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Grilled eggplants are the main ingredient in baba ganoush, a Lebanese appetizer that's on the menu for this week's farmer's market demo.

MANSFIELD -- Marqua Myers plucked the ripe eggplants from her backyard garden, piling them into a blue plastic basket.

Some eggplants resembled the kind common in big box grocery chains. Others were an Asian variety -- they were longer with a thinner skin and a slightly sweeter taste.

Once she’d gathered six or seven homegrown eggplants, her friend Andy Vaughan cut them into slices and placed them on the grill. He didn’t bother with peeling them. Eggplant skins are rich with the antioxidant nasunin. It’s also just easier to leave them alone.

“I’m just a lazy cook,” he said.

Myers and Vaughan are teaming Thursday to give a cooking demonstration at the North End Farmers Market. The pair will be making baba ganoush, a Lebanese appetizer.

The market has conducting a free cooking demonstration each week this summer in partnership with the North End Community Improvement Collaborative (NECIC), the Idea Works Kitchen, OhioHealth, Park National Bank and Area Agency on Aging.

“We’re trying to take the things farmers have at the market and show shoppers how they can use it in different ways,” said Mona Kneuss, the farmers market manager.

Chefs are asked to create simple, affordable dishes to sample with shoppers using produce just purchased from the market.

“Food doesn’t have to be overcomplicated to be delicious,” Vaughan said. “You can take simple ingredients and make them tasty.”

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It may look fancy, but baba ganoush contains relatively few ingredients.

Korinna Goettel, the executive director of the Idea Works Kitchen (formerly the Entrepreneur's Kitchen), said the classes have been beneficial for both vendors and the chefs, who often have restaurants or other food-related businesses.

“We love to feature (Idea Works) kitchen members whenever we can, but I’ve also reached out to a couple of other restaurants in town,” Goettel said. 

After showing shoppers how to make a peach salsa last week, Goettel had a woman ask her for the complete ingredients list -- then she went around and purchased everything she needed from the vendors.

“We obviously wanted to help the vendors sell more of their produce,” Goettel said. “I’m seeing people come back each time to the market. They keep returning week after week.”

Vaughn, co-founder of CaliFarmer, said the demonstration is a great way to get more information out about the services his business offers.

“It gets out that we teach -- we teach not only gardening classes but how to cook,” he said.

The North End Farmers Market is every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at 311 Bowman St. in Mansfield. Chefs are asked to run through the demonstration twice, serving samples at around 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.

The market series began July 1 and will come to a seasonal close on Sept. 30, but Goettel said she hopes to see the tradition carry on next year. 

She has no doubt she'll be able to find plenty of chefs to demonstrate.

“Everybody who has done it has asked me if they can do it again."

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com

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