Are Grains Necessary? – Office Hours – Summer Tomato Live

by | Aug 30, 2011

Why “healthy” can backfire, are grains really necessary and some weight loss troubleshooting tips.

August 30, 2011 | Join us today at noon PST as we discuss the latest food news stories and I answer your burning food and health questions.

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account. There is no password for this event.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

To keep up with live events, get access to exclusive content and have Darya personally answer your food and health questions, sign up for the Tomato Slice newsletter.

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Is Healthy The Opposite Of Thin? How Body Image Messages Can Backfire

by | Aug 29, 2011

Photo by AmandaBreann

When I was 18 few things were further from my mind than health. Sure I enjoyed my status as a thin, relatively fit teenager, but there was virtually no connection in my brain between what I put in my body and how long or happily I would live.

At that time I saw healthy eating as a fringe activity, for granola crunching hippies or men over 60 with beer bellies. I had no reason to worry about heart disease at my age and organic food was way more expensive, so why bother?

But that wasn’t the only reason I avoided the issue. As a self-conscious girl from Southern California, I was very concerned with my weight. People considered me thin, and I had every intention of staying that way. I knew that my obsession with my body image and constant dieting was considered “unhealthy,” but I didn’t care.

From my perspective the message from the media was clear: healthy is the opposite of thin. And when you’re young and think you’re invincible, the choice is obvious. Getting kids to worry about something in the distant future is difficult enough, but when you set it up as the antithesis of their immediate goals you make it nearly impossible.

It wasn’t until years later that I started to appreciate the value of health as an objective. I now understand that healthy is beautiful, and that thin and healthy are not mutually exclusive. Your ideal size is determined largely by genetics, but if you eat well, exercise and take care of yourself not only will your body look the way you want, you’ll also have nicer hair, a clear complexion and brighter eyes. You’ll likely have more energy and feel happier as well.

Sadly, body size is still the focus when most people talk about health. When you’re “too thin,” healthy means eating more regardless of quality. When you’re overweight, healthy means losing weight no matter how you accomplish it. But in the long term health is a reflection of your daily habits and is determined by things like the quality and diversity of your diet, how often and vigorously you exercise, exposure to environmental toxins and other factors.

While body weight can certainly be an indicator of health problems and sometimes reflect improvements, it’s important to understand that the message we send about health can backfire if these two things are inextricably linked.

How do you define health?

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Farmers Market Update: San Diego

by | Aug 28, 2011
Peppers

Peppers

Kristine Valenzuela is a corporate woman by day but spends her free time immersed in many passions. Besides developing a new food and lifestyle blog Is Everybody Listening?, she enjoys organic food, wine, her husband and two daughters (with a third on the way), guest blogging/writing and figuring out how to how to get the most out of life. Follow her thoughts and rants on Twitter @specialksd.

Farmers Market Update: San Diego (Little Italy)

by Kristine Valenzuela

Hello from sunny San Diego! There are so many great things to say about this area but I think what people most associate with San Diego is the near-perfect weather. Yes, we really do have it made living here! The constant moderate climate produces incredible fruits and veggies year-round so I’ve always been a fan of our local farmers markets. Obviously, summer is the highlight of the year and brings tons of varieties of produce with amazing colors. In particular, I’m a fan of the season’s strawberries, peaches and tomatoes, although there are plenty of good eats at any time.

Last weekend, I visited one of the area’s cornerstone markets, the Little Italy Mercado. The market is barely three years old but has grown from just a few hundred visitors each Saturday to well over 3,000. Seeing its growth over the years has been exciting to say the least. It’s located in San Diego’s urban enclave of Little Italy which is convenient to the area’s growing food scene.

Eggplant

Eggplant

The market features some of the county’s most established farms in addition to many up-and-coming vendors. Joes on the Nose is our local ‘big orange truck’ and has become everyone’s favorite wake up call. They can be found at other markets, driving through different business parks or catering events. If you ever see them, you MUST try their Aloha Latte with homemade coconut whipped cream. You won’t regret it.

Joes on the Nose

Joes on the Nose

This spectacular bitter melon from Sage Mountain Farm was one of the first non-traditional vegetables I came across and couldn’t resist snapping a picture. They also had the most vibrant long eggplant. Simply beautiful.

Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

Berries from Pudwill Berry Farms are a huge hit in my house and with such a variety to choose from, it’s not surprising. Sometimes I even share them with my kids :-) Southern California is also known for its avocados and many residents are lucky enough to have different varieties growing on trees in their yards. These Reed avocados were the size of softballs.

Reed Avocados

Reed Avocados

Berries

Berries

Fresh salsa is a staple at our local Mexican food establishments and in many households. Making it is easy thanks to having awesome peppers. These golden treasure peppers hail from Suzie’s Farm, a highly-regarded farm known for their meticulously ‘groomed’ produce.

Golden Treasure Peppers

Golden Treasure Peppers

Suzie’s Farm always has the biggest variety of micro greens. This is a photo of a third of what they offer through the markets. These would go fantastic in a summer salad with some lemon cucumbers.

Lemon Cucumbers

Lemon Cucumbers

Micro Greens

Micro Greens

Back to the subject of Mexican food, we are truly fortunate to have many great fisheries too. You haven’t lived until you’ve had ceviche from Poppa’s Fresh Fish! Even though I’m pregnant and supposed to stay away from it, I sneak some ceviche every now and then. My mouth literally waters just looking at a picture of it.

Ceviche

Ceviche

No summertime trip to Little Italy Mercado is complete without grabbing a ‘paleta’ from Viva Pops. They’ve become so popular at the market that they opened a shop in nearby Normal Heights, which I hear is also very busy. All of their gourmet pops are made with ingredients sourced from local farmers, many of whom are also vendors at the Mercado.

Viva Pops

Viva Pops

To bring it back to the neighborhood, the market is in the middle of many small Italian food restaurants and vendors. This is why it’s great that places like Lisko Imports bring fresh pastas out to the street for even easier access.

Fresh Pasta

Fresh Pasta

My purchases for the day:

  • Nectarines
  • White eggplant
  • Tri color potatoes
  • Lemon cucumbers
  • Reed avocados
  • Two gourmet pops from Viva Pops – strawberry and salted caramel
  • A container of truffle salt

Stay classy San Diego!

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For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 26, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

Another week of thought provoking food and health articles including an excellent argument against Anthony Bourdain’s big fat mouth, why high-fat diets probably don’t cause type 2 diabetes, and a couple of unconventional ways to treat depression.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Klamath River Spicy Pickled Green Beans

by | Aug 24, 2011
Pickling Green Beans

Pickling Green Beans

The first time I really appreciated the art of pickling was at Slow Food Nation here in SF back in 2008. I thought a pickle was a pickle, but when I tasted the variety, complexity and depth of pickled vegetables at the SFN Taste Pavilion, I realized how naive I had been.

This weekend I tweeted out that we were pickling some green beans and several people asked for the recipe. Though this is my first pickling experiment we are using a well-tested family recipe, so it should be good. It sure looks good!

The pickling process takes 45 days, but green bean season will be over by then so I figured it would be best to post the recipe now for whomever wants to try it.

A few notes on successful pickling:

  • Though pickles have rather high acid levels, botulism is still a risk. Be careful to use sterile materials, and be sure to follow the protocol exactly.
  • You can get mason jars for canning at any cookware store or order them online.
  • The Exploratorium Science of Cooking page has more awesome pickling tips.

Klamath River Spicy Pickled Green Beans

Makes 4 pints

Pickled Beans

Pickled Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs green beans (blue lake is best)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 heads fresh dill (approx. 4 heads per tied bundle)
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 2-1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 2-1/2 c. water

In each pint jar, put in the following:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 head fresh dill
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Vertically pack each pint jar with green beans until fairly packed (1/2 inch from the top).

In a pot bring to a boil the brine (salt, white vinegar, and water). Pour over the beans (1/4 inch from the top). Seal jars with lids and rings.

Place jars in a boiling bath of hot water for at least 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars and let sit until cool.

Store 45 days before eating.

Thanks to Kevin Rose for sharing his dad’s recipe. Originally published August 16, 2010.

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Farmers Market Update: Detroit

by | Aug 21, 2011
Eastern Market District

Eastern Market District

I’m so excited to finally have a farmers market update from Detroit. Thanks so much to Mallory Jade for putting this together.

