Farm to Table Challenge - Turmeric Polenta and Roasted Vegetables

This week, I am participating in a Farm to Table challenge, hosted by Selva Beat. The rules are to make at least one dish utilizing items only found at the Farmers' Market, excluding oils and spices. You can head over to the challenge's directory page to learn about the challenge, the contributors, and to see fabulous recipes throughout the week. You may also want to read up on How to Shop at the Farmers' Market since I know you'll be inspired to get cooking after reading all of these great recipes!

I count myself very fortunate to have been raised by a woman who spent her Sundays at the local Farmers Market and many of her evenings cooking a delicious, healthy meal for her family. My mother instilled in me a sense of awe and joy in choosing and cooking with fresh produce, and those skills have served me well in my adulthood.

I am also so lucky to live in New York City where there are bountiful Farmers Markets on almost every day of the week! The Union Square Farmers Market is my personal favorite because I can find pretty much anything I want, including quinoa, popcorn, and fresh cut flowers. This week the cornmeal from Oak Grove Mills in New Jersey caught my eye and inspired me to try something new; polenta!

This dish is a great transitional recipe from Summer into Fall as it is warm and hearty but tastes best with a highlight of summer vegetables. Of course, the added turmeric really makes the magic happen here, with its incredible properties as a digestive aid, anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. I am so lucky to be able to find turmeric at my Farmers Market (only on certain days!), but have also been easily able to find it at most grocery stores as a powder in the spice section. This recipe works without the turmeric, of course, but the added golden color and health benefits certainly don’t hurt!

Turmeric Polenta and Roasted Vegetables

Cook time: 45 minutes. Serves about 4 people.

Ingredients for polenta:

  • 1-2 cups cornmeal (coarse ground is best, but you can use any size cornmeal grounds)
  • 4-5 cups water (more water = less thick polenta)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp turmeric

Directions for polenta:

  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Once water is boiling, add salt. Then add cornmeal in a steady, slow stream into the boiling water. Whisk or stir vigorously for about 4 minutes or until you have achieved a relatively smooth consistency. Many people tend to overmix their polenta at this stage, if you have a few lumps and bumps, don’t worry about them, they’ll take care of themselves later!
  3. Put a tightly fitted lid on your polenta, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Be sure to stir the polenta every 10 minutes, making sure that nothing is burning or sticking too much to the pot. At about 20 minutes, add 2 tsp of turmeric.
  4. After 40 minutes your polenta should be nice and creamy. You can serve it now or let it sit on the stove for up to 15 more minutes before serving. Once you take it off the heat or store it in your fridge, the polenta will start to firm up. Polenta leftovers are nice and thick and are great for cutting into thick rounds and pan-frying!

Ingredients for roasted vegetables:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 4 small beets
  • 4 small carrots
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 medium eggplant (the long, skinny kind work best for this dish)
  • 1 large leek

Directions for roasted vegetables:

  1. Peel garlic, onions, potatoes, beets. Chop all vegetables into similar sizes, I personally prefer a 1-inch chunk.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a large bowl, cover chopped veggies with coconut oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Toss until everything is coated on all sides.
  4. Transfer veggie mixture into a casserole dish or similar pan for the oven. Add water to the pan, cover (with lid or foil) and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
  5. At 30 minutes, check your vegetables. If they are soft all the way through (the potatoes and carrots will be the telling vegetables here as they take longer to cook) you are ready to serve! If they aren’t soft enough to poke with a fork yet, check in on them again in 10 minutes, repeat as needed.
  6. Serve vegetables from a slotted spoon to avoid getting too much liquid.

Serve your roasted vegetables in a bowl atop a bed of golden, steaming polenta and enjoy a hearty, healthy meal! 

A Quick Guide to Shopping at the Farmers Market

This article is written by Collin Philips and was originally published on Selva Beat, an online, environmental magazine with a strong focus on the palm-oil industry and conflict-free living. Selva Beat will be publishing some farm to table recipes in the upcoming weeks, so be sure to check back for more Farmers Market fun! 

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

One of my goals this year was to transition to completely local perishables. I made this mostly lofty goal after noticing that the apple I was eating in Houston, Texas was from New Zealand, and possibly over half a year old. To lower my carbon foot print another 4-5%, I would have to eat local and seasonal fruits and veggies. I already make my own vegan dairy like milk and butter and can buy rice, flour, nuts, and legumes at my local grocer or co-op. So, how hard could it be?

Well, there's certainly a lot of trial and error. After all, how many times have you dropped by the store after work to grab an extra tomato or garlic? To get you started on the right foot, here are five tips I wish I had kept in mind before making the switch:

Be (And Stay) Realistic

The market where I live has the best organic fruits and vegetables, most of which I would never see at a national chain grocer. Nothing beats the atmosphere either! But, I have to be realistic about what I can make with what I buy. If you have a routine where you make similar dishes each week, shopping this way may be a little jarring at first. I can always find amazing herbs, gourds, mushrooms, etc but sometimes I can't find good citrus. How does that affect the dishes I will make? Eating this way requires adaptability but thankfully, that is just something that strengthens with time. 

If you're not great at cooking on the fly, consider buying a seasonal cookbook for your area or city. Here's one just for Connecticut! General farm to table cookbooks are great too but note that most of them are not vegan. If all else fails, food blogs are your friend!

Simply put, start out with an open mind and a little patience.

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.


Pick The Best Market For You

If you’re looking to transition your home too, you first have to become well-versed in the farmer’s markets in your city. If you don't know where to start, here is the USDA Farmer's Market Directory. Sometimes googling your 'zip code + farmer's market' is all you need. Chances are your area has more than just one and each is going to have a different array of vendors, some more suited to your needs than others. In Houston, the two I love are only on Saturday and Tuesday. Back in Austin, there was a farmer’s market five days out of the weekAll markets have fruits and veggies, most have eggs, meat, fish and cheese, and some have bread loaves and flour, etc. You can also find kombucha, pickled goods, coffee, and likely a variety of food trucks. 

Make note of your favorite stalls and take a photo of their banner to keep in mind for later (more on this below). Introduce yourself whenever possible, though some stalls get really crazy; how often do you get to say you know the people who grow your food?

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.

Image courtesy of Selva Beat.


Stay Connected

Okay, so you’ve found the perfect fit for you, and your stomach. Now you need to stay friends.  I recommend adding your farmer’s market on Facebook or Twitter, as they’ll likely post tidbits on which vendors will show or highlight certain fruits and veggies (like the best watermelons!). The same goes for your favorite vendor —  it’s a real bummer when you really need something special like vegan bread or kombucha and that stall is a no-show. Be the first to know about sick days and early bird specials. The more informed you are, the more positive this process will be and you’ll be less likely to burn out six months down the line. 

TIP  → Scope out each market’s cash or credit options. The markets in the last city I lived in were practically all electronic and card friendly, whereas Urban Harvest, my current beat, leans way more towards cash transactions. It can also get really crowded, so sometimes handing someone a five dollar bill is just more efficient.

Read the rest on Selva Beat!