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Farmers Market Update: Perfect Day

by | May 30, 2010
Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

Saturday was a perfect day in San Francisco. It was warm, clear and beautiful. The farmers market was full of cherries, peaches and strawberries, and I tasted the best apricot ever at Frog Hollow Farm.

Basically it was too nice to stay inside writing about it. Photos will have to suffice today.

Bing Cherries

Bing Cherries

Green Garlic

Green Garlic

Loquats

Loquats

Peppers

Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Red Onions

Red Onions

Saturn Peaches

Saturn Peaches

Shallots

Shallots

White Peaches & Apricots

White Peaches & Apricots

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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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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: Grand Lake Oakland

by | Oct 25, 2009
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I’m delighted to introduce you to Stephanie Stiavetti who agreed to step in and cover the Grand Lake farmers market in Oakland while I was away this week.

Stephanie Stiavetti is a Bay Area freelance food and nutrition writer. Besides writing for magazines and radio, she also blogs about living a healthy gourmet (and gluten-free!) lifestyle at Wasabimon.com. Her top priority in life is eating well in every sense of the word and making sure people know that eating healthy can be a delicious endeavor.

You can also follow her on Twitter under the name @sstiavetti.

Thanks so much Stephanie!

Farmers Market Update: Grand Lake Oakland

Hello everyone!

This is Stephanie from Wasabimon, and I’m excited to be guest posting today on Summer Tomato. Darya’s asked me to take care of the weekly Farmers Market Update while she’s in Vegas, and since I live in the East Bay, today you’ll be getting a tour of Oakland’s Grand Lake Farmers Market.

For those not in the know, Oakland has a thriving farmers market community. With over ten markets throughout the week, East Bay residents have a lot of opportunities to buy organic, locally grown produce. Here’s just a sampling of what you can find at the Grand Lake market, which happens every Saturday from 9am – 2pm year round.

I love the colors of the market this time of year. So many bright colors as summer comes to a close! First I picked up a few of my obligatory (though no less lovely) squash and peppers from Capay Farms:

Peppers

Peppers

Squash

Squash

Right across the way was Rodriguez Farms, who have some of the best potatoes and strawberries around – and who doesn’t love the fact that we can get local strawberries this time of year? Yay California!

Strawberries

Strawberries

Potatoes

Potatoes

Next up were the gorgeous radishes and carrots at Ledesma Family Farms. There is always so much color in this booth and I need to wear sunglasses when I go inside:

Radishes

Radishes

Carrots

Carrots

After wandering around a little bit (and indulging in some kettle corn, my favorite treat), I hit the jackpot at Toscano and Sons. They have the sweetest cherry tomatoes ever! They make such a perfect addition to salads, and I can never resist them.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Toscano also had baby shallots and young leeks, which are just about my favorite things ever. I’m such an allium nut – I don’t cook with them all the time, but I love how there are so many different levels of flavor within the onion family:

Leeks

Leeks

Baby Shallots

Baby Shallots

Happy Boy Farms was full of lovely winter and summer squash, and as usual their herb table was full of the freshest, most fragrant greenery. Their heirloom tomatoes were off-the-charts colorful, though I had to resist the urge to buy any since I already have some at home. Happy Boy also has my favorite salad mix, with edible flowers mixed in with the rest of the greens. I mean, how could you resist this beautiful display?

Salad Greens

Salad Greens

I also discovered something new at the farmers market this week. I’ve seen jujubes before but hadn’t ever stopped to inspect further. These little Chinese dates are really good and I highly recommend you grab a handful if you ever see them!

Jujubees

Jujubees

Then how could I not stop and smell the roses at Western Sun Floral?

Roses

Roses

And on the way out the door, I stopped by my favorite stand, Marshall’s Farm Honey. Since I avoid refined sweeteners, honey is a mainstay in my kitchen:

Honey

Honey

I had a fabulous time at the Grand Lake Farmers Market today, and I hope you enjoyed my little photo tour. Thanks, Darya, for letting me share!

<3
~Steph

What did you find at your farmers market this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Summertime

by | Aug 23, 2009
Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Despite the San Francisco weather–more gloomy than sunny–it is actually summer. That means pluots, peaches, nectarines, figs, melons, eggplant, corn, peppers and, of course, tomatoes.

Could anything be more perfect?

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

Pluots

Pluots

The tomatoes are especially amazing right now (don’t miss the early girls!), and I’m finally ready to make my favorite summer tomato recipe, bruschetta! Tune in tomorrow for my easy recipe.

Something else I’ve noticed lately at the market are the over-sized carrots, which look perfect for turning into soup or other mashed concoction. Likewise, big heads of cauliflower are starting to reappear, which are fantastic for vegetable stews. Last week I turned mine into Moroccan soup.

