Farmers Market Find: Spring Flowers and Radishes

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Tatsoi flowers or baby bok choy flowers- Heirloom Organics They taste incredible lightly sauteed in olive oil and served with a poached egg on top. They also taste great sauteed with ginger, garlic, and a bit of soy sauce. These little flowers just might be the best find of the season!

Female Date Palm/Flowers

Tulips

Spring is also radish season. I didn’t know there was more than one type of radish until I stopped shopping at the grocery store. The black variety is a bit spicier. -Heirloom Organics

I also had the pleasure of eating a variety of radishes, including black radishes, prepared in Soul Cocina’s famous arancini dish last Tuesday. Roger is serving up his dishes every Tuesday at the weekly pop-up at the Corner. I really wish I had my camera for that meal; this picture was taken with my iPhone.

Aren’t these really cute? They are Lions Mane mushrooms. I have no idea how they taste, but will try it out this week.-Far West Fungi

Citron Etrog– Hamadas Farm. This lemon is super huge.

I honestly did not buy a whole lot for this week. My mom made us a whole lot of Indian food (Chana Daal, Idlies, Sambar, Parathas) to last us for the entire week.

Chana Daal Muthyia is a specialty dish from Gujarat. Otherwise known as veggie balls.

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Farmer’s Market Find: Strawberries and Asparagus!

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We got the first crop of strawberries and asparagus already! Subtle signs that Spring isn’t too far away.  I am not entirely sure, but I think the two strawberry vendors at today’s market were from Southern California, where the weather is much warmer than here. Strawberries are just lovely, but they have a really thin, delicate outer and absorbs the pesticides and is listed number 1 in EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. The Dirty Dozen lists fruit and vegetables exposed to the most pesticides. I will have a lot more on the strawberry issue soon enough- California did silently pass the use of methyl iodide, scientifically proven to be very dangerous.

The take home message here is that buy organic strawberries and ask the farmer questions about their farming technique. I remember seeing one of the strawberry farmer’s last summer and spring at this market but I never talked to them. I wanted to ask them a lot more questions, because I am conflicted on  eating non-organic strawberries, but I got shy! It happens. Though, I did taste the pesticide-free strawberries and it was so good.

Smoked Salmon from Montery Bay’s Blue Ocean Smoke House

I splurged a little and got smoked salmon today ($10/6 ounces). We started eating smoked salmon much more after hiking the Kalalau trail in Kauai.  We packed smoked salmon, hard goat cheese, nuts, and grass-feed roast beef deli meat to sustain us on the two-day, 12 mile hike. Now we eat it for breakfast, a quick snack, or topped on a bed of different vegetables. Of course, we only eat wild Alaskan salmon from sustainable resources. If you are not sure about which fish are safe or sustainable check out the Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch.

Celery Root- Swank Farms

We recently had celery root dessert at Ubuntu- I had no idea it looks like this in its original form.

Cheddar Cauliflower- Swank Hill Farms

No, they don’t taste like cheddar cheese! They are higher in vitamin A (the color) and taste like white cauliflower.

Tat Soi flowers- Happy Boy Farms

The tatsoi flowers are related to broccoli family and have a really nice taste to them. They are not as delicate as they look and taste wonderful sauteed with garlic, ginger, and little soy sauce.

I was at the Ferry Building for breakfast with a friend on Tuesday morning and the Tuesday market was going on. I bought a few oranges, asparagus, and ranunculus. There were tulips too, but I just adore ranunculus. The farmer gave me an awesome tip of just putting a spoonful of sugar in the water to help them bloom. They are still blooming!

Other purchases:

Spinach (Serendipity), Meyer lemons (Hamadas), Cara Cara oranges (Ken’s Top Notch Produce), Leeks (Happy Boy Farms), Button mushrooms (Far West Fungi), and Roma tomatoes (Swank Farms). I spent a total of $32 this week at the farmers market.

