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Farmers Market Update: Early Winter

by | Dec 5, 2010
Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

I’m loving the changing seasons. Winter is moving in fast, but fall produce is just peaking in flavor.

Pomegranates are amazing right now. They are sweet and don’t make you pucker with tartness like they do early in the season. We’ve been stocking up on the juice and freezing it in ice cube trays to add to sparkling water spritzers for the rest of the year.

Big Hachiya Persimmons

Big Hachiya Persimmons

Pomegranate Ice

Now is also the best time to get persimmons, because they lack the chalky astringency they can have before they’re quite ripe. Remember, fuyu persimmons are eaten while firm (find a dark orange color) and hachiyas are ripe and edible when soft. I’ve noticed a lot of restaurants adding fuyus to salads and even savory dishes.

Colorful Carrots

Colorful Carrots

As winter approaches, we’re also seeing the emergence of root vegetables. Members of the radish family are less spicy and more sweet this time of year, making them perfect for winter salads. Today I stocked up on watermelon radish (aka watermelon daikon) and kohlrabi. I like to eat both of these raw.

Green and Purple Kohlrabi

Green and Purple Kohlrabi

Watermelon Daikon

Watermelon Daikon

But radishes aren’t the only root vegetables to experiment with this time of year. Celery root has a subtle taste like celery but a consistency more like a potato. It’s great to puree, roast or add to soups. Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) are another of my winter favorites. They’re flavor is remarkable, reminiscent of artichoke but more like a delicate potato in appearance.

Organic Sunchokes

Organic Sunchokes

Celery Root and Carrot

Celery Root and Carrot

Parsnips are another delicious root vegetable great for cooking. They look like white carrots but with a more herbal flavor. They are also great for roasting and purees.

Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells

Large Parsnips

Large Parsnips

Although it is fairly late in the season, there are still some peppers around. Though the selection is limited, you can still get beauties like these Christmas bells.

Winter is also a great time for greens. Chard, collards, kale, cabbages all get sweeter this time of year, and are a great accompaniment to roasted winter squash with beans or meat dishes.

Cabbages

Cabbages

Winter Greens

Winter Greens

Brussels sprouts and broccoli are also sweeter than usual.

Organic Broccoli

Organic Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

I also found a few more exotic ingredients this week, including Indonesian lemon leaves (any relation to kafir lime leaves?) and aloe vera.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Indonesian Lemon Leaf

Indonesian Lemon Leaf

Oh, and crab season has started!

Dungess Crabs

Dungeness Crabs

Today’s purchases:

If you would like to share your own local farmers market with Summer Tomato readers please click here.

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Farmers Market Update: Halloween

by | Oct 31, 2010
Hanging Pomegranates

Hanging Pomegranates

It’s Halloween weekend, always one of my favorite times to visit the beautiful San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Baby Pumpkins

Baby Pumpkins

Crazy Farmer

Crazy Farmer

I can’t tell you how anxious I was to get to the market this weekend. I’ve been traveling a lot and haven’t been around on a weekend in what feels like forever.

At this point I’ve come to terms with the fact that summer is over and I’m completely ready to embrace autumn. Today I stocked up on some of my favorite autumn veggies like Delicata squash and Brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts Stalk

Brussels Sprouts Stalk

Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

I was also excited to get my hands on some apples today. The Arkansas black apple I tried may have been the best apple I’ve ever had in my life. It was crisp, slightly sweet and had distinctive notes of cinnamon. Mind blowing. But the star fruits right now are the pomegranates. It’s also a great time for grapes and Fuyu persimmons.

Cut Pomegranate

Cut Pomegranate

This is a particularly interesting time of year for California produce. Some of the unusual items I found today include heirloom tobacco leaves and dried sunflower seeds. The tobacco wasn’t cured, so is not yet smokable.

Dried Sunflower Seeds

Dried Sunflower Seeds

Dried Heirloom Tobacco

Dried Heirloom Tobacco

You can also find an assortment of root vegetables. Carrots and scarlet turnips were particularly beautiful this week. Carrots have been turning up on a lot of menus around the city lately.

Scarlet Turnips

Scarlet Turnips

Carrots

Carrots.

