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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: Brassica!

by | Dec 6, 2009

Turnips

Turnips

This weekend was the Brassica Festival at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Brassica

Brassica

Brassica Bash!

Brassica Bash!

Brassica is a genus of vegetables in the mustard or cabbage family that includes cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips, bok choy, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. They are also known as cruciferous vegetables, and I adore them.

Curly Kale

Curly Kale

Broccoli Crowns

Broccoli Crowns

In honor of the festival I stocked up on two kinds of kale, collard greens, broccoli and kohlrabi. I resisted Brussels sprouts since I got them last week. The great thing about brassica vegetables is they are very affordable, usually less than $2/bunch.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Generally I am spending a lot less money at the farmers market now that summer is over. I attribute this largely to the lack of berries and stone fruit. Oh, and my $10/week tomato habit has now dried up. But I can’t complain at all.

Daikon, Kohlrabi and Sunchokes

Daikon, Kohlrabi and Sunchokes

Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy

Citrus, especially the mandarins, are marvelous this season and getting better every week. Pomegranate seeds are by far my favorite thing on my breakfast. Pears from Frog Hollow Farm are freaky good.

Persimmons. Almonds. Walnuts.

I think I’m falling in love with autumn in San Francisco.

Kiwi

Kiwi

Mandarins

Mandarins

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Almonds

Almonds

I finally got some kiwi this week. If you’re a kiwifruit fan, you absolutely must go try the ones from Four Sisters Farm, they have an unbelievable flavor that is almost floral. I had no idea kiwi could be so complex. These are really special.

Many of the farms are offering gift wrapped items for the holidays. Most of these things are pretty cute, probably delicious and something to consider if you’re shopping for any foodies.

Holiday Foodie Gifts

Holiday Foodie Gifts

Or for that person who has everything, you could always just get one of these giant parsnips. They are about the size of your head. Who doesn’t need jumbo parsnips?

Giant Parsnips

Giant Parsnips

Exactly.

Today’s Purchases:

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Farmers Market Update

by | Jan 10, 2009
fennel

fennel

Lucky be the ones who found their way to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this morning. It was bright and sunny, so naturally I expected a bone-chilling cold down at the Embarcadero. But by global warming some miracle it was actually pleasant today, approaching 70 degrees. T-shirt weather if I’ve ever seen it.


It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful mid-January morning at the market.

This week the produce was very similar to what I found last week. Fennel is starting to become more abundant, as you can see by the main photo. And the pomelos seem to just keep getting bigger and bigger.

As for my purchases, the kohlrabi I bought last Saturday got me excited about root vegetables that are edible raw. So today I got a couple lo bok, a green relative of the daikon or Japanese radish (sorry I didn’t get a good picture). These vegetables are super crisp and moist, with a texture similar to jicama. They are relatively sweet for a vegetable and make a great appetizer or side dish when cut up into slices or sticks.

I also tried to buy some kaffir limes, but the guy said he forgot them this week and will definitely have them next week. I got an assortment of other citrus fruits to make up for it.

The most notable new purchase I made today was a whole free range chicken from the Golden Gate Meat Company. That’s right, I bought meat! I want to make a soup this weekend to take with me to work for lunch. As always, I will keep you posted on my experiments.

I also stocked up on tamarillos.

Today’s purchases:

  • Free range chicken (whole)
  • Tamarillo
  • Lo bok
  • Rio red grapefruit
  • Cara cara orange
  • Blood orange
  • Meyer lemon
  • Kiwi
  • Romanesco
  • Chinese broccoli
  • Traditional broccoli
  • Kabocha squash
  • Dino kale
  • Pink lady apples
  • Pomegranate
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Yirg coffee

Any of you find anything interesting today?

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Silky Parsnip and Sunchoke Soup

by | Nov 24, 2008

I am really proud of myself for this one, guys. You could probably guess I was a little nervous about what to do with my parsnips and sunchokes. I find both these vegetables a little alien and I have only recently started experimenting with them.

Following my gut and combining them in a soup with leeks turned out to be a stroke of genius.

The soup I made is really simple. But do not be deceived, the subtle complexity of the flavor it packs is absolutely divine and the creamy texture of the sunchokes makes it luxuriously silky.

The finishing touch is the juice and zest of a Meyer lemon, an addition that brightens and balances the creaminess of this soup. In a pinch you could use a regular lemon, but I really recommend making an effort to find the real thing.

Because this soup is so easy it is perfect for a weekday lunch or dinner. But the rich, earthy flavors would make an excellent first course for your Thanksgiving meal as well.

Silky Parsnip and Sunchoke Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large parsnips
  • 5 medium sunchokes
  • 1 large leek
  • 3-1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/2 Meyer lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Scrub and peel the parsnips and chop them into small slices (in half in necessary), about 1/3 inch thick. Scrub the sunchokes as well, but do not bother to peel them. Instead use a pairing knife to remove any rough patches. Cut the sunchokes into 1/4 inch slices.

