Farmers Market Update: Hints of Spring

by | Jan 31, 2010
Tulips

Tulips

It’s still January, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure it is.

Here in San Francisco we’ve had virtually non-stop rain for the past 2 weeks. Technically this is good since we’ve had a drought, but I think all of us are anxious to move on to more fair weather.

What confuses me though is how this abnormally wet weather explains the early appearance of tulips and cherry blossoms? I have no idea. But they sure are lovely, aren’t they?

First Cherry Blossoms

First Cherry Blossoms

If you’ve been avoiding the farmers market because of the weather, now is the time to start going again. The flowers are blooming, the spring onions are appearing and yes, the sun is peaking out of the clouds today.

In many ways the beginning of spring is the most special time of year. After a long, cold and wet winter there is something magical about the time when life reminds us of its eternal cycle. Baby greens, delicate asparagus and sweet fruits will start appearing over the coming weeks and you definitely want to be there when it happens.

Fennel Bulbs

Fennel Bulbs

Organic Spring Onions

Organic Spring Onions

It’s hard to describe how exciting it is the first day the farmers market explodes with cherries. I can’t get enough of the Olsen Organic clementines right now (seriously, don’t buy them anywhere else), but cherries mark the beginning of a long and delicious season of stone fruits (fruit with pits).

But let’s stop daydreaming.

Blood Orange Slices

Blood Orange Slices

This week the stars of the market are cauliflower, broccoli and citrus. The kale and chard are also amazing. And for good measure I grabbed some Brussels sprouts since the season will be ending soon.

Purple Kohlrabi

Purple Kohlrabi

Organic Cauliflower and Broccoli

Organic Cauliflower & Broccoli

There is also still a beautiful assortment of root vegetables. I wish my photo skills could do justice to these breathtaking purple carrots.

Purple Carrots

Purple Carrots

I spent some time today talking about mushrooms with John Garrone of Far West Fungi. Far West Fungi has the most unique mushrooms and other foraged foods that I’ve found in San Francisco. They also have a farm where they grow mushrooms near Monterey Bay. Definitely visit their shop in the Ferry Building if you ever get the opportunity.

Nameko Mushrooms

Nameko Mushrooms

Mushroom Farm

Mushroom Farm

What did you find at the farmers market this week?

Today’s Purchases:

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For The Love of Food

by | Jan 29, 2010
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.

For some reason the New York Times was brimming with great food and health articles this week. I particularly like the expose of meaningless food labels and the article on the wonders of the pressure cooker. And if you feel like giggling, find out why Stephen Colbert thinks being skinny is un-American.

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. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Manifest Density
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

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Geek Health Questions Answered by Dr. Weil

by | Jan 27, 2010

Dr. Andrew Weil is the father of integrative medicine and has one of the most sane and straightforward healthy eating programs available. Here he sat down with Kevin Rose and answered an extensive range of geek health questions asked by Twitter users.

The question I was most curious about is the role of dairy in health. I have done countless hours of research on potential links between dairy and prostate cancer, type 1 diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma and other problems, and was happy to see Dr. Weil’s interpretation of the data is very similar to mine (very little is conclusive). He also adds an interesting aside on the importance of Mongolian cows that you shouldn’t miss.

Other topics covered include the potential dangers of soda and energy drinks, the risks and benefits of soy, which supplements are worthwhile, the best sources of antioxidants, how much vitamin D is necessary, the importance of fish oil, the deal with cellphone radiation, screen time and eye problems, tea, chocolate, low-carb diets, depression and those “fancy detox kits.”

It’s an incredibly informative video and definitely worth a half hour of your time.

And don’t forget to follow @drweil and @kevinrose on Twitter.

Enjoy!

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Farmers Market Update: Alemany

by | Jan 24, 2010
Murals at Alemany

Murals at Alemany

Instead of my usual trip to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, this week I visited the Alemany farmers market in San Francisco near Bernal Heights.

People love this market, and it is kind of amazing that I have never been to it before. My main excuse is that it isn’t easy to get to via public transportation.

