Farmers Market Update: Hints of Fall

by | Aug 30, 2009
Adriatic Figs

Adriatic Figs

Although I finally got my first sun tan of the summer this weekend at the Outside Lands music festival, the produce at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is hinting that summer is winding down.

Okra

Okra

First Winter Squash

First Winter Squash

You can still find all the wonderful summer tomatoes, pluots, peaches and melons, but delicate fruits like berries are becoming tart and more difficult to find.

Likewise, zucchini and crooked neck squash are still around, but I was shocked to find the first thick-skinned winter squash this weekend too.

Assorted Grapes

Assorted Grapes

Niitaka Asian Pears

Niitaka Asian Pears

Other hallmarks of fall are apples, pears and grapes, which are all spectacular right now. This is also a great time to get figs, dates, jujubes (Chinese dates), French plums (prunes), corn, okra, eggplant, melons and chili peppers.

Chantenay Carrots

Chantenay Carrots

Jujubes

Jujubes

I found some gnarly, giant chantenay carrots that I plan to turn into soup using my new hand blender. I also purchased the ingredients to make some delicious Thai food this week, since my lifetime cuisine poll from Wednesday reminded me how much I love it.

My final advice this week as summer winds down is to go to Frog Hollow and get some flavor king pluots while you still can.

Did you find hints of fall at the farmers market this weekend?

Today’s Purchases:

  • Chinese eggplant (Chue’s Farm)
  • Lemongrass (Chue’s Farm)
  • Okra (Chue’s Farm)
  • Thai peppers (Chue’s Farm)
  • Thai basil (Chue’s Farm)
  • Garlic (Chue’s Farm)
  • Chinese long beans (Chue’s Farm)
  • Green onion (Chue’s Farm)
  • Early Girl tomatoes (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Cippolini onions (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Chanentay carrots (Tierra Vegetables)
  • Red flame grapes (Capay Canyon Ranch)
  • Flavor king pluots (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Red flame nectarine (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Pimento pepper (Happy Quail Farm)
  • Miyogi ginger flower (Happy Quail Farm)
  • Mediterranean Cucumbers (Happy Quail Farm)
  • Arugula (Marin Roots Farm)
  • Purslane (Marin Roots Farm)
  • Lettuces (Marin Roots Farm)
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For The Love of Food

by | Aug 28, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

It was a great week at Summer Tomato! My now famous squash pasta recipe was featured over at Lifehacker, which is a tremendous honor. There has been a flood of positive feedback about the recipe and one reader even claims her 6-year old can make it. I also wrote a guest post on finding time to cook over at Dumb Little Man, another one of my favorite tips and tricks blogs. Bookmarks (especially Stumbles) and comments at either of those posts would be very much appreciated!!

Also this week you may have noticed that my FoodFeed stream that was in the far right sidebar stopped working. I’m not sure what the problem is on their end, so rather than have a stagnant list of my meals from last week I replaced it with links to guest posts I’ve done, as well as some mentions of Summer Tomato around the web. If you are still interested in my eating habits I will continue to post my most interesting dishes on Twitter. Let me know if you’re heartbroken about not knowing my every bite and I’ll find another way to get the info here (I have some ideas).

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there.

I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips you’d like to share.

This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious meals of the week in the comments below.

For The Love of Food

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Hungry to Know: What cuisine could you eat for the rest of your life? (poll)

by | Aug 26, 2009
Making Sushi

Making Sushi

After a fantastic food-filled weekend, I woke up Monday morning with mountains of amazing leftovers.

I therefore did what any self-respecting grad student would do: I ate leftover Romano (Italian) food for breakfast, tupperware Moroccan soup for lunch and a hodge-podge of Greek spreads for dinner.

Each dish was distinct, yet all were Mediterranean. And they were delicious, even days later. That got me thinking:

If I had to choose only one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life would it be Mediterranean?

Definitely, I concluded. (Though I was admittedly cheating by lumping together Italian, Greek and North African).

Problem is, just 2 weeks ago I had decided 100% for sure that Southeast Asian foods–specifically Thai and Vietnamese–would be the best choice for a lifetime of dining. There was also a time in college when Japanese cuisine was the unequivocal champion. And strange as it sounds, when I lived in Italy all I could dream of was Mexican food.