Clean the leek very carefully and chop it into thick sections, as described previously. In a large soup pot heat olive oil and add leeks. Saute the leeks for about 2 minutes, then add the parsnips and sunchokes. Lightly salt and pepper. Continue to saute, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables become soft and partially translucent.

Add 2 cups of water and the bouillon cube to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are completely tender, turn off heat and add the remaining water. Use a hand blender* to finely puree the vegetables.

Before I got to this step I was certain that I was going to end up straining this soup. Most good pureed soups need straining to thin them out. While you are welcome to do this, I found it was not necessary if I pureed the vegetables long enough, probably because of the texture of the sunchokes. This does take some patience, however. Puree the mix for at least 5 minutes.

Once you have finished blending the soup you can heat it up again if necessary. Otherwise, squeeze the lemon half into the soup and add the zest (leaving some aside for garnish). Adjust salt.

Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with zest and freshly ground pepper and serve. You can drizzle more lemon juice on top as well, it is delicious.

*Note: I am of the opinion that whoever invented the hand blender deserves a Nobel prize. These things make pureeing soup a snap, and are easy to store and clean. This is the one I use (I have also added this item to my sidebar if you want to purchase it from Amazon). If you do not have one and want to make this soup immediately, a regular blender will suffice. However, be very careful when blending hot liquid and do not fill the blender more than halfway at a time unless you want to be doused with scalding hot soup. Hold the lid down firmly with a kitchen towel for your protection.

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Farmers Market Update: Late Harvest

by | Nov 22, 2008

jumbo carrots

Another lovely day at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It is the weekend before Thanksgiving, and busy shoppers were scurrying about to pick up essential ingredients for the upcoming feast.

My time at the market was bittersweet today because although I am delighted to be taking most of next week off to visit family, I had to limit my shopping to the things I can eat in the next few days.

So as not to disappoint, what I did not buy I was sure to photograph.

Root and cruciferous vegetables are still the dominant forces at the stands, as well as pears and persimmon fruit. But this would not be one of the best markets in the country if our selection stopped there.

I wish all of you could have been with me today to see the GIGANTIC porcini mushrooms. They were incredible, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. What would someone even do with a 6 lb mushroom?

Another welcome highlight today was the nut selection. Fresh walnuts, almonds and chestnuts were available and I cannot wait to buy some when I get back.

Winter greens like bok choy, collards and kale are abundant and looking delicious. You can also still find green tomatoes and grapes if you want to try out Mark Bittman’s green tomato pizza recipe before they disappear.

Leeks have substantially increased in diameter in the past month, but now we are also seeing more traditional onions like shallots. These are small, almost purple onions that have a mild flavor. I love them because they are delicate enough to use in almost any dish and are perfect for single servings. Large, strong flavored yellow onions that are found at most grocery stores are less useful to me unless I am making something that cooks for a long time (like soup).

After last week’s controversy about parsnips, I decided to give them another try this weekend. I also bought some more sunchokes (a recipe will come eventually, I promise). I am thinking about making a parsnip-sunchoke soup. But I may wimp out on this idea if I start worrying too much about the flavor profile of those crazy parsnips. We’ll see. I would like to know what you guys think.

I made one rare find today that is worth mentioning: kaffir lime leaves. For those of you who are not familiar with them, these fragrant leaves give off a distinct lime-like smell and flavor that is the essence of Thai soup. At first glance they appear like a regular leaf, however they grow in a unique “double” leaved pattern. I have found these gems at a few Asian markets around the city, but this is the first time I have seen them at the farmers market. If you end up buying them, be sure to store them in the freezer to extend their lifespan.

In this picture there are a few kaffir limes (fruit) hidden in there too!

Last but not least–and this is huge–for those of you who do not know yet Scharffen Berger chocolate has finally come out with “baking chunks.” That’s baking code for chocolate chips! They are available in both bittersweet (70% cacao) and semi-sweet (62% cacao) varieties. Hooray!

If you are into baking you know that there is a tremendous shortage of quality chocolate chips on the market. (I’m a snob who thinks Ghirardelli should fall off the planet. Don’t get me started on Nestle and Hershey.) Until now, if you wanted to use high-quality chocolate chunks in your baking you would have to buy a bar of Scharffen Berger or Valrhona and cut them up yourself, a painful and messy process. Scharffen Berger chocolate chips are something I have been dreaming about for a long, long time.

Today’s purchases:

  • Parsnips
  • Sunchokes
  • Meyer lemons
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Padrones
  • Fuyu persimmons
  • Fuji apples
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Olallieberry jam
  • Scharffen Berger chocolate chunks (both kinds)

I hope at least some of you made it to the market today for your Thanksgiving goodies. I will not be in San Francisco for the market next week, but I do plan to visit one of the big markets down in southern California.

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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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