The onions and sunchokes are also remarkable.

Sunchokes

Sunchokes

Spanish Onions

Spanish Onions

But despite the new arrivals, we still have a terrific selection of late summer vegetables like peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.

Assorted Eggplant

Assorted Eggplant

Shishito Peppers

Shishito Peppers

Some final notes: Dates are on their way out (get them while you can) and Meyer lemons are on their way in.

First Meyer Lemons

First Meyer Lemons

Dates

Dates

Today’s purchases:

What did you find at the market this week?

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French Green Lentils Roasted With Carrots And Beets

by | Oct 4, 2010
Roasted French Lentils

Roasted French Lentils

I’m really excited about this recipe for a few reasons. First, it looks super easy, healthy and delicious. Anything that hits in those 3 departments is a winner in my book. Second, while beets and carrots are awesome this time of year, they are pretty easy to find year round, making this a recipe you can go to anytime you need something easy, healthy and delicious. Win – Win.

French green lentils aren’t always easy to find, but you can order them online at Zursun, a great source for getting heirloom beans and lentils.

Huge thanks to Allison Boomer for the recipe. Allison is an artisanal food expert, marketing professional, writer and nutritionist. She partners with people and businesses who share a passion for handcrafted food. She’d love to connect with you on Facebook.

French Green Lentils Roasted With Carrots And Beets

by Allison Boomer

Robust, earthy flavor and beautiful deep fall green color make French green lentils – also known as Lentilles du Puy – one of the world’s finest legumes.

In this recipe lentils are oven roasted with caramelized carrots, beets, shallots and savory thyme. Finished with a splash of red wine vinegar and fresh parsley, the easy-to-prepare dish (no pot watching on the stove) is satisfying on its own or as a side dish.

  • 1½ cup French green lentils
  • 3 small beets, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

Sort and rinse lentils in cool water. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets, carrots, shallots and 3 tbsp. olive oil in a medium-size roasting pan. Coat vegetables evenly with oil. Add thyme, salt and pepper and cook in oven until vegetables begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Add lentils, 3 cups of water, stir, then cover pan with foil. Cook until lentils are tender and all water is absorbed, about one hour. Remove pan from oven, remove thyme spring and dress lentils with vinegar and remaining oil. Cool slightly and stir in chopped parsley. Adjust salt and pepper and serve.

Have you tried roasting lentils?

You may also enjoy How (And Why) To Cook And Freeze Large Batches Of Lentils

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

by | Sep 15, 2010
Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Last weekend I bought some amazing, gnarly looking chantenay carrots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market. When I found them at Tierra Vegetables they were just begging me to turn them into soup. I rose to the challenge, but first I had a few problems to solve.

Usually when I eat or make carrot soup it is in one of two styles. It can come either curried, warm and spicy, or gingered with hints of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. While I love these soups, they feel a little too much like fall and winter for me to get excited about them when summer in SF is just starting.

I didn’t want a soup that is warm and wintery, I wanted a carrot soup that is bright and summery.

To achieve this I started with carrot and ginger, but add a twist. Rather than spicing the soup with cinnamon and other fall flavors I added tumeric and a few Thai chili peppers to give it color, flavor and some heat. Then I brightened it up with lemon juice and preserved lemons. The soup is finished with crème fraîche, scallions, ginger flowers and lemon-scented olive oil.

To my delight this soup turned out amazing and unlike anything I had ever tasted. And it was exactly what I wanted. If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’m sure zest would produce a similar effect. Likewise, you can swap a serrano pepper for the Thai peppers and sour cream for crème fraîche. Ginger flowers and lemon oil are just bonus.

To blend the soup I used my new Cuisinart immersion blender (aka hand or stick blender), and I was very pleased with the result. I’m really happy about this because the Cuisinart is half the price of the Braun blender I used to use.

You can make the soup in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender.

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 3 chantenay carrots or 5-6 regular carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2-3 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped and seeded (optional)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (and zest if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp preserved lemon strips
  • Crème fraîche
  • Scallions
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • salt to taste

Heat butter or oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot and add onions. Saute until they become translucent then add the carrots, half the ginger, peppers and tumeric and cook until carrots are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.

