Posts Tagged ‘farmers market


Transitional fruits


Last tomatoes, first butternut; last melons, first persimmons.


lots of food, no posts

It’s not like we haven’t been eating lately, and cooking good things.

There was the week J-P was in Boston, and I breakfasted on beans almost every morning.
beans for breakfast

There was J-P coming back and telling me that my kaddo bourani is better than Helmand’s.

There was the day in early May when the Neufeld Farms fruit stand started its annual spring conversion from dried fruit to fresh with a load of apricots.
expanding farm stand

There were the crushed raspberries topped with a quick, Mark Bittman-style chocolate mousse.

There was Alex’s party and my first-ever angelfood cake, which we grilled, also on Mark Bittman’s excellent advice.

There was the day J-P asked me to think of something to do with the snap peas, and I pulled a homemade pie crust out of the freezer and some cheese left over from the party out of the fridge and made a quiche. There were extra peas, so I steamed those and made a sauce for them out of white wine, shallots, mushroom stock, and butter.

There was our picnic with Heidi, where she brought German potato salad and her first strawberry-rhubarb pie, and we brought sausages and a salad I’d created from green beans, shallots, and yellow tree oyster mushrooms.

I repeated that salad, bulked up with a little bacon, later in the week. We were low on all of the usual grains that might have made it a meal, so I cooked some bulgur with vegetable stock and a parmesan rind, which turned out delicious.

Even later that week, J-P got us to eat the leftover bulgur by serving it under slices of pork chop seasoned with chile powder and a plain omelette cut into strips. There were steamed snap peas drizzled with butter on the side, and the whole plate sprinkled with lime juice.

There was the Cookie Club gathering at which Heidi, Kiri, Sarah, Bridget, and I learned that French macarons are a pain to make. The pastry bag was difficult, we all got tired of whipping egg whites, and the fancy rose petal sugar was oddly flavorless, at least in a buttercream. We learned a new appreciation for bakeries and think we’ll try the 15-minute oatmeal lace cookies next time.

And there’s been out new garden plot in the Potrero del Sol community garden. I am trying beets, green beans (the pintos turned out to be duds), peppers, and zucchini right now. So far, California has been doing its best to make a fool of me. For instance, it’s rained a lot the last couple of weeks, but I looked on the bright side by thinking that at least I didn’t have to go to the garden every other day to water it. I didn’t count on the weeds. Now at least I know that the plot will feed me with lamb’s quarters, purslane, and nettle if I let it.
lamb's quarters

While I was weeding yesterday, a fellow gardener came up to introduce himself. He was a large, dark man in his fifties or maybe sixties, wearing a red and blue plaid shirt that reminded me of one my father would wear.

“Hello,” he said. And then, “How are jou?”

“I’m good. What’s your name?” I answered.


“Antonio,” I repeated, then offered, “I’m Esther.”

Antonio cocked his head to the left and narrowed his eyes, both slightly, and considered me for a moment. “Ester,” he said, Spanish-style. And with a period, not a question mark.

“Ester,” I conceded with a little nod.

The garden has white, English-speaking gardeners and brown, Spanish-speaking gardeners. So far, no one from either group has suffered more than a moment’s hesitation figuring out how to speak to me—and the answer is always in their own language.

Modesta hesitated much less than Antonio, who comes across as a pretty deliberate guy, anyhow. Modesta said hi in English and told me her name. I had barely finished repeating it back to her before she beamed and said, “Que bueno que sí habla español!”

Antonio and I talked a bit, about what I was growing, and whether it wouldn’t be better to weed with a hoe, rather than pulling them all by hand like I was. Little did he know he had walked up just as I was abandoning the superbly romantic notion of lunching on a salad of lamb’s quarters and purslane.

Even so, I said that a hoe would be better in the middle, where I wasn’t growing anything, but not along that side where I have—

Here I finally, really saw the weedy wreckage I was gesturing at, and sighed—had, where I had beans.

He went off to weed a common area, and I went off to get a hoe from the tool shed.

Later, we talked about his love of the outdoors, his recent retirement, and how he wants to move back home to Cuernavaca. I met his wife, Carmen, who was cleaning nopales with a machete, and saw their plot, where they have nopales, tomatillos, tomatoes, summer squash, corn, a little lettuce, a teeny red rose bush, and a well restrained avocado tree.
antonio and carmen's plot


buffalo slim jim and more surprisingly savory kale

We recently thawed and tried out the buffalo-cheddar sausages we got from the Prather Ranch stall at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. We decided that there’s always delight in sausages filled with cheese, and the slight gaminess was pleasant, but the texture of these was a little too Slim Jim.

My side dish was more successful: a couple of bunches of dino kale, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, salt, black pepper, and king trumpet mushrooms. J-P brought out the chili garlic paste, but he never ended up using it, declaring the kale “surprisingly savory” as it was. I credit the mushrooms–those things are awesome.


