FOOD FREAK: Five things you can make from winter farmers market fare

Every year, the Wausau Winter Farmers Market gets better at providing shoppers with an ample supply of vegetables throughout the winter months. Planning, hoop houses, and the right storage facilities mean we have access to locally grown, often organic produce all year round.

     You won’t find tomatoes or green beans anymore. But vegetables that store well and can grow in cold temperatures are available by the bushel. And of course there’s always eggs, meats, dairy products, canned goods and even locally farmed fish. The market runs Saturdays 8 am–noon, at 212 River Dr., Wausau.

French onion soup


This is a great meal for a cold night. The Wausau winter market is full of locally grown onions that form the base of this soup. And it’s one of the most simple soups you’ll ever make.

     You can find many different recipes, but they’re all basically the same process: Slice thin several onions and cook in a large pot with some oil until translucent and caramelizing into a nice, deep brown. Keep stirring and don’t take shortcuts here. The caramelization can take 30 minutes or more but is crucial to that deep, rich flavor. Add some red wine and cook down some more. Then stir in a few tablespoons of flour, add beef stock and some herbs (garlic, thyme, salt, etc.) and simmer. Serve with croutons and some nice strong grated cheese.

Roasted cabbage


Cabbages are incredible keepers when stored right, and they become sweeter as time goes by. You might think “slaw,” but the sweetness of cabbage is wonderful when cooked. Plus it’s super easy. Slice a head of cabbage into wedges, brush with some olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, then throw them on a baking sheet and roast in a 400° oven for about 30 minutes. The edges will be nicely caramelized and the inside tender and sweet. The outer leaves might be sacrificed, but that’s OK. If you’re in a rush, just turn up the heat, then finish steaming the wedges in the microwave. Serve with butter. It’s a revelation of simplicity.

Fresh, locally grown greens

Well, maybe. Thanks to hoop houses and careful cultivation, local farmers were able to grow and harvest kale, arugula and spinach through most of the winter. But it’s touch and go from week to week, plus you have to arrive at market early. Whatever greens are available tend to sell out within a few hours.

     Also look for lettuce grown from the water of a fish farm in Junction City. Farm Time Out Aquaponics raises fish in an indoor facility, and uses the nutrient-rich fish water to grow watercress and lettuces. It’s like you’re supporting a little ecosystem.

Sweet potato oven fries

You could slice them into thin wedges, toss with oil and salt, and bake until crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Or try a different method that feels more like a side dish. Dice the sweet potato into cubes about a ¼-inch. Add salted water and microwave for several minutes to par-cook the vegetable and release some of the starch. Drain well, then toss with olive oil and Italian seasoning. Finish cooking to crispy goodness either in a pan on the stovetop, or on a baking sheet in a hot oven (400°).

Rutabaga and turnip sticks

These hearty, starchy vegetables stay juicy months after harvesting. Though they were pulled out of the ground in fall, you’ll find them aplenty at market. Some people like to grate them to go into a salad or perhaps a fried fritter (salt, let sit, squeeze out the liquid, then add an egg and flour, form into a patty and fry). I personally love to eat them raw, cut into finger-friendly sticks that even kids will readily consume.