I grew up in Springfield, Illinois-the land of Lincoln. While Springfield was never a booming metropolis, it did always hold some kind of charm for me and my sister-mostly due to the fact that my parents exposed us to special places, restaurants, and activities that seemed to be the diamonds in Springfield’s rough.
Springfield still has a few things going for it, most notably its proximity to farm fresh produce. When I was a child, my family had the luxury of simply driving down the street to visit the Stevens’ farm for fresh tomatoes, corn, peas, and whatever else was in season. I’ll never forget watching with amazement and horror as Mrs. Stevens (the farmer’s wife) munched on a raw onion while saying “I eat ’em like apples, they’re so sweet!” While not as authentic as the Stevens’ farm, Country Market does sell local, seasonal produce and in my opinion, one of the best lines of Illinois preserved fruits and vegetables: Kathy’s Kitchen. Kathy’s Chili Sauce, Hot Chow Chow, and Sweet Pepper Jelly are my favorites.
Country Market, Springfield, Illinois.
Country Market Produce, Springfield, Illinois.
Luckily, my family was celebrating my sister’s birthday the same weekend as my recent trip to Springfield, so I had an excuse to stock up. My haul included a “candy onion” (no, I didn’t eat it like an apple), new potatoes, Beardstown, Illinois sweet corn, red and yellow tomatoes, and of course, Kathy’s Kitchen items. We celebrated my lovely sister in true Springfield style with a Sunday “farm dinner.” On the menu: Hamburgers, roasted new potatoes, Farmstand tomato salad and sweet corn. That old adage “You can’t go home again” is certainly true-but in my case, I can try by recreating the flavors of my past.
Local Tomatoes, Country Market, Springfield, Illinois.
Beardstown Sweet Corn.
Farm Stand Tomato Salad (serves 6)
3 Large, Ripe, Red Tomatoes, cubed
2 Large, Ripe, Yellow Tomatoes, cubed
5-6 Large Basil Leaves (to your taste), finely chopped
1 Cucumber, cubed
1 Sweet Onion, Diced
2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Combine ingredients and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before eating to allow flavors to fully combine. Superb as a side dish, tossed with pasta, or over cottage cheese or baked potatoes.
Farmstand Tomato Salad.
Roasted New Potatoes (Serves 6)
1/2 Sweet Onion, Diced
3-4 Garlic Cloves (to your taste), finely chopped
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1/2 tablespooon Pepper
1/2 tablespoon Paprika
1/2 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine onions, garlic, and potatoes in large baking dish and add spices and olive oil. Toss potatoes, onions and garlic to make sure everything is evenly coated with spice. Cook for 30-35 minutes and then place under low broiler for about 5 minutes to crisp potatoes.
Roasted New Potatoes.