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Foodist Approved: Fennel and Pear Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

by | Mar 12, 2014
Fennel pear salad

Fennel pear salad

I’m ready to say goodbye to soup, stews and roasted vegetables. Now that the days are getting longer and warmer, I’ve been craving refreshing salads.

But I find it a challenge to shop this time of year. Our bodies are asking for new revitalizing foods, but summer’s alluring produce still seems far off. Don’t be tempted to buy artificially ripened tomatoes or strawberries from far-off places, instead embrace salads that celebrate winter vegetables.

I’ve made this fennel and pear salad for just about every get-together I’ve been to in the last month. It’s rare that a salad gets the limelight at a dinner party but this simple, yet sophisticated, salad always does just that.

I recommend making a large batch of the red wine vinaigrette to have on hand all week (this recipe makes enough for 2-3 family size salads). It pairs perfectly with any type of salad and stores well in the fridge. If you prefer, you can cut the vinaigrette recipe below in half and that will be plenty for this dish.

I hope you enjoy, and let me know if this becomes your new favorite end-of-winter salad!
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Farmers Market Update: January in San Francisco

by | Jan 29, 2012
Romanesco

Romanesco

January in San Francisco is apparently a zillion times nicer than summer. Sure we had some rain last week, but it was so warm, clear and beautiful today I actually went to the market in a summer dress. After last year’s summer of fog, this is was glorious.

Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

I don’t know if this is global warming or what. It’s certainly strange to see tulips, usually a hallmark of spring that appears in early April or late March, on the last weekend in January. Hard to complain though.

Tulips in January

Tulips in January

Despite the sun, most of the produce is still fairly wintery. One of the reasons I love this time of year is that brassica vegetables (the leafy greens) are so delicious now that eating lots of them is an absolute joy.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

I can’t get enough kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. This weekend we got a bunch of cabbage, daikon and carrots to make a big batch of healthy, probiotics-filled sauerkraut.

Leeks, Cabbage and Daikon

Leeks, Cabbage and Daikon

And speaking of carrots, they and other root vegetables like turnips and radishes are as sweet as can be. My puppy Toaster has learned to prefer these amazing farmers market carrots (yes my dog loves vegetables, go figure) and will actually turn his nose up at the ones I get at Whole Foods. Such a snob!

Colorful Carrots

Colorful Carrots

It’s also a great time for fennel.

Fennel

Fennel

For those of you still obsessed with my winter squash recipe, unfortunately they’re getting harder to find. That is, unless you prefer delicata the size of a watermelon.

Organic Winter Squash

Organic Winter Squash

All in all it was a lovely day. Happy winter!

Yellow Oyster Mushrooms

Yellow Oyster Mushrooms

Today’s purchases (~$20):

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Farmers Market Update: Citrus Season

by | Jan 9, 2011
Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

This week was my first farmers market trip of 2011, and it’s great to be back. I’m happy to see that in the few weeks I was away the full array of winter citrus fruits has now become available, from brilliantly colored blood oranges to giant pomelos.

Blood oranges with their deep red flesh have a much richer juice than their navel counterparts, and are a fantastic addition to winter cocktails and elixers.

Pomelo

Pomelo

Navel Oranges

Navel Oranges

Here in San Francisco you can also find several varietals of mandarins, the satsuma being the most prevalent. These are great easy snacks because they are small in size and their skin is particularly easy to peel. You can also find grapefruit, lemon, lime and citron, and we’ll be exploring these more in the coming weeks.

Besides citrus, you can also find pears, persimmons, pomegranates and kiwi this time of year. The persimmon I tasted this week might have been the best I’ve ever tried (at Kashiwase Farm), and I recommend getting them while you can since they will only be around a few more weeks. Same for the pears and pomegranates.

Persimmon

Persimmon

Shun Li Asian Pears

Shun Li Asian Pears

I also really love winter vegetables. This season my attention usually turns to hearty greens like kale and chard, as well as winter squash (delicata are my favorite, followed by kambocha–neither of which require peeling).

Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

I’ve also really been enjoying cabbage lately, playing around with recipes for coleslaw, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Organic Cilantro

Organic Cilantro

Winter Produce

Winter Produce

And though I tend to forget about them (but totally shouldn’t), now is the time for root vegetables like radishes, potatoes, sunchokes and fennel. I made an effort this week to bring some home with me.

Fennel

Fennel

Sunchokes

Sunchokes

I can’t get over how pretty these watermelon radishes are.

Watermelon Radish Slice

Watermelon Radish Slice

This time of year I also cook a lot of beans and lentils. The heirloom beans at Rancho Gordo have received national attention for their amazing flavors and textures. I have an impressive collection of them in my pantry.

