Farmers Market Finds: Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

I’ve been to the grocery store at least four times this past week. I know, it sounds ridiculous right? It wasn’t because I hadn’t planned properly or was cooking up a storm each night. I started a new job as the nutrition and culinary instructor for Mission High School’s summer school program. I am teaching a total of 150 students each week basic nutrition and cooking skills. It really is a great program to introduce these students to concepts delicious yet healthy foods. Last week, the students made kale and goat cheese frittatas and strawberry protein smoothies. I have to admit, I got a little ambitious introducing kale and goat cheese to the students at once on the first day of class. Most of them did not know what kale was and some of them were really grossed out by the fact that goat cheese comes from goats. Lesson learned.

20130609-155653.jpg
This week, I am going to teach them the importance of reading labels and choosing foods with as few ingredients as possible. Instead of using canned or bottled pasta sauce, they can make their own sauces and pestos from scratch using local, fresh ingredients. I bought cherry tomatoes and the ingredients to make basil pesto from the farmers market today. I will try to Instagram how everything turns out tomorrow during break or after class.

20130609-161311.jpgMy trunk full of tomatoes and ingredients for Monday’s meal.

Even though its been super windy and miserably gray in San Francisco, the farmers market is full of bright colors. I love to get a bag of mixed salad greens from Happy Boy Farms, because they always top the bag with edible flowers. Edible flowers also contain antioxidant properties.

20130609-161732.jpg

Farmers Market Finds: Stunning Apricots

I didn’t spend too much time at the market this week. These brilliant hued apricots caught my eye. They actually look like peaches.

20130603-062645.jpg

It was also nice to find several varieties of cucumbers. I picked up these lemon cucumbers. Maybe it’s the warmer weather, but I’ve had major cravings for crunchy food with high-water content. I’m looking forward to melon season.

20130603-062918.jpg

Anything caught your eye this week?

Farmers Market Finds: Mother’s Day

It was gorgeous day at the Farmers Market. Everyone seemed livelier, maybe because the sun was briefly out and it was Mother’s Day. There were more people than usual too. I was in bit of a hurry and could not chat much with familiar faces or stop to take beautiful photos. I needed to pick up a few ingredients and quickly prepare for our Mother’s Day picnic and hike. Though, I was delighted to find lots and lots of squash blossoms. We are going to eat amazing frittatas and snacks this week!

squash blossomsSquash blossoms are the flowers of zucchinis. They are delicate and are a special treat. The blossoms go quickly at the market and don’t last long in the heat or fridge. I usually use them up within a few days of buying. They can be eaten raw, slightly sautéed, or stuffed and fried. The blossoms come off as exotic, so it’s fun too serve them at a special meal. At restaurants, I loved eating them on pizzas, but it’s hard to find speciality gluten-free pizza. 

blueberriesI couldn’t resist taking a photo of these beauties.

A tradition only started last year, my brother and I choose a local state park to have a picnic and hike with our parents. We thought it would be a nice way to spend quality time with our parents and get them to hike, something they normally do not do on their own. We try to keep the hike moderate, so it’s enjoyable for everyone. Walking amongst the giant trees sparks interesting conversations. It’s also a nice alternative to worrying about reservations and dining out.

treesThis year, we went to Roberts Regional Park in Oakland. We live nearby so many state parks, but have not visited half of them. Mother’s Day is our new reason to explore the parks and trails around us.

picnic

After a small, homemade picnic, we went for a moderate hike. We had pea pesto marinated chicken, turkey stuffed bell peppers, poha (spiced flattened rice dish), lentil and chard pilaf, dolmas, spicy hummus, mangos, and cherries. A very ethnic and delicious picnic.

treesI am so thankful to live within half an hour of these beautiful redwoods. The air was amazing.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Farmers Market Finds: Blueberries, Cherries, and Nectarines!

I was totally blown away at the farmers market today. My most favorite fruit ever is in season! Blueberries. I love blueberries. They are just so beautiful, taste heavenly, and are a purple food. Blueberries rate among the highest in fruits and vegetables for antioxidants. Researchers have found that the compounds in blueberries reduce the effects of age-related conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s and age-related macular degeneration). Blueberries act in the same ways as cranberries to promote urinary tract health. They are also full of fiber, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and are low in calories.

blueberries

Blueberries are one of those foods that you should buy organic. The blueberries I bought today are not certified organic, but the farm is in  transition and it will take them sometime before they will become certified. I also bought the blueberries from Serendipity Farms, who is selling it on the behalf of another farm. Jamie, the farmer, has become my friend over the years. I trust her and visit her stand weekly.

