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Foodist Approved: Braised Chicken with Asparagus and Mushrooms

by | Mar 25, 2015
Braised chicken with asparagus and mushrooms

Braised chicken with asparagus and mushrooms

Braising is my preferred method of cooking meat as of late. A quick sear followed by an effortless simmer ensures meat so tender that even my toothless nine-month-old devours it.

The flavors in this braised chicken dish were inspired by the start of spring. Move over root vegetables—asparagus are now stealing the limelight at the farmers market. The white wine lends a refreshing citrusy accent and the herbs de provence are reminiscent of spring flowers.*

The best part about this recipe is being able to accomplish every step, from the searing to the simmering to cooking the veggies and creating a sop-it-up sauce, in just one pot (the family member appointed to dish-duty will thank you).

The right pot is key in this recipe. If you’re not yet the proud owner of a Dutch or French oven, which is a large enameled cast-iron pot with a lid, then you should definitely consider investing in this worthwhile culinary wonder. I’m partial to Le Creuset French ovens, but there are less expensive brands out there too.

Read the rest of this story »

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Quick Fix: Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

by | Apr 25, 2012
Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Nothing represents springtime quite like fresh asparagus. This easy recipe highlights its unique flavor by pairing it with sweet carrots and reduced balsamic vinegar. It is simple, delicious and can be prepared in under 10 minutes.

Start with the freshest, greenest asparagus you can get your hands on. These should be easy to find in California throughout the springtime.

The trick to keeping asparagus tender and not fibrous is to snap off the bottom of the spears with your hands. The asparagus will naturally break where the fibers are thinnest and most tender, leaving all the thick and chewy fibers on the end you throw out. After washing, grip each asparagus spear near the middle with one hand and use the other hand to snap off the bottom.

To make it more substantial add an egg, lentils, beans or just use it as a side dish. Here it was served on a bed of brown rice that I pulled from the freezer.

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Ingredients:

  • Asparagus (1/4 – 1/2 bunch for single serving)
  • Carrots, 3-5 medium-small carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt

Crush and mince your garlic clove and set aside. Prepare your asparagus spears as described above and cut them into 1-2 inch bite-sized pieces. Peel your carrots with a vegetable peeler (my peeler recommendation can be found in the Shop under Kitchen Gear > Accessories) and slice at an angle into half inch pieces. Angled cuts increase the surface area of the carrot and are better for cooking.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add carrots to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add asparagus to the pan and stir again. Sprinkle sea salt onto the vegetables and allow them to cook until asparagus is bright green and starting to sweat, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Clear a space in the center of the pan and add garlic in a single layer. Allow to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to mix garlic with the vegetables. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar and stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender and a thin balsamic glaze begins to form on the vegetables. Remove from the pan and served immediately.

What is your favorite Quick Fix for asparagus?

Originally published April 6, 2009.

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Farmers Market Update: Peas and Carrots

by | Apr 10, 2011
Beautiful Carrots

Beautiful Carrots

If you ever wondered why Forrest Gump thought peas and carrots went so well together, it must have been because he loves springtime.

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

The reason we think most foods go together, in fact, is because they tend to be in season around the same time and traditional recipes put them together.

Cute Asparagus

Cute Asparagus

But it turns out lot of things go well with carrots. Their sweetness and crunch is a wonderful contrast to many of my favorite spring treats, like spinach, asparagus and collards.

Collards, Potatoes & Asparagus

Collards, Potatoes & Asparagus

As I mentioned last week, chard is fantastic right now as well. These red and white Swiss chard bunches were so bright I actually had to turn down the saturation in Photoshop, which most photogs know is almost never done on food photos. The pink was just blinding.

Beautiful Chard

Beautiful Chard

It’s also a great time to get beets, fennel, lettuces, artichokes, herbs and other vegetables.

Red Beets

Red Beets

Hearts of Romaine

Hearts of Romaine

Spring Artichokes

Spring Artichokes

Not always associated with spring, but a seasonal treat nonetheless are fresh walnuts and mushrooms.

Walnuts In Shell

Walnuts In Shell

Trumpet Mushrooms

Trumpet Mushrooms

I’m still waiting for the spring fruits to appear. Though a few strawberries have popped up here and there, they haven’t looked good enough to buy yet. So while I’m waiting, we’re still eating up the delicious oranges, mandarins, pomelo and tangelos while we can.

Golden Nuggets

Golden Nuggets

Finally, if you’re into lilacs (the best smelling flowers ever), this is the most lovely season I’ve seen in years.