The amazing shrinking farmstand

It’s impossible to walk past the Neufeld Farms stand at our farmers market. There’s always someone urging you try their peaches, nectarines, pluots, plums, apricots, grapes… even in the winter. It only struck me today that the winter display is the same as the summer, only drastically reduced in size, by dehydration. And that they must work behind the scenes on that all summer.


ALBA: Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association

Thanks to Julie of City Slicker Farms for pointing me to this radio segment on the Monterey County-based Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA). ALBA owns two organic farms where it gives farmworkers the training, resources, and space they need to become farm operators and owners. In the Bay Area, ALBA-grown produce is available at the Phat Beets markets in north Oakland.


changing of the guard

Click through to see my plans for the week’s produce.

Despite the evidence of this haul, summer is clearly on its way out and autumn on its way in at the Noe Valley farmers’ market. Apples and grapes have appeared. The blueberries, blushing an unripe pink, sit under a sign announcing that it’s their last week. The stone fruits are underripe, too, and I overhear one clerk I see often telling another, apparently new, that people like them “suavecito” (soft), even though buying ones that are “un poquito duro” (a little hard) right now will ensure “una mesa llena” (a full table) throughout the week.


dry farming

My precious

It’s funny the seasonal favorites you forget from year to year, Yesterday, it was dry-farmed tomatoes from Happy Boy Farm (nestled here with the first jalapeos I’ve seen at a San Francisco farmers’ market).

In-season tomatoes are great; dry-farmed tomatoes are greatness concentrated. They taste like sunshine.

Dry farming has the same effect on figs. Sure, California has figs, and I appreciate that. But they’re watery and bland compared to my grandfather’s central Texas figs, which get minimal rainfall and maybe a weekly watering during the fruiting season. Those figs are like candy.


Noe Valley Farmers Market

Our haul:


a (counter)revolutionary dinner

On Sunday, Rainbow had some adorable little eight-ball zucchinis that I couldn’t resist. Tonight, I baked them with a stuffing of onion, ancho, garlic, cumin seed, breadcrumbs, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, cheddar, and egg.

My method (largely from the Joy of Cooking): Heat the oven to 400F. Slice the tops off the zucchinis and scoop them out, discarding the seeds. Chop the remaining flesh and sweat it in a bowl with some salt. Steam the shells cut side down for five minutes. Meanwhile, soften half an onion and half an ancho, both finely chopped, in some fat. Add one clove minced garlic, 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs, and a pinch of cumin seeds. Let the breadcrumbs toast while you squeeze the excess water from the zucchini flesh. Put the squeezed zucchini and some halved cherry tomatoes in the skillet, too. Cook 3-4 minutes longer. Mix with one egg, lightly beaten, a little more salt, and half a cup of cheddar cheese. Stuff the zucchini shells, then stand them in a baking dish with 1/8 inch water. Bake 30 minutes. The tops will be nicely puffed and brown, no need to broil.

There was stuffing left over, of course. I did what any sensible person would do–I fried it. Oh, and garnished everything with cherry tomato halves. Here’s the result:

J-P says it’s very fifties. I don’t like to think of myself as reactionary (I didn’t even wear an apron!), so I’ve decided instead that the zucchinis look like little grenades. Zucchrenades! Revolutionary!

Serving dessert in cocktail glasses probably didn’t help my case:

They’re cherry bombs, all right? Cherry bombs!

For dessert, I used this recipe from Taste of Beirut, with a lot of substitutions. In the pudding, I used some mascarpone we had lying around instead of Puck cheese spread, and I used maraschino liqueur instead of her suggested flavorings. In the jelly, I used fresh cherries instead of frozen, because we’ve had them at the farmers market here for a few weeks now. Rainbow didn’t have sour cherry nectar, so I used black cherry juice concentrate. I also added a small dollop of the syrup from the fancy maraschino cherries we keep in the fridge, but I didn’t add any further sugar.

It was the first time I’d used agar agar to make a jelly, and now I can tell you that “squares” are at best an awkward substitute for powdered. But they were what I could find, so. They look delicate, don’t they? Like they’ll shatter if you give them the ojo?

Not so. I couldn’t crush the stuff in my hands, nor in the molcajete. Not even in the food processor, neither by itself (video) nor with cherry juice. I finally minced some of the cherry juice-soaked stuff from the food processor and followed the package’s directions to simmer it long enough for it to “melt.” The jelly did set, but there was a steep learning curve.


new vegetables, old

Another trip to the Noe Valley farmers’ market yesterday, and suddenly, it’s summer: baby zucchini have joined the tableau that last week screamed “Spring!”

As ever, northern California’s produce schedule seems just about right to me, who started gardening in Austin, but almost unbearably wrong to J-P, who started in Boston.

On Wednesday, J-P texted me to ask if we had potatoes. We did, but I wasn’t sure about their condition. A quick peek in the pantry confirmed my fears.

So J-P picked up some more on his way home. Liza found a use for our old potatoes while we waited for the more palatable ones to bake.

When we drove across the country in January, we stopped in Texas, and Liza learned that I grew up off of Old Potato Road. She’s been fascinated with that name ever since. She even found me a song about it, by Charlie Cheney.

Tex-Mix's Photostream