Keep in mind, I am not talking about my favorite food. Favorite is a term I associate with a single meal or dish. And it almost exclusively considers flavors and taste, with a slant toward indulgence.

Instead, choosing a single regional cuisine for the rest of your life requires careful balance of taste, variety and health.

I did this as a thought experiment, and my conclusions (which seem to change quarterly) reflect my own personal tastes. To get a better idea of how others might deal with this question I asked my Twitter followers.

cuisine10

I got a flood of responses ranging from brilliant to hilarious. Here are some of my favorites:

cuisine2

Interestingly, some people clearly chose health over all else:

cuisine7

cuisine3

Some picked taste:

cuisine8

cuisine5

Others found conflict between health and taste:

cuisine9

cuisine6

Variety was also a big factor for many people, while others seemed to be influenced by the cuisine they grew up on:

cuisine11cuisine12

cuisine132

Some people asked if “American” counted and I think it certainly does, though only when American originality is clear as in the unique dishes created in the South.

For me a harder question is whether or not “California cuisine” counts. I decided it does not, but would love your opinion. The way I see it food in California is defined by fresh, seasonal ingredients and brilliant cutting-edge chefs–things that cannot be exported easily. I might give California credit for the burrito, but that hardly represents an entire cuisine.

Now tell me what you think.

What cuisine would you choose if you had to eat it for the rest of your life? Please tell us your answer in the poll then expand on your reasoning in the comments.

Would health be a factor? Variety? Taste? Tradition? How does your choice fit your healthstyle and what other ethnic cuisines would you consider?

To make it a little easier, I’m going to unfairly lump vast regions under single blanket terms such as Latin or Southeast Asian. This is not meant to stereotype but to help make a single choice more diverse and appealing. Trust me, I feel awful about the amazing cuisines getting lumped into “Other.” If yours is there please elaborate on your choice in the comments.

On a final note, the most common complaint I got when running this experiment was the difficulty of making a choice.

Needless to say, I completely agree.

cuisine14

[poll id="5"]

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Farmers Market Update: Summertime

by | Aug 23, 2009
Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Despite the San Francisco weather–more gloomy than sunny–it is actually summer. That means pluots, peaches, nectarines, figs, melons, eggplant, corn, peppers and, of course, tomatoes.

Could anything be more perfect?

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

Pluots

Pluots

The tomatoes are especially amazing right now (don’t miss the early girls!), and I’m finally ready to make my favorite summer tomato recipe, bruschetta! Tune in tomorrow for my easy recipe.

Something else I’ve noticed lately at the market are the over-sized carrots, which look perfect for turning into soup or other mashed concoction. Likewise, big heads of cauliflower are starting to reappear, which are fantastic for vegetable stews. Last week I turned mine into Moroccan soup.

Cauliflower and Cucumber

Cauliflower and Cucumber

Carrots

Carrots

I’ve also noticed apples, grapes, mature onions, mature garlic, and other foods that are decidedly post-summer fare. Take this as a sign that you should eat as many plums, peaches and melons while you can. Fall is right around the corner.

Organic Shallots

Organic Shallots

Organic Garlic

Organic Garlic

Speaking of plums, the very short 3-4 week season of French plums (fresh “prunes”) is peaking and they are spectacular. I bought a full bag to have with breakfast this week.

Early McIntosh Apples

Early McIntosh Apples

French Prunes

French Prunes

What did you find at the farmers market this weekend?

Today’s Purchases:

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For The Love of Food

by | Aug 21, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

The highlight this week (for me anyway) was the first Summer Tomato appearance over at my favorite blog, Lifehacker. Apparently they thought my tip on getting soft fruits and veggies home from the market without smashing them was pretty awesome. This week’s link love features a ton of cool food-related science tidbits, including a podcast from NPR’s Science Friday and a video “Baloney Detection Kit.”

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there.

I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips you’d like to share.

This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious meals of the week in the comments below.

For The Love of Food

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Farmers Market Update: San Francisco’s Finest

by | Aug 16, 2009
Perfect Squash Blossoms

Perfect Squash Blossoms

Today I am going to let my pictures do most of the speaking for me. In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the height of summer and in my opinion this is about as good as the farmers market gets.

At times like these I wonder why anyone bothers to eat unhealthy.

The squash blossoms from Star Route Farms were absolutely breathtaking–little treasures just waiting to be taken home, stuffed with herbs and goat cheese and deep fried. If I had more time this weekend these would have definitely been on my shopping list.

