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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: Holiday Weekend

by | Nov 29, 2009

Leeks and Beets

Leeks and Beets

Probably my single favorite thing about Thanksgiving is that no matter what, it is always on a Thursday.

This simple temporal restriction gives us three full days to recover from too many mashed potatoes and that extra slice of pie we really didn’t mean to have. It also gives us time to stock up on healthy foods for the following week.

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market tends to be relatively empty after a holiday, which is nice for regular shoppers. I used this opportunity to sleep in a little and stroll slowly through the market once before going back and making the bulk of my purchases.

As expected, peppers, tomatoes and all other remnants of summer are now virtually non-existent, while signs of winter are undeniable.

Mandarins

Mandarins

Mandarins, lemons and oranges are widely available, and today I found the first pomelo of the season.

Pomelo are like huge grapefruit with thick skin, except they are not sour. I first learned to appreciate these fruits in Thailand, where vendors will cut and clean them for you right on the street. These big green pomelo with pink flesh are probably my favorite variety (but don’t hate me if I change my mind 2-3 times this season as new ones come out).

Early Pink Pomelo

Early Pink Pomelo

Meyer Lemons In Basket

Meyer Lemons In Basket

As much as I love citrus though, it is still tough for me to get too excited about it when pears, apples and persimmons are so unbelievably perfect.

Fuyu Persimmon

Fuyu Persimmon

In the vegetable world, the rockstars this week are roots, stalks and hearty leaves. I’ve been loving Tuscan kale (the dark, bumpy variety), chard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fennel and Brussels sprouts.

Celery, leeks, beets, onions and sweet potatoes are also worth playing around with this time of year.

Organic Celery

Organic Celery

Taylor Gold Pears

Taylor Gold Pears

And of course, I’m still obsessed with winter squash. With nothing but olive oil and sea salt, roasted red kuri squash tastes like pumpkin pie only better.

Lastly, it seems that the weekend after Thanksgiving is also the best time to go to the farmers market if you happen to be Super Mario.

If you live in SF, it is worth a trip to the Ferry Building just to see these GIGANTIC porcini mushrooms. I wouldn’t even know where to start with one of these bad boys, but I can’t help but marvel at them with a twinge of envy.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

Seriously, what could you do with a mushroom like this besides grow super big or get a 1UP? If I had a few of these I could definitely save the princess.

Chantarelles, trumpet mushrooms and several other normal-sized fungi varieties are also in season.

Did any of you make it to the farmers market this week?

Today’s Purchases:


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Farmers Market Update: SummWinter

by | Oct 18, 2009
Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

If I were only going to talk about one thing today it would have to be the peppers. What a season we are having! There are so many varieties I’m having trouble deciding what to buy each week.

Saturday I learned that ancho chilies–which I have only had dried–are actually just mature poblano peppers. Poblanos are the big dark green peppers (left in the photo below) that come stuffed with cheese and breaded in egg batter when you order chile relleno. (A good chile relleno might be my favorite Mexican food ever, but only from here. Half my family is Mexican, so I’m a little picky.)

This is the first time I’ve seen red Japanese Shishito peppers as well. They are usually green.

Red Japanese Shishito Peppers

Red Japanese Shishito Peppers

Ancho Chilies

Ancho Chilies

Anyway, I didn’t know you could ever find fresh anchos. For some reason I thought ancho defined some specific preparation of chili like chipotle, which is a smoked jalepeno. But it seems they are a type of pepper unto themselves, but also a version of a pepper I was familiar with. Confusing, I know.

Since poblanos are often spicy I expected the anchos to be even more so (peppers get hotter with age), but they were actually really sweet with only a hint of spice. I had them in eggs. It was amazing.

I also found a new variety of eggplant today, the como eggplant. These eggplants are small and dark, almost black, and very firm. This is because they have very little water and thus do not require the pre-salt that most eggplants need. They are supposed to be very sweet, creamy and not at all bitter. I couldn’t help but buy a few from Allstar Organics.

…Not sure what to make of this other eggplant I found….

Nixon Eggplant or Tricky Dick?

Nixon Eggplant or Tricky Dick?

Como Eggplants

Como Eggplants

But despite the prevalence of all this beautiful summer produce, the signs of imminent winter are not subtle.

I saw the first early citrus this week, including Meyer lemons (not quite ripe) and sweet limes. If you’ve never had a sweet lime, imagine if you tasted a lime that wasn’t sour at all. Then imagine it tasting a little bit like fake lime flavor. It’s weird. You probably wouldn’t want to eat it like you would any other sweet citrus fruit, but it is fabulous in cocktails. They are certainly worth playing around with.

First Sweet Limes

First Sweet Limes

First Meyer Lemons

First Meyer Lemons

But let’s not jump too fast from summer to winter. Autumn is providing us with spectacular heirloom apples, pears, pomegranates and grapes. And today I found quince!

