Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Green Meatballs (and farmer's market love)

In Grand Rapids, there is one main farmer's market venue that everyone knows about it (well, at least I think everyone should know about it!) And this market is a beautiful picture of how the surrounding rural areas of west Michigan really do produce all kinds of food this time of year. There is beautiful colors everywhere and people are happy and smiling. (It must be all the fresh food making people high on life). And I personally have a love for fresh food, so what a better place to shop and buy some of the best local food you will ever find. Yes, it is a beautiful thing to be able to live in the city and enjoy the farm food on your plate at home. I am truly thankful, and you better believe I tell my farmers that I appreciate all their hard work for me to have a colorful and delicious dinner at home.
I realize that most cities have farmer's markets now days...and in fact because it seems to becoming a little more popular (or trendy if I must say) that they are growing and producing more of a sustaining income to our local farmers. This excites me because I know if you are reading this at your home that is 300 miles away you can still probably participate with a local farm market of your own. And if you are living in another country even, you probably know a local venue where you buy your fruits and veggies.... so fresh food is making it way back to our plates... it's not like you have to give up convenience to do this either... it is just a change of mind. You have to decide that instead of buying fast food or packaged microwaveable food that you go to the market instead and you buy a load of fresh fruit and veggies (and local meat, eggs, cheese and the list goes on...)
My last trip to the bustling market left me with 3 full bags of food for under 25 dollars. Incredible! Really... can you get any cheaper than that?! I bought a pound of free-range grass-fed beef, green onions, pea pods, 2 qts. strawberries, 2 lbs. of rhubarb, a bag of cucumbers, squash, green leaf lettuce and garlic scapes. I could have spent more on little extras like just in season cherries, raspberries, peppers and tomatoes... but I know they will be around for a few weeks and may even find myself going out to one of the farms to pick my own...
Rhubarb is one of my favorite finds... because it is so interesting and can be paired perfectly with other fresh fruit like strawberries... or apricots or cherries as well... And I made sure I bought enough to freeze a little just in case this is the last week it is available at the market. I am not sure how long it will be in season, so for now I indulge :)
The strawberries were on there way out this week as well... Last week they were EVERYwhere and you could smell them a half mail away from the market because they were so perfectly ripe and sweet. This week I bought 2 quarts from my favorite farm that doesn't use spray on the berries. Look how perfect and delicious they are! So yummy. I have not made a large batch of jam yet, but that could be in my future...until then I am freezing some to save for baking and smoothies and of course I will eat as many as I can before they are frozen :) A few of my favorite recipes to make with rhubarb and strawberries are: Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins, Rhubarb Strawberry Pie, and Honey-Sweetened Rhubarb Tart. Those are just some of my favorites, but I am sure you could find many other recipes this time of year to use up those yummy ingredients.

Now, I was trying to share my "green" meatball recipe with you... so back to the green part. They are green because of all the fresh greens in them, but also because all the ingredients are from the local farmer to save on waste. Less packaging, chemicals, and money really. So, why not eat locally?! It can be easy and delicious... so here is my recipe to share...
"Green" Meatball Recipe
1 pound of local ground meat (either ground beef or ground lamb works best)
3/4 cup of freshly chopped green onions
1 clove of garlic minced
handful of fresh basil and sage chopped finely
1 local farm fresh egg
1/2 cup of gluten-free bread crumbs (I have used a slice of my favorite GF bread crumbled, or also you could use 1/2 cup of crushed GF crackers to turn them into a "bread crumb" as well..or there are a few GF bread crumbs brands you can find at health stores.)
1-2 ts of cracked black pepper
1-2 ts of sea salt
2 ts. of paprika
1 TB of olive oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and take a small handful of the meat mixture and form a little ball. This recipe makes about 9-10 large meatballs, or 12-15 smaller meatballs. It just depends on what kind of size you want to do. Put them in a slightly olive-
oiled Pyrex glass baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until they are browned and crispy looking and the middles have been cooked through and through.
They should come out of the oven ready to serve. They are pretty flavorful with the green onions and herbs, but if you may need to add some more salt and pepper to them if that is your preference. You could serve these with some marinara sauce or pasta, or alone with another side of baked potatoes or another veggies. They are a yummy way to use some fresh local ingredients, and they are so simple too...but since I had some peas and garlic scapes I wanted to eat I decided to make a little saucing side to serve with the meatballs over some of my favorite gluten-free brown rice pasta. So here is what I did to make the peas tossed over the pasta...
I plucked out a pint of peas from their pods and this was a good serving for one or two, but if you want to serve more people make sure you get a quart or more of pea pods. The peas are so cute sitting in their pods, but after you pluck them you can really see their radiant green color. You can steam them to make them a bit softer or eat them raw too... whatever you want. I decided to saute them with some garlic, olive oil and ghee (clarified butter) and viola you have a nice little sauce to top your pasta and eat with your meat balls. So I put the peas, 2 minced garlic cloves and the heads of 4 garlic scapes with a TB of olive oil and then 1 TB of ghee or butter works too. Saute for about 3-5 minutes until the peas look bright green and the garlic is cooked into the oils. The garlic scapes are what is pictured below. They are these funny looking vines... I have not used them a lot in cooking yet, but I think they give off a lot of flavor and they are kinda fun to use with garlic or in substitute for a garlic clove.
After you saute the peas, garlic and oils then you have an instant sauce with the veggies to pour over your GF noodles, and then add a meatball on the side and viola dinner is served, fresh from the farm to the table.
So easy and yummy too... I hope you enjoy... and don't forget to make a rhubarb strawberry pie for dessert. Fresh food always tastes best and once you change over to fresh foods you may find yourself smiling more and making your weekly trip to the farmer's market. It really is addicting! Not to mention it is fun to check out any new produce throughout the summer. I am looking forward to more peppers and tomatoes in the next few weeks... and of course the fruit... YUM! Enjoy friends and have a great week!


  1. Oh my goodness, those look amazing! I can't remember the last time I had a meatball for fear of getting contaminated by gluten!

    I was just in East Lansing last weekend! First time to Michigan and it was beautiful! My husband wants to take me to Harbor Springs and says it is super cute, ever been?


  2. Alyssa- I have not been to Harbor Springs yet, but I am assuming it is beautiful as everyone says. So many little places up north in Michigan are just fabulous... definatly my fav places to fact I am going up north this weekend... and also hoping to run into a few cherry orchards while I'm there. I just read your blog...very flattering, I think I might be blushing! :) Best of luck to you... much love!

  3. This looks so good! I love shopping at our farmers markets. You're right - it's really inexpensive and you get such great stuff! Right now we're in the height of farmers market season, and I can't help but buy too much and come home only to have to get creative in how I'll use it all! I love your meatballs, and am really jealous of your peas. It's hard to find fresh peas around in Texas.

  4. Alta- I totally know what you mean about buying too much and then having to get creative and use it all... My eyes and stomach are always bigger than my fridge! haha! I wish I could send you some peas... there are many here and they are so yummy. Much luck to using your market produce this week :) Much love-

  5. First, beautiful photos! And a lovely recipe too. I always make my meatballs in the oven, as it's so easy!

    Thanks for being part of the carnival! If you could just link to the carnival, that would be great. Thanks!

  6. Kimi- I thought I did link to the carnival, what am I doing wrong...? Just curious... thanks for your help!