Mango Plums

Mango Plums

Summer Fire Nectarines

Summer Fire Nectarines

Peaches and nectarines are peaking, firm but still sweet and juicy.

Flavor king pluots are the rage at many of the fruit stands, but do not over look the flavor queens, flavor hearts, flavor grenades or any other part of the “flavor monarchy,” as I call it.

The mango plums at Catalán Family Farms were particularly impressive Saturday morning.

Mission Figs

Mission Figs

Flame and Thompson Grapes

Flame and Thompson Grapes

I’m tempted by strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes and currants at every turn.

This time of year I am always sure that each week I try a new variety of melon. Today I bought an ambrosia melon from The Peach Farm–Ed was nice enough to pick me out the best one. A single sniff of the rind and I new I was bringing home something special.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Cranberry Beans

Cranberry Beans

Not surprisingly, the second best smelling things in my market bag were my peppers from Happy Quail Farms. This time I am trying the hot banana pepper!

Yes, you read that right. Jealous?

Oh, and have you tried the summer tomatoes? I can’t decide which I like more: the early girls, the cherry tomatoes or the big fat heirlooms? I usually end up buying all of them.

Tomatoes and Figs

Tomatoes and Figs

Hot Banana Peppers

Hot Banana Peppers

I hope you are all having as much fun right now as I am!

Today’s purchases:

What did you get at the market?

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For The Love of Food

by | Aug 14, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Be sure to check out my guest post on how to get creative with your healthy eating over at Marbled Musings. Also this week: the controversy about exercise, more problems with industrial food (especially beef), healthy tips for the end of summer and the newly discovered benefits of fish.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there.

I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips you’d like to share.

This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious meals of the week in the comments below.

For The Love of Food

What great articles did you read and write this week?

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The Loveliness of Raspberries

by | Aug 10, 2009

Raspberries

Raspberries

Today’s post is very special and a bit of a departure from the regular healthy eating tips of Summer Tomato.

Last week we had a discussion about truly special occasions and how they are defined. I mentioned that though special food moments can be characterized by remarkable food and talented chefs, they can also be deeply personal, reflecting moments and emotions from your past.

I’ve explained before and novels have been written about how moments like this can change your life.

Today my friend Austen Caldwell describes such a moment and reminds us just how special food can be.

Austen loves things.  Sometimes they are drawings, sometimes they are poems, and sometimes they are plates of perfectly manicured food.  At the end of the day, they all equal a well-satisfied sigh.  He hopes that everyone sighs today.

The Loveliness of Raspberries

A longtime fan of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, I’ve become accustomed to his theory that there are two sensory phenomena that evoke memories of childhood and are made the better for it:  music and food.  Perhaps he referred to the song that was playing when he had his first kiss; I know I remember mine.  Or perhaps it was the smell of his mother’s kitchen, the homemade stew no one could recreate, something welcoming and warm, that inspired this epiphany. The music I understood, but the moment of reconnection with the youthful memories of food?  For this moment, I was waiting.

Her name was Loretta.  She was a lovely woman, kind and always happy.  She was short, barely five feet from the ground, but lively and spectacular.  She was my grandmother’s sister: my Great Aunt.

I have a great love of raspberries.  For that matter, I love berries of every variety: lingonberries, strawberries, cranberries, boysenberries.  All are exquisitely delicious, but raspberries, raspberries have always been particularly partial to my palette.  I have had a jar of raspberry preserves in my home for every day that I can remember, but I’ve only recently realized why.

Summers with my grandmother in Brunswick, Ohio, we would take the twenty-six mile trip up to Cleveland to visit her sisters.  She had four.  The eldest, Loretta, lived in a beautiful brick home, the kind you don’t get in the West.  She had a modest yard and a modest garden, and curled up next to the side façade of that gorgeous house was a pair of unassuming, modest raspberry bushes.  Garden fence and everything.

As a child, I spent every summer visiting relatives, and one of my greatest joys was those trips to see Lala (which was my nickname for Aunt Loretta).  She had her own nickname for me.  It was Little Bit.  When my sister was born, I became Big Bit, but I remained a bit: a bit of my father, a bit of his mother, a bit of her sister.  And each summer, I was privileged to visit this lovely woman, a woman who lived to see her 100th birthday, and pick raspberries with her.