 

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Guide to the Farmer’s Market

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I was so bummed yesterday because I couldn’t make it to the Farmer’s Market (FM). I woke up late, decided to drive instead of walk, spent 20 minutes looking for parking (it only takes 8 minutes by foot), and then I had to give up since I had to be somewhere else. I really had my heart set on getting more Pink Cara Cara Naval Oranges and fresh, buttery croissants from Paris Bakery for a late Sunday brunch.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the simple rules one needs to follow to have the ultimate farmer’s market experience and how I have come a long way from the first time I seriously started shopping at the FM. Most people complain that they never have time to go to the Farmer’s Market. Others feel like an outsider trying to get into the FM circle, needing to learn the lingo and mannerisms. I certainly felt that way. Or, the idea that it costs much more to shop at the FM. To ease your anxiety about the FM, follow these tips and you will be a savvy FM shopper in no time!

1. Put it in your calendar. Now it’s there and you can plan around your FM hours. Make it a point to schedule time in your busy life to buy yourself fresh groceries. The only reason you wouldn’t have time to go is if you didn’t plan for it in the first place. The FM is at the same day, same location, same time, every week (unless otherwise noted). The only difference is that it’s not there 24 hours, 7 days out of the week. Sometimes, my husband and I make a date out of going to the market. Sometimes, I run to the market, quickly buy all the things I need, and zip out of there. Going to the Farmer’s Market does not need to be a day long event, as most people think.

2. BYOB, bring your own bags. Not only is it cool to carry your own bags, most marketplaces have banned plastic bags. Plastic bags do not ever degrade, are toxic, and kill wildlife. Having your bags will also ease your comfort of carrying your beautiful farmer’s market finds without crushing or damaging them on your way home.

3. Go early. Heard the saying, early birds get the worms? It’s true, you will get the best selection if you arrive early. Often times, the best, rare things are gone within the first hour of the market opening. Though, if you get there late, vendors sometimes throw in a little extra of this or that, or just give away produce as they are closing up. It’s not guaranteed, but it does happen.

Photo credit: nicksflickpicks.com

4. Carry cash. Most vendors only take cash. I usually only spend $25-40 for a full week’s worth of groceries. Carry more cash in the beginning, just to be on the safer side. Many Farmer’s Markets even accept food stamps.

5. Get to know the vendors. Farmer’s like talking about what they are selling and can offer loads of information. Unsure of what a romanesco broccoli is or how to cook purple cabbage? Ask the farmer and s/he can give you the easiest cooking methods, storing tips, and maybe even wine-pairings!  Don’t be shy. You shouldn’t feel intimidated that you don’t know what a certain fruit or vegetable is. I ask all the time and it just gets the conversation rolling. The FM really is a friendly, helpful atmosphere.  Otherwise, you can just look up recipes and tips online. Also, ask what all the labels mean. Most FM offer organic and nonorganic produce, so ask what the labels mean. A better question to ask is if they use pesticides or spray.

6. Shop around. If you are overwhelmed with all of the choices and vendors, just take a few minutes to walk around, get a feel for it, and observe. Then make your purchases. You will quickly learn which vendors have the best stuff, offers the best price, and other differentiating points.

7. Don’t go on an empty stomach. Usually, the FM is full of tempting treats like baked goods, crepes, and dumplings. Although, there is nothing really wrong with satiating your hunger with these goods, you will find that most of your money/time will be spent at prepared food stands and fruit instead of on the fresh vegetables. This is a general rule for when you are grocery shopping.

8. Be open-minded. You will find all sorts of vegetables, fruits, and other food that you might have never seen at your grocery store. That is because most small farms do not operate on monoculture agriculture. Also, don’t expect to find watermelon at the FM, even though your Safeway is selling it during the winter. The farmers can only sell what they grow (not imported), therefore their crop depends on the seasons–>weather.

