Written by Chris –
Spring produce is here! A good time to hit local farmers’ markets. The food you buy at the farmers’ market is seasonal. It is fresh and delicious and reflects the truest flavors. If you have a farmers’ market close to you, take advantage. Many farmers are a great source for recipes and preparation tips too. Also, because growers who sell at a farmers’ market don’t have to package or label their produce, they can pass along some of the savings to consumers. I’d like to think I save money, but in reality, I end up spending a little more (this is because I usually bring my kids with me). I like to let my kids choose and purchase some fruits and veggies on their own. My thought is that they may be more inclined to actually eat the healthy items that they picked it out and paid for – so far, this is holding true.
A few words about some of the key ingredients in this veggie soup:
Leek: Leeks look like giant scallions/green onions. Leeks are related to the onion and garlic family, but the flavor is much milder. Leeks are available year round in most regions. The smaller the leek, the more tender it will be. Store leeks loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Fresh leeks from a farmers market will keep up to ten days; otherwise plan on 5 days. Cut into white and light green part of leek lengthwise and rinse under running water (leeks trap a lot of dirt).
Carrot: Carrots are a member of the parsley family (the green foliage on top probably gives that away). This veggie is very popular due to its nutrition (high in vitamin A) and the fact that it is available year round. Look for firm, stiff, unbending carrots. Any give shows a sign of age and “wilting.” If you buy carrots with the greens attached, look for fresh, bright green tops. Once home, however, remove the greens and store the carrots loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Fresh carrots will keep for several weeks properly stored. Oh, and be sure to NOT store them next to apples because apples emit ethylene gas and can give carrots a bitter taste.
Zucchini: Fresh zucchini is available year round, but it peaks late spring. I like the small zucchini because they are younger, which means they are tender and have thinner skin.
Peas: Peas are a member of the legume family. Peas (garden, snap, snow, etc.) come into season in the spring and continue in most areas well into summer. In this soup, I prefer fresh peas, but frozen work great too.
Whole-Wheat Tortellini: I love this product! The tortellini are stuffed with ricotta, Romano and Parmesan cheeses (can you say, YUM!). They are higher in fiber, lower in fat and have more whole grains when compared to regular filled tortellini. One serving contains 49 grams of whole grains!