Scream Sorbet

Scream Sorbet

Rancho Gordo Beans

Rancho Gordo Beans

Finally, though I’m not a sweets person these days (I have completely given up sugar in January) I was happy to see Scream Sorbet has now set up a booth at the Saturday farmers market (previously they only sold on Thursdays). Scream is amazing because they create local, seasonal sorbet flavors that will blow you away. It’s pretty common when inquiring about an ingredient in one of their sorbets to have them point at a nearby produce stand and say, “we’re using those grapes right there.” How awesome is that?

As always I had a wonderful time and it was totally worth dragging myself out of bed, even on a Saturday.

If you’d like to share your farmers market experience at Summer Tomato, please read this.

Today’s purchases*:

*I overslept a bit and the market was pretty picked over. My bad.

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Farmers Market Update: Thanksgiving Leftovers

by | Nov 28, 2010
Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Is Thanksgiving the official end of autumn? Because it sure feels like it.

The farmers market felt very different today than it did just a few weeks ago. Most of lingering summer vendors have finally packed up their wares for the winter. The only autumn fruits left are apples, persimmons, pears, quince and a few grapes. Luckily, citrus is poised to jump right into its place.

Fuyu Persimmons

Fuyu Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Naturally the weekend after Thanksgiving few people opted to visit the farmers market in the rain. These are my favorite days at the market, since it’s so quiet it is easy to talk to vendors and discover new things. A calm day at the market is a rare and wonderful treat.

Autumn Citrus

Autumn Citrus

There are a few special items available right now that will only be around for a little while. Feijoa, or pineapple guava, are delicious little green fruits that grow locally this time of year. I also found someone selling fresh ginger roots, stems and all.

Ginger Root

Ginger Root

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

Now is also a great time to get fresh seasonal nuts like walnuts and chestnuts.

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Walnuts

Fresh Walnuts

One of my favorite things about the approach of winter is all the delicious winter veggies that are on the horizon. Vegetables tend to be overshadowed by the abundance of sweet berries and stone fruits in the summer, but in the winter vegetables are really the stars of the show. The cold stresses the veggies, causing them to condense their flavors and natural sugars.

Pumpkins and Padrons

Pumpkins and Padrons

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Brassica, also known as cruciferous vegetables, are truly special this time of year. Examples of brassica are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, etc. Root vegetables (like fennel and potatoes) and winter squash are also awesome right now. I included my favorite cauliflower recipe in this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Fennel

Fennel

In the late fall I’m particularly excited about the Brussels sprouts that you can sometimes find still on the stalk. If you have never liked Brussels sprouts, try giving them another chance this year. Make sure you get very fresh ones (on the stalk if you can find them) from the farmers market, and buy the smallest ones you can find. Then try this recipe for Brussels sprouts with walnuts and bacon and come back and tell me what you think. Even Toaster likes Brussels sprouts.

Toaster With Sprout

Toaster With Sprout

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Last but not least, now is your chance to get Super Mario sized porcini mushrooms. Fresh porcini are a delicacy, and worth experimenting with if you can get your hands on them.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

What are you eating this weekend?

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

Today’s purchases:

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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: Best Of Spring

by | May 2, 2010

Spring Broccoli

Spring Broccoli

Everything I’ve ever wanted out of springtime I found at the farmers market this weekend. The sun was bright and warm and the produce was lush and colorful. I was in heaven.

Finally the strawberries are sweet and abundant. Pea shoots, shelling peas and sugar snap peas are everywhere. And…(wait for it)…the first pimentos de padrón have arrived!

Pimentos de Padron

Pimentos de Padron

Organic Strawberries

Organic Strawberries

Padróns are small Spanish peppers that are usually cooked briefly in hot olive oil and sprinkled with course sea salt. They aren’t spicy, except when they are. About 1 out of every 10 peppers is blistering hot, so be sure to have a crusty baguette nearby to soothe your mouth if you ever try them. The bread is also useful for sopping up the delicious oil that becomes flavored with the cooked pepper juices. I adore padróns.

The broccoli and cauliflower were particularly nice looking this week. I ended up getting two different kinds of broccoli, but after seeing this picture I regret not bringing home some cauliflower as well.

Gorgeous Cauliflower

Gorgeous Cauliflower

One thing I did get for the first time this week was some baby fava beans. I like the baby ones because they don’t require shelling, the pods are tender enough that you can eat them whole. I like to roast them with garlic, capers, anchovies, kalamata olives and tomatoes. Yum. Just look how tender and fuzzy these little guys are.

Baby Fava Beans

Baby Fava Beans

I’m also excited that we’re starting to see tomatoes and avocados at the market together. Mexican food FTW! The tomatoes are even starting to look pretty good.