Lilacs

Lilacs

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: First Cherries!

by | May 9, 2010

First Cherries

First Cherries

There were cherries today! The first stone fruit of the season finally arrived, and they were surprisingly delicious. I had trouble focusing on much else.

Luckily despite my excitement I still had enough wits about me to grab some heirloom tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. The mission: caprese salad. The verdict: awesome. Yep, the heirloom tomatoes are finally tasty.

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

Basil

Basil

Peas and fava beans are huge at the farmers market right now: sugar snap peas as well as snow peas and English shelling peas.

The asparagus season is peaking right now, so be sure you get your fill in the coming weeks.

Asparagus

Asparagus

I also found a rare delicacy today, green almonds. Though they were more developed and less sweet than I remember them from last year, it was still exciting to see them and I’ll definitely be trying them again this season.

Kumquats

Kumquats

Green Almonds

Green Almonds

And aren’t kumquats pretty?

Do you have cherries yet at your farmers market?

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Leek Appreciation

by | Apr 18, 2010

Loose Leeks

One of my favorite things about buying and cooking vegetables is that sometimes even old staples can surprise you.

I don’t know how long I’ve been cooking with leeks, but it has definitely been awhile. Last week though I had a leek epiphany: they are amazing!

Usually I use leeks at the start of a vegetable sauté. Nothing was especially different on the day of my epiphany, except I decided to cut the leek slices a little thicker than usual and let them brown a bit more before tossing in the other vegetables.

Spring Asparagus

Spring Asparagus

Organic Purple Kale

Organic Purple Kale

I doubt the way I cut the leeks changed the flavor in any measurable way, but what it did was make them stick to the inside of the tongs I was using in chunks that were big enough for me to grab off and eat. Wow was I blown away.

So this week I was determined to stock up on leeks and experiment more with them. I was happy to see Dirty Girl Produce was selling leeks already cleaned, which I’m hoping will make storing and using them even easier.

Other than leeks, peas seem to be the star of the market right now. Sugar snap peas, English shelling peas and pea tendrils are everywhere and add a particular spring feeling to the market. I had a different agenda this week, but peas will soon be in my future.

Early Fava Beans

Early Fava Beans

Snap Peas

Snap Peas

Fava beans are also upon us and looking particularly beautiful. These are a labor-intensive vegetable, but well worth the effort as they are such a seasonal treat. I’m also loving artichokes these days, and will be sharing my favorite recipe later this week.

Spring salads should start making their way onto your menus soon. Seasonal lettuces like Miner’s lettuce, spinach and arugula are available, as are carrots, radishes and cucumbers.

Carrots and Radishes

Carrots and Radishes

Miner's Lettuce Bucket

Miner's Lettuce Bucket

Tomatoes are around too, though they still look much prettier than they taste. But I’m hopeful that they will be tasty soon, since I spotted my first basil this week.

First Basil

First Basil

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tiny broccolini are a vegetable I have been really enjoying the past few weeks, but it has been difficult to get a good picture of them until today. I like these because they are easier to work with than large broccoli crowns (just rinse and cook, no cutting) and are sweeter and more delicate. Definitely pick some up if you see them.

Strawberries

Strawberries

Broccolini

Broccolini

In fruit, strawberries are still the most exciting, though there is still a lot of delicious citrus available. But I’m really excited for the cherries and apricots I expect in the next few weeks.

And if you’re into flowers, you can’t go wrong this time of year at the farmers market.

Lupin Flowers

Lupin Flowers

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: April Showers

by | Apr 11, 2010
Asparagus and Radishes

Asparagus and Radishes

I made a San Francisco rookie mistake today at the farmers market.

Yesterday was so incredibly beautiful I didn’t think it was possible we could have rain today. I was wrong and should have known better.

Completely unprepared, I found myself at the farmers market in the rain with no umbrella, a light hoodless jacket and tiny little non-waterproof shoes. Consequently, I didn’t feel much like lingering and did most of my purchases at just a few farms.

But despite my quickness to depart, I did notice the arrival of fava beans this week. Exciting!

First Fava Beans

First Fava Beans

Another rookie mistake I made was not showing up early enough to get the good strawberries. Anyone who visits the market regularly knows that the most special items tend to be gone by 9am. This morning I was told my strawberries were gone by 8:30. When the weather gets warmer there will be strawberries by the truck load, but until then the early bird catches the worm.