Lemon Slices

Lemon Slices

Blood Orange

Blood Orange

The Alemany farmers market was founded in 1943 and is the oldest in California. The stalls are painted with beautiful and sometimes humorous murals, and the market has a fantastic community of local farmers and vendors. It is the only city-run farmers market in San Francisco, and some of the vendors I spoke to had been members for generations.

Giant Turnips

Giant Turnips

Lemongrass

Lemongrass

The produce was notably more affordable than what I normally find at the Ferry Plaza market, though the selection was not quite as broad. There is also a fantastic selection of prepared foods, including the best dulce de leche cookies in the entire universe.

Pumpkin Bolani

Pumpkin Bolani

Dulce de Leche Cookies

Dulce de Leche Cookies

I also enjoyed fava dips from Fava, and vegan Afghani stuffed breads from Bolani.

The Alemany farmers market is a special community and worth a trip for all San Francisco residents.

Flowers

Flowers

Jumbo Lemons

Jumbo Lemons

Have you been to the Alemany farmers market?

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For The Love of Food

by | Jan 22, 2010
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.

This week I was interviewed by the Bay Area Women’s Journal about my favorite healthy eating tips for the new year. Also be sure to read Dr. Steve Parker’s analysis of a new study that proves conclusively saturated fat is not associated with heart disease.

There are also great stories about the dangers of salt and snacking, and a hilarious flow chart describing exactly how to handle it if you drop your food on the floor.

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. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the Week

What inspired you this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Berkeley

by | Jan 17, 2010
Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

I’m thrilled to have Allison Arevalo from Local Lemons representing today from across the bay in Berkeley.

The Berkeley farmers market on Center street downtown is one of my old stomping grounds. Though there is a lot of overlap in products between Berkeley and SF, the vibe is completely different. This synopsis has definitely inspired me to head back sometime soon.

Allison is a Brooklyn girl who escaped New York for the sunny skies and year-round produce of Berkeley, California. Local Lemons is a collection of original, all-natural recipes designed to give you a taste of local, sustainable living in the East Bay.

Farmers Market Update: Berkeley

by Allison Arevalo

Days like this make it easy to forget winter. While most of the world hides beneath down comforters and behind woolen scarves, in Berkeley I saunter slowly around the farmers’ market, sun warm on my back. And while I am grateful to breath summer air in January, I feel most fortunate to enjoy vibrant greens of winter produce – something I was deprived of living in New York.

My day at the Berkeley market began with a hug from Denise (Chez Us) and a steaming cup of Bella Donovan from Blue Bottle coffee. From there we walked the length of the market, taking it in before making all-important decisions. The Berkeley market is often a sea of green, but today the emerald hues were as varied as the vegetables themselves. Kale, chard, romanesco, broccoli, arugula, spinach, leeks and other greens flourish during the temperate, wet Bay Area winters, making it the ideal time of year to indulge in their nutrients.

Celery

Celery

Romanesco

Romanesco

Green garlic recently made its yearly market debut, and oh, how I love the mild bite of green garlic. Cook with it, use it as a garnish, stir it into soups or puree it for dips. A favorite recipe of mine uses sautéed green garlic mixed with smashed cannellini beans, a drizzle of olio nuevo and a pinch of flaky pink salt. I grabbed a few stocks from Riverdog farms, where I also purchased plump, stout carrots, so sweet they taste candied.

Phoenix Bread

Phoenix Bread

Green Garlic

Green Garlic

Our next stop was Phoenix Pastificio. The Phoenix makes a rainbow of fresh pastas–porcini, squid ink, meyor lemon, saffron–homemade sauces, cookies and their famous rustic olive bread. I have yet to leave the market without touting a loaf of the cushy artisanal bread, brimming with tangy kalamatas.

Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Among mountains of butternut squash, baskets of sweet lettuce, piles of watermelon radishes and stacks of fresh cheese, Berkeley market is a community; a gathering of locals who come to chat up the virtues of purple carrots, or sample green olive and potato tamales wrapped in banana leaves. I am particularly fond of the white-haired, dreaded beatnik, who reminds me what I love about Berkeley as he strums and sings nostalgic tunes from Bob Dylan.

