Easy Entertaining: A Farmers Market-to-Table Meal

By Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.
August 18, 2021 Updated: August 18, 2021

On Saturday mornings, as many weeks as I can, I make a trip to my local farmers market. Short of growing your own, there’s nothing as satisfying as being able to get fruits and vegetables grown locally and picked right at their peak—fresh, ripe, and oh so flavorful. When they’re harvested ripe, their flavors have time to develop and grow into what they’re supposed to be.

I love walking around the stands to look at all the seasonal produce, some well-loved and others new and unfamiliar, and chatting with the farmers and exchanging recipe ideas while waiting in line. My farmers market also sells meats, eggs, fresh bread, and all kinds of pasta, so my weekly trip is really all I need.

The recipes I am sharing here are inspired by the summer bounty currently overflowing at the market.

I start with a raw summer squash salad made with ribbons of zucchini and yellow squash in a bright, citrusy dressing. I dress it a couple of hours before serving to allow the citrus to do its magic: the acid softens the squash, though the ribbons still maintain their shape and a bit of crispness.

The citrus is the perfect balance to the sweet and hot peppers in my next salad. I gather all the peak-season peppers from the market, simply roast them until soft and slightly charred, and dress them with olive oil and sea salt. The beauty is in the mix: poblano, shishito, and bell peppers in various colors all play together on the plate, and on the palate.

Finally, I’m sharing a peach-almond cake, my go-to dessert when stone fruits are in season and I want to impress my friends. The batter comes together in the blender, and can use almond meal for a more rustic appearance, or almond flour for one more refined. I’m making it with peaches, but really, any combination of stone fruits works just as well—I love it with apricots, nectarines, plums, or a combination of all. It’s even better the next day, making it a perfect make-ahead dessert.

I like to round out this summer menu with spicy Italian sausages, which can either be grilled, roasted, or sautéed in a pan. If you don’t like as much spice, use sweet Italian sausages, kielbasa, or any other kind that you like.

Of course, the summer market’s treasures aren’t limited to these. I have only chosen a bit of this and a bit of that for this menu, leaving out some seasonal favorites with the assumption that it is not necessary to explain how to make a tomato salad (simply sprinkle with salt and a dash of olive oil) or grill corn on the cob. But these recipes are just as easy, and I hope they become part of your summer repertoire.

summer market meal table s
Garden flowers and bowls of fresh fruit emphasize the seasonal theme. (Victoria de la Maza)

Setting the Table

For this summer lunch, I mix antique Canton porcelain with embroidered straw placemats and bright green napkins. I love adding flowers from the garden and arranging some of the fruits and vegetables from the market in a bowl at the table, as a reminder that everything we are eating is local and seasonal.

RECIPE: Raw Summer Squash Salad

RECIPE: Roasted Pepper Salad

RECIPE: Peach and Almond Cake

Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.