by Kaitlyn Goalen
photographs by Jillian Clark
The amount of enjoyment I get from food shopping fluctuates considerably.
Sometimes a spin through the farmers’ market feels absolutely exhilarating. Everything looks delicious and inspiring; I can hardly wait to get home to start cooking.
Other times, it’s 7 p.m. on a Tuesday and my refrigerator looks like a minimalist exhibit at CAM and I’m starving. In these moments, nothing sounds worse then getting in my car and fighting off the hoards at the picked-over Whole Foods.
Since the latter scenario happens more often than I care to admit, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to source my groceries. Luckily, Raleigh has several options for the adventurous shopper that completely overturn the traditional grocery cart and VIC card experience.
There are CSAs (short for community supported agriculture) in large supply: the standard vegetable CSA, available from several local farms; a pickles and preserves CSA from Farmer’s Daughter; a meat CSA from Firsthand Foods; even a seafood CSA from Locals Seafood. Each operates like a subscription: pay up front for a weekly (or monthly) haul of goods. This model is great for both consumer and producer. No more decision-making on your part, and they get a nice influx of cash and purchase commitment (which, in the farming business, is always needed).
But CSAs are really just the beginning. Recently I stumbled across LoMo Market, a retrofitted trailer parked in Seaboard Station. Inside, the trailer’s walls were lined with shelves of local produce, a refrigerated case of meat, a cooler of fresh fish, and plenty of local provisions like tomato sauce, baked goods, and bread. I grabbed some chicken from Green Button Farm and a few different types of vegetables, and headed home.
Later, while checking out its site, I was even more impressed. The LoMo Market team has three different trailers, covering plenty of ground. Founder Guenevere Abernathy told me that LoMo makes approximately 30 stops a week in locations across the Triangle. What’s more, they choose their locations based on the feedback of their patrons. If enough people nominate a location, LoMo will add it to the schedule.
So what does LoMo offer that the traditional farmers’ market doesn’t? Convenience and an editorial selection: the trailer can only hold so much, so the LoMo team carefully picks and chooses every product on board. The team also does a fantastic job proselytizing about these brands, both on the trailer and online. So when it’s 7 p.m. and I’m starving, a quick visit to a LoMo trailer is more inspiring than the overwhelming aisles of a grocery store.
Chicken and Spring Vegetable Dumplings
Makes 40 dumplings
Part of the LoMo shopping experience is that you never know exactly what you’ll get. These dumplings emerged from the chicken that I picked up on my first expedition, but the rest of the ingredients are mutable; use whichever vegetables you have on hand or look best to you.
½ bunch asparagus, tough ends removed
¾ cup spring peas (such as lima beans, favas or English peas)
1½ teaspoons minced ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
4 scallions, chopped
1½ pounds cooked chicken thighs, bones removed
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce, divided
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
40 dumpling wrappers
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
Make the filling: First prepare the vegetables. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus for about 2 minutes, until bright green. Transfer to a bowl of ice water. Next add the spring peas to the boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes, then transfer to the ice-water bath. (If using favas, remove outer skin.) Roughly chop the asparagus and peas and add to a medium bowl. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallions.
In a food processor, add the chicken and pulse until the chicken is minced and there are no pieces larger than ¼-inch remaining. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the vegetables. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and sesame oil and stir well to combine.
Assemble the dumplings: In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with ½ cup water. Lay one dumpling wrapper out on a clean work surface. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Using your finger, dampen the perimeter of the dumpling with some of the cornstarch solution. Fold the dumpling into a crescent moon shape, then pleat the edges so it will hold. Repeat with the remaining dumpling wrappers.
Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add some of the dumplings, taking care not to crowd. Let cook for about 3 minutes, then flip the dumplings and cook an additional 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and dumplings.
To serve, place the dumplings on a platter. In a small bowl, mix together the rice wine vinegar, remaining soy sauce, and chile oil and serve with the dumplings as a dipping sauce.