9. Check-in (optional). Have your phone on you so you can check-in and let your friends and family know how super cool you are by shopping at the FM. (optional)

10. Carry a camera (optional). Vegetables make great photographic subjects and who doesn’t like looking at pretty food.

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A Whole Garden Soup For Your Soul

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After having dinner at Ubuntu, I have been thinking a lot about how much food we waste. Take a carrot for instance: we peel, scrub, and remove the tops. That is getting rid of half of a whole carrot. It just ends up in my compost bin. Well, for the first time, I decided to actually taste the carrot top. It tasted almost like parsley with a carrot aroma. Also, I always buy organic or pesticide-free carrots directly from a trusted farmer at the Farmer’s Market, so I can get away with just scrubbing and washing the carrot. Though, I do not know exactly what to do with carrot-tops, I am definitely open to experimenting and new recipes. Also, I stumbled upon this website that has a ton of information about carrots.

I also have been more inclined to test out iPhone recipe apps. I have all of the well-known, free ones downloaded, but never really cared to use them. I like opening up a cookbook, looking at the pictures, making marks and notes, and placing it right next to my chopping board (without fear of liquid spilling all over it). Anyway, Jamie Oliver’s app is very attractive and I decided to make the minestrone soup in the free sampler pack. I loved how easily you can create a shopping list (which I am known to leave at home if written on a notepad) right on your phone. It’s a really well-done app; one of the best I have seen. My only complaint is that it’s not easy to use the recipe on the phone while cooking. I am a bit clumsy so phone + liquids + messy hands = disaster. I actually gathered all of the ingredients, listed in the app minus the pancetta, pasta and, added a few of my own ingredients to what ended up being the best soup I have ever made. The quantity ended up being larger than I anticipated and we had soup for 8 servings! I love one-pot meals that last for several meals and the timing could not have been more perfect. We have been experiencing extremely cold weather and it was even supposed to snow in San Francisco!

Whole Garden Vegetable Soup
This soup is really simple to make and the garbanzo beans and potato makes it hearty enough to be a meal in itself. The baking soda helps to soften the garbanzo beans faster so you don’t need a pressure cooker. Serve with a slice of whole grain toast or a side salad if you would like. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer an airtight container, but remove any remaining kale first.

Ingredients
Serves 4-6
2 cups water, room temperature, divided
pinch of baking soda
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion
2-4 carrots with tops
2 branches of celery
2 garlic cloves
1/2 inch ginger
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 small potato, diced
10 ounces canned tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1/2 cup kale, torn and tough parts removed
sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Extra virgin Olive oil for drizzling

Method

1. Rinse the soaked garbanzo beans and add them to 1 cup boiling water with a pinch of baking soda. Let boil while you work on the soup.

Leaves of the carrot-top

2. Chop the garlic, ginger, onion, celery, carrots and potato. Thinly slice the stalks of the carrot tops and reserve the leaves. Heat the oil in a large soup pot on medium heat, then add the chopped garlic, ginger, onion, celery, carrots, potato, and bay leaves. Lower temperature to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables soften and start to caramelize. Stir occasionally.


3. Drain the garbanzo beans and add them to the soup pot. Next add the canned tomatoes, broth, remaining 1 cup of water, and cumin. Stir the ingredients together, turn the temperature up to medium-high and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning with more cumin, sea salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.


4. Meanwhile, wash the kale in cold running water. Roughly chop it¸ removing the tough stems. Add it to the soup pot, cover with a lid, and cook for about 5 minutes, until kale is tender.

5. Ladle soup into bowls, drizzle extra virgin olive oil, garnish with carrot-top leaves, and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

What is your favorite soup recipe?

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Farmer’s Market Find: Snow or Spring?

Last week, San Franciscans were in a frenzy about the weather forecast. Supposedly, it has not snowed in SF in 35 years and it was supposed to snow this weekend! I, like many others, was very skeptical about this prediction. We did have a bad rainstorm, but the last few days have been really sunny. And hardly a cloud in the sky. It did snow for like a second on Twin Peaks. Anyway, you would never know it by looking at all of the things available at the market. I returned to the Fort Mason FM after a three week hiatus and was so delighted to see all of the changes in the produce.

