Posts Tagged ‘farmers market


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.


farmers’ marketing

Sure signs of spring at the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market today.

A wonderful display of carrots, radishes, fava beans, spring onions, and beets:

All it’s missing is…


And, of course, dandelion greens, gone from a godsend to a nuisance to a delicacy:

But what really makes me think “spring” are the baby vegetables. Every farmer and gardener knows that you overplant, because not every seed will germinate. But that means that, eventually, you have to cull, so that the plants don’t crowd each other out.

baby beets

baby broccoli versus big broccoli

Any part of the remaining plants that won’t be productive has to go, too.

pea shoots

elephant garlic scapes

This all reminds me of my grandfather’s story of frequenting a Houston produce market as a child, helping sellers by keeping the areas around their stalls clean. They paid him and his siblings in loose produce–the stuff they couldn’t sell to customers. Like these loose grapes at the Noe Valley farmers’ market last fall:


East Austin urban farms tour

On April 11, I took a tour of four East Austin urban farms. At Boggy Creek, the grande dame of East Austin farms, I asked Carol Ann whether her eggs vary by season, and she said no–Austin grows yummy things for chickens to eat year-round, and in fact, winter’s cole crops make “fabulous” eggs. Carol Ann also protects her chickens from predators by stringing solar-powered red LEDs on their coop’s fencing. She says the lights make possums, raccoons, and other pests think “somebody else is already in there doing the job.”

At Boggy Creek I also learned about Treaty Oak Platinum Rum, which the tablers said is distilled in Austin from molasses processed in Texas from Texas-grown sugarcane, and available at Spec’s. They claim their rum is unique in its local sourcing and production, but a Google search turned up three other rums that may rival it. Railean Rum is distilled near Houston from “Gulf Coast” (though perhaps not Texan?) molasses and will be on the market July 1. And Texas-based Au Naturel Spirits distills two rums, also not yet on the market, under the Temptryst label: Cherrywood and Mesquite. No word on the source of Temptryst’s molasses–and no word from any of the companies about who works the cane fields, or under what conditions.

At Hausbar Farm, which supplies all of the eggs for East Side Cafe, I saw Jim Hightower roaming the grounds. At Shady Lane, I admired the clever use of spare parts from the Yellow Bicycle Project, especially this bamboo chicken tractor with a bicycle wheel:

But my favorite story of the day belonged to Springdale Farm, which the owners of Texas Trees and Landscape founded about a year and a half ago as their business began to suffer from the recession. The urban farm would give owners and employees alike something to do and, they hoped, a new revenue stream. In fact, the farm had to expand due to its success in selling its produce through a farm stand, CSAs, and contracts with local chefs. Although they at first feared that Boggy Creek would see them as interlopers, Carol Ann was happy to be their mentor, and sales at both farms have been brisk. Said a friend of the owners, “There’s a market here that just really wants this.”

And despite my strong misgivings about the disconnect between urban farmers and most farm workers, the phrase “my soul feels fed” crossed my mind and wouldn’t leave as I walked between Springdale and Hausbar, pausing to block a runaway soccer ball and kick it back to the kids playing with it in the street.

More pictures here.

Also, a belated thanks to Mission Local for yesterday’s link to Stuff White People Like.


On cooking in California: Part 1

I figured that moving to California would change our cooking habits. But how? We’d probably eat more citrus, and our salad season would be extended–would maybe even replace our winter mac and cheese season. That’s as far as I got in thinking about it.

And both of those things are at least partly true, but they’re not all of it, and they weren’t even the first changes we noticed.

Three things just showed up in our regular stock of ingredients: parsley, ginger, and yogurt. Of those three, I might have guessed the yogurt if you had asked me what new things we would keep on hand in California. More fruit equals more fruit snacking. More fruit snacking plus my hypoglycemic need for protein equals a steady supply of yogurt to go with the fruit. Maybe.

Actually, it started off as cottage cheese, but I tired of that and moved on to Greek yogurt, which was more flexible in the kitchen besides. It could be used in Kaddo Bourani when we found our counter covered with squash after a trip to the Farmer’s Daughter pumpkin patch last fall. It can also be used in muffins, mac and cheese (which we still eat), and other recipes–handy, given that we’re not milk drinkers and so we don’t keep milk on hand.

After a few weeks of Greek yogurt, it began to bother me what a harsh mistress Fage was. The largest container I could buy ran out well before the week was over, and it was awfully expensive. What was different about Greek yogurt, anyway? Was there anything special besides its thickness?

The answer is no. So I bought cheaper, larger container of regular yogurt, dumped it into a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, and placed that over a stockpot in the fridge for the night. Voilà, Greek yogurt.

Parsley has a sort of California connection, too. Fresh local parsley wasn’t available in Boston in the winter, and we couldn’t be bothered with the scanty plastic packets at the grocery. We became year-round fans of dried parsley, both for its own flavor and for the way it enhanced other flavors. But in California, fresh parsley is available, a huge bunch for a dollar, year-round at the nearest farmers’ market. We bought one and put it in a jar of water on the door of the fridge, where it immediately became a fixture. We use it in white wine sauces and sprinkle it on almost everything else, and it lets us make tabbouleh any time we like. (Thanks to Moosewood’s vegan chili recipe, cracked wheat was already a staple in the Cervantes-Ferguson pantry. And thanks to my grandmother, who swears by it as a cure for stomach upsets, I wouldn’t dream of not at least trying to keep a pot of hierba buena, or spearmint, growing. It languished in Boston; it’s thriving in San Francisco.)

Ginger first ended up in the fruit bowl because our wine bottles full of ginger syrup, which we mix with water and then carbonate to make ginger beer, wouldn’t have survived the move, so we gave them to friends at our last going away party. This left us in need of more ginger syrup, and there was ginger left over when I was done making it. We used the ginger in ginger-lemon-honey tea when we were sick this fall, but our favorite use has been frying it up crisp with garlic to sprinkle on any dish that’s even vaguely Asian, as Mark Bittman recommends.

Next time: The new things we’ve made an effort to keep in our California pantry.

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