From Mallory:

I am a writer, graphic designer in Rochester, Michigan. I am a foodie and this has been a gateway drug to the thrill of experimenting in the kitchen and the jonesing for more than an apt balcony to garden. I am a beer enthusiast and travel when I can—which is never enough.

Detroit’s Eastern Farmers Market

by Mallory Jade

You can follow the Detroit Easter Market on Twitter @easternmarket and Facebook.

It’s no secret that Detroit has endured a tumultuous lifespan and survives today as a skeleton of its pre-riot heydays. Politics, economics, and its capacity for violent social rifts have painted Detroit its notoriously gritty reputation.

Detroit’s Eastern Market is just one true testament to our city’s fight to hang on—a historical site less than two miles from the city’s downtown. Since 1891, the market has expanded into the historical district it is today, remaining as one of the oldest and largest continuously operating market districts in the United States (the largest in the world in the 1920’s). Today’s beautiful weather will draw tens of thousands in from the city, the suburbs, and even other states.

Historic Sheds

Historic Sheds

This beautiful summer Saturday I couldn’t wait to see what sort of treasures the vendors have brought to their tables.

Beautiful Greens

Beautiful Greens

Immediately I was floored by the happy abundance of beautiful greens. Fresh collards, kale, cabbage, spinach, chard, and broccoli, with vibrant rhubarb and stems of chard to break up the color. Even the beets looked bright in the vastness of green. Needless to say, it took a fair amount of willpower to avoid choosing one of each.

More Beautiful Greens

More Beautiful Greens

All sorts of herbs in all forms light up the senses from paces away, their delicious aromas were begging to be taken home.

Fragrant Herb Plants

Fragrant Herb Plants

Fragrant Herbs

Fragrant Herbs

The tables of summer squash hosted their newest arrival, the pattypan or “white flesh” variety. Even though it’s a summer squash, I can’t help but let it remind me that fall is in transition.

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

I’ve never tried eggplant before, but with such an abundance of these mystery veggies, I definitely picked one up to grill later. Roasted redskins in olive oil and sprinkled with lemon pepper is one of my favorite potato dishes.

Eggplant and Redskins

Eggplant and Redskins

A stand from Snover, Michigan, had a wide variety of beans sourced from all over the state. Regardless of season, I can’t resist soup! A 1.5 lb bag of bean soup mix is the prize I took with me for plenty of hearty bowls to last me well into the cold months.

Michigan Beans

Michigan Beans

One of my favorite vendors of the day was Green Organics Farm out of Lapeer, Michigan. The friendly Green Organics man was very knowledgeable and eager to explain the subtleties of each variety (much appreciated when garlic-lover meets indecision). I am now, gratefully, a more informed garlic consumer and very excited about my selections.

Green Organics Garlic

Green Organics Garlic

Because Eastern Market is host to nearly 250 vendors from local farms and retailers/wholesalers, be wary of product origin if your concern is buying strictly local and farm fresh. These peaches looked delectable, but I will wait because Michigan peaches will be available in the next couple of weeks.

Peaches

Peaches

Enduring an unsavory climate this season, Michigan seems to be at an awkward standstill for fruit. Peaches are still being brought in from California to hold us over until they are direct from Michigan orchards.

This resident busker is delighted to serenade you while you browse some Michigan gladiolous.

Busking and Michigan Gladiolous

Busking and Michigan Gladiolous

Grown in Detroit is as local as it gets, coming from community gardens and urban farmers on the fringes of the city. This Cooperative supports local growers by bringing their harvest to local markets.

Grown In Detroit

Grown In Detroit

The flower sheds, potted plants, and floral items lining the sidewalks make me wish for the space to plant and hang them all. And perusing the colorful blooms is an exciting opportunity to explore more of the history-rich district.

Potted Plants For Yards

Potted Plants For Yards

Potted Plants

Potted Plants

Unknown to most is that the district remains open six days a week. Plenty of ethnic and local tastes, specialty shops, and fresh meat distributors encompass the main market. There’s a little Ethiopian on the corner I’m anxious to try.

At the end of the shopping, the smell of open barbeque and the Motown karaoke is a likely temptation to rest before heading back home. It’s hard not to stop and grab a bite with the droves of other market patrons sitting around tables and enjoying another beautiful summer Saturday in Detroit.