When Jamie posted a picture on Facebook about their first crop of blueberries, my mouth started to salivate. I immediately wanted to make buttermilk blueberry pancakes (gluten-free, of course), compote, salads, and top them with my homemade granola. I just ended up eating the entire basket of blueberries with my husband and dad. Next week, I’ll find more interesting uses for them.

blueberries

Spring is really short at the farmers markets. Summer and winter produce last for months and months, but ramps, green garlic, asparagus, and English peas seem to only be around for two short months. Even though it’s foggy and cold in San Francisco, it has been really hot in the farm country just outside of the city. Which means, the early arrival of summer produce. This week there were stone fruits, zucchini, squash blossoms, and three varieties of basil!

cherriesCherries from Hamada Farm

The intermingling of spring and summer produce at the farmers market is going to make for some delicious meals. Checkout my Pinterest boards for recipe ideas.

Photo May 05, 11 56 47 AMSpring onions, sugar snap peas and zucchini from Happy Boy Farms.

Photo May 05, 11 54 31 AMNectarines from Ken’s Top Notch

squash blossoms

I absolutely love squash blossoms as well. They have a delicate, nutty flavor and taste great on salads, pizzas, and frittatas. However, I refused to buy these since they were unnecessarily packaged in plastic bags. Major environmental fail.

kale blossoms

Kale blossoms are also a short-season food. Cook them like you would broccolini. Happy Boy Farms.

What is your favorite super food?

Farmers Market Finds: An Orange Proposal

I decided to break away from my usual farmers market routine and visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. There are so many reasons why I love this farmers market. It is hailed as one of the best farmers markets in the country and the diversity of farm fresh food is astounding. I believe in the summer, you will be able to find over 75 varieties of tomatoes! For all the reasons listed below, it can get very crowded and even hard to move when the weather is nice. Therefore, it is wise to go on the earlier side if you want to get the best selection.

ferry buildingThe location is magnificent. There is an intermingling of locals, tourists, chefs, and celebrities. The farmers are all verified and have sustainable farming practices. CUESA’s website has detailed information about the farmers,  seasonality charts, and recipes. They also send out a free weekly eletter highlighting the current seasonal food, upcoming events, recipes, and spotlights on volunteers and farmers.

rampsThe ever so rare and coveted ramps. 

The farmers who sell at this market go through an application process and only those who meet CUESA’s guidelines on sustainable agriculture are accepted when there are openings. I definitely feel more comfortable and safer when I buy from these farmers.

Photo Apr 20, 12 07 55 PMCrowd sourced marriage proposals.

Sawn, the gentleman pictured, enlisted his farmer friends to recruit shoppers to help him out on the proposal. The crowd recited a question to the unsuspecting girlfriend in unison and Sawn got down on one knee to propose. The girlfriend was in disbelief, but did say yes! Oh, yeah, the ring was inside of the Cara Cara orange!

horseradish root

The diversity of food is incredible. Chefs and serious cooks come here early in the morning to pick up things like horseradish root (pictured), green strawberries, and ramps for their restaurants.

schoolyard to market

I know, many locals complain that this farmers market is too expensive. I agree, most things cost a bit more at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. One of the reasons for the higher cost is that farmers pay a higher stall fee to set up and sell at this market. This fee is not for profit, but goes back into all of the amazing and positive things CUESA does for the food system. Each week, CUESA puts on educational demos, classes, and exhibits for people to learn about food and agriculture. CUESA is a nonprofit organization and largely run by volunteers.

fiddlehead fernsFiddlehead Fern- Far West Fungi

The awesomeness of SF is that we have roughly 22 farmers market each week! We are lucky to be choosy about where we get our local, seasonal food.

