Loubia—Putting Your Farmers Market Produce to Work Deliciously!

While I don’t live in Madison and can’t visit the Dane County Farmers Market on a weekly basis, I’ve got my own market where I shop (almost) every Saturday (and you should be supporting your own local farmers market!) And Green Beans are now in season and available! There are so many delicious ways to enjoy them–boiled and blanched to maintain color, cooked and tossed with chopped onion and vinaigrette for a green bean salad, even raw with a dip. Here’s a tasty (and simple!) recipe for green beans slow cooked with tomatoes and onion called Loubia (or Loob’ya or Loobya or Loub’ya or some other transliteration from Arabic). It stems from the Lebanon/Syria region of the Middle East. Tastes even better the next day and can be served warm or at room temperature (or cold from the fridge while standing at the sink—not a joke, people, trust me on this!) This is a fairly soupy dish and I suppose if you cut the beans into small pieces, say 1-2 inches, you can serve this as a soup). That said, you can remove some of the sauce to make it more like a regular vegetable side dish.

What You’ll Need

  • chopping board and knife, for prepping the beans, tomatoes, and onion
  • large saucepan or cast iron enameled pot
  • spoon for stirring
  • garlic press (can also manually mince the garlic)
  • Ingredients

    • 1 to 1.5 lbs green beans, washed and drained, with tops cut off
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (add more if you are one of those garlic people)
    • 3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
    • 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or 1 14-oz. can whole or diced tomatoes)1
    • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    • salt and pepper


    How to Make Loubia

    1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat2. Add the onion and a pinch or two or salt, and saute the onion until it is soft and translucent, but not browned.
    2. CookingOniona

    3. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two; do not let the garlic burn, as it’ll taste bitter.
    4. Add the green beans and the tomatoes; if using canned tomatoes, be sure to add the juice from the can as well. Add the stock. It should barely cover the beans and tomatoes (it’s okay if a few beans stick out of the water!) Add another pinch or two of salt, plus some pepper (as much or little as you like).
    5. AddingTheBeans

      I used a mixture of green and wax beans–the color contrast is visually interesting.

    6. Bring the green beans to a boil,


      reduce heat to a simmer, and cook (covered) for about an 45 minutes. Give the pot a stir every now and then.
    7. Reduce

    8. Remove the cover and cook the beans, maintaining a simmer, for another 45 minutes.
    9. Bring to a boil and cook the beans for another 20-30 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid.
    10. Remove from heat. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
    11. MmmMmmmGood

    1If using canned whole tomatoes, chop them up or break them apart with your (clean) hands–don’t leave them whole. If you do that, though, be careful–cover the tomato with your other hand to avoid squirting tomato juice on everything. I speak from experience here.

    2If using stainless steel, let the pan heat up a bit (until the edges are warm to the touch) and then add the oil. It’ll help keep the onion from sticking.


Making Your Own Crème Fraiche

In my post on Pork with Sour Cherry-Red Wine Sauce, I used crème fraiche as an ingredient. Crème fraiche is a cultured and soured cream, with a butterfat content over 30%. Depending where you live, it may be somewhat difficult to get. I’ve seen it at Whole Foods, for example, but not at my local supermarkets. Luckily, it’s quite easy to make! I make it with just two ingredients—pasteurized heavy cream and buttermilk. Simply pour a cup of the cream into a bowl and stir in 1-2 Tbsp. buttermilk. Cover and place in a warm location for a day. After 24 hours, you should see a significantly thickened cream. It’s ready to use now, but you can refrigerate it as well (it will thicken up some more).

It’s important to use pasteurized cream and not ultra-pasteurized cream. Read the label! Locally, the Meijer store brand heavy cream is simply pasteurized. Unfortunately, it’s not organic. I usually buy organic milk and dairy products, but I do make an exception here.


In Search of Market Excellence: The Dane County (WI) Farmers Market, Part 1

The Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, Wisconsin is known as the largest producer-only farmers market in the United States. To me, it’s like a Farmers Market Holy Grail. Indeed, I planned a road trip with the intent of standing upon this Shrine to Local Foods. I did visit and was awed and energized about the entire “eating local” phenomenon. Before I describe the market, however, let’s talk about what is meant by being a “producer only” market.


As I discussed in a previous post, not all vendors at a farmers market are necessarily growers or producers. Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of to have vendors selling goods they bought at a wholesaler—or even a local supermarket—foisting a jacked-up price onto an unsuspecting (and likely well meaning) public for profit. Many, if not most, of us walk into a market believing that we are helping small family farms or other local producers. We consciously make the effort to go to the market and perhaps even pay a little more in order to ensure that there is some sort of viable local food system in our communities. The produce imposters—and that’s what they are—prey on that goodwill.1 Supporting local producers is important to many of us—thankfully, there is no need to worry or be suspicious at the Dane County Farmers Market! If you or your family didn’t grow it or make it, you aren’t selling it there.

I made my first visit the Dane County Farmers Market (henceforth referred to as “DCFM”) on a picture-perfect summer day (yes, I get that this is such a cliché, but it really WAS perfect—sunny, warm-but-not-hot, low humidity). The DCFM is located on Capitol Square (remember from your elementary school geography that Madison is the capital of Wisconsin). It opens early—6:00—though it isn’t really crowded until around 9:00-ish.

Early morning at the Capitol with vendors setting up.
I got there early and enjoyed watching vendors set up, chatting with the market staff, and just soaking up the local foods goodness of the place. Unfortunately, I was at the beginning of my road trip, so any souvenirs were going to have to be non-perishables. Fortunately, I was able to get some stuff to bring back to Indiana anyway.