After Market Beats and Eats

After Market Beats and Eats

Even though Eastern Market is now open for business on Tuesdays, it’s totally necessary to come out for at least one Saturday as it’s a Detroit staple. Don’t get me wrong, there is a smaller roster of vendors on Tuesdays, but still so much to choose from and enough goings-on to make the trip worthwhile.

If you can’t make Tuesdays at Eastern Market, Wayne State holds a public market on Wednesdays from 11-4pm, July through October, across from the public library.

It’s true, freshness has the capacity to thrive in Detroit; the city and its metropolitan areas are absolutely peppered with farmers’ markets and other fresh food options. From Garden City to Rochester, going east to Mt. Clemens and cities in-between—all within an hour radius of downtown Detroit. That doesn’t even include the uncharted gems and roadside stands you might drive by in areas with less urban development. If you love to taste and support the freshness of local harvest, finding a farmers market is not only a great way to dive into metro Detroit’s local food culture, but the quality for the quantity on your dollar is undeniable.

So, if you’re in the Detroit area and interested in discovering new things in small travels, I’ve included a list of metro Detroit farmer’s markets at the end of this post.

Purchases (~$17):

  • 3 cucumbers
  • 2 bunches of kale
  • 4 garlic bulbs (approx .25 lb): German White, Music, Siberian, Spanish Roja
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 eggplant
  • ? dozen corn
  • 1 loaf of cherry walnut Flemish desem (sourdough)

Factoids sourced from detroiteasternmarket.com and the Detroit News.

Places are listed by county, city, season, days and times of market, for quick reference. I’ve included links if you would like more information.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 19, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

It was a very difficult week for my family as well as the food blog community. Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death in this country, and I hope that what I’m doing here at Summer Tomato can make a small (or, hopefully, large) dent in that in the years to come.

The good news is I found a ton of fantastic articles this week, with my top 10 including why carbs aren’t the obvious enemy in obesity, why sitting too much is not the same as working out too little and why being a nudist may extend your life.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week


Life is short, fill it with love.

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Why processed foods are so bad, artisan vs grocery store bread, and finding time to cook healthy food – Episode 11 – Summer Tomato Live

by | Aug 17, 2011

This is one of my favorite discussions on health and processed food so far, thanks everyone for your questions. As always, show notes are below.

August 17, 2011 | Episode 11 of Summer Tomato Live will be here tonight at 6pm PST. The format is a little different this week. Instead of covering one topic, I’ll be answering 3 recent subscribers questions. The questions I’ll be answering are:

  1. What’s the deal with processed foods, why are they so bad?
  2. Are artisan breads as bad as grocery store breads?
  3. Cooking healthy food takes me forever. How can I make it quicker and less overwhelming?

Summer Tomato Live normally requires a subscriber password, but since we have so many new readers this week (thank you TIME Magazine!) I’m going to leave this episode open so anyone can participate.

Also to celebrate making TIME’s list of best websites, for the rest of the week I’m offering one free month off a new Tomato Slice subscription. So if you’ve been thinking about signing up, now would be a great time.

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter.

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted. I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

See you soon!

Show notes:


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What To Look For When Picking Fruits And Vegetables

by | Aug 17, 2011

Photo by Vvillamon

Most people know instinctively to avoid bruised or blemished produce, but there is much more involved in the art of choosing fruits and vegetables.

While buying fresh food is always a little bit of a craps shoot (and not every rule will apply to every piece of produce), these tips will give you the basic skills you need to hold your own at the farmers market.

What To Look For When Picking Produce

1. Bright color

After you’ve checked for bruises, blemishes and pests (harder to see on vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage, so double check), look for fruits and vegetables with the brightest, most inviting colors. The tastiest, vine-ripened produce should be vibrant, with its skin entirely saturated with color. If the item has a dull color or whitish sheen that means it is either not fully ripe or was deprived of sun or nutrients.

For fruits like cherries look for stems that are green instead of brown, since these fruits will be fresher.

2. Heavy weight

Generally you want to pick produce that is the heaviest relative to the rest of your options. Light weight produce is more likely to be dry and mealy, but heavier produce will be juicy and crisp.

