red wine vinegar, over the fruit. That’s it! The acidity from the lemon juice and vinegar toned down the sweetness from the fruit and as a result made a lovely, semi-sweet salad.

He started on the last and final dish by heating up a spinach version of the rice dumplings. After dumping them onto a plate he said he had changed his mind and threw them back in the pan. Another bout of creativity had hit him!

While the dumplings kept cooking, he stripped the skin from a very, very ripe orange tomato. Then he diced the remains and tossed them into a pot along with salt, pepper, yellow tomato, fresh basil, and a sweet pepper from Amy’s Garden that he ran over to get at the last second.

Phew!

It was a fun and very tasty morning. It’s just so amazing what we can do with a couple of fresh ingredients and a little inspiration. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve also seen Lauren cook up a super tasty meal in a flash with no recipe, no direction. I’m so jealous of these two!

I’m not sure how much longer the SOJ Farmer’s Market will be open (I’m new to the area) but I hope to watch them in action a couple more times to learn as much as I can.

Thank you to:
Alfredo’s Beehive
Amy’s Garden
Empress Farm
Norma’s Produce
Pleitez Produce
Roscabon’s Valley Delights
Tomten Farm
Walnut Hill Farm

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The South of the James Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 8 to noon, in Forest Hill Park, through December 1, 2012. Read more Chef Demo posts in the Market Chef section of Veg:ology.

SOJ Chef Demo 07.21.12

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This Saturday at the South of the James market, little pops of flavor and color were everywhere.

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Chef Sam Baker used the bountiful produce at the market this week to create small bites of local flavor, including some familiar combinations as well as some fresh ideas.

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The Chef started out with a creative sauce to get people thinking about how to combine the flavors of the season into a cohesive dish. The sweetness of the simmering peach and sweet pepper reduction drew a small crowd early on.

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This sauce is made with fresh diced Drumheller’s Orchard peaches, sweet peppers, red wine vinegar and raw honey from Alfredo’s Beehive. The peach and sweet pepper reduction was served over herb seared tuna from Barham Seafood and a slice of Norma’s yellow watermelon with lemon basil.

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Pan seared zephyr squash provided a vegetable accompaniment that felt grilled, but without the hassle.

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Present at all of the market stalls this week were tomatoes, in every size, shape and color. These tomatoes from the Village Garden are called banana legs tomatoes.

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There were so many different varieties of tomatoes at the market that I decided to make them the Veg of the Week. I was excited to share some facts about tomatoes, and absolutely thrilled to use tomato-shaped bullet points on my white board. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

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After a brief downpour around 10:00, we started up the small plates again with a melon caprese salad. Pictured here is a summery dish of sliced tomatoes, sliced seasonal melon, and Goats R Us pineapple walnut chevre, topped with fresh lemon basil and the peach sweet pepper reduction.

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Tomatoes were certainly abundant, but the Drumheller’s Orchard white and yellow peaches were the true stars of the show this week.  In addition to the fresh sweet and tart peaches, the catches of the day from Barham Seafood were prominent. It was very cool to see their soft-shell crabs change color in the pan.

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Soft-shell crabs are loved by many, but I’m not personally sold on them. Which is fine since I do not eat seafood anyway. But I can appreciate a nice plating, and the next dish offered a visually intriguing small plate. I could tell from the looks on market goers’ faces when they tasted this one that it was a hit.

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Chef Sam served the soft-shell crab, seasoned with cumin and black pepper, over a sliced heirloom tomato, and topped with a slice of pan seared peach, a dollop of pineapple walnut chevre, and some Empress Farm FROG jam. In case you didn’t know, FROG jam contains Fig, Raspberry, Orange and Ginger.

While it rained on and off for the whole market this past weekend, several shoppers stopped by the Chef Demo Tent for free samples and cooking tips. Like the scattered thunderstorms we had that day, the small plates featured in this week’s demo were seasonal, interesting, and sometimes completely unpredictable.

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Thank you to Amy’s Garden, Barham Seafood, Cabbage Hill Farm, Drumheller’s Orchard, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Norma’s Produce, Victory Farms, Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

Farmers’ Market 7.14 and Canning Party

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I have been giving Kyle a less comprehensive shopping list lately for the market, and I think he has really enjoyed winging it. I have noticed an increase in Mexican style cooking in our house, since Kyle routinely picks up hot peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos at the market. I’m not complaining! Spicy food and cold beer is a great combination for cooking in a heat wave.