Today’s Purchases:

Sweet Lettuce: Happy Boy Farms

Arugula: Happy Boy Farms

Rustic Olive Bread: Phoenix Pastificio

Green Garlic: Riverdog Farm

Carrots: Riverdog Farms

Romanesco: Riverdog Farms

Fresh Local Prawns: Hudson Seafood

Bella Donavan: Blue Bottle Coffee

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For The Love of Food

by | Jan 15, 2010
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.

In case you missed it, check out the interview I did with the Irish Times about the ineffectiveness of traditional weight loss diets. It turned out to be the most popular article on their site the day it came out.

Also be sure to read Michael Ruhlman’s beautiful piece about cooking in American culture. Unfortunately though, Ruhlman’s insight is overshadowed this week by the myopic and painfully unenlightened BS article of the week in The Atlantic about the supposed evils of Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard program. I’d love to know your thoughts on both.

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. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the Week

  • Bin diets – get slim for less <<I was interviewed by Conor Pope of the Irish Times about avoiding diets and getting healthy. Conor has a fantastic perspective on health and fitness, pop over there and let me know what you think. (Irish Times)
  • America: Too Stupid To Cook <<This is a brilliant piece by Michael Ruhlman. Why is it so many of us dismiss cooking as being too hard or too much effort? Maybe it is because that’s what we’ve been raised to believe. (Michael Ruhlman)
  • Protection of Food Supply Faces Problems <<Did you know that 25% of Americans get food poisoning each year while only 1% of French do? Our industrial food supply is the likely culprit. (CBS)
  • Counting of Calories Isn’t Always Accurate <<Another reason to stop counting calories–labels are wrong. Just eat real, healthy food without labels on it and news like this won’t bother you. (New York Times)
  • Cultivating Failure <<BS of the week. This very controversial article is one of the most irresponsible pieces of journalism I’ve ever had the displeasure to read. The Atlantic FAIL.
  • 7 Exercise and Fitness Beliefs You Need to Overcome <<Don’t like exercise? Time to get over it. Stick with a fitness routine a little while and I bet you’ll change your mind. (Dumb Little Man)
  • Does your diet require a Ph.D.? <<Turns out the simplest diets are the most effective. As someone who has finished the better part of a PhD, I promise you don’t need formal training to eat healthy. (Booster Shots)
  • Genetic causes of obesity: 1%? <<To me it always feels silly to talk about the genetic causes of obesity, since obviously the problem is relatively new and started around the time we embraced the low fat (high sugar) lifestyle. But it is always good to examine the data supporting any hypothesis. (Food Politics)
  • Roasted Beet Salad with Tahini Yuzu Kosho Dressing <<I’m embracing root vegetables for the rest of the month, and this recipe for roasted beets with tahini dressing has inspired me to grab some beets this weekend at the farmers market. (Chez Us)
  • Should You Eat or Drink Your Fruits and Veggies? An Experiment. <<I often get asked about juice and people are sometimes surprised by my answer. I’m not a big fan, and generally treat juice as a special occasion food. This post by my friend Travis Saunders will help explain why. (Obesity Panacea)

What inspired you this week?

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10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

by | Jan 13, 2010

Photo by ReneS

For some people cooking alone is a chore rather than a treat, but those people don’t know what they’re missing.

If cooking for yourself seems like more hassle than it’s worth, it may be time to start thinking more selfishly about the whole business.

Eating is a deeply personal, private experience that stimulates all of your senses. We each have our own particular tastes, preferences and memories associated with different foods, and each of these can elicit an entire universe of physical and emotional responses.

When you cook for yourself, especially when you aren’t beholden to the desires of others, you have a perfect opportunity to indulge some of your favorite pleasures. Cook something fancy and high brow, enjoy a favorite childhood dish or just throw 12 odd flavors together and see what happens. You have the freedom to make what you want, exactly the way you like it.

We eat alone for different reasons at different times. Sometimes we are in a hurry. Sometimes family is out of town. Whatever the reason, taking the opportunity to cook for yourself is almost always the most interesting, convenient and pleasurable option.

I began this list on my own, but some of the points were inspired by a book I recently picked up, What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison. It is a quick read and a good source for more inspiration and recipes.