When the carrots are soft add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carrots are very tender and can easily be cut with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, add the rest of the ginger and preserved lemons and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to thin the soup. I ended up adding 2 full cups.

If you are using a regular blender, be very very careful when blending hot liquids. Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches, holding the lid down with a kitchen towel. I’ve had many steaming soups explode and burn me, and it is not fun. That’s why I love my hand blender.

At this point you can filter the soup through a fine mesh strainer if you like, but I prefer to keep all the fiber in the soup and simply blend it very well. The texture is rich and silky this way, but will be thinner if you filter it.

Whisk in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. Ladle hot soup into a bowl and garnish with crème fraîche, scallions and lemon oil.

This makes a fairly large batch of soup. However, carrot soup freezes extraordinarily well so feel free to freeze a couple pints for later. The soup will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite way to make carrot soup?

Originally published Sept 7, 2009.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 16, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

If you are certain milk is good for you, please read the Los Angeles Times article explaining why it may be time to reconsider. There’s also good news this week about the benefits of green tea, exercise, vitamin D and fish oil. I love good news!

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 a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. 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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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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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: First Strawberries

by | Mar 28, 2010
First Strawberries

First Strawberries

The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally come. The first strawberries of the season have arrived! And what a day for them to appear.

Today is easily the most beautiful we’ve had so far this year in SF. Of course this means my pictures didn’t turn out as well, since there was too much light. But it also meant I made my first salad of 2010!

Salad FTW!

Salad FTW!

Warm sunshine always inspires me to make salad, but the appearance of cucumbers, sugar snap peas and these adorable bolero carrots helped too.

Bolero Carrots

Bolero Carrots

Mediterranean Cucumbers

Mediterranean Cucumbers

Beyond these new additions, the selection this week at the farmers market wasn’t too different from last week. I’m going take this opportunity to cut this post a bit short and go enjoy the beautiful day. I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Spring Tomatoes

Spring Tomatoes

Cardoon

Cardoon

Today’s purchases:

Are there strawberries at your market yet?

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Farmers Market Update: Spring Equinox

by | Mar 21, 2010
Cioggia Beets

Cioggia Beets

Last week we sprung ahead and this weekend marks the official spring equinox. Woohoo!

We have had absolutely spectacular weather here in San Francisco, which could not feel better after the months of rain we endured.

To celebrate I got myself some morel mushrooms, one of the true delicacies of springtime. Excitement is an understatement.

Organic Chard

Organic Chard

Morel Mushrooms

Morel Mushrooms

Another vegetable I couldn’t resist this afternoon were the beets. I am not particularly in the mood for beets, but they were everywhere and looked beautiful. I got one bunch of the lovely white and pink striped cioggia beets and one standard red bunch. Naturally I will use both the roots and the leaves.

Beet greens are an awesome substitute for chard or spinach. If you’ve never tried them I highly recommend it.

Beyond beets, other root vegetables including carrots, celery root and onions are in season and as sweet as they will be all year.

Shallots

Shallots

Carrots, Fennel & Celery Root

Carrots, Fennel & Celery Root

I’m also really enjoying the delicate little broccoli I’ve been finding lately. These little guys are sweeter and more tender than the big broccoli crowns. I can’t go a week without getting a bag full. You can also find this Italian variety, broccoli di Ciccio (the sign is spelled wrong). The flowers, of course, are edible.

Broccoli di Ciccio

Broccoli di Ciccio

Artichokes are something else you shouldn’t miss this time of year. The big ones are great, but I also love to cook up some baby artichokes with leeks and walnuts as a side dish or pasta topping.

Leeks

Leeks

Large Organic Artichokes

Large Organic Artichokes

And no talk of springtime is complete without mentioning asparagus. I have a wonderful recipe for balsamic asparagus and carrots. It’s very simple and incredibly delicious.

Asparagus

Asparagus

Finally, don’t forget about all the wonderful citrus, it will be disappearing in the coming weeks.

Kumquats

Kumquats

Navel Oranges

Navel Oranges

Today’s purchases:

Cutest Pug Ever

Cutest Pug Ever

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