Hass Avocado

Hass Avocado

Crazy Tomatoes

Crazy Tomatoes

I made the mistake last week of buying an organic avocado (it had slipped into the bin with conventional avocados and I hadn’t noticed) at my local market only to discover that it somehow tasted even better than regular avocados. I didn’t even think that was possible. Organic avocados are way more expensive, but I’m now forever ruined.

You also shouldn’t miss the fennel, lettuces, leeks, collards, chard and late season citrus.

Spring Citrus

Spring Citrus

Baby Fennel

Baby Fennel

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Hints of Spring

by | Jan 31, 2010
Tulips

Tulips

It’s still January, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure it is.

Here in San Francisco we’ve had virtually non-stop rain for the past 2 weeks. Technically this is good since we’ve had a drought, but I think all of us are anxious to move on to more fair weather.

What confuses me though is how this abnormally wet weather explains the early appearance of tulips and cherry blossoms? I have no idea. But they sure are lovely, aren’t they?

First Cherry Blossoms

First Cherry Blossoms

If you’ve been avoiding the farmers market because of the weather, now is the time to start going again. The flowers are blooming, the spring onions are appearing and yes, the sun is peaking out of the clouds today.

In many ways the beginning of spring is the most special time of year. After a long, cold and wet winter there is something magical about the time when life reminds us of its eternal cycle. Baby greens, delicate asparagus and sweet fruits will start appearing over the coming weeks and you definitely want to be there when it happens.

Fennel Bulbs

Fennel Bulbs

Organic Spring Onions

Organic Spring Onions

It’s hard to describe how exciting it is the first day the farmers market explodes with cherries. I can’t get enough of the Olsen Organic clementines right now (seriously, don’t buy them anywhere else), but cherries mark the beginning of a long and delicious season of stone fruits (fruit with pits).

But let’s stop daydreaming.

Blood Orange Slices

Blood Orange Slices

This week the stars of the market are cauliflower, broccoli and citrus. The kale and chard are also amazing. And for good measure I grabbed some Brussels sprouts since the season will be ending soon.

Purple Kohlrabi

Purple Kohlrabi

Organic Cauliflower and Broccoli

Organic Cauliflower & Broccoli

There is also still a beautiful assortment of root vegetables. I wish my photo skills could do justice to these breathtaking purple carrots.

Purple Carrots

Purple Carrots

I spent some time today talking about mushrooms with John Garrone of Far West Fungi. Far West Fungi has the most unique mushrooms and other foraged foods that I’ve found in San Francisco. They also have a farm where they grow mushrooms near Monterey Bay. Definitely visit their shop in the Ferry Building if you ever get the opportunity.

Nameko Mushrooms

Nameko Mushrooms

Mushroom Farm

Mushroom Farm

What did you find at the farmers market this week?

Today’s Purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Cheap Eats

by | Jan 3, 2010
Brussels Sprouts Stalk

Brussels Sprouts Stalk

Holiday spending making you wish you didn’t have to buy food the rest of the month?

You’re in luck, the farmers market in January is full of healthy, delicious and very affordable produce. This weekend I spent about half of what I do during a normal week in any other season.

Shanghai Bok Choy

Shanghai Bok Choy $2

Napa Cabbage $1

Napa Cabbage $1

My guess is winter produce is cheaper than spring and summer produce because it is more sturdy. During the summer, stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc.), berries and delicate greens are extremely perishable. They are also sweeter, so probably more labor intensive to grow (I’m just speculating here, farmers please feel free to chime in).

Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash

Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash

Winter Produce

Winter Produce

Whatever the reason, the food is cheap now at the farmers market. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t tasty. Hearty greens, root vegetables and squash are perfect soul-warming food for this frigid weather.

It’s win-win!

Fennel Bottoms

Fennel Bottoms

The star of the season is brassica, also known as cruciferous vegetables. These are generally what we think of when we say “leafy greens.” Examples of brassica are broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, kale, etc.

Purple Kohlrabi and Kale

Purple Kohlrabi and Kale

Organic Broccoli

Organic Broccoli

It’s pretty common to not like these vegetables, so I won’t hold it against you if you just grimaced a little. But if you have only had them frozen or from the regular grocery store I urge you to try brassica again at your local farmers market.

When brassica are grown with care they are sweet and not bitter, tender and not tough. They are really delicious, probably my favorite. But I hated them as a kid. I urge you to give them another chance if you don’t love them already.

Audrey II

Audrey II

It’s also a great time to get onions, leeks, shallots and garlic. Not surprisingly, these make your brassica taste even better.

Dirty Girl Shallots

Dirty Girl Shallots

Twisted Leeks

Twisted Leeks

But life isn’t all about Brussels sprouts and broccoli this time of year. Citrus fruit is taking the market by storm, bringing a splash of warm color to cool weather.

