I miss my Needle Lane farm share. Shopping for your own vegetables is just not the same. It lacks the surprise and the built-in push to experiment with new things. I suppose I could just go to the grocery store, stand in the produce section, blindfold myself and blindly grope around until I grab something…but I’m sure you can see how that will probably just get me a one way ticket to Bannination, population: me. And on top of that, winter is looming like a giant, frozen marshmallow puff above our heads and soon the farmer’s market will be no more; in fact, some have already ended. How will I hobnob with the salt-of-the-earth people who grow my food now? How will I get my fresh air market fix?
Well, I guess that’s where Lunasa comes in. Luna-what-a? you ask. Lunasa. It’s a new-ish farmer’s market in Ann Arbor that we’re trying out for the winter. From their website,
“Lunasa (loo-nah-sah) is an annual Celtic harvest celebration traditionally begun in August. Getting back to our roots and supporting local farmers and craftspeople is something we feel good about doing, for us personally, our families, our neighbors, and our local communities. Come celebrate with us!”
The market itself is kind of an interesting idea: it’s a cross between a membership club and a farmer’s market. They do have “open house” days where anyone can stop by and shop around but for the most part, you have to purchase a membership to join and regularly shop. At $40 a year, we weren’t sure if it would be worth it but figured we could give it a shot at least for this year. And as a market-addict, I’ll apparently do almost anything for my fix….I said almost. The money from the membership goes towards things like the rent for the building the market is hosted in and I mentally just chalked it up to a small price to pay to support local food producers. With the membership, you get access to the online catalog of food producers and their wares, ranging from locally-raised beef, chicken, pork and lamb to homemade soap. There are two ordering periods a month, over several days, and then two pickup/market days a month where you can stop, pick up your goodies, meet the people behind them and have a chance to shop for anything else you suddenly thought of at that moment while looking at the delicious fresh-baked offerings of Mill Pond Bread, especially the challah…oh and the sweet potato rolls…I mean–I imagine. I imagine it might happen like that.
This week was our third time at the Lunasa market, our second time ordering in advance. It was pretty packed since it was also an Open House day. I liked it; I like the bustle-y nature of a marketplace. Now that I’ve had time to properly digest the Lunasa “experience,” I’ve decided the following things:
- Online shopping. No hassle, no hustling, no trying to peer over someone’s shoulder, no maneuvering around a large cart the size of a Buick. Just lounge on my couch, fire up my laptop, log in and go through the offerings. Looove that. I also enjoy the “add to favorites” option, because that’s how I most easily assemble a list that I can regularly go back to. This time, we purchased Italian and Polish sausages from Steinhauser Farms, nitrite-free bacon from Ernst, fresh mozzarella from Four Corners Creamery, arugula and broccoli from Goetz farm and some ready-made soup from the Making Thyme Kitchen.
- It’s indoors. I love markets. I do not love temperatures below 60F. I very much appreciate being able to shop indoors through the winter.
- It accepts credit cards! I rarely carry cash unless I have advance notice. And sometimes you just run out. But Lunasa accepts credit cards–both for your online order and if you just pick up something extra on Market Day.
- I’ve found local vendors I had no idea existed, and I’m relatively local-centric and a regular at several farmer’s markets between Ann Arbor and Detroit. And I love that! And since Lunasa has a smaller crowd, you’ve got a bit more time to chat with the vendors. It’s nice.
- I get to support local producers. I’m not one of those people who needs everything they cook to be grown within spitting distance; I love globalization because frankly, I’ll kill you if I don’t get my daily chocolate. But I do really enjoy having food made close to home–it often tastes better, it’s more environmentally friendly and it helps the local economy–and we all benefit from that.
- I’ll be honest. The name. I can’t remember it half the time and it does nothing to explain what it really is. Sounds kind of like an Ambien-esque sleeping pill and not a local market.
- Only open twice a month. Which is both a pro and a con, but requires more planning on my part.
- $25 fee if you can’t pick up your goods on market day!! OMG. (Edit: I’ve just been notified that the fee no longer applies at all. So yay!)
- If you’re used to shopping at Meijer or Kroger, it may seem a bit pricey. In some ways, it is a bit pricey. I’m not feeding a family of four from this market every day, that’s for sure. But for high-quality, local food, it’s not too bad.
So that’s my take on it so far. We’ll see how the year goes. If you’re at all interested, I recommend checking it out on the Lunasa website.
Having said that, on to the recipe! This fancified mac-and-cheese was inspired by a trip to Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Monday and made with mostly locally-sourced food and, most importantly, was yummy in the tummy. It’s also a really easy, excellent recipe for two and easy to adjust if you want to make more. (Items with an asterisk were from the Lunasa market, Needle Lane farm, Calder Dairy or my garden.)
Lunasa Market Mac & Cheese
1/2 pound penne or similar pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 links sweet Italian sausage* (or hot), casing removed
1 small onion*, diced
4 cloves garlic*, chopped (drop it to 2-3 if you’re not a fan)
4 tablespoons butter*, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp dried basil*
1 c. milk*
4oz comte cheese or similar hard, flavorful, good-melting cheese (like gruyère), plus extra to grate over the top
3oz fresh mozzarella*
4 c. fresh arugula*
hot sauce*, to taste (try my homemade stuff!)
Melt two tablespoons of the butter with two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble in sausage and cook until no longer pink. Leaving the heat on but turned down a bit, scoop out the sausage and let drain on paper towels.
Put onion, garlic and dried basil in pan and sauté until soft and delicious, about 7-8 minutes. Add in last two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons flour, mixing thoroughly into a roux.
Pour in milk, add in cheeses and let melt together, stirring constantly to incorporate. Add in salt and pepper and a splash or two of hot sauce to your liking.
Fold in arugula, cooked sausage and pasta, making sure to get everything good and covered in the cheese sauce. Grate more comte over the top and place under the broiler to brown. Eat. mmm.