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This week’s loot:

  • Zucchini (green and golden)
  • Yellow squash
  • Lemon basil
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatillos

While Kyle shopped for our weekly groceries, I helped out with the Chef Demo. I greeted some familiar faces at the demo tent this week, as some of my favorite bloggers stopped by. Two such bloggers were Liz from I Heart Vegetables and  Brittany from Eating Bird Food. They were shopping for ingredients for our canning party later that day.

On Saturday afternoon, Liz and Brittany hosted a Can It Forward party with the help of Ball jars. We used Ball’s salsa seasoning mix and fresh local tomatoes to can jars of salsa to take home as make-your-own-party-favors. It was so much fun!

Liz jumped in to help mix the salsa like a pro.

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The salsa smelled amazing as it cooked on the stove.

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Brittany expertly used the jar lifter when none of us wanted to get too close to the steaming water bath.

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You could hardly tell that most of us had limited canning experience. The directions on the home canning discovery kit from Ball made everything so easy!

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In the end, we had several jars of salsa to take home.

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I was so happy I got invited to participate, since canning was on my to do list for this year. With life being so crazy lately, I don’t know that I would have gone through with a canning adventure on my own. It definitely helped to have extra hands in the kitchen. A big thank you Brittany for putting together the party and to Liz for letting us use her kitchen!

Gabby somehow escaped my camera lens, but believe me, she was there and she was super helpful. Having canned her own wedding favors last year, Gabby knew all the tips and tricks to make sure we were doing everything right! I had such a great time with these girls and I hope to do another canning adventure sometime soon. Now I just need my own home canning set and I’ll be good to go!

SOJ Chef Demo 07.14.12

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Chef Sam Baker said while perusing the stalls at the South of the James market this weekend, “it’s like a whole different market!” He was referring to the diversity of produce available in the midst of summer in central Virginia. All of the colors and flavors have deepened to a rich, vibrant spectrum of fruits and vegetables. To celebrate the season’s bounty, the Chef prepared a full meal that felt like Thanksgiving in July.

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Several people were interested in the Empress Farm rabbit, which was slowly cooking for most of the demonstration time and was finally stewed in Lazy Days Winery’s deep red Malbec.

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Accompanying the rabbit were some amFOG oyster mushrooms.

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The Chef cooked and mashed some green striped cushaw from Rocking F Farms on the side. This winter squash is available in the American South during this time of year. It was so odd to see a large fall/winter squash in the middle of the summer that we decided to feature it as the Veg of the Week.

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Here is a look at the inside and outside of the green striped cushaw.

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The rabbit was browned in a pan and then pulled for the stew. We heard from a lot of people who had eaten rabbit in their childhoods and had not tried it since. Chef Sam enthusiastically said, “I’m bringing it back!”

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As a vegetarian, I was happy to see that, as usual, he made some very creative meatless sides to go along with the rabbit fricassee.

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The not-so-secret ingredient in the squash was a generous splash of cinnamon whipped honey from Alfredo’s Beehive. It helped bring out the subtle, natural sweetness of the squash. I will definitely try that trick at home. In addition to the mashed cushaw, Chef Sam made a fresh tomato salad that featured an array of colorful tomatoes, eggplant and tomatillos from Walnut Hill Farm and Norma’s Produce.

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There was also a very popular fresh herbed stuffing made with Tater Dave’s rosemary potato bread, onions, mushrooms, oil and spices.

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Market goers lined up to get sample plates of a farm fresh Sunday dinner on Saturday morning.

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For a sweet snack, the Chef made a refreshing salad of Rocking F Farms watermelon, Amy’s Garden tomatoes, Victory Farms lemon basil, and Root Force Collective mint. The simple salad offered a more composed alternative to the sliced watermelon that we are used to. The whole meal, for that matter, displayed a slightly more refined approach to seasonal cooking, and encouraged shoppers to think like a Farmer and cook like a Chef.

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Also noteworthy was one vendor’s generous gift of a market bag for all of my Vegology shopping adventures. Made of beautiful yet tough kitchen cotton, this bag is soft and strong, fashionable and machine washable.

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I expect to take this bag from the smallest roadside vegetable stand to the King of Greenmarkets: the NYC Union Square Farmers’ Market. Carolyn made it by hand in my favorite colors and it is even prettier in person. If you are interested in purchasing one yourself, you can pick one up at her booth at the South of the James market, or you can order a custom made market bag in your favorite colors too! Thank you Carolyn Fischetti for the beautiful bag!

And a special thank you to Alfredo’s Beehive, amFOG, Amy’s Garden, Empress Farm, Lazy Days Winery, Norma’s Produce, Root Force Collective, Tater Dave’s, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.