The best way to tell is to pick up two similarly sized fruits, one with each hand. After you’ve tried a few it will be obvious that certain fruits are much heavier than the rest, and those are your best bets. This applies to both fruits and vegetables, but mostly to fruits.

3. Firm, but not hard

Because the best produce is moist and juicy (see point #2), it should also be perfectly plump. This means that it will be firm to the touch—think crisp and succulent—but not hard, squishy or limp.

While the perfect amount of firmness will vary for each type of produce, comparing within the batch can be very informative. For soft fruits, gently picking a piece up should tell you if it’s too soft or hard.

For vegetables with stalks like carrots and broccoli, be sure the ends don’t give too much when you try to bend them (but don’t try too hard or they might snap).

While this tip works as a general rule, keep in mind that it doesn’t apply to everything. Figs, for example, are better very soft, as are certain kinds of persimmons.

4. Fragrant aroma

Probably the most telling test of the quality of your fuit is how it smells. Unripe fruits smell like nothing, or at best the cardboard it was packed in. But ripe produce almost always smells faintly (and often overwhelmingly) of how it is supposed to taste.

Hold the part of the fruit that was attached to the stem close to your nose and breathe deeply. Compare a few of your options. The strongest smelling fruit will be the most ripe and ready to eat immediately. If you’d like your fruit to last for a few days, it is best to go with a piece that still smells good, but has a less overwhelming scent.

It’s also worth smelling your vegetables, though this tip does not apply to them all (eggplant is a notable exception). Green leafy vegetables and herbs are particularly fragrant. But even carrots, artichokes and squash can have a distinctive smell. Peppers are my personal favorite.

What are your tips for picking perfect produce?

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Perfect Summer Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

by | Aug 15, 2011
Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Bruschetta was the first sophisticated dish I could really make. That’s probably because it doesn’t require any cooking and is entirely dependent on the quality of your ingredients. Find some good ripe tomatoes, a decent baguette and you’re in business.

For this recipe I used the abundance of spectacular tomatoes I found this weekend at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I chose one big striped heirloom tomato, several dry-farmed early girls and half a basket of mixed cherry (red) and sungold (orange) baby tomatoes. It doesn’t matter much what varieties you choose, just make sure they are ripe and have good flavor.

Bruschetta Ingredients

Bruschetta Ingredients

The next essential ingredient is a good baguette. I bought sour and Italian baguettes from Acme Bread Co. To turn your bruschetta from good to amazing, be sure to brush your bread slices with olive oil and lightly toast them in the oven.

For this recipe I added a diced roasted pepper, but feel free to get creative with your ingredients. Chunks of fresh mozzarella are a great addition, especially if you are having a hard time choosing between bruschetta and caprese salad.

This recipe is the perfect summer snack and can be served as a starter, side dish or brought to a potluck (keep bread and topping separate until you arrive).

Summer Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. diced summer tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, worked through garlic press
  • 1/4 c. good quality extra-virgin olive oil

    Roasting Pepper

    Roasting Pepper

  • juice of half lemon
  • 8-10 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • paprika, to taste (optional)
  • good sea salt, to taste
  • red bell pepper, fire roasted (optional)
  • splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • sour baguette, sliced into 1/2 in. discs at an angle

If you are roasting a pepper, start by turning on a burner and placing the pepper on top. Blacken the skin evenly by using tongs to turn periodically. When the pepper is completely blackened, remove from flame and allow to cool. Scrape off blackened skin with a dull knife or fork, remove seeds, dice and set aside.

Bruschetta Mix

Bruschetta Mix

In the meantime preheat oven to 325 F and slice bread.

Combine first 9 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Some people add sugar, but I prefer to add a splash of balsamic vinegar if I want a little more sweetness. Paprika is also optional, but I find it adds a nice, subtle complexity. Don’t be shy with your sea salt in this recipe. Allow mixture to marinate briefly, stirring occasionally.

Olive Oil on Baguette

Olive Oil on Baguette

Next brush your baguette slices on one side with olive oil and place in warm oven. Toast for 6-10 minutes. Monitor carefully and do not allow to burn.

Place baguette slices on your serving plate and heap marinated tomatoes on top. Add extra small spoonfuls of juice on top of the mixture to add flavor and soften bread.

Serve immediately and crack the champagne.

What do you add to your bruschetta?

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