Quince is a very old fruit that is like a mix between an apple and a pear, except you can’t eat it raw. But bake it in the oven or into some dessert and quince takes on a sublime flavor and creamy consistency almost like jelly. I’m not much of a pastry chef, but I like to cut a quince in half and bake it for dessert now and then.

Quince

Quince

Swaar Dutch Apples

Swaar Dutch Apples

I’m also delighted to announce that the first chocolate persimmons of the year have appeared! They are at Hamada Farms, so go get some while you can. I didn’t buy any today because there was a huge black spider on them (not pictured…she was hiding) and I’m a wimp, but I totally would have. Totally.

Spinach

Spinach

First Chocolate Persimmons

First Chocolate Persimmons

Also notable is that Green Gulch Farm called it quits for the season today, they will return next spring. I bought some spinach to remember them by.

Despite the rain, the dry-farmed early girl tomatoes from Dirty Girl Produce were…wait for it…even better than usual this week. I realize this makes no sense, but I swear.

I was happy to find that I could still get Soul Food eggs from Prather Ranch. I wasn’t sure they would be available after the devastating fire a few weeks ago. Happy to see they are still truckin’ along 🙂

And last but not least, I couldn’t say no to these beets from Capay Organics. Beets are always a great deal because you get 2 dishes out of a bunch: the roots and the greens.

The broccoli is looking pretty darn good these days too.

Organic Broccoli

Organic Broccoli

Beautiful Beets

Beautiful Beets

Today’s Purchases:

What are you eating?

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Simple Gourmet: Roasted Beets With Fresh Mint and Chèvre

by | May 27, 2009
Roasted Beets With Fresh Mint and Chevre

Roasted Beets With Fresh Mint and Chèvre

I am very proud to share this recipe with you since it came by special request from my dad–a self-professed beet hater. I won him over with these beets several years ago and he is still talking about them! The same recipe stole my heart back when I thought I hated beets too.

Are you convinced?

Roasted Beets with fresh mint and chèvre is an elegant, impressive dish that hardly requires any cooking skills. If you are still worried you will not like the flavor of beets, you can look for the milder and less messy golden or candy-striped beets. Whenever possible I like to use a few different beet varieties to mix up the colors and flavors, but today I’m sticking with the common red garden beet.

Mint Leaves

Mint Leaves

To begin you must eliminate all thoughts of substituting canned beets for the fresh ones in this recipe. Fresh roasted beets have a rich, sweet and earthy flavor that is completely unlike the flaccid purple slivers that come in a can.

You will also need fresh mint leaves. Most grocery stores and farmers markets will have fresh mint this time of year. Dried leaves really don’t cut it in this recipe.

Chèvre is a soft goat cheese that a close friend of mine describes as “like cream cheese only better.” A little bit goes a very long way, so I always buy the smallest amount possible (this time it cost me $2.89).

Chevre

Chèvre

Be careful not to add the cheese directly to hot beets or it will melt and form an unattractive pink slime. It still tastes good, but it’s better to avoid this problem by cooling the beets beforehand. An hour in the refrigerator works well, but if you are in a hurry you can get away with 10-15 minutes in the freezer.

This dish is very easy to scale for large batches, making it ideal for parties and potlucks.

Roasted Beets With Fresh Mint and Chèvre

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of beets (3 large), any garden variety
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/4 oz. chèvre, crumbled
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt or kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375.

If the leaves are still on your beets, twist them off leaving enough stem to use as a handle for peeling. If your beet greens are still fresh and springy I recommend cleaning them and cooking them up with some onions and garlic (cook them like spinach). Beet greens are so full of potassium that they are salty to the taste, so be careful with your seasonings because they are easy to over-salt. Both beets and beet greens are extremely good for people with high blood pressure.

Peel your beets using a vegetable peeler (I recommend this one) and chop evenly into bite-sized cubes. Discard stems. Cubes should be approximately 3/4 to 1 inch on each side. Keep in mind that the larger your pieces the longer they will take to cook.

Add 1-2 tbsp olive oil to beets and toss to coat. Sprinkle beets with salt and place in a single layer in a large Pyrex baking pan. Place in oven on middle rack and roast until beets are tender and have a glazed-like appearance, stirring every 8-10 minutes. Roasting takes approximately 35 minutes.

When beets are finished roasting, transfer them to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 min, but 45 min to 1 hr is preferable.

5 minutes before the beets are done chilling, stack mint leaves on top of each other and chiffonade them by rolling lengthwise like a cigarette and slicing into thin ribbons. I like to cut the ribbons in half once by making a single cut through the middle of the pile along the vein of the leaves. Discard the stems.

Using a fork, crumble a small amount of chèvre into a small bowl or plate and set aside.

Sprinkle mint onto the beets and stir, leaving a few ribbons for garnish. Adjust salt to taste. Transfer beets and mint to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chèvre and remaining mint. Serve immediately.

Do you love beets? Hate beets? Interested in having pink urine?

