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Farmers Market Update: Love Apples

by | Feb 14, 2010
Love Apples

Love Apples

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The big news at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this week is the appearance of tomatoes. I won’t pretend these are summer tomatoes (it will be at least a month before I bother to buy any – no way they have any flavor yet), but their appearance is a sign of wonderful things to come.

I hope you all have a beautiful day.

xoxox

dp

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Farmers Market Update: Valentine’s Day

by | Feb 14, 2009

purple-cauliflower

Today is Valentine’s Day and the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market was an absolute zoo. The Food from the Heart event was offering $2-$6 tapas plates and wine tastings. The only thing I tried was the Scharffen Berger hot chocolate and fresh whipped cream. Mmmmm.

Despite the chaos, the vegetables were beautiful. I can’t get enough of the leafy greens right now. They smell so good when cooked in olive oil and are very inexpensive and healthy. Perfect food really.

I was excited to see cardoons today at Knoll Farms. Cardoons are a member of the artichoke and thistle family. I have only had them once at a fancy restaurant (I don’t remember which one), and my memory of the experience is vague. When buying them I was told they need to be boiled in an acidic liquid (water with salt and lemon) to preserve their color. They need to be cooked for approximately 45 minutes to make them tender and remove all the bitterness.

From the fruit world I purchased a Malaysian white guava. They looked interesting, so I figured I should try one. It was very fragrant and more mild in flavor than a traditional guava. Really delicious.

I tried a new egg vendor this week too. I didn’t realize I could get eggs from Happy Quail Farms, apparently it is a well kept secret. They were so colorful–like Easter eggs–I just had to buy them.

Today’s Purchases:

  • Cardoons (Knoll Farms)
  • Baby savoy cabbages (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Shallots (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Baby leeks (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Baby artichokes (Iacopi Farms)
  • Mixed eggs (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Bok choy with sprouts (Chue’s Farm)
  • Chinese broccoli (Chue’s Farm)
  • Collard greens (Capay Organics)
  • Clementines (Hamada Farms)
  • Cocktail grapefruit (Hamada Farms)
  • Meyer lemon (Hamada Farms)
  • Navel oranges (Hamada Farms)
  • Sweet limes (Bernard Ranches)
  • White Malaysian guava (Brokaw Nursery)

Happy Valentine’s Day!! What did you eat today?

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10 Steps To A Perfect Valentine’s Day Dinner

by | Feb 1, 2009

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think Valentine’s Day should be about romance. But that doesn’t mean you have to stick to the usual Valentine’s clichés to do it right.

For me, nothing is less romantic than aping exactly what everyone else is doing. Roses are beautiful, but there are 364 other days in the year to buy roses. (Hint boys: If you really want to woo your lady, bring her flowers when she isn’t expecting it).

Valentine’s Day dinner is your perfect opportunity to get creative.

When most people think of a romantic meal they envision a fancy French restaurant with candles, snooty waiters and expensive wine. I will not deny that I love restaurants like this, but you couldn’t pay me to go to one on Valentine’s Day.

The problem is that every year on February 14 restaurants are bombarded with customers, and to prepare they usually arrange a special prix fixe (i.e., price fixed, pronounce “pre-fee”) menu that costs way more than normal. Prix fixe menus are arranged into several courses where you pick from a short list of items for each course. These menus are almost always more limited than the restaurant’s traditional menu and lock you in to a preset number of items that you may or may not want.

Why not do something really romantic and make dinner yourself?

Cooking a romantic meal is not actually as hard as it sounds. The trick is investing time and money to be sure you get the best ingredients. The next step is picking through recipes until you find ones that are within your means.

I recommend aiming high. Preparing ambitious and exotic recipes is incredibly rewarding and will give you and your lover a fresh appreciation for the artistry of fine food and cooking.

Here are 10 steps for planning your perfect Valentine’s Day dinner:

  1. Plan in advance. The reason cooking at home is more romantic than going out is that you take the time and effort to do something thoughtful for your sweetheart. Do not skimp on the planning stage, that’s equivalent to buying a gift from Walmart. You will need the time for research and ingredient acquisition.
  2. Pick your ideal meal. At the beginning do not exclude recipes because you think you cannot cook them. You may be surprised by how easy it is to make a perfect filet mignon on an electric stove.
  3. Compile recipes. The internet is overflowing with fantastic gourmet recipes. Spend an hour or two searching for your favorite dishes and find the ones that sound the most delicious and seem within your means. At this stage you can start excluding recipes/dishes that are outside your technical prowess, but beware there is an easier way to do almost everything. You should also start noting the similarities between recipes for the same dish. This will help you when it comes time to put the meal together.
  4. Don’t forget dessert. Baking is more of an exact science than normal cooking. If this is out of your league (it is definitely out of mine), it may be a good idea to order something exquisite from your favorite bakery.
  5. Make the final cut. Choose dishes not only because you like them, but because the flavors go well together and you think you can get them all on a plate at about the same time. Consider presentation and appearance as well. Things that can be made a few hours or even days ahead are particularly nice. I usually end up mashing a few different recipes together to create the dish I want.
  6. Invite your date. Now that you have your menu it is time to invite your sweetie to your Valentine’s Day dinner. Tell him/her you have an amazing meal planned especially for them. Awwww, so sweet!
  7. Research your ingredients. Start early to make sure you can get the best of everything you want. If you don’t know what the best is, find out! If you want to have a special cut of meat or a certain spice or vegetable, spend some time on the internet to discover where and when you can get them in your city. Farmers markets are the best place to get most foods, but are usually only held 1-2 days per week. Luckily for you, this year Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday. Do your planning now and go to the market early so you do not miss out.
  8. Prepare your kitchen. Check your kitchen to make sure you have everything you need for your perfect meal. If your recipe requires special equipment, go buy it right away. If you cannot find it, do some research on acceptable alternatives or see if you can borrow what you need from a friend.
  9. Arrange your props. Candles, music, champagne flutes and mushy cards add to the ambiance of your special evening. Do not forget to pay attention to these details.
  10. Make your meal and have a wonderful time. If you start with good ingredients, it is hard to mess up too bad, but do not let it ruin your evening if things don’t turn out as perfectly as you envisioned. Remember, you are doing something incredibly special for the one you love and that will earn you major bonus points. It is a scientific fact that a meal cooked from the heart tastes better than anything handed to you on a silver platter.

What are your favorite special occasion recipes?

UPDATE: This article is also available at Synapse.

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