Farm to Feast: Farmer's Market Stand Spotlight: Lenny's Cocina de mi Abuelita!

I've had a super busy week this week, as most of us have with the start of school, along with fall sports and after-school activities kicking in so I am switching things up and giving myself a night off of cooking. (Psst--you should too!) Maybe you've been to the Madison Farmer's Market every week and know all the vendors by first name. Maybe you go occasionally and always hit the same stands. I am in between. I love the Farmer's Market in Madison. It's full of really great produce, of course, but the fresh made cuisine popping up there this season is not to be missed!


My favorite new stand this year is Lenny's Cocina de mi Abuelita (My Grandma's Kitchen), aka "The Empanada Guy". So, for weeks, I watched folks pick up an empanada and walk around the market with it. I love a good empanada, but I was skeptical to try one. Ya see, it has to be the right dough. It can't be a puffed pastry or a hot pocket called an empanada. It's got to be the real deal. The filling has to be flavorful and ample. It has to be a perfect combination of shell to filling. It's a delicate balance.

I asked the guys in Tons of Toys if they'd ever tried them. Oh boy, had they. All Chris could do was roll his eyes back and shake his head as if, upon hearing about these empanadas, he could actually relive the experience of eating one. The other guys working seconded that and even touted the platters of carnitas with rice & beans.

Well, game on, folks.

We were in for a very long afternoon that Thursday, so I got one and ate it on the way to my son's football game. It was the BAD Chorizo empanada--which stands for "Breakfast All Day". Anyone who has never devoured a chorizo breakfast burrito after a night of too much adult fun, well, you don't know what you're missing!

It. was. amazing. The owner explained that his style is a hybrid of his grandma's recipes, with a more modern/healthier twist. So, rather than using heavy fats, he uses olive oil. And you could tell.

The empanada was not greasy at all. The filling inside, although made up of eggs, beans, potatoes and chorizo, was surprisingly light. I got one for my husband too but he never ate it. I stuck it in the fridge, still only in the paper bag it came from at the market, and it was still amazingly moist, with no signs of grease, when eaten cold the next day.

At The Storytellers Festival last week, I told Lenny to put me down for a platter to take home at the end of the day. He saved me a huge container filled to the brim (which, by the way, lasted me three meals). By the time we got home and I dug in, it was still delicious and, again, NOT GREASY! The pork was so full of flavor but not spicy at all. The beans simmered to perfection. It really was just as good as the guys at Tons of Toys had said it would be.

Lenny explained that he uses tomato to keep the rice moist, rather than a ton of fat. Even the next day, still cold, the rice was moist.

The best part of this story?? To tell you that Lenny is opening a storefront in Madison, so we can have his yummy Latin cuisine all year round now! He is taking over the Main Street location that Rocco's has had the last couple of years, at 36 Main Street. He will be serving a limited menu beginning September 22, but opening with a full menu (breakfast, lunch & dinner) beginning October 2nd.

Take that, tequila. You've got nothin' on an epic BAD empanada!

Visit Lenny's website for more info at