I love this time of year. My garden is blooming, and the farmers markets all around Chicagoland are in full swing! It seems no matter where you live, there is a farmers’ market in nearly every neighborhood.
I try to frequent my local market as much as possible, but I admit, I can’t always make it there. While it is convenient to just go to the grocery store, knowing where my food is coming from is important to me. I like being able to ask the farmers questions about their bounty and seeing their passion for what they do always inspires me to create fun and interesting dishes with what I find.
One of my favorite parts about going to the market is wandering around and brainstorming all of the wonderful dishes I could create. But sometimes even I get stuck and either don’t know what I want to cook, or I want it all and have to tell myself not to buy everything in sight!
One of the benefits to shopping at a farmers market instead of a supermarket is getting the most in-season and peak freshness of the produce. Even though you can usually find whatever you may be searching for at the supermarket, it may not always be at its prime. Most produce at the store has been harvested before its time in order to be shipped and not rot during transit. Shopping local farms means you are eating the best your area has to offer in the prime of its season.
Every other Thursday, The Chopping Block hosts chef demonstrations at the Lincoln Square Farmers Market. We shop for ingredients and get inspiration at the Tuesday morning market, then we write up a recipe using those ingredients, and one of our chefs demonstrates how to make it at the Thursday market at 6pm. Our next one is tomorrow, August 4th, so don't miss it!
One of the biggest markets in Chicago is the Green City Market. It originated in Lincoln Park on Wednesdays and Saturdays but now is also in the West Loop on Saturdays. There are lots of vendors, and many chefs shop these markets for use in their restaurants. The Green City Market also hosts chef demonstrations, and I am super excited to be participating this year! I researched all of the farms that were going to be at the market and came up with this super tasty appetizer utilizing a few different vendors. Stop by on August 20th at 10am at the Lincoln Park market to see me demonstrate how to make this Fried Zucchini Bruschetta.
Fried Zucchini Bruschetta
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 35 minutes
1-2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices on the bias
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
For the topping:
2 Roma tomatoes, cut into brunoise
1/2 head fennel, cut into brunoise
2 shallots, cut into brunoise
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1/4 cup arugula, chiffonade
Lemon juice, to taste
Olive oil to coat
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 250° and heat a sauté pan with the grapeseed oil.
2. Slice the zucchini and season with salt and pepper.
3. In a shallow dish measure out the flour.
4. In a separate shallow dish, beat the eggs until well blended.
5. In another shallow dish mix the panko, parmesan and oregano.
6. Working in batches, dip the zucchini into the flour, then the eggs, and then right into the panko mixture, ensuring each piece is well coated.
7. Fry zucchini “chips” in batches until they are golden brown and crisp. Avoid overcrowding the pan. Transfer to a rack set over a sheet tray, and sprinkle with a touch of salt.
8. Keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining zucchini.
9. Combine all of the topping ingredients in a bowl and season to taste with lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil.
10. Top each of the fried zucchini chips with the bruschetta topping and serve.
I am also pleased to announce that The Chopping Block is participating in the Green City Market Chef BBQ this year. If you are not familiar with this event, it is a fantastic way to spend the evening. It’s a food festival unlike any other, where some of Chicago’s top restaurants, brewers, winemakers and mixologists provide tastings of locally-inspired dishes and craft beverages highlighting ingredients from Green City Market’s local, sustainable farmers.
Here is a sneak peek at the dish we are going to serve at the Chef BBQ. It is a blueberry corn cake napoleon featuring cornmeal from Severson organic grains, blueberries from Joe's blues, honey from Jacobson family farm, goat cheese from j2k Capraio and fresh corn from Smits farms.
In all of The Chopping Block's classes we have year-round, we always try and stay in season with produce and educate our students about quality ingredients. If you really want to dive into seasonal (and tasty) ingredients, you can't miss our Hands-On Summer Dinner Party class this Saturday, August 6 at 6pm at Lincoln Square. This menu is bursting with seasonal fun!
- Sweet Corn Fritters with Dill-Yogurt Sauce
- Grilled Flank Steak with Bacon-Blue Cheese Butter
- Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber and Basil
- Plum-Almond Cake with Vanilla Whipped Cream