I admit I'd never been to a farmer's market before Saturday. I have had the best of intentions to go, and in early May even drove up to South Lebanon a few times when I thought that their market might be open early. Of course, it wasn't open, and then my early June weekends I was out of town, so this was my first opportunity. I arrived around 9:30am and the area was already bustling with shoppers. I had been given some advice by friends that you shouldn't take a grocery list with you but just go with what's fresh and available. I did bring a little wish list of things I was hoping to find, and luckily, everything I wanted for the week was there.
After perusing the farmer's market's website, I had two vendors in mind that I was particularly interested in checking out. One was Blue Jacket Dairy. A few weekends prior, Tim and I had been watching our local public broadcast channel and caught a special about local cheesemaking at Blue Jacket Dairy. It was intriguing how this small, family operated business was turning traditional dairy farming into a specialty foods business. With the local food and slow food movements expanding throught southwest and central Ohio, I was thrilled to see they were going to be at the market. Their high quality gourmet cheese did not disappoint and I walked away with around $5 worth of each Ludlow cheese and Gretna Grilling cheese.
The other vendor I wanted to shop was Morning Sun Farm run by Dave and Evelyn Filbrun. I was attracted to their booth because of the huge truck backed up to their stall and the long line of people waiting to purchase eggs and meat from them. Their eggs are laid by free range, organic chickens and their selection of different organic poultry, pork, and lamb products was impressive. They had all cuts of chicken available, and I was able to cross a whole chicken and a dozen eggs off my wish list. Since this was one of the first booths I went to, I only had big bills. The gentleman who was working the booth (perhaps it was Dave Filbrun?) was very polite and even offered samples of some sweet sausage they had warmed up on the table. He asked me after I paid that if I had smaller bills when I finished shopping if I could bring him back some $1's or $5's. About 20 minutes later, after I had purchased a zucchini, a big bunch of green onions, and some organic honey, I came back with some change. The gentleman was so thankful that he gave me a package of frozen organic chicken wings at no charge.
That's the beauty of doing business from person to person. I will definitely be purchasing my meat from the market from here on out. Not only is it better for my local agricultural industry (which is a big deal in Southwest Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana) but he made a big impact on me. I highly suggest if you are in the Cincinnati area to check out the West Chester Farmer's Market and see if you can do some of your shopping person to person. I think it will make an impact on you, too.
While I'm saving the chicken for dinner this week, I did use the green onions in my Vegetable Pad Thai and I used the zucchini in this recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cakes with Pecans. I'm pretty sure everyone has had zucchini in a quick bread, but I'd never had it paired with chocolate. I know that Ashley over at Delish made some Mini Chocolate Zucchini Cakes of her own that I'd love to compare to this recipe.
While grating the zucchini I was wondering to myself how in the world this was going to taste! Zucchini, while it is mild, definitely has a "green vegetable" flavor that is distinct when tasted alone. When paired with 1 cup of sugar, zucchini just doesn't have a prayer of it's own flavor shining through. While this is definitely not a healthy way to prepare zucchini, it is definitely a way to sneak vegetables into a dessert. A nifty trick if you're like me and have a kid that won't even try something if she even slighlty suspects it won't taste good.
I opted to top these with pecans but the original recipe called for walnuts. For some reason Tim is rather picky about nuts and doesn't care for walnuts. Personally, I don't find walnts and pecans all that different in flavor or texture. I think if you left the nuts off completely, you would lose the little crunch that these bite size desserts need in order to be a more satisfying morsel.
I used semi-sweet chocolate chips rather than chopped bittersweet chocolate, and I think that was the right decision. Without the semi-sweet chocolate, there isn't much intense chocolate flavor. With the chips, they are very chocolately. The texture was somewhere between a cupcake and a brownie and it was very easy to eat a bunch of them before you even realized they were half gone. I suggest packing them up individually to ration them out before you eat all of them in one sitting!
This recipe also gave me a very good reason to use my mini muffin pan, which I've only used a handful of times to make very addictive Pepperoni Pizza Puffs. In fact, Tim requested those Pizza Puffs this weekend, and that was what reminded me to make these Chocolate Zucchini Cakes!
Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes with Pecans
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
makes 24-30 mini cakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp course salt
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
3 tbsp sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
24-30 pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugar, salt, and egg until combined. Add vanilla, grated zucchini, and sour cream. Stir until incorporated. Sift flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and stir until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup with batter until 3/4 full (about 2 tablespoons) and top with a pecan half. Bake 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly in pans on wire rack before serving.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.