Cara Cara Pink Naval Orange- Kens Top Notch Produce

The citrus season is going strong. I bought a bag full of Cara Cara Pink Naval Oranges and Blood Oranges from Hamadas Farm. The Cara Caras are my new favorite citrus, next to the blood oranges of course!

Leeks- Happy Boy Farms

Leeks were one my  best Farmer’s Markets finds last year. I like sauteing them will a little olive oil and add them in eggs, soups, rice dishes– in everything basically.

Mixed salad greens- Happy Boy Farms

A healthy looking mix of salad greens caught my eye and I couldn’t resist. At that moment, I could taste the crispness and freshness of the leaves. I am definitely going to add in the arugula, watermelon radish, and blood oranges with a drizzle of olive oil for a satisfying snack.

Watermelon radish- Happy Boy Farms

Don't these Romanesco Cauliflowers remind you of dinasours? -Rio de Parros Organics

Arugula with its Blossoms- Serendipity Farms

Tomatoes! Not the the greatest looking, but I could use these in a warming curry dish. - Swank Hill Farms

Truthfully, we were kind of getting tired of chard and kale. I am so glad to have stocked my fridge with Meyer lemons, turnips, mixed greens, arugula, leeks, and watermelon radish instead. I left my wallet at home and only had $27 with me, yet I came home with $6!

Meal Plan for the week*:
Monday: Vegetable pizza (Romanesco Cauliflower, Arugula, Ricotta), Lentil Stew
Tuesday: Butternut Squash + Turnip soup, mixed citrus and greens salad
Wednesday: Roasted leeks and soft-boiled eggs**, roasted watermelon radish+ mixed green salad, leftover lentil stew
Thursday: Baked romanesco, Crab cakes and blood orange salad***, Leftover squash soup
Friday: Leftovers or out with friends
Saturday: PancakesWarm Chickpea Salad with Arugula

*Most of the meals laid out here are recipes I have not published on the website yet. If you are interested, just leave a comment and I will share!
**From the cookbook, “Cooking With Italian Grandmothers” by Jessica Theroux
***From the cookbook, “Organic Marin: Recipes from Land to Table,” by Tim Porter and Farina Wong Kingsley

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Farmer’s Market Find: In Kauai

Last week I was in Kauai, one of the prettiest islands with the richest soil. Even though people told me not to expect much from the food, I couldn’t help but think about all of the tropical delicacies. I am obsessed with mangoes and papayas. Sadly, they are rather fragrant-less and tasteless by the time they get onto my local grocery store shelf. Alas, it’s still winter in Kauai, so mango season has yet to begin. Anyway, I didn’t do any research about farmer’s markets before going and just wanted to be on vacation. Though, I just couldn’t help myself…the first place we stopped at after landing was in a town called Kilauea. We heard a quite a lot about the Fish Market and we were starving, having resisted airport/airplane food. After our delicious meal, we decided to take a stroll around the town. Then I spotted it- a cotton bag full of fresh leafy greens and brightly colored food. My radar was on (it’s always on) and a few feet a head of us was a sign about a farmer’s market every Thursday at 4:30PM. We looked at our watch and it was close to 6PM. I briskly walked towards the gym parking lot full of trucks and produce. I started casually observing the food and snapping pictures. I noticed that most of the vendors had already sold their goods and were packing up. A little bewildered since it was only less than two hours into the the farmer’s market, I asked a friendly farmer (Josh). He told me that when he started that day he had a high stack of everything and that we need to get to the market early to get the best stuff. People line up. I was in disbelief and thought about how our farmer’s markets go on for 4-5 hours long, and sometimes, the farmers have to pack up what they unpacked.

A buyer just left money after taking a bunch of carrots for himself. There is so much trust between the consumer and farmer.