But I didn’t miss out completely. The artichokes I bought last week were so mind blowing that I had to get them again. I also noticed that collard greens are looking particularly tasty.

Collard Greens

Collard Greens

Small Artichokes

Small Artichokes

And though radishes have been around for a few weeks, they are just now starting to look really beautiful.

Carrots have also been impressing me the past few weeks. Every time I eat one I think with pity about all the kids growing up thinking that those flavorless bagged “baby carrots” are what vegetables really taste like. The real thing is as sweet as candy.

Adorable Carrots

Adorable Carrots

This week I finally broke down and bought an heirloom tomato. I’ve been putting this moment off knowing they wouldn’t be quite good yet. But these are starting to look pretty awesome, so I took the plunge. It was good, but not great.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Fresh eggs are not to be missed this time of year. Even if you cannot afford to eat them regularly, I recommend heading to the farmers market and picking some up at least once. You’ll be amazed. Use them to make a special brunch. (Pro tip: Try them with a sprinkle of smoked paprika)

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

Eatwell Eggs

Eatwell Eggs

You should also stock up on Meyer lemons while you have the chance.

And though these are things I didn’t actually buy, they are great examples of why I love my farmers market so much. Purple potatoes and low sugar jam FTW!

Very Low Sugar Jam

Very Low Sugar Jam

Purple Potatoes

Purple Potatoes

Today’s Purchases:

Is it spring for you yet?

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Farmers Market Update: Springtime

by | Feb 28, 2010
Loose Beets

Loose Beets

I know that it is technically still February, but I’m going to officially declare it springtime here in San Francisco, at least for all of us foodies.

The spring greens are in full effect. Today I found spinach, lettuces, asparagus and even pea shoots.

Pea Shoots

Pea Shoots

Asparagus

Asparagus

Brassica greens like kale and cabbage were around for most of the winter, but now we are seeing the late season varieties such as these savoy cabbages.

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy Cabbage

Herbs and onions are getting more diverse as well, as more delicate herbs like cilantro and thyme are reappearing. Still no basil though.

The giant leeks you can find these days are epic.

Big Leeks

Big Leeks

Fresh Herbs

Fresh Herbs

The root vegetable season is also shifting to the tail end. I’m seeing fewer radishes and other spicy roots, but sweet beets and carrots are thriving.

Carrots

Carrots

In fruit, citrus is still where it’s at. Tropical fruits like kiwi, mango and guava are also available. But it’s hard to beat these $1 navel oranges from Hamada Farms.

Deceptive Tomatoes

Deceptive Tomatoes

Navel Oranges

Navel Oranges

You should still avoid the deceptively juicy looking tomatoes, however. Trust  me, they aren’t good. The vendor said it will be about 3 weeks before the heirlooms show up.

Until then you’ll have to amuse yourself with all the rest of the amazing spring produce. These flank steaks look pretty awesome too.

Flank Steaks

Flank Steaks

Today’s purchases:

Is your season turning?

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Farmers Market Update: First Asparagus!

by | Feb 21, 2010
First Asparagus

First Asparagus

I guess spring is here for real. Behold: asparagus!

And it didn’t come alone.

Every week I’m seeing more spring produce popping up as if it were, um, springtime.

Cardoons

Cardoons

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are baby fern shoots that show up at Far West Fungi for a few weeks or so every spring. Cardoons–a unique and unwieldy vegetable–are also a rare seasonal find. Neither of these make my top 5 vegetables list, but they are fun to play around with if you are feeling adventurous.

I admit I’m a little more excited about the artichokes that are appearing everywhere. The past few years I’ve fallen in love with the baby ones, but I enjoy artichokes of all sizes. And it looks like I’m not the only one.

Artichoke Slug

Artichoke Slug

Cauliflower is peaking in season right now and trust me, you don’t want to miss it. Try roasting cauliflower florets at about 450 degrees with a little olive oil, sea salt, curry powder and coriander. Cover it with foil for the first 15 minutes, then remove the foil and let it brown until tender. Stir every 10 minutes or so. So easy and ridiculously tasty.

You can also find cauliflower’s prettier and more delicate cousin, romanesco.

Romanesco

Romanesco

Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers

Eggs are also easier to find at the farmers market this time of year. Right now I am smitten with the ones at Marin Sun Farms. They aren’t cheap, but they will blow you away. And you won’t get Salmonella.

Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

Marin Sun Farms Eggs

Marin Sun Farms Eggs

The citrus season is also booming. Blood oranges and navels are wonderful right now, while the cute little clementines are almost gone. Also be sure to grab some Meyer lemons to squeeze on your asparagus and artichokes.

And root vegetables are still awesome.

Beautiful Turnips

Beautiful Turnips

Is it becoming springtime at your market?

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Cheapest Produce Ever

by | May 24, 2009
Avocado

Avocado

And now for something completely different.

In a break from my usual elitist glory San Francisco farmers market adventure, I took a field trip this weekend to sunny Southern California where I discovered the cheapest produce I have ever seen in this state. Seriously, it was crazy.

Normally I prefer to hit up either the Irvine or Santa Monica markets when I’m in the OC. But this Saturday wasn’t amenable to a drive across town so instead I visited the Orange County Marketplace at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on Sunday. It is open 7am to 4pm Saturdays and Sundays, admission $2.

The OC Marketplace is really more of a swap meet than a farmers market, but there is a whole section for fresh produce. At the vegetable stands I found what I consider typical Southern California fare–tomatoes, avocados, citrus, squash and peppers–with a few seasonal items mixed in. I saw nothing particularly exotic, and the quality of produce ranged from not-so-hot to pretty good.

What is truly remarkable about this place is the prices.

Cheap Berries

Cheap Berries

Cheap Asparagus

Cheap Asparagus

Asparagus is typically $3-7 dollars per bunch at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. At the OC Marketplace it was $0.99. Berries, typically $3-6 per basket (even at the supermarket), dropped in price while we waited in line from (I kid you not) a ridiculously cheap 3 baskets for $2, to a mind-bogglingly cheap 4 baskets for $2. And from what I could tell they were perfectly ripe and in excellent condition.

Have you ever seen 7 white peaches for $1? I have.

Cheap Apricots

Cheap Apricots

Cheap Peaches

Cheap Peaches

Honestly, I don’t get it. If any of you can explain to me how this market can practically give away groceries I would love to know the reason.

My best guess is these are simply whole sale prices. In other words, these are the same goods grocery stores buy and sell to you for a higher price. The quality of produce was certainly more on par with grocery stores than what I have seen at other Southern California markets. And I doubt much of it was organic, though few items were clearly marked.

Alternatively these vendors could be offering a mix of whole sale and local fare. It wasn’t clear to me if/how any of the offerings were locally grown. This being California, however, it seems logical that at least some of the goods come from the area. When I asked someone where the food was from the answer I got was “the L.A. market,” which obviously is not a farm.

My worst fear is that much of this produce comes from the horrible slave farms that are starting to be exposed. Hopefully that isn’t true.

The source of this produce may be a little dubious, but I cannot imagine you finding a better deal anywhere in Orange County. If organic and local are less important to you than simply affording fresh healthy food, a trip to the OC Marketplace is easily worth the price of admission.

For you Bay Area readers, I’ve seen similar deals at the Ashby market in Berkeley (no admission fee).

Do you know anything about these swap meet style produce vendors?

Note: Since it is Memorial Day there will not be a new post on Monday. We’ll be back Wednesday–same Tomato time, same Tomato channel.

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Farmers Market Update: Easter

by | Apr 11, 2009
Spring Garlic

Spring Garlic

I haven’t seen crowds like this at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market since summertime. The Easter crowds were in full throttle gathering goods for tomorrow’s festivities. Luckily for market goers, the spring vegetables were certainly worth fighting over.

The signs of spring today were particularly apparent at Far West Fungi where wild miner’s lettuce, ramps and fiddleheads were all available. Miner’s lettuce (as I learned last week on KCRW’s Good Food podcast) is a delicate green ideal for spring salads. It’s leaves are shaped like a tiny lily pad with a cone of small flowers growing from the center. Ramps are tiny wild leeks that could very well be my favorite egg addition of all time. Fiddleheads are the tender curls of baby ferns. They can be sauteed and served much like asparagus.

Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead Ferns

Miner's Lettuce

Miner's Lettuce

Heirloom tomatoes are starting to appear, though they still didn’t look good enough to buy. But I could tell that one day soon there will be rejoicing at Summer Tomato.

Other notable findings include fava beans, lilacs, asparagus, rainbow chard, sugar snap peas, morel mushrooms, strawberries, artichokes, kale flowers, sorrel and arugula.

Note: The How To Get Started Eating Healthy series will continue on Monday with the next addition, Seasonal Shopping. Consider this post a warm up 😀

Lilacs

Lilacs

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

Today’s purchases:

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