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A Market-Fresh BBQ, Part 1: Vegetable Sides

Local, seasonal vegetable dishes are the first on the menu in our Whistle Stop food challenge.

Editor's Note: Four food-loving writers have accepted a challenge: To cook a complete summer BBQ using ingredients from Whistle Stop, the local Tuesday farmers market. In the next four days, we'll unveil an entire meal, including today's fresh vegetable dishes, a pasta salad, a buffalo burger and a bounty of grilled peach dishes. Come with us! 

These veggies from local farms make a great accompaniment to grilled main course and require minimal effort. The best thing about seasonal food is that it doesn't take much fuss.  

Roasted Okra

Okra (About 1/2 a serving from the Hayden Grove Farms fills an entire baking dish)

Olive oil/cooking spray

Seasoning

Directions: 

Smaller okra is preferred to larger okra for this dish.  The size of the okra from the farmers market varies but I've yet to find okra that would be too large. 

Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Rinse and dry the okra.  Drizzle the okra with olive oil.  I usually use the bottle cap of the olive oil bottle and drizzle about two of the bottle caps worth over the okra. You could also use a cooking spray and give a quick spray over the okra, to make sure the seasoning sticks.  

Sprinkle your desired seasoning over the okra.  For this dish, I used Cajun Seasoning, but they also taste delicious with simple salt and pepper.  

Cook about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so, until the okra are brown on all sides.  Serve hot.  This is a ridiculously simple dish to prepare but tastes good and makes for a good "finger food" to snack on while you grill or as a nice side dish to complement the main course.

Baked Kale Chips

A bunch of kale from Sugar Tree Farm

Olive oil

Grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the leaves of the kale from the stem.  Wash and dry the kale leaves.  I used paper towels to blot the kale dry after thoroughly rinsing it.  

Place the kale onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil onto the kale leaves (I used 2 bottle caps worth of olive oil).

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and kosher salt over top of the kale to taste. Bake until the edges are brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Be careful because this dish can burn easily.  I lowered the oven rack to the second lowest prong and cooked about 10 minutes.  

When finished, this dish tastes like a thin potato chip (sans the potato).  This dish makes for a delicious and nutritious snack.

Oven-fried Zucchini Sticks 

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

3 medium zucchini from Ben Shipley Produce

1/4 cup milk

1 egg

Directions: 

This recipe comes from Ben Shipley, one of the farmers market vendors who sells zucchini along with other produce.  Shipley has larger zucchini so one large zucchini from his farm suits just fine for this recipe (or 3 medium zucchini from other zuke vendors).

Spray cookie sheet with oil.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Put bread crumbs, garlic powder and cheese in a plastic food storage bag and shake well to combine.

Cut each zucchini lengthwise, cut each piece in half horizontally.  I found cutting into small chunks works well for the breading purposes.

Beat egg and milk in shallow bowl. Dip each zucchini stick and drop it into the bag of bread crumbs. Shake until well coated. Place onto cookie sheet. Repeat for each zucchini stick. To save time, you can put several zucchini sticks/chunks into the bag at once, but this can limit how much breading you get coated on each piece of zucchini.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with ranch dressing or warm marinara sauce.

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