Farmers Market Finds: Thorny Artichokes

My Instagram feed has been flooded with pictures of cherries, rhubarb, purple artichokes, and naturally pigmented cauliflower from other farmers market goers, which got me curious about what I would find. It was another, unusually sunny Sunday morning and I knew the good weather crowd would be at the farmers market too. Satish joined me today, which is something I always welcome since he can help me carry my bags back home!

Photo Apr 14, 12 04 37 PM

The cauliflower had a pinkish-purple pigment, which is naturally occurring from an antioxidant in the purple vegetables and fruits. 

Photo Apr 14, 11 58 02 AM

I did find these gorgeous artichokes, which were not at the market last week. The purple ones had really sharp thorns, which I pricked my thumb on! 

I was especially eager to go to the farmers market after being inspired by what the students at Mission High school (where I volunteer) made in class. The high school has a nutrition and leadership program, where the students learn healthy cooking and eating skills, teach their peers, celebrate cultural recipes, and tend to their school garden. The students harvest fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers to use in the cooking portion of the class. Every week, they make something impressive and extraordinary. I certainly did not learn about kale or romanesco in my Home Ec class nor did I grow up eating these foods. Last week, the students made strawberry short cake using whole wheat flour, homemade whip cream, and just picked strawberries. They also made a stunningly beautiful Three Pea Radish Salad, which I couldn’t resist Instagramming. Actually, I was not the only one, the teacher and other students also whipped out their cell phones to take pictures of the beautiful food.

Pea Salad

After this class, all I wanted to do was rush to a farmers market to pick up these ingredients and make this for dinner.

Mission High School school food
The students made farro with asparagus, arugula, crispy pancetta and herbs along with the pea salad and strawberry short cake.

What did you find at your farmers market?

Farmers Market Finds: A Few Basics

I am participating in San Francisco’s very first food hackathon this entire weekend. Thus, no trip to the farmers market for me. I will have to stock up my fridge with fresh produce tomorrow. I will leave you with a few snaps of veggies and fruits I always keep stocked. Happy Sunday!

20130407-101642.jpg
Tatsoi- is a cross between broccoli and spinach. Tastes amazing steamed and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

20130407-101901.jpg
I always keep mixed cooking greens on hand. They are versatile and make great main and side dishes.

20130407-102300.jpg
Kale- need I say more!

20130407-102450.jpg
Lemons brighten up any dish and are handy to keep around. I also drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon every morning to get my system going.

Which vegetables do you normally keep around?

 

Farmers Market Finds: Strawberries!

It was a slow, quiet morning at the farmers market today. Partially because of the intermittent rain and the Easter holiday. Even though, I literally only had 30 minutes to get to, shop, and return from the farmers market, I decided it was worth the hustle. The alternative would have been to make time to shop at the grocery store for the week. I resist going to the grocery store, because the quality and prices of the produce just are not as good as what I get at the farmers market. Let’s just say I have been spoiled by shopping consistently at the farmers market for over 3 years now. Plus, I like to see all my farmer friends weekly.

It’s definitely full-blown spring now. Strawberries, artichokes, English peas, asparagus, avocados, fava greens, spring onions, green garlic, fresh herbs, and ramps are just some of the vegetables and fruits you will find at the stalls and stands. I’ve already pinned many recipes to include these vegetables in our diet. Photo Mar 31, 11 12 12 AM

Organic strawberries are just coming into season. Serendipity Farms

Strawberries are one of the fruits I refuse to buy non-organic. The 54 or so pesticides sprayed on strawberries are outrageous and dangerous for your health, the health of the farm workers, and the health of the environment. Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience Inc, the company producing the fumigant pesticide methyl iodide, decided to pull out distribution in the United States after a year-long battle with farm workers, consumers, scientists, and environmentalist. However, Arysta still continues to market methyl iodide in other countries for strawberries and other crops. This means methyl iodide can still end up in the United States, which is another reason to eat local fruits and vegetables.

I liked eating strawberries as a kid, but most of the time ate them because my parents made us. I am pretty sure I was not eating local, seasonal, or organic strawberries most of the time. Some of the times the strawberries were super sweet and delicious, but other times the strawberries left a bad taste in my mouth. I remember telling my dad one day to stop buying strawberries and he was really surprised. Maybe, he thought all kids like the cute fruit and should eat them. Aside from the bad taste in my mouth, I started experiencing a tingling sensation on my lips, inside of my cheeks and tongue. It was not until I discovered farm fresh, seasonal, organic strawberries that I fully enjoyed them again. I have not experienced the tingling sensation again. I really do think it has to do with all the pesticides that are sprayed on conventional strawberries.