10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

  1. Splurge. Buying exquisite ingredients to feed a crowd can be prohibitively expensive, but a single serving of white truffle can be had without breaking the bank. That is, so long as you prepare the rest of the meal yourself. If you adore Kobe beef or lobster tail, why not use a weekend alone to treat yourself to a fabulous dinner without going out?
  2. Indulge. Have you always wanted to try bacon on your oatmeal? Go for it, no one’s looking.
  3. Impress. Cooking someone a meal and sharing it can be one of the most intimate experiences on earth. Being alone is a great time to practice. Hone your cooking skills and show that special someone what a great catch you are. If you’re already spoken for, adding a few interesting meals to your repertoire is also a great way to impress your family and friends.
  4. Save. My favorite burrito at the place down the street costs about $6. At home I can make the exact same burrito for $2. Plus if I already have the ingredients around I can make it in a fraction of the time. How is that for thrift?
  5. Thrive. My personal favorite reason to cook for myself is that I have complete control over what goes in my food. Here in San Francisco, splurging and indulgence can be bought within a quarter mile in any direction. When I’m home I enjoy making healthy, nourishing food cooked exactly the way I like it.
  6. Improve. Don’t consider yourself a particularly good cook? The only way to get better is to practice. Trying out new things in the kitchen can be much less stressful when you’re alone, so take the opportunity of solitude to make mistakes without inspiring disappointment or ridicule.
  7. Hurry. If you cook regularly and have a decently stocked kitchen, you can make yourself a meal faster than most places can make one for you. Driving somewhere, waiting in line, ordering and waiting for your food may seem like the fastest option but it usually isn’t.
  8. Perfect. Is there a dish at your favorite restaurant that you wish you could recreate at home? Try it one day when you have some free time. You might not get it exactly right the first time, but you can probably get pretty good at it eventually.
  9. Relax. No one is home? The pressure is off! There’s no one to please but yourself. Cook at your leisure, make pancakes for dinner, break all the rules. When it’s just you there are no expectations.
  10. Experiment. Maybe you’ve always wished for a quick and easy dessert that doesn’t have any added sugar. Maybe you’re curious if lasagna can be made in a skillet instead of the oven (it can). Indulge your cooking curiosities when no one is looking and you have a little extra time to play around.

What do you love about cooking alone?

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Winter Salad Tip: Making Tough Greens Soft

by | Jan 11, 2010
Winter Salads

Winter Salads

Today Nathalie Lussier is sharing her secret tips for making tough winter greens soft enough to eat in salads. Winter salads are a perfect use for all the lovely radishes, kohlrabi, carrots, beets and other sweet vegetables available this season at the farmers market.

Top off your salad with hazelnuts, grapefruit and some shaved cheese for a satisfying winter meal or side dish.

Nathalie Lussier helps people overcome unhealthy food cravings so they can eat more fruits and vegetables, and experience the magick of raw foods. She’s known as The Raw Foods Witch.

How To Use Winter Greens In A Salad

by Nathalie Lussier

Winter might not strike you as salad season, but there are plenty of delicious hearty greens to be had this time of year. One trick is to marinate the leaves so they soften and are easier to chew.

Here’s how to prepare some of these tougher greens and enjoy rich, satisfying salads year round.

Choosing Hearty Greens

The foundation of any good salad is the green component. Usually we think of lettuce, but there is a world of other greens to explore.

So what options do we have when it comes to hearty greens?

1. Kale: Kale is a tough vegetable that can handle the cold. It has a strong taste, but with a little bit of massaging it can make a really satisfying salad green. There are a few varieties, from the most common curly green to the spotty dinosaur (aka Tuscan) and beautiful purple kales. They are each slightly different and you should experiment with them all.

2. Cabbage: Cabbage is a tried and true winter veggie, but we can go beyond the usual coleslaw, saurkraut and cooked cabbage. Different colored cabbage adds beauty and variety to your salads, as well as sweetness and a crispy texture.

3. Swiss Chard: A relative of spinach, Swiss chard has a thick midrib that comes in a rainbow of colors like green, white, red, pink, and yellow. Swiss chard is great in salads and can be easier to chew than some of the others.

Washing & Cutting The Greens

kale-destem

De-stemming Tuscan Kale

Wash the greens thoroughly, you never know when a caterpillar will decide to make her home in a leaf of kale.

The way you cut the greens is important because you want them to absorb the marinade and soften.

Cutting Kale and Swiss Chard

For both kale and Swiss chard, you need to remove the stems by using a knife and slicing them out vertically. You can then chop up the stems and add them back to the salad like you would celery or other hard vegetables.

After you’ve removed the stems, slice the kale and chard horizontally into 1 inch strips. Put the sliced greens in a large bowl.

Don’t worry if you think you sliced up too much, it will shrink down in size as it marinates.

Cutting Cabbage

If you’re using cabbage, cut the cabbage in half and then use a knife to cut thin strips. These should look like coleslaw slices. You may have to cut them lengthwise if they are too long.

I recommend you cut the whole cabbage and make a big batch, unless you have something else planned for the other half. Making large batches at once makes future healthy meals that much easier.

Massaging & Marinating The Greens

This is the magic part that will take regular tough greens and turn them into the perfect salad.

Ingredients

  • Your chosen greens or a combination of them (1 bunch)
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil or more as needed
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Pinch of Celtic sea salt

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty! Add the ingredients into your mixing bowl and massage them into the greens with your hands.

You really want to squeeze the oils and juices into the greens, because that’s what will make them truly mouthwatering.

The Final Touches

After you’ve thoroughly massaged your winter green salad, add any other chopped vegetables you like, or any of these salad toppings.

Dress the greens and veggies for a hearty, satisfying winter salad!

Don’t let tough winter greens turn you off salads. Once you know how to make those winter greens more palatable, you’ll be eating delicious raw salads all year round!

Do you have any winter salad tips?

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Farmers Market Update: Embracing Winter

by | Jan 10, 2010
Purple and Green Cabbages

Purple and Green Cabbages

Winter is a subject I usually prefer to ignore, and in California this is pretty easy to do.

Although temperatures approach freezing at night, rarely do things actually freeze. We have our farmers market here in San Francisco year round, and overall I realize I am utterly spoiled.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to get excited about winter.

It’s still cold. It’s still gray. It gets dark early and the nights are long. Everything and everyone seems to want to hibernate, especially me.

But this weekend I decided to embrace winter and all its glorious produce. I think I was inspired by all the delicious recipes around the blogosphere. Who knows. But today I was excited about parsnips, braising greens, mushrooms and citrus, and barely even noticed that my pomegranates and peppers are out for the count.

White Carrots

White Carrots

Winter greens and root vegetables are especially exciting to me right now. I know this sounds weird, but until you’ve tasted them at the height of season (as we are now in), it is hard to know what I mean.

The difference is that during a lot of the year hearty greens and root vegetables like turnips and kohlrabi can be very bitter and spicy. They are edible in this state, but require a lot more work to be delicious. Right now all these vegetables are sweet, almost like candy.

Cabbages and Kale

Cabbages and Kale

Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

If you don’t believe me, head down to the market and try some of the samples. People’s ooos and ahhs from their surprise at the delicious flavor of daikon and kohlrabi is audible throughout the market. Nobody expects vegetables to be this sweet.

The same is true for the brassica, things like cabbage, kale and collards. All these vegetables can be bitter and pungent when eaten out of season, but now they are as sweet and delicious as fruit.

Trumpet Mushrooms

Trumpet Mushrooms

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Another thing you don’t want to miss this season is the mushrooms. Truffles are expensive, but a small domestic white truffle can be purchased for around $10 or less and can make a spectacular treat for a weekend brunch. The chantarelle mushrooms are also big and flavorful this time of year. Personally I am loving the flavor and texture of trumpet mushrooms cooked up in a little olive oil and parsley.

Citrus fruit are the stars of the fruit scene, though you can still find some lingering pears and persimmons. I love the size and flavor of the clementines this time of year, but am looking forward to the grapefruits, pomelos and navel oranges sweetening up.

Citron

Citron

And it is hard to complain too much if there are Meyer lemons around.

Now is also a great time to get heirloom beans, dried chilies, sustainable meats, dried spices, tropical fruits, walnut oil, dried fruit and artisan cheeses.

Asian Pears

Asian Pears

Limes

Limes

Today’s Purchases:

Have you embraced winter?

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