Citron

Citron

Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

I grew up in Southern California so I’m a little picky when it comes to citrus, but I had my socks knocked off today by the clementines at Olsen Organic Farm. You can’t go wrong with any of the clementines in San Francisco right now, but these were truly special. The flavor was so rich and concentrated. In my hypnosis I bought a huge bag of them.

Olsen Organic Clementines

Olsen Organic Clementines

Tropical fruits are also popping up at the farmers market. Today alone I spotted mango, kiwi, Malaysian white guava and white cherimoya. Too bad there wasn’t any bikini weather to pair with them.

Malaysian White Guavas

Malaysian White Guavas

Kiwis

Kiwis

And of course this time of year there are always persimmons, apples, pears, and pomegranates, though the seasons are winding down.

I didn’t get a picture, but the chanterelle mushrooms were also particularly spectacular.

Can you still find fresh veggies in your city? What’s your favorite?

Today’s Purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Santa’s Secret

by | Dec 20, 2009
Santa Claus

Santa Claus

Looks like I’m not the only one doing some last minute Christmas shopping this year.

I spied Santa Claus himself having lunch at the farmers market in San Francisco. You can’t really blame him either, because I doubt they are getting much good winter produce at the North Pole. He looks like he may have even lost some weight!

Hopefully he found some of the awesome citrus fruit available this time of year as well as these red Livermore walnuts from Hamada Farms, since they match his outfit.

Livermore Red Walnuts

Livermore Red Walnuts

Clementines

Clementines

And I wonder if Santa is the one responsible for hanging mistletoe all over the city? San Francisco residents BEWARE!

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

As for my own shopping, I actually didn’t buy much since I’m leaving town in a couple of days. I’m loving the Tuscan kale and other thick winter greens right now. And, as always, the Meyer lemons.

Greens & Fennel

Greens & Fennel

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

I also grabbed what will likely be my last bag of Padrones until next summer.

Carrots

Carrots

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron

Unfortunately I had to skip this challenge guaranteeing the best cabbage ever, because I already had too much food. If it’s still available in two weeks though, I’m totally on it.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Best Cabbage Ever

Best Cabbage Ever

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market will be closed next week, December 26, so I’ll be taking the day off.

Spanish Onions

Spanish Onions

I hope you all have a delicious holiday!

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Fennel, Tomato and White Bean Soup

by | Feb 13, 2009

The fennel at the farmers market has been particularly beautiful lately. I bought one last week without having a real plan of what to do with it. When Sunday night rolled around and I realized I had not made my lunch soup yet, this recipe from Splendid Soups seemed like the way to go.

I made a few modifications to suit my needs. First, my corner store didn’t have any large white beans dry (I like to avoid canned beans–it’s a taste thing), so I used their small ones. They turned out well, and cooked a lot faster than the big kind. Also, this time of year I can’t help but put Meyer lemon juice in everything. It’s like sugar only better.

One other thing is that this recipe calls for 18 garlic cloves (that’s not a typo), which is essentially an entire bulb. I was taken aback by the number but decided to just follow the instructions. In retrospect it was a little too garlicy for me (stank up the fridge). Next time I might use 10-12 and see how that works. Up to you.

Fennel, Tomato and White Bean Soup

(5 large servings or 8 first course)

Ingredients:

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 10-18 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 qt chicken broth
  • 1 bouquet garni (e.g. 2 sprigs marjoram, 1 sprig rosemary , several sprigs parsley, tied with string)
  • 1 cup white beans, cooked until tender (1 can cannellini beans okay)
  • 0.25 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Juice of 0.5 Meyer lemon
  • Excellent olive oil
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread or quinoa

If you are using dry beans and cooking them in a pressure cooker, you can put them on the stove first and they will be ready by the time this recipe calls for them. I soaked small white beans 1 hour before putting them in the pressure cooker 15 minutes. It takes another 10 minutes or so for the pressure cooker to re-pressurize.

Rinse and remove a few handfuls of the fuzzy greens from the fennel, coarsely chop and set aside. Cut fennel in half longways, cut off bottom, remove core and discard. Lay fennel cut side down, cut in half one more time longways and thinly slice.

Combine fennel, onion, garlic, broth and bouquet garni in 4 qt pot. Gently simmer about 15 min, until vegetables soften. Add tomatoes and simmer another 10 minutes.

Remove bouquet garni. Add beans and 0.5 cup of their cooking liquid. If using can beans, rinse them and do not add liquid. You can use more broth or water if you want your soup thinner. Add parsley, reserved fennel leaves and lemon juice. Adjust salt.

When serving, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Fresh baked country bread is amazing with this recipe, but 0.25 cup of quinoa at the bottom of your bowl is a great alternative.

Let me know how it turns out!

UPDATE: One reader had a bad experience with the rosemary in this recipe. You might consider leaving it out or trying a different herb. Also, saffron is a nice addition to this recipe.

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