Nothing ever tasted so good to a young boy.  And, I suspect, nothing ever will, even if I live to see my 100th birthday.

I was seven years old, the first time I remember picking raspberries with Loretta.  She was strong for her age, but still fragile, making me feel as if I were doing something she couldn’t as I reached a berry, buried deep, close to the wall of her house.  Something elusive.  Something special.

Sweet, ripe, juicy.  These are the words we use to describe fresh fruit.  Of course they were these things.  But they were also the start of something new, something unexpected.  They were the start of a love affair.  Years after the fact, they resonate.  The raspberries of these bright, amazing days remain the reason that particular fruit has always struck a chord with me, no matter what other flavors I may encounter.  The reason that these, these texturally magnificent, teasingly tart, and subtlety sweet fruits mean so much is not merely their excellence, but that reminder of something else beautiful.  To me, raspberries are not solely the flavor and texture, but they are also Loretta’s well-worn, infinitely kind voice, the way she stutter-stepped before she reached up to wrap her arms around me, the blink she always made when she smiled.

I can track that sensation to the first bite of fresh-picked berries with my Aunt Loretta, but it continues.  It continues through raspberry preserves and peanut butter in middle school.  It continues with raspberries as an afternoon snack in high school, when I was ‘concerned about my weight’.  It continues through convincing my friend to make for me custom raspberry smoothies at her juice stand which I frequented my freshman year at university.  It continues, and I am just finding out why.

I hope I understand now what Bourdain meant: that those transcendent moments of our youth stay with us, if not through memory, but something else.  Our memories of the people and places important to us remain in a different form.  They become a different kind of memory, and those memories, of something sensory, something sweet, something savory, will always remain

something special.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Do you have a food that changed or deeply affected your life? What do these foods mean to you and how have they influenced your relationship with food in general?

Thanks again to Austen for this beautiful story.

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Farmers Market Update: How To Transport Soft Fruits and Vegetables

by | Aug 9, 2009
Summer Tomatoes

Summer Tomatoes

In my opinion there is no better time of year to go to the farmers market.

With tomatoes, stone fruits, berries and melons all in peak season, I realized this week I have to be more selective about what I buy or I will easily spend too much money and buy more than I can eat.

This brings up two important issues: what to choose and how to get it home.

Over the course of the summer I have been working on perfecting the art of getting soft produce like peaches, berries and tomatoes home from the market in one piece. It turns out plums don’t do well in the same big bag as melons and sweet peppers.

This video includes my quick tips for making sure you get your soft fruits and veggies home safe.



For the past few weeks I’ve focused primarily on buying stone fruit, but today I wanted to try as many melons as I could carry. I’m happy to report that my tomatoes all made it home safe despite the extra load.

Today’s purchases:

  • Charentais melon (Happy Boy Farms)
  • Yellow watermelon (Happy Boy Farms)
  • Italian parsley (Happy Boy Farms)
  • Edible flower salad mix (Happy Boy Farms)
  • Galia melon (The Peach Farm)
  • Heirloom tomato (The Peach Farm)
  • Sunburst squash (The Peach Farm)
  • Heirloom tomatoes (Tomatero Organic Farm)
  • Early girl tomatoes (Tomatero Organic Farm)
  • Cherry tomatoes (Tomatero Organic Farm)
  • Zephyr squash (Tomatero Organic Farm)
  • Eggs (Tomatero Organic Farm)
  • Corn (G&S Farms)
  • Sugar snap peas (Iacopi Farm)
  • Baby artichokes (Iacopi Farm)
  • Poblano peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Sweet Italian peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Mediterranean cucumbers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Dinosaur kale (Green Gulch Farm)
  • Cippolini onions (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Italian basil (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Frisee (Star Route Farms)
  • Wild arugula (Star Route Farms)
  • Peach (Balakian Farm)
  • Garlic (Knoll Farm)

Did your tomatoes make it home in one piece?

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For The Love of Food

by | Aug 7, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Take some time out this weekend and read Michael Pollan’s latest article on the decline of cooking and the rise of food T.V. I also found a few articles that add to discussions from the previous two weeks, in particular the organic food controversy and eating healthy while fine dining. Some great recipes and food-related lifehacks are listed as well.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there.

I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips you’d like to share.

This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious meals of the week in the comments below.

For The Love of Food

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