Farmers’ market a flurry of activity

Zulfi Merchant, (left) the new volunteer procurer for chefs and special demos at Helena Market Days samples a seasonal summer entrée prepared by guest Chef Chris Vizzina. (Contributed)

Zulfi Merchant, (left) the new volunteer procurer for chefs and special demos at Helena Market Days samples a seasonal summer entrée prepared by guest Chef Chris Vizzina. (Contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Last week’s Helena Farmers’ Market featured Chef Chris Vizzina from Samford Campus Dining demonstrating a grilled vegetable main dish that stars the season’s freshest vegetables.

“It’s a summer crockpot concept, if you will,” Vizzina said. “It allows you to prepare dinner for your guests in advance and enjoy your party; just pull your entrée out and you’re ready to go.”

He began by laying down a square of foil and adding extra virgin olive oil. (We learned that evoo is the chef’s acronym for that.)

Vizzina uses his friend George Sarris’ olive oil when he cooks. He explained that extra virgin is the best quality as it comes the first cold pressing.

Vizzina, assisted by Executive Sous Chef Mike Coots, folded Chandler Mountain tomatoes, deveined shrimp, roasted red peppers, basil, dill, white wine, lemon, balsamic vinegar and fried capers together in the foil—lastly adding chunks of Greek feta. The packet is grilled at 400 degrees and served over a bed of charred red onions.

Happy market shoppers gave all thumbs up to the samples passed around. When queried, Vizzina recommended to his audience Forschner Victorinax knives, which can be purchased at Bresco in Birmingham.

Helena Farmer’s Market is excited to offer new vendors such as McEwen and Sons (organic stone ground grits, cornmeal and polenta, farm fresh eggs and pasture raised beef), Downtown Farms, Brady’s Natural Jams and Jellies, Birmingham Square Foot Gardens, Bare Naked Noodles, Skull Girl Soaps, R&S Farms Hydroponics and Sunshine and Punkin’ Catering.

Returning vendors include Evans Farms, K&S Farms, Boozer Farms, Prattville Honey, BB’s Bread, Frio Pops, The Sassy Domestic, The Pen Man, and Little Bit Southern (baked goods and cookbook by Patricia Tidwell).

Helena Market Days will again feature the popular Tomato Sandwich Day on July 5 and a BBQ Cookoff on August 2.

Wise words overheard at last week’s market, “You only pass this way one time and you need to be happy. This includes feeding your body in healthy ways and indulging in occasional treats!”

Keep up with each week’s chef demo at 9 a.m., musical offerings and photo captures from the previous week’s market at: https://www.facebook.com/The.Helena.Market.Days