FOOD WISE: Find fresh veggies at Bertram’s Farmers Market

By CHEF RENEE MORGAN

Try Mexican Layer Dip for summer entertaining. (Courtesy Photo)

Boy, was there a lot going on last weekend! I hope all of you had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. I know I did. Anyone who says there is nothing to do around here just isn’t looking hard enough.

First up, did you know there is a new farmers market in our backyard? Yep, our neighbors over in Bertram have started a grass-roots effort, held every Friday from noon until they run out of produce. It’s located at 1460 Hwy. 29, just inside the Bertram city limits.

Last Friday, they had a great variety of late spring vegetables, including offerings such as squash, onions, and carrots. They also have fresh eggs every week and even a couple of craft vendors.

I spoke with Dickie Allen, one of the organizers. He told me that their purpose is to cater to the local community and give local farmers and crafts people an outlet.

“If they made it or grew it, they can sell it here,” he said.

Mr. Allen also told me that they expect to have even more produce in the upcoming weeks, as tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables come into season and as other vendors join in the fun. As an added bonus, the market is held under gorgeous old shade trees, which will really come in handy as the Texas summer approaches.

Y’all know how I feel about farmers markets and fresh fruits and veggies. I encourage you to visit the Bertram Farmers Market in the upcoming weeks. It’s a great way to eat healthy while supporting local farmers and crafters.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit the Fredericksburg Annual Crawfish Festival. This event is just a short drive into the Hill Country and so worth it! Not only can you enjoy the great shopping, festivals and crafts they have to offer, but also along the way you can visit several fine wineries and sample famous Fredericksburg peaches.

I’m sure we all remember the problems with the peaches last year. The drought really took a toll. Oh, the peaches were sweet, tasty and plentiful, but they never really grew to the proper size without the proper amount of rainfall. This year is a different story. All the rain we had early in spring has been a boon to this year’s crops. Not only are the peaches sweet, but they are juicy and much bigger than last year. This year the harvest is expected to be quite robust. Several of the peach farmers told me they were counting on this year’s harvest to make up some of the loss they experienced in the last couple of years. I see peach cobblers and home made ice cream in my future.

I digress because of my love for peaches! On to the crawfish festival. As they say, “Laissez les temps rouler” and the good times were definitely rolling at Fredericksburg’s annual festival. Wait a minute…aren’t they known for their German heritage? What does that have to do with crawfish? Nothing. But a good time for all, my friends. Somehow it seemed to fit.

This year, it was held May 25-27. On Friday and Saturday, partiers could get their party on until midnight. There was something for everyone. Zydigo Cajun and Country bands, rows and rows of artisans and arts and crafts for the shopper, washer toss, a great kids area with face painting and all kinds of kid fun, dancing, drinks and most importantly – great food! They were cooking up gumbo, boudin, red beans and rice, all manner of crawfish from crawfish pie to a good old-fashioned crawfish boil. And if you don’t like crawfish, which is crazy talk, you could even enjoy some German sausage.

There was also a gumbo cook-off with prizes for best-decorated booth, best overall taste and taster’s choice (a crowd favorite). The teams had fun names like Raise the Roux, El Verde Boys and Beer Belly Gumbo.

All of this was held on the downtown market square. Plan ahead for next year and put it on your calendar. Each year, it gets bigger and better.

Finally, Monday came and I was ready to relax or maybe I was just completely worn out.  In any case, our dear friends, Jay and Betsy Pearce came to the rescue with an invitation to come and hang out at the pool. Nothing fancy, Betsy said. Just bring a snack, a drink and a swimsuit (and if you’ve seen my mayonnaise skin, lots and lots of sunscreen). We all just laid around on lounge chairs and pool floaties for hours, sipping a frosty beverage of choice and stuffing our faces with all manner of chips, dips, salsas and other snack food. Didn’t even have to chase after any kiddos. They were all busy with paddleboats, zip lines and forts.

What a great end to the weekend, I thought as I collapsed into bed from shear exhaustion. Nothing is as fun or tiring as a good time and nothing is better than celebrating the sacrifice our brave soldiers have made to keep our country safe and free!

Below are recipes for a few of the great foods I enjoyed over the weekend.

Chef Reneé is an award-winning, classically trained chef. She earned her culinary degree at the famous Le Cordon Bleu, as well as a bachelor of music degree from Hardin-Simmons University. She has an extensive background in events planning and management. Reneé lives in Liberty Hill with her husband, John, their dogs, cats and chickens

Pasta Salad with Gouda, Tomatoes and Basil

12 ounces, weight Mostaccioli or Penne pasta

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1/4 cup Whole Milk

4 Tablespoons White Vinegar

1-1/2 teaspoon Adobo Sauce From Chipotle Peppers (or One Minced Chipotle Pepper)

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Ground Black Pepper To Taste

10 ounces, weight Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise

1/2 pound Smoked Gouda Cheese, Cut Into Small Cubes

24 whole Basil Leaves (chiffonade)

1. Cook pasta until done. Drain and rinse in cold water until no longer hot. Set aside.

2. Mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and adobo in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, stir together pasta, dressing, halved tomatoes, and cubed Gouda. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed, and even an extra teaspoons or two of vinegar if necessary. Stir in basil at the end. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Mexican Layer Dip

1 can Refried Beans

Tabasco Sauce, to taste

1 can Diced Green Chilies

Ground Cumin, to taste

3/4 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 cup Sour Cream

1 cup Guacamole

3/4 cups Monterey Jack Cheese

1 can Black Olives

1 cup Pico De Gallo

1. Warm the refried beans in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add several dashes of Tabasco sauce and a small can of (undrained) diced green chilies. Stir well. Next, sprinkle a little bit of ground Cumin.

2. Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass bowl or high-sided dish. Over this sprinkle the sharp cheddar. Then add sour cream, spreading it into a single layer, being careful not to disturb the cheese underneath. The next layer is the guacamole. Spread it over the sour cream. Follow this with a layer of Monterey Jack Cheese and a nice sprinkling of chopped black olives.

Lastly, place a generous layer of Pico de Gallo. Sprinkle diced jalapenos over top, if desired.