This funky looking fruit, breadnut, is hardly eaten by the people.

Brown avocados and leftover citrus.

Waipa (Hanalei) Market

After a lazy lunch of deli, vegetarian sandwiches on the beach, we started driving back to our hotel. Then I spotted a sign and started tapping on the window out of excitement, asking Satish to stop. There was a farmer’s market about to start! So we were directed by a coordinator into an organized parking lot and I just saw hordes of people walking towards an imaginary rope. This rope kept them from the farmers. It was about 20 minutes before the market officially started and there had to have been at least 100 people waiting. There was even a tented waiting area (it was really hot and sunny). I was so blown away. It was just amazing. Before the market opened, the market manager gave a small speech on the market’s purpose. As soon as the market opened, people rushed to their favorite vendors making quick transactions and moving onto the next. I had the pleasure of just enjoying the market. I didn’t bother to talk to any of the farmers; they were too busy. Though the frenzy died down after 20 minutes and half of the shoppers left. I did see Josh and chatted with him for a couple of minutes. He had an amazing selection of fresh peanuts and jeweled-colored carrots.

Every Tuesday at 2PM

Look at this gorgeous color of the organic Oyster Mushrooms! -Kauai Fungi

I love fresh pineapples, but cannot stand canned or imported pineapple. The taste really turns me off. -Alena Farms (Waipake)

The island grows and harvest it's own chocolate. Dark chocolate contains many flavonoids.

 

Satish actually found this mango being sold at the market. It weight about 3lbs and was absolutely juicy good. It made for a fabulous breakfast the next morning.

We walked out with  a slice of macadamia nut-coconut pie, large mango, tender coconut, and a chocolate bar. I am waiting to share the chocolate with my two, chocolate-loving girlfriends.

 

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Meatless Monday in Kauai

Before coming to Kauai, I was told that it’s hard for vegetarians to eat here. Though, I was very skeptical of those notions. Kauai is known as the Garden Island- lush and tropical with rich soil. So far, every place we have been to offers pretty solid options for vegetarians. We also found many restaurants the specialize in local produce and for vegetarians/vegans/gluten-free diets. Also, there is at least one farmers market each day throughout the island!

I will try to update my meals with pictures of what I eat today. Hopefully it will inspire you to seek out your farmers market or the fresh produce section at the grocery store.


Banana Joes Fruit Stand- breakfast of fresh fruit smoothies and macadamia nuts.

Farmer’s Market Find: Broccolini Love (recipe)

It seems like I have rediscovered my love for broccoli all over again and they are just gorgeous right now at the market. Today, I stumbled upon broccolini, a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli (kailan). I picked up one bunch, not entirely sure what I would do with it (recipe below). I really was trying not to buy a lot, since we are leaving town for a week. Then, I saw the pretty green bunches of broccoli that Swank Farms was selling and I couldn’t resist. I really have no idea how we will eat it all by Wednesday night and I don’t love it that much!

There was a new hot food vendor, Happy Dumplings, today. I was curious and got two vegetarian dumplings, which were filled with squash and rice. They were good.

Happy Dumpling

vegetarian dumplings

I also bought a good amount of blood oranges. I am not sure how much longer they will be around and I haven’t had my fill yet. They are really beautiful and taste a little tart. Also, Ferry Farms was selling blood orange juice! The sample was so good, that I bought a pint. A recipe for Valentine’s was brewing in my mind.

Blood Orange Juice

Sesame Oiled Broccolini
serves 4
Ingredients
1 bunch broccolini, washed and fairly dried
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Method
Heat oven to 350F degrees. Toss all of the ingredients together and lay out on a baking tray. Bake for 12 minutes, until the stems are tender and easy to pierce through. Serve warm.

