This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com or in her cookbook, One Pan Whole Family.
Whether you’re looking for a few vegetables for the weekend or to stock the shelves of a grocery store, there’s a produce auction on the border of Wayne and Medina counties that has you covered.
Heinen’s media team invited bloggers and contributors to the County Line Produce Auction in West Salem, Ohio. The auction is located just minutes north from Interstate 71 in the heart of the tri-county Amish community. It consists of a 27,000 square-foot auction barn which is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the growing season. Sellers include large farms, as well as medium and smaller size growers. Buyers include grocery stores and restaurants, as well as individuals who want something fresh during the week, or to can for later use.
As I pulled into the lot, Amish buggies and pick-ups were piled high with freshly harvested fruits and vegetables and were lined up to unload their bounty. If you get excited about looking at really fresh produce in large quantities on a beautiful summer day, you should have been with us. Heinen’s produce buyer, Mario Grazia, estimates that in season, Heinen’s buys about 50% of their fruit and vegetables at auctions like this, making it easy for us to eat the freshest produce on a daily basis.
The primary auctioneer, Nick DeFelice, figures about 95% of the produce is grown within a 10- to 15-mile radius of the auction. Most of the growers are Amish farmers and produce is often harvested the same day. This makes for a fresh product that can be on your plate or store shelves within hours of being picked vs. days or weeks when buying non-local produce. “We want people to come and check it out,” he said, stressing the buy-fresh, buy-local concept. “A lot of people want to know where their food comes from. They can come out and meet the farmers and buy good product.”
It’s primarily a wholesale auction with larger pallet and cart-sized lots to meet the needs of stores and larger wholesale buyers, but they also auction smaller lots to meet individual buyers’ needs when possible. We saw freshly baked goods, jams and jellies and family sized baskets of farm fresh produce for home cooks. If you’re looking to supply a large store, plant a garden, get into canning/preserving, carve a pumpkin or just find a healthy dinner, you’ve come to the right place.
It’s a busy, hustling place with families pitching in to unload and arrange the fruits of their labors to their best advantage. The produce is so clean, it’s hard to imagine that it was in the ground only hours before. The sheer magnitude of food is impressive when you think about how truly local it all is. The sense of community is strong as Amish and English children run and play amid the pallets and the auctioneer chants his trademark pitch to bid even higher. Thank heavens Heinen’s does the work for us and picks the best produce at the auction then immediately sends it to the stores the same day!
The Summer Salad
I found an irresistible bag of green, yellow and purple string beans along with a few sweet, red onions and pints of red and yellow grape tomatoes on the small buyer tables and decided to make a summer green bean salad to go along with something grilled for dinner. I couldn’t wait to get home and toss those beans in a pot of boiling water and when tender, mix them up with the halved tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, herbs and a simple mustard vinaigrette. The salad was perfect with grilled steaks and a glass of Cabernet but it would have been just as good with a grilled chicken breast or a grilled salmon filet. In any case, this fast and fresh salad will always remind me of a great day out in the country where good food comes naturally…every day. That, my friends, is something to get excited about.
I used a combination of green, yellow and purple beans. You will be disappointed to know that the purple cooks out of the beans as they boil and they turn a darker green than the green beans. It’s okay as they still offer shades of green and yellow and I love the red onion along with yellow and red grape tomatoes. This is a basic version of a green bean salad, but you could definitely amp it up with some sliced almonds, fresh corn, canned garbanzo beans or different cheeses, such as shaved Parmesan. I think the theme here is summer salad gone wild, and you should use whatever looks fantastic and toss it in.
It’s that easy: Beans will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to get to the crisp/tender stage. Start checking them after 5 minutes and then watch them carefully, testing every minute or so. They shouldn’t be tough but you don’t want them limp either.
Summer Green Bean Salad with Tomato, Red Onion and Feta
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes
Serves 8 to 10
- 2-lbs fresh green beans, green, yellow or purple or a mix
- 2 pints grape tomatoes, red, yellow or a combination
- 1 red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 1/4 cup fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon salt plus 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, grainy or smooth
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil on high heat.
- Snap and trim the beans and move them to a medium bowl. On a large cutting board, halve the tomatoes and thinly slice the onion. Set them aside. Mince the garlic and transfer it to a small bowl. Chop the parsley and mint and set it aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water along with the green beans and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook the beans until crisp/tender, about 7 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander in the sink and run cold water over them for a minute to stop the cooking and set the color. Transfer them to a dish towel and spread them out to dry.
- To the garlic, add the vinegar, honey, mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk together until the salt melts and whisk in the olive oil and pepper. It should be tart but add more honey if desired.
- In a large bowl, combine the green beans, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint and feta with the dressing, tossing well to coat. Taste and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors blend. Serve cold or at room temperature
Make-ahead: You can make this salad a day ahead. The colors might not be as good, but the flavors will still be great.