There are few more enjoyable things to do on a late-summer morning than to take a trip to the farmers’ market. A stroll through the stalls provides a feast for the eyes, as you fill your bag with an array of ripe, bright produce and other local items. My family recently spent a cool August morning at the weekly market in Worthington, Ohio.
The wonderful thing about serving fresh, in-season produce is that you really don’t need to do much to it for a fantastic meal; simple dishes with minimal preparation really let the flavor of the ingredients shine through. It’s also the perfect opportunity to perfect your food and wine pairing – when you’ve got great wine on hand to complement your finds, well, you’re looking at a low-effort weekend lunch or dinner that’s equally good for just the family or for entertaining.
Gorgeous tomatoes are everywhere: giant beefsteaks, colorful heirlooms, and tiny, sweet cherry tomatoes. I grabbed a mixed pint-basket from Dangling Carrot Farm, along with a large handful of fresh basil. All that’s needed is some fresh mozzarella to layer with these two for a simple caprese salad. Drizzle a quality olive oil or balsamic vinegar on top, add a little salt and pepper, and open a bottle of red wine. A soft and supple Old World red (like Giovina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, for example) enhances any classic Italian recipe. The acidity in the tomatoes balances the acidity in the wine so that both taste smoother and fruitier as a result.
In Ohio this time of year, we are practically buried in sweet corn, so I picked up some plump ears from Wenger’s Produce. The creamy kernels would be great boiled or roasted, but this time I plan to grill and serve them off the cob as a side. Many white wines make stellar partners to buttery popcorn and all things cheese, so they should be a perfect accompaniment to this dish. I chose the oak-aged, Zeffer Hills Chardonnay, which I know goes well with creamy, buttery things like my Grilled Mexican Corn Salad (recipe at the end of this article).
I’ll use the rest of the gorgeous assortment of vegetables I bought – eggplant, mixed squash, spinach, onions, and a bell pepper – for the main dish, which will also pair with the Giovina. Simply sauté (or grill) the sliced vegetables in olive oil with a little garlic, then serve over flatbread smeared with hummus. This dish works with almost any combination of vegetables so you can be led by whatever appeals to you on a particular market trip. Top with chopped kalamata olives and a little feta left over from the corn salad. Stop right there for a vegetarian dish, or add some chicken or sausage for a heartier option. An earthy red like the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or 2015 Tria, Syrah, Lodi, California would be lovely with either version. The fat in cheeses and meats balances the alcohol in the wine so you can taste a greater variety of flavor both in the wine and in the food when you consume them together.
To finish the meal, and pair with the rest of the white wine I have open, I was lucky enough to find at the market a Bourbon Praline Pound Cake from Bak. The buttery, nutty, and caramel notes in a good chardonnay will work together with the cake for a satisfying dessert, but if you can’t get this specific delicacy, banana bread or plain pound cake could also stand in.
Enjoying fresh, local foods and delicious boutique wines – a perfect summer combination!
Grilled Mexican Corn Salad
8 ears fresh yellow corn, husks removed
3 T mayonnaise
2/3 cup crumbled feta or Cotija cheese
1/3 cup diced fresh chives
1/4 cup lime juice
1. Preheat grill on high. Brush corn with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Grill corn, covered with grill lid, 10 to 12 minutes or until done, turning occasionally.
3. Cut kernels from cobs into a large bowl. Stir cheese, chives, and lime juice into kernels. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Want to see more amazing food and wine pairings photos from Cindy’s trip to the farmers’ market?