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Farmer’s Market Find: Helping Hunger

I opted to skip the Farmer’s Market this week- gasp! My fridge is still full of vegetables from last week (I overbought) and decided to do something a little different this Sunday morning. I finally got a chance to volunteer with Boobs4Food, a passionate volunteer organization committed to fighting hunger in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The founders are four women (Boobs) who are striving to “unite the food-loving community with those for whom the next meal is an uncertainty” (Food). All of the volunteers met at Out The Door for brunch, before we headed to the Fort Mason Farmer’s Market to pick up and deliver food to Harbor House and Friendship House for Food Runners. Food Runners  picks up perishable and prepared food from businesses such as the farmers markets, restaurants, caterers, etc. and delivers it to shelters and organizations that feed the hungry. As a dedicated farmer’s market shopper, it was really great to see where to all of the unsold produce and food end up.

Over brunch, the ladies of Boobs4Food and I discovered that all of us grew up in the same town, went to the same elementary, junior high, and college!

Out The Door is the quicker, sister restaurant of the famous Slanted Door. I really like OTD, because they use fresh, local ingredients and the menu is really healthy. Their new brunch menu is amazing; it has favorites like beignets and Vietnamese coffee, eggs in a hole, a variety of Pho, and green papaya salad. The menu offers plenty options for vegetarian and gluten-free diets.  Restaurants like OTD inspire me to epxand my cooking horizons and explore different flavors in the kitchen.

Boobs4Food organizes volunteer events monthly. Join them on Twitter or Facebook to find out about upcoming events.

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The Farmers Market Find: The Good Food Awards

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There was an extra bounce in my step on Friday, because for the first time in months I felt the strong rays of the sun invigorating every cell of my being. The air even smelled like Spring was right around the corner and I couldn’t help but rejoice. I am not much of a Winter person and am really done with the below 50 degree temperatures.   It felt like spring and I couldn’t help but advise everyone to go out and enjoy it.  Waking up at 7AM on a Saturday morning is not as bad when the sun is out and the birds are chirping.  I made my way over to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market early to avoid the good weather crowd and freely sample and talk to the winners of the Good Food Awards. I can’t even express the thrill I got when I was face to face with real food crafters from around the country selling tasty and sustainable food. Each winner was sampling and selling their prize winning food, much to a foodie’s contentment.

 

It truly seemed like a Spring's morning.

Leeks are one of my staple vegetables that I always try to keep in my fridge. They are versatile and make almost any dish flavorful. -Capay Organic

Do you know anything about Chickweed? - Marin Root Farms

Since I am getting into eating more legumes and whole grains, I bought heirloom garbanzo beans and crimson popping corn from Rancho Gordo.

These baby beets were so cute and irresistable. -Marin Root Farms

I was introduced to Black Trumpet mushrooms last weekend at brunch at Gather in Berkeley.

I bought Calendula to brighten up our living room a bit more.

The Good Food Award Winners:

 

Noble Coffee's Kenyan Kiaora was really, really silky and smooth. It was perfect.

The preserves were too tempting to not buy any of the jars. Though, I should restraint.

Xocolatl de David's Salted Caramel stood out the most. They are from Portland, OR.

I bought brine for the first time. I would love recipes! Pictured: Joe Mclure

No surprise that Cow Girl's Creamery's Red Hawk won!

This has to be one of the best cheeses I've ever had! Cellars at Jasper Hill – Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Greensboro, VT.

Unique spotting:
-Pea tendrils and snow peas- Spring vegetables
-Watermelon radish- radish are generally Spring vegetables
-Chickweed- never seen or heard of these before!
-Wild watercress- I didn’t know this variety existed.
-Sugar cane- native to warmer, tropical climates. The ones I found are grown in a green house in Fresno. I bought one shoot to surprise Satish. Coincidentally, Saturday was a huge festival in Southern India, celebrating the sugar cane harvest.

I also bought a ton of vegetables, herbs, and fruit: broccoli, spinach, potatoes,  carrots, tomatoes, Natural raisins, Italian oregano, marjoram , Delicata squash, onions, garlic, Meyer lemons, and blood oranges. Let’s see what I cook up this week!

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