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Lunch Vol. 3: Roasted Root Vegetables

by | Nov 21, 2008

You may remember that last week I switched my work lunch ritual from salads to roasted vegetables. They take a while to cook, but I prepare them in large batches on Sunday night and eat them for the entire week.

After my first experiment, I had a few complaints. First, the cauliflower took too long to finish cooking, so I wished I had steamed it first. Second, ultimately there was not enough food to get me through the week so Wednesday night I made a quinoa dish to supplement my calories. That was a fantastic move!

This week I wanted to make a lot more vegetables, and I wanted them all to cook for roughly the same amount of time. To this end, I bought a zillion different kinds of root vegetables and threw them in the roasting pan.

The root vegetables I used: parsnips, carrots, fingerling potatoes, candy striped beets, and red and white Tokyo turnips. I seasoned them with sea salt, pepper and rosemary.

One thing that instantly struck me is that it was not nearly as much food as I thought it was. All those leafy green tops can be deceiving (though the beet greens were delicious!). After everything was cleaned and chopped, it was only one large roasting pan filled with vegetables.

The worst part is that after roasting, it all fit into one medium-sized tupper.

To be fair, I realized when I got home that people do not really cook radishes, so those were not included. Instead I thinly sliced my beautiful black and watermelon radishes and tossed them with rice vinegar. I let them marinate in the fridge for at least half an hour and ate a few that first night, but I ended up taking them to work and using them as a supplement to my roasted vegetables.

The good news is that I did not run out of food as expected. Also, the root vegetables were surprisingly filling and did not upset my stomach.

But I do not think I will make this exact dish again. For one thing, I was not particularly pleased with the way the turnips turned out. I used Tokyo turnips, both red and white. They were delicious raw, but after roasting they gave off a funny smell and also became a bit soggy.

The best thing in the dish, by far, was the beets. Something about roasted beets just wins my heart every time. I was also impressed with the way the parsnips and carrots turned out. I am still having trouble telling the difference between these two vegetables, however. Maybe the parsnips cooked a little better, but in my opinion they taste almost exactly the same. Thoughts?

Also, while the potatoes were good I think I prefer them roasted on their own. Roasted fingerlings with rosemary is one of my very favorite winter dishes, but they lost their luster when combined with all the other veggies. They were a little chewy, so I wonder if the juices that seeped out of the other vegetables caused them to lose their crispness.

I do still have half a bag of potatoes left, so I will be able to enjoy them roasted correctly this weekend. Yay!

In the future (next week I will be out of town for Thanksgiving) I think I will roast more beets (probably combining different kinds), and bring back the Brussels sprouts. I may continue to buy parsnips/carrots too.

I am also still taking suggestions on favorite winter vegetables for roasting. Thank you for all your suggestions so far!

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Oven Roasted Vegetables, At Work!

by | Nov 11, 2008

As I mentioned, salad season is pretty much over and I have embarked on a new era of work lunches. This week I am experimenting with roasted vegetables because they can be cooked in large batches and store very well in the refrigerator. They also reheat nicely in the microwave.

It cracks me up to say this, but my vegetable choices this week were cauliflower, golden beets and Brussels sprouts. If you would have told 8-year old me that this is what I would be having for lunch every day this week I probably would have vomited in horror. By some strange evolution that can probably be blamed on San Francisco elitism, last Saturday this unthinkable combination of vegetables just sounded brilliant.
Luckily for me, it actually worked. To make sure the Brussels sprouts were not gross, I first halved and par boiled them as usual. In retrospect, I wish I would have also steamed the cauliflower for a few minutes too; it ended up taking longer to cook than everything else.

The vegetables were delicious immediately after cooking and even when reheated at work. My only complaint is that Brussels sprouts got a little too soft because of the extra time it took the cauliflower to cook. But the texture was not too bad and the flavor was fantastic.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts (3/4 lb or so)
  • 3-4 medium golden beets
  • fresh herbs (I finished off my oregano)

Preheat oven to 400 (I sometimes do 375). Bring 1 qt water to boil with a few pinches of salt. Set up steamer for cauliflower. Halve the Brussels sprouts and boil exactly 5 minutes. Cut up cauliflower into florets and steam 3-5 minutes. Peel beets and chop into bite-sized 1/2″ cubes.

Spread equal portions of vegetables into two large baking pans. Alternatively you can add all vegetables into one large bowl to make seasoning easier, then distribute them into pans. Coat vegetables liberally with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Finely chop herbs and sprinkle into mixture, about 2-3 tbsp final volume.

Place vegetables in oven and roast for 40-50 minutes, or until they reach desired tenderness. Be sure to stir them every 10 minutes or so, and monitor them to avoid burning. When they are finished cooking, allow them to cool 10 minutes and then immediately transfer to tupper and place in the refrigerator.

To reheat, microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring half way through.

This recipe works for almost any durable vegetable. Simply adjust cooking time to reach appropriate tenderness. Serve with brown or wild rice.

What are your favorite roasting vegetables? I will be trying different combinations each week and would love to hear your suggestions.

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