Cauliflower and Cucumber

Cauliflower and Cucumber

Carrots

Carrots

I’ve also noticed apples, grapes, mature onions, mature garlic, and other foods that are decidedly post-summer fare. Take this as a sign that you should eat as many plums, peaches and melons while you can. Fall is right around the corner.

Organic Shallots

Organic Shallots

Organic Garlic

Organic Garlic

Speaking of plums, the very short 3-4 week season of French plums (fresh “prunes”) is peaking and they are spectacular. I bought a full bag to have with breakfast this week.

Early McIntosh Apples

Early McIntosh Apples

French Prunes

French Prunes

What did you find at the farmers market this weekend?

Today’s Purchases:

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How To Get Started Eating Healthy: Essential Groceries

by | Apr 10, 2009
Fresh Herbs

Fresh Herbs

Having the necessary pantry items is critical to getting started eating healthy, but obviously you need a lot more than that if you actually want to cook fresh, delicious food. Today I have prepared a list of groceries that should always be in your refrigerator. Many of these items are fresh, which means you need to buy them regularly.

(This post is part of the series How To Get Started Eating Healthy. Part one is Stock Your Pantry. Subscribe to Summer Tomato to get more free healthy eating tips)

As I have explained before you must set aside a small amount of time once a week to do your grocery shopping or else healthy eating will be nearly impossible. This time needs to be non-negotiable; you must find a way to make it happen.

So why not start to upgrade your healthstyle this weekend?

Put these groceries on your weekly shopping list and never take them off:

  • Shallots or leeks These are members of the onion family, but milder and sweeter than you might be used to. Even if you think you do not like onions, I recommend starting most vegetable dishes with one of these ingredients. Shallots are like small, mild red onions. Leeks are like large green onions, but tender and delicate in flavor. Here you can see pictures of leeks and shallots.
  • Garlic People feel very strongly about garlic, some can’t get enough while others avoid it. I have found myself in both camps at some point, but now I am somewhere in the middle. I go through a small bulb every week, but rarely use more than one clove per dish. With subtle amounts of garlic you can add depth and dimension to your meal. Too much can overpower all the other flavors.
  • Lemon As I explained when discussing vinegar, acidic foods are extremely important in cooking. Lemon has the added bonus of possessing an amazing zest that adds both sweetness and brightness to your food. I panic a little if I don’t have lemon in the house.
  • Parsley Flat leaf or “Italian” parsley is the perfect herb for everything. I always buy it, even if I do not know what I am going to use it for. It is also rather robust and keeps longer in the fridge than more delicate herbs, like cilantro. If you do not normally cook with parsley, definitely buy some and try it in your next vegetable dish. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
  • Fresh herbs Of all the other fresh herbs, I usually only pick one or two to have in my kitchen at once. Which ones I choose depends on the other foods I am buying. Mexican food thrives with cilantro and oregano. French style vegetables are beautiful with thyme. I cannot live without rosemary on my roasted potatoes. Mint is perfect with Moroccan food. Experiment! Fresh herbs can change the way you approach cooking. If you don’t know how to use something, Ask Me! or ask Google 🙂
  • Eggs I do not buy eggs every week, but I buy them regularly (always a half dozen farm fresh eggs). They are incredibly versatile and a great, quick meal any time of day. Check out my favorite scrambled eggs recipe.
  • Tofu or tempeh However you think you feel about tofu should probably be reexamined. It can be very delicious when prepared correctly. Regardless of the claims of Dr. Atkins, science tells us it is actually much healthier to get your protein from vegetable sources. I love meat in all its forms, but during the week I usually stick to vegetable protein and fish. And sometimes eggs.
  • (Soy) milk I use soy milk for my cereal and in my coffee. I know many people prefer different kinds of milk, and whatever you choose is fine. If you currently drink dairy milk, my only warning is to use it very sparingly. Consuming cow’s milk is strongly linked to increased risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis (I know!), acne, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. If you were raised in America and do not follow nutrition science, I’m sure this sounds insane (it did to me). Unfortunately it is true. Easy on the milk.
  • Condiments I mentioned last time I keep my soy sauce and almond butter in the refrigerator. The other condiments I keep handy are tahini, mustard, tomato paste, capers and olives. None of these are absolutely necessary, but they are nice to have around to mix up your flavors. They do not need to be purchased very often.

These groceries are always in my refrigerator and it is fair to say that I consider them essential. However, this list is by no means exhaustive.

Please share with us your favorite essential groceries so we can all benefit.

Subscribe now to get more free healthy eating tips.

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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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