It’s almost the Fourth of July, which to me signifies that summer is in full swing. In the Napa Valley, as in many parts of the country, that means spending time outside and grilling. And, lo and behold, the Napa Farmers Market is here to help you with both.
On a nice cool Napa morning, strolling the aisles of organic produce, artisan vendors and food producers is a great way to start your Tuesday or Saturday. Throughout July, the Napa Farmers Market will feature summer squashes and stone fruits as its harvest-of-the month.
Both are abundant right now and so versatile in the kitchen. The market’s Education Station will have comparative tastings of both items all month, and the Saturday chef demonstrations will also feature them, with recipes and simple serving suggestions from professional cooks.
While there, be thinking about something to put on your grill. Market vendors offer a wide variety of protein options including farm eggs, many types of seafood, beef, pork and pasture-raised chicken as well as artisan sausages and hot dogs. You and your Fourth of July guests will not be disappointed if your menu includes locally sourced meat and links.
Some of my favorite grilling experiences revolve around having a selection of different grilled meats accompanied by homemade barbecue sauce. I like to whip up batches of peach ketchup to use on or in almost everything. You can take it a step further and make a peach barbecue sauce to serve with all your grilled meats or in place of ketchup on your burgers.
You can also pick up some fruits and vegetables to accompany your grilled steaks and links. Grilled squash is a great option. I like to slice zucchini fairly thick lengthwise, brush with some olive oil, and lay the slices on the grill rack on an angle to get those nice grill marks.
If you need a vegetarian option on your Fourth of July menu, grill up a couple of different types of squashes and serve them in a hot dog bun. Add a little of the peach barbecue sauce to bump up the flavor another notch.
Don’t be shy about putting fruit on the grill to include in your savory or sweet dishes. Strawberries are still abundant at the Napa Farmers Market. Grilling them and adding them to a salad is a fun way to serve them.
Peaches are also grill friendly. Cut them in half and pit them, then lightly brush the cut side with olive oil. Cook cut side down over medium-high heat for two to three minutes, then brush the top, turn over and move to indirect heat for another couple of minutes if you want them a bit softer. Brush them with maple syrup and bourbon and they’ll pair nicely with your grilled meat. Or dress them up with vanilla ice cream for dessert, putting the scoop in the pit cavity.
Kids’ activities at the Napa Farmers Market: Bring your youngsters to the market’s Education Station on Tuesdays and Saturdays for Story Time at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.
On the KVYN Music Stage: James Regan will perform at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, July 6, and Tuesday, July 9.
Harvest of the Month: Through July, enjoy comparative tastings of summer squashes and stone fruits at the market’s Education Station at 11 a.m.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 ripe peaches, halved, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup brown sugar
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3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 tablespoons paprika
1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more as needed
In a saucepan, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just aromatic.
Add the peaches and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste and stir constantly until it turns brick-red.
Add the remaining ingredients except for the lemon juice. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If necessary, add a small amount of water to prevent the mixture from burning.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Purée in a blender or food processor. For an even smoother sauce, pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.
Makes about 3-1/2 cups.
Sandy Sauter is managing partner/owner of Spork Kitchens in Napa and on the board of directors of the Napa Farmers Market.
The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa.