Farmers Market Update: Perfect Day

by | May 30, 2010
Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

Saturday was a perfect day in San Francisco. It was warm, clear and beautiful. The farmers market was full of cherries, peaches and strawberries, and I tasted the best apricot ever at Frog Hollow Farm.

Basically it was too nice to stay inside writing about it. Photos will have to suffice today.

Bing Cherries

Bing Cherries

Green Garlic

Green Garlic

Loquats

Loquats

Peppers

Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Red Onions

Red Onions

Saturn Peaches

Saturn Peaches

Shallots

Shallots

White Peaches & Apricots

White Peaches & Apricots

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For The Love Of Food

by | May 28, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

I’m thrilled to announce this week the launch of an amazing project. 55 Knives is a new e-book just launched by my friend Nick at the wonderful Macheesmo blog. The 55 Knives project is a joint effort of 55 top food bloggers offering personal stories paired with hand-selected recipes. I contributed a chapter, as did many of my favorite food bloggers including Local Lemons, The Bitten Word and Chez Us. I’ve read through it and highly recommend it. 55 Knives is offered at a discounted price of $14 until next Thursday.

If you read one food article this week, make it Michael Pollan’s new piece in the New York Review of Books. I also really enjoyed the article about how health food labels are complete BS.

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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Unplug And Recharge With One Meal A Day

by | May 26, 2010
Green Apple, Yellow Teapot

Photo by Chris Isherwood back soon

Few things are as irrevocably tied to our health and well being as food. But while much attention is given to the kind of foods we eat, the way we eat and our relationship with food can be just as important.

Eating traditions and food culture have been all but abandoned in the US. Thanks to busy schedules, technological advances, and the aggressive marketing of convenience foods by the food industry it is now both possible and acceptable to eat anytime and anywhere.

But what price do we pay for this new found convenience?

Efficiency and multitasking are appealing in a society where time is arguably our most precious commodity, but we must remember that in the food world what we gain in expediency we sacrifice in quality of life.

When our goals are to cook as little as possible, eat whenever convenient, and not worry about the origins of our food, we lose both the joy and good health food should bring to our lives.

Meal time is an opportunity to unplug from the daily grind and recharge both physically and mentally. Rather than viewing eating as a regular chore that needs to be accomplished as efficiently as possible, we should approach food as a source of health and pleasure to be nurtured and enjoyed.

The most basic satisfaction we take from food is the sensual pleasure of eating itself. Good food is delicious, and appreciating this gift of nature can bring tremendous joy to you and those you care about. A good meal deserves your full attention and requires little more than stepping away from the screen and sitting at a table.

Food also has the power to bring people together and strengthen relationships. A strong social network can have a tremendous impact on your quality of life, and meal time is one of the easiest ways to nurture this basic human need. Instead of gathering around the TV at dinner, try using this opportunity to share quality food and conversation with people you care about.

But the joys of food are not limited to highbrow meals with other people. Both cooking and sitting down to eat by yourself without disruptions from multimedia can create rare moments of peace and thoughtfulness, a chance to break away from the constant demands on your attention. Taking time to reflect each day can do more to reduce your stress levels than banging out just a few more emails while inhaling a sandwich.

Food also has the power to deepen your appreciation of nature and your community. When food is important to you, ingredients (and where they come from) quickly take center stage. Great ingredients are a product of both nature and the skill of the grower. Understanding all that goes into making a wonderful meal helps you appreciate the seasons, the soil and the agricultural community that are responsible for growing your food. Understanding and respecting the origins of what you eat helps connect you to our planet and your local community.

Since we eat three times a day, the various joys we get from food can contribute immensely to our quality of life. Though it might not be possible to slow down and unplug every time you eat, striving to step away from multimedia at least one meal a day can help you work more efficiently the rest of the time.

When we pay it our full attention, food simultaneously recharges us in both body and spirit. In this way, unplugging and enjoying a meal is its own form of multitasking.

How does cooking and eating improve your quality of life?

StumbleUpon.com

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Grilled Fennel With Lemon Oil

by | May 24, 2010
Grilled Fennel

Grilled Fennel

This grilled fennel turned out absolutely amazing and was very simple to make. I got the idea from a dish I tried recently at a local restaurant, Pizzeria Delfina, but honestly did not believe my version would be anywhere near as awesome. To my surprise, it was pretty darn close. Needless to say I am super proud of myself for this one and I hope I can convince you to try it.

Fennel is a unique vegetable that looks like a cross between celery and an onion, but tastes like neither. The flavor resembles anise or black liquorish when raw (a taste I still really struggle with), but takes on a sweeter, more herbal flavor when cooked. I have always been a fan of cooked fennel, despite my aversion to raw preparations. But I had no idea how far this misunderstood vegetable could be elevated by throwing it on the grill.

Don’t have a grill, you say? Awesome, neither do I. Backyards aren’t exactly standard in city apartments. For this recipe I used an apartment-friendly alternative to an outdoor grill, the humble grill pan.

A grill pan is special because it features raised ridges that can leave those wonderful, coveted grill marks on your food. Grill marks not only give your food a lovely appearance, they also add a unique flavor because sugars and fats caramelize where they come in contact with the hot pan. This effect cannot be achieved in a standard fry pan and the grill pan is a delicious alternative for cooking meats, fish and most vegetables.

My favorite grill pan (also the favorite of Cook’s Illustrated) is only about $40, far cheaper than a traditional outdoor grill or indoor electric grill. You can buy it at Amazon.

Feel free to use which ever grilling method is easiest for you.

When picking out your fennel, I recommend using several baby fennel bulbs rather than one large one (they’re in season now). Baby fennel is more tender because it does not have a large, hard inner core like full-sized fennel. A tender center allows you to leave the bulb mostly intact on the grill, making it easier to turn and cook evenly.

I purchased Lisbon lemon olive oil from Stonehouse Olive Oil at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. You can find lemon oil at specialty grocery stores, and it is a wonderful ingredient for spring vegetable dishes. But if you prefer, you can make due with extra virgin olive oil and a meyer (or regular) lemon.

This is a side dish. I paired mine with asparagus ravioli and sorrel.

Grilled Fennel with Lemon Oil

Ingredients:

  • Fennel (~1 lb)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon olive oil (or 1/2 Meyer lemon juice and zest)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh Italian parsley, chopped

If you are using baby fennel, cut off the green stems and the very bottom of the root (but not so much that the layers have nothing to attach to). Then cut the fennel in half lengthwise, and then again into 4-6 bite-sized wedges.

The goal is to get your fennel into manageable chunks, which means (ideally) all the layers would still be attached at the bottom. This is much more difficult if you have removed the core. In my experiment (I made the mistake of buying large fennel) I removed the core on one half before cooking and left the other half with the core in while cooking. It was easier to get the fennel to cook evenly on the half where the core was still attached. You can remove the core after cooking if it is still tough.

If you are using a large fennel bulb simply trim off the stems, slice off the bottom and cut the bulb in half lengthwise. Cut each half into even-sized wedges, about 0.5 inch thick.

For an outdoor grill, simply brush your fennel wedges with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and grill until soft and tender, turning occasionally.

For a grill pan, heat the pan on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Lightly coat fennel in olive oil and sea salt (use a bowl and stir). When the pan is hot, add 1-2 tbsp olive oil and gently swirl it in the pan so it coats the surface. Place fennel in a single layer on the hot grill, lower the heat to medium and cook until translucent, tender and slightly browned, turning occasionally. For me this took about 10 minutes. I recommend using tongs with nylon headsto turn your fennel in the pan.

Your fennel should have grill marks and be caramelized in places. I suggest exercising patience and allowing fennel to become extremely tender, but you can choose your desired crunchiness. Remove the fastest cooking fennel pieces from the grill when they are done and place them in a bowl.

When all the fennel is finished cooking, drizzle it lightly with lemon oil (or juice and zest) and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Adjust salt and zest if necessary.

Have you tried grilling fennel?

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Farmers Market Update: Fruit Explosion

by | May 23, 2010
Apricots

Apricots

The San Francisco farmers market was a very different place this week compared to how I last saw it. Cherries, the first pitted stone fruit of the season, first appeared two weeks ago. But today fruit took over the market completely.

I must have tasted cherries from at least a dozen different growers this week, and they were all delicious. But the fruit explosion didn’t stop there. Apricots, peaches and nectarines were all available, and they tasted much better than I expected them to this early in the season. This week also marked the first appearance of local blueberries, which is very exciting.

First Blueberries

First Blueberries

White Nectarines

White Nectarines

The strawberries that had been somewhat elusive the past few weeks are now plentiful. And they are breathtaking.

Dirty Girl Strawberries

Dirty Girl Strawberries

If all this talk of berries and stone fruits is starting to sound like summer to you, I have some more good news. Summer squash is now available at the farmers market and looking delectable. I even found nopales (cactus petals), something that reminds me of the hot summers in Southern California.

Nopales

Nopales

First Summer Squash

First Summer Squash

I know all this is exciting, but let’s try to remember not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Spring is still dishing up delightful carrots, greens, peas, artichokes and delicacies such as green almonds. Enjoy them while you have the chance.

Fresh Almonds

Fresh Almonds

Little Carrots

Little Carrots

Today’s purchases:

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For The Love Of Food

by | May 21, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

Meditating on food, the health differences between steak and bacon, and the secrets to ordering Thai are some of the highlights from around the web this week. I also figured your attention would be better spent on a cupcake canon rather than the usual BS of the week. Enjoy!

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: New York City

by | May 16, 2010

It is my absolute pleasure to introduce Kamran Siddiqi of The Sophisticated Gourmet. As you can probably guess, I have a soft spot for over achievers, and Kamran definitely qualifies. Not only does he run an immensely popular food blog while finishing his senior year of high school, applying to college and taking AP tests, he also takes stunning food photographs using only a point-and-shoot camera.

Kamran lives in New York City and creates simple but sophisticated recipes that anyone can make at home. I asked him if he would show us around the best farmers market in Manhattan, Union Square.

Follow Kamran on Twitter @ksiddiqi92 and Facebook, and find his photography on Flickr.

Update: Kamran got a new DSLR camera! Congratulations K!

Farmers Market Update: New York Union Square

by Kamran Siddiqi

New York is teeming with food bloggers, chefs, lineage cooks, photographers, and food journalists who have a passion for everything food related. Many of these home cooks and food bloggers leave the huge lines at Whole Foods, The Garden of Eden and Trader Joe’s to experience something even more amazing. These foodies swarm the streets, trains, and buses every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, to smell, poke, and pinch at in-season fruits and vegetables from one of the greatest markets in the city–the Union Square Greenmarket.

At the city’s top Greenmarket, foodies have access to extraordinary produce, fresh eggs, honeys, cheeses, meats and baked goods. They also have access to the people behind this whole operation–farmers, bakers, acolytes of Alice Waters, and people who believe in sharing great, locally-grown food with others.

A great deal of the foodstuffs are local, organic, and much of it all is naturally grown. Some of the great things that you will see at the Greenmarket include (but aren’t limited to):

Several varieties of potatoes.

Luscious organic greens.

Bushels of heirloom pears and apples.

Pure raw honey.

Fresh eggs.

Edible flowers for decorating cakes, eating in salads, adding to drinks, and for adding to dishes.

Of course this great market has much more to offer! So, if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop at the Union Square Greenmarket, for some great local produce that will have you coming back for more! Trust me, you won’t leave the market empty-handed!

Have you visited the Union Square farmers market in NYC?

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For The Love Of Food

by | May 14, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

Holy smokes was it a great week for reading around the web. Not only should you read all these articles, I strongly recommend glancing through my StumbleUpon and Delicious lists (see below) to browse all the stuff that didn’t make it here today (feel free to ignore the articles about basketball).

In other news I added Facebook Like buttons to my posts this week, so go nuts :)

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

Enjoy!

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Cholesterol Explained [video]

by | May 12, 2010

Enough people have asked me if the kind of cholesterol in egg yolks is good or bad (hint: it’s neither) that I think it is time for a brief tutorial on this misunderstood molecule.

Rather than put you to sleep with a watered down version of a Wikipedia article I decided to explain the interaction of diet and cholesterol in a short video. Hopefully this will help clear up what cholesterol is and how you should eat to minimize your risk of heart disease.

As always, feel free to drop me questions in the comments.

If you like this story follow me on the new Digg!

Further reading:

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How Slow Food Are You?

by | May 10, 2010

Photo by *すぃか*

Do you ever wonder if your obsession with local, seasonal foods makes you a conscientious consumer or just a starry-eyed elitist?

A friend and fellow Slow Food member came up with a quick quiz to help you tell the difference.

Malice Waters lives and writes in San Francisco.

How Slow Food are you? A quiz.

By Malice Waters

The foods in my kitchen come from within:

1) 7,000 miles

2) 1,500 miles

3) 150 miles

4) 50 miles

Bottled water is:

1) A Necessity

2) An Option

3) A Triumph of Fearmongering Marketers

4) An Evil Plot by Monsanto

If I had to choose between local and organic, I would:

1) Choose Local

2) Choose Organic

3) Go Hungry

4) Reserve a table at Quince

At the farmers’ market, I fill my Prius beyond capacity. Which of these purchases do I jettison?

1) Farmstead Goat Cheese

2) Artisan Salumi

3) Fiddlehead Ferns

4) None. I hail a hybrid cab and load it up.

John Mackey of Whole Foods is:

1) A Friend to Small Farmers

2) A Savvy Businessman

3) A Greenwasher

4) All of the Above

A new cabinet-level agriculture post should go to:

1) Sarah Palin

2) Mario Batali

3) Michael Pollan

4) Marion Nestle

A “Bourbon Red” is:

1) An Energy Drink

2) A New Cocktail

3) A Heritage Turkey

4) An Organic Zinfandel

A “locavore” is:

1) A Type of Rodent

2) A Myopic Elitist

3) A Burrowing Insect

4) A Person Who Favors Locally Produced Foods

“Biodynamic” is:

1) A Biotech Startup

2) Marketing Hooey

3) An Evil Plot by Cargill

4) Cosmic Agriculture

“CSA” stands for:

1) Can’t Stand Asparagus

2) Caring, Sturdy Aardvark

3) Community-Supported Agriculture

4) Carrot Succulence Always

I throw a potluck party and a friend brings fajitas made with feedlot beef. My response is:

1) Say “thank you” and enjoy the fajitas.

2) Say “thank you” and then forget to serve the fajitas.

3) Say “thank you” but resolve to drop said friend.

4) Call PETA.

An $80 dollar-a-plate al fresco dinner at a local farm sounds:

1) Dubious

2) Great, if the Farmer Gets the Proceeds

3) Like an Evil Plot by Archer Daniels Midland

4) Like My Wedding Reception

Tally your score

12–20: See you at Wal-Mart.

21–26: Read Fast Food Nation and then try again.

27–35: Read Food Rules and then try again.

36 and up: Congratulations. You may now join Slow Food.

How Slow Food are you?

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