The late afternoon sun, sunk low in the sky, makes for many glistening foreheads around the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market. It's opening day and, despite the unseasonable heat, everyone looks relieved to have finally emerged from hibernation. Fresh off the heels of his second James Beard Foundation Award nomination, Miller Union chef Steven Satterfield can barely make it 20 feet without someone stopping him to say hello. Since Miller Union opened in 2009, he's become Atlanta's good food poster child.
Satterfield, 44, is shopping for a budget meal using ingredients from the market. But there is a catch. The EAVFM is one of 25 markets in the state that partners with Wholesome Wave Georgia, a nonprofit whose main initiatives include building strong local food communities, supporting farmers, and investing in the local economy by increasing access to healthy, locally grown foods.
Wholesome Wave partner markets accept government issue EBT cards, just like any other supermarket. But unlike conventional grocery stores, they double the value of each benefit dollar awarded by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to make shopping at farmers markets more accessible. According to the USDA, more than 46 million people will receive SNAP benefits in 2014. Last year, the EAVFM doubled a total of $11,486 SNAP benefits to $22,972, and had the fourth largest number of EBT transactions of all WWG partner markets.
"A lot of times, people with low incomes have poor diets to match, and if there is a way to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into anybody's diet, it's a fact that they'll feel better and they'll be healthier," Satterfield says.
Wholesome Wave's double benefit program is especially important to Satterfield because his brother Stuart, 46, is on disability. At the information booth, Stuart swipes his card for $20. In exchange, the staff issues 40 wooden tokens worth $1 each. At the market, the tokens spend like cash.
Satterfield hasn't planned a menu. He takes a lap around the market, muttering to himself as he cranes his neck to survey the produce at each stall. He notes prices, does some mental math. Stuart buzzes around meeting farmers and making friends. This early in the season, especially after an abnormally long and cold winter, the harvest is slim, mostly bitter greens, root vegetables, and assorted mushrooms.
"If you're trying not to spend too much, I think you kinda have to think about what will fill you up that's not super expensive. Root vegetables are great especially when they have tops because you can sometimes make two different things. For instance, if you bought beets with tops, you could potentially roast the beets and make one dish that's filling and tastes different than something with the beet greens in it," he says.
There is, however, one very real sign of spring reflected at market: onions. Wild leeks, spring onions, and green garlic abound, all stalky in bunches and begging to be bought. Satterfield decides to make a spring onion and garlic frittata, a salad with mesclun (a young mix of spring greens), spicy arugula, and spinach, and, to round out the meal, an earthy mushroom broth with tons of tender bok choy.
Back at Satterfield's Inman Park home, he unpacks his bags, laying out the fresh produce on the smooth black countertop. He explains that the material is called PaperStone because it is made from recycled paper pulp. It looks just like a tabletop you'd find in a high school science lab. High-end stainless appliances, those cool black counters, and white cabinets create an enviable cooking space.
He fiddles with an iMac in the corner and turns on Modest Mouse's The Moon & Antarctica. He starts washing everything, running his fingers gently over the delicate greens one by one. As he washes, he snacks on spinach leaves and recalls his earliest food memories — those that came long before his first high school jobs at McDonald's and Baldinos Subs. Satterfield grew up in Savannah, but spent many summers in Asheville, N.C., with his grandmother. She taught him to cook, how to can and pickle, and how to make biscuits. He always felt comfortable in her kitchen, and it was from her that Satterfield learned about the importance of local food systems and how to cook with the seasons. He'll share those philosophies in Root to Leaf, his ingredient-driven debut cookbook slated for publication early next year.
Satterfield hacks away at the leeks and onions separating the veggie "meat" from the bushy tops. "[All the stalks] have so much flavor, but they're not really that great for cooking and eating on their own. [The ends have] been out of the ground a lot longer than everything else because they are the first thing to come up," he says.
Next, Satterfield whisks together a bowl full of farm eggs and combines handfuls of chopped onions, radish tops, and CalyRoad Creamery's Little Epiphany cheese. He peels and chops the green garlic, a leafy green tube connected to a walnut-size bulb covered in a tangle of roots.
"Smell it," he says. "It's so different than regular garlic. It's a little more intense in some ways and a little more mild in others. It cooks more like a scallion or a spring onion, but it's got a wild flavor. I don't know how to describe it. You'll see."
He chops everything in sight and discards nothing. He piles all the extra leaves and vegetable fibers in one corner of the sink. Stalks, stems, dried mushrooms, and fresh ginger go into a stockpot with water on Satterfield's eight-burner Viking stove. This will be the base for his mushroom and bok choy broth. Everything else goes into a compost bucket on the counter.
Satterfield didn't go to school to learn how to build flavorful mushroom stocks. He went to school to learn how to build buildings. Shortly after earning an architecture degree from Georgia Tech, and to his parents' dismay, he went to work at Eats. He also worked at East Atlanta's Flat Iron around the same time. Flexible restaurant schedules suited his life as guitarist in Seely, the popular Atlanta indie rock band he started with a friend.
After a yearlong stint at Floataway Café, he landed a spot at Watershed in Decatur, where he worked under Scott Peacock for nearly a decade. In 2009, Satterfield and business partner Neal McCarthy opened Miller Union, the darling of Atlanta farm-to-table restaurants. When he's not at the restaurant, Satterfield advocates for the local food movement as a member of Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable restaurant practices, as well as the Slow Food Atlanta and Community Farmers Markets Chef Advisory boards.
Now warmed to room temp, he pours the egg mixture into a pan and slides it into the oven. While we wait for the eggs to puff, he ladles hot soup into bowls and opens a bottle of rosé. Satterfield whips up a vinaigrette and finishes the salad with pieces of raw radish and thin slices of firm beets. The meal bursts with freshness. The frittata's flavor is stunningly developed — lightly caramelized edges, an almost buttery sweetness from all the onions. The soup has an earthy, tea-like quality and a pleasant heat from the crushed red pepper that lingers in the back of the throat.
"I always try to stick within the boundaries of a farmers market because I think what it does is it makes people think more about seasonality," he says. It always makes you think on your feet a little bit. You can tell people what to cook and you can give them a whole bunch of recipes, but when it comes to trying to eat seasonally and cook with the seasons, it's a challenge. I think it's more important for people to think about reacting to what's available in their local food system than it is to give them recipes of something inexpensive they can make from any grocery store."
• Tops to the green onion, leeks, and garlic
• Shiitake mushrooms, sliced, stems removed and reserved
• 1 ounce dried mushrooms (any dried full-flavored shroom will do)
• 1 pinch crushed red pepper
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 inches fresh ginger root, chopped
• 1 bunch bok choy, chopped
• 1/2 bunch scallions (optional)
• 1 stalk green garlic (or three cloves regular garlic)
• 1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon sea salt
• Juice of one lemon
Make a broth with all of the leek, onion, and garlic tops by placing them in a medium saucepot and covering them with water. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer.
Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Slice mushrooms and set aside. Add stems to the broth.
Add dried mushrooms, a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper, two tablespoons soy sauce.
Rough chop one inch of the fresh ginger and add to pot.
Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour to develop full flavor.
Clean and wash bok choy by trimming off root ends and washing leaves individually, separating the leaves and stems. Dice the stems and roughly chop the leaves.
Peel and chop remaining inch of ginger, scallions, and garlic.
In a separate pan, sauté the bok choy, ginger, garlic, and scallions in olive or sesame oil. Once the leaves are tender, add the sliced shiitakes, remove from heat, and place the mixture in a large pot and set aside.
After simmering for about 35 minutes, add a tablespoon of sea salt and the juice of a lemon to the broth.
Once you are happy with the flavor of the broth, strain into pot over the bok choy and shiitakes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with scallion.
• 6 eggs
• 1/2 bunch wild leeks
• 2 stalks green garlic
• 1/2 bunch spring onions
• 1 ounce Little Epiphany cheese
• Radish greens, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Crack and whisk eggs in a large mixing bowl until white and yolks are blended well. Set egg mixture aside and allow to come up to room temperature.
Clean leeks, spring garlic, and spring onions by slicing off the root ends and the leafy green tops (reserve tops) and peeling off the thin outer membrane of each. Thinly slice onions, leeks, and garlic and combine with egg mixture.
Add crumbled cheese and radish greens to mixture and combine.
Bake for 6-8 minutes in a small to medium ovenproof skillet until eggs are puffy but still a little jiggly in the middle.
• 1/4 toasted pecans (or any nut you have on hand), chopped
• 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
• 1 spring onion, chopped
• 1 small handful fresh mint leaves (or basil or oregano)
• Zest and juice of one orange
• 1/4 cup vinegar (champagne, white wine, or apple cider)
• 1/2 cup olive oil
In a blender, combine 1/4 cup toasted pecans, 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, spring onion, mint or other fresh herbs, zest and juice from orange, vinegar, and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
• 1 bunch breakfast radishes, sliced, tops reserved
• 1 bunch beets, thinly sliced
• 1 bunch icicle radishes, sliced
• 1 bunch carrots, sliced
• 1 bag salad mix
• 1 bag spinach
Make vinaigrette and set aside.
Remove tops from beets, radishes, and carrots. Discard carrot tops.
Wash and spin dry beet and radish greens, salad mix, and spinach in a salad spinner.
Rough chop all greens and toss together in a large mixing bowl.
Next, carefully wash carrots, radishes, and baby beets to remove any visible dirt.
With a mandolin, thinly slice the beets and a quarter of the radishes lengthwise. Add to salad mix.
Toss all ingredients in dressing and serve family style.
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