Chef Rick Bayless: Creating Bold Flavor from Your Farmers' Market Produce


The Gorgeous Bounty of the Farmers' Market

The Gorgeous Bounty of the Farmers’ Market

What are you bringing home from your local farmers’ market? Are you ready to create a vital and bold flavor profile with the produce? Chef Rick Bayless, a Maestro of Mexican Cuisine, provides tips, techniques and recipes from his latest cookbook More Mexican Everyday that will delight your palate.  Chef Bayless is an award winning chef, restaurateur, entrepreneur, cookbook author and philanthropist.  Over the past decade, his Frontera Farmer Foundation has funded over $1.5 million in grants to help small midwestern family farms bring delicious produce to the marketplace.  Chef Bayless is a Renaissance man and chef who savors the authentic flavors of Mexico and shares his expertise and passion with the home cook.

Chef Rick Bayless at Macy's Culinary Council Studio

Chef Rick Bayless at Macy’s Culinary Council Studio

Chef Rick Bayless shares great tips about produce from the farmers market and the grocery store:

  1. Picking the right tomato.  Chef Bayless likes really ripe tomatoes.  The standard and most popular tomato you find people using in Mexico is called a saladette which is left to fully ripen on the vine.  “The saladette looks like a large plum tomato. It has enough juiciness that you can make it into a chopped tomato salsa or slice it for a sandwich. But it also has enough pulpiness so you can cook it into a sauce,” Chef Bayless says.  He also explains the process of how we are able to find beautiful tomatoes at today’s farmers market in spite of challenging weather. “Many of the farmers are working with what is called hoop houses, a structure that looks like a green house and that is heated by solar sources.”  He especially recommends tomatoes from Iron Creek Farm and Nichols Farm and Orchard, both of which offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) If you are shopping in the grocery store, Chef Bayless recommends Mighty Vine tomatoes which are delicious and are grown in Illinois.  You can find them at Jewel and Heinens and Roundy’s (including Mariano’s) grocery stores.

    Mighty Vine tomatoes

    Mighty Vine tomatoes

  2. Three things to do with cauliflower.  At Macy’s Culinary Studio in  Chicago, Chef Rick Bayless featured a recipe for Spicy, Garlicky, Grilled Cauliflower (Steaks) with Browned Butter, Toasted Nuts and Tequila Raisins. (See recipe below). For the portion of the cauliflower you don’t use for grilling, Chef Bayless recommends making pickled cauliflower with carrots and jalapeño (a classic Mexican dish) or even a gratin by blanching the cauliflower, making a cheesy sauce and putting it under the broiler.
  3. Maximizing the flavor of cilantro.  According to Chef Rick Bayless, you shouldn’t chop cilantro, but rather slice it really thinly.  Another surprising tip is that the stems of cilantro are very flavorful and tender. You can even prepare the cilantro a day before. Here’s a link to a video of Chef Bayless prepping cilantro.
Always a delight to learn from the Maestro of Mexican Cuisine, Chef Rick Bayless

Always a delight to learn from the Maestro of Mexican Cuisine, Chef Rick Bayless.

Spicy, Garlicky, Grilled Cauliflower (Steaks) with Browned Butter, Toasted Nuts and Tequila Raisins Serves 4.

Recipe compliments of Chef Rick Bayless and Macy’s Culinary Council.  This recipe can be found pages 319-320 in More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, Copyright 2015 by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

  • 1 to 2 small (2 pounds) heads cauliflower (if you’re cutting the cauliflower into steaks,you’ll need 2 heads)
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup tequila or fruit juice
  • 1 cup toasted peanuts or hulled, toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) butter (or half butter and half olive oil)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Mexican hot sauce (like Tamazula, Valentina or Buffalo)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • About 1/3 up chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Several tablespoons grated Mexican quest anejo or other garnishing cheese such as Romano or Parmesan

Trim away any of the cauliflower’s stem that protrudes beyond the head, then set the cauliflower head (stem-side down) on your cutting board and cut it into “steaks.”  With a large knife, trim off a half inch or so from both the right and left side of the head (this gives you two flat sides; save trimmings to sprinkle on a salad), then cut what remains into 1-inch thick slabs.  Or, cut the cauliflower into 2-inch chunks.  Arrange the cauliflower on a large plate in a single layer, cover with plastic and microwave at 100% until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Uncover, season with a little salt and let cool.

Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with white ash and the fire is quite hot.

While the grill is heating, in a small, microwave-safe bowl combine the raisins and tequila (or juice). Cover and microwave at 100% for 30 seconds.  Without uncovering, let cool to room temperature.  Scoop the raisins into a food processor and pulse a few times until roughly chopped.  Add the peanuts (or pumpkin seeds) and continue to pulse, 6 or 8 times, until roughly chopped.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Melt the butter in a small (1 to 2-quart) saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, swirling the pan regularly for a couple of minutes, until the butter is golden brown.  Add the garlic and store for a minute, then pour into the bowl with the raisin/nut mixture.  Store in the hot sauce, black pepper, 3 tablespoons water and, if you’re not using salted butter, a little salt.

Liberally brush the cauliflower on both sides with the buttery part of the mixture (leave the solids in the bowl), sprinkle with salt and grill until warmed through and richly marked by the grill grates, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Remove to warm dinner plates.  Rewarm the buttery mixture, stir in the chopped cilantro or parsley and spoon over the cauliflower steaks.  Sprinkle with cheese and your cauliflower “steaks” are ready.

What is your favorite produce from the farmers’ market?

Savor the day!

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