Photo Mar 17, 12 42 19 PM

There are many varieties of avocados other than Haas, something I only learned by shopping at the farmers market. The produce at the grocery store can get monotonous. Avocados really come into season during spring through autumn. They are not natural in the winter as they need warm climates to grow, something to keep in mind when you eat those guac and chips at Super Bowl parties.

Photo Mar 31, 11 14 18 AM

Beautiful, colorful radishes at Happy Boy Farms.

Photo Mar 31, 11 33 05 AMThe market basket, my Instagram post of the day.

What do you plan to cook this week?

 

Farmers Market Finds: The Color Green

20130324-181228.jpg
This is going to be an exciting week for me. I am starting the Nutrition Consultant program in Berkeley and we are having a good friend, Andreas, stay with us for a few days. Each time Andreas visits from Italy, he brings us amazing olive oil and coffee. This time he brought me gluten-free pastas to try out. Apparently, there is a high prevalence of celiac disease in Italy and the quality and selection of GF products are better than here. I made a pesto from pea tendrils (pictured below) and had it with the pasta (pictured above). It was delicious!

20130324-172726.jpg

Before I headed out to the farmers market this morning, I took a look at my Pinterest recipe boards to figure out what we will eat this week. I collect recipes from all over the web, which inspire and teach me to cook delicious foods. It also helps organize my cooking thoughts and plan my trip to the market. This week, I am going to focus on one-pot meals and salads.

20130324-180157.jpg

Since I got to the FM a bit late again, I was very surprised to find pasture-raised eggs. They are always gone an hour or so within the market opening. Though, I was not as fortunate with the asparagus. I was definitely attracted to the greens today. I bought Dino kale, rainbow chard, baby spinach, cilantro, and the very last stalk of asparagus. Currently, my Spring Cooking board on Pinterest looks very green too. I think I counted five types of kale today. Dino/Lacinato, purple/Redbor, Curly, Red Russian, and Premier kale.

20130324-180424.jpg

Of course, to brighten things up, I got one bunch of yellow ranunculus.


20130324-172753.jpg

Blood oranges are no longer available, but I think there are still a few weeks left for the other citrus fruit. This winter, I became obsessed with blood oranges and came up with a variety of ways to use them. I made margaritas, salads, brownies, and recently my first original gluten-free cake (pictured below) using blood oranges.

20130324-175958.jpg

What are planning to cook this week? What’s available at your farmers market?

Farmers Market Finds: Cusp of Spring

Today was the perfect Spring day. Bright and sunny, without the iconic San Francisco fog. The farmers market was bursting with activity and I feared I was too late for the first crop of the asparagus. Things like asparagus, pasture-raised eggs, and squash blossoms always go super fast at the markets.

20130317-202119.jpg

There comes a certain time each quarter of the year when I begin to anticipate the arrival of new crops as I become bored with the current selection. Subtle signs like hearing more birds chirp outside the window and cherry trees blossoming throughout the city, get me thinking about all of the recipes I can revisit. As I walked through the market, I was mesmerized by the subtle changes taking place at each stand.

20130317-202622.jpg

The cusp of a seasonal change is the best time at the farmers market. Vegetables such as rainbow chard and broccolini are still available as the pea shoots and asparagus become abundant. This kind of availability can really kick up the creativity in the kitchen and lend to more variety in your meals.

20130317-203039.jpg

Nevertheless, I was able to get a few of the remaning stalks and texted my friends to come over for brunch. I made grilled asparagus topped with sautéed onions and fried eggs. We also had a salad made out of roasted watermelon radish, arugula, walnuts, and feta cheese. My husband did the honors of pouring freshly squeezed Cara Cara orange juice.

Photo Mar 15, 3 40 20 PM
Real eggs are supposed to be this rich in hue. Pale, neon yellow eggs are the biggest signs of low-quality, factory-farmed eggs. Eat vibrantly!

What are you anticipating for the Spring season?