Well, a great piece of advice I heard from my dear friend Amy was to shop on an empty stomach—no eating breakfast beforehand. Good thing I listened to her, because the DCFM was the Free Sample Center of the Universe. Cheese curds—in many flavors, from many vendors—were ubiquitous. In fact, I’d had my first cheese curd here at the market. Okay, that makes sense. I mean, this IS Wisconsin, a state with football fans known as Cheese Heads. But there was more! Jerky from grassfed, pastured beef, cherries from Door County, pickles and jams, venison sausage, honeys and maple syrups, cinnamon buns, cookies, bread cheese, salad dressings—a cornucopia of deliciousness! There was a riot of colorful produce, gorgeous flowers, and, more importantly, a HUMAN diversity. Honestly, it felt like home to me.

So, let me share with you some of the sights of the DCFM! Peruse the pictures and take a virtual trip to the DCFM–maybe these will get you thinking about a face-to-face visit some day!








Pork Chops with Sour Cherry-Red Wine Sauce

Makes 4 servings

Pork takes to fruit like nobody’s business. Pork with peaches, pork with apples, pork with pears. And now pork with tart cherries! And if you don’t eat meat, serve the sauce over baked tofu or over rice as a side dish.


A fine dinner!

What You’ll Need

  • chopping board and knife for onion
  • saucepan (1.5 or 2 quart)
  • baking sheet for chops
  • spoon for stirring
  • measuring cups and spoons


  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 3/4 to 1-inch thick
  • oil, salt, and pepper for chops
  • 1/2 large onion, minced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup stemmed and pitted sour cherries, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or crème fra&#238che1
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to Make the Pork Chops and Sauce

For the pork chops

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
  2. Pat chops dry, oil them, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Turn chops over and bake for another 10-15 minutes (start checking temperature at 20 minutes; it should be around 145°F (63°C) before you remove them from the oven.
  5. For the sauce (can be made in advance)

  6. While the pork is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 10 minutes.
  7. Add the chicken stock and sherry vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and reduce sauce by about half.
  8. Add the wine, bring to a boil again and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until the sauce is reduced by half.
  9. Add the cherries (and any accumulated juices) and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and add the sour cream or crème fra&#238che, mixing it in thoroughly.
  11. Divide sauce evenly over the pork chops.
  12. If you make the sauce ahead of time, just reheat it over medium heat before spooning it over the pork chops.

    Don’t eat pork? You can substitute cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the pork.

    1Sour cream will curdle if you add it while it’s on the heat. That is not a problem with cr&#232me fra&#238che.


Sour Cherry Clafoutis, in the French Style

Clafoutis, pronounced clah-foo-tee is a traditional French dessert from the Limousin region largely located in south-central France’s Massif Central, a place of mountains and plateaus with a volcanic past; this (mostly) rural region is one of the least populated in France. The clafoutis is a delicious baked concoction—is it a cake? Is it a pudding?1 is typically made with sweet cherries, but is amenable to other fruits, including sour cherries.


And what of this “French Style” stuff? It simply means that you leave the pits IN the cherries. In other words, no need to whip out the cherry pitter! The French contend that leaving the pits in generates better flavor and the pits do contribute a subtle almond essence. You can certainly remove the pits from the cherries and this recipe will still be delicious (and your guests will probably thank you!) If you do leave them in, though, it would be a nice idea to warn your guests and to supply them with pit bowls into which they can spit out the stones.

This recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table, a worthy addition to anyone’s cookbook collection.

What You’ll Need

  • 9- or 10-inch deep-dish pie plate or a similarly sized baking dish
  • medium bowl
  • whisk
  • measuring cups, both liquid and solid
  • measuring spoons
  • cherry pitter (optional)
  • small sieve or strainer for sprinkling powdered sugar


  • butter for greasing baking dish
  • 1 pound sour cherries, stems removed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract, (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Making the Clafoutis

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (~180°C)
  3. Grease your baking dish with the butter very well.
  4. Place the cherries in the bottom of your baking dish. Put them in a single layer.
  5. Crack the eggs into the bowl and whisk until they are very thoroughly mixed.
  6. Add the sugar to the eggs and whisk well so that eggs and sugar are solidly incorporated together. Then whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts (if using both; otherwise just whisk in the vanilla). Whisk in the salt.
  7. Add the flour to your egg-sugar mixture and whisk until the flour is incorporated and the batter is smooth.
  8. Pour the milk into the mixture while whisking. Do NOT add the milk all at once—just pour it in slowly enough that you can incorporate it gradually.
  9. Pour in the half-and-half while whisking.
  10. Pour the batter into your baking dish. Just pour it over the cherries, but don’t worry if they aren’t all covered with batter.
  11. Bake in the center of your oven for about 40 minutes (but start checking after 35 minutes). The clafoutis is finished when a very thin knife or a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  12. Cool on a rack until it is room temperature. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar before serving.

    1. 250px-Clafoutis3
      This image is courtesy of Wikipedia, contributed by Rotem Danzig. The last time I made clafoutis, it was for a dinner party and I didn’t want to interrupt proceedings and guests! When I make clafoutis again, I will take a picture and replace this one, which does look similar to mine, although I didn’t halve any cherries; this one also seems to use sweet cherries.
      1Initially, L’Acad&#233mie Fran&#231aise (they are the arbiters of the French language) called the clafoutis a “fruit flan”, which annoyed the Limousin populace. It was finally declared a cake.