Farmer’s Market Find: Ranunculus, Purple Tulips, and Asparagus

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If there is anything more than desserts that I love photographing, it’s flowers. And flowers are everywhere. I really wasn’t expecting to find a flower stall at the FM today, but there it was, all bright and pretty. It was the most crowded booth also. “Mommy, I want the purple ones.” “Oh, these will be great for dinner tonight.” “I am going to buy myself flowers.” Everyone was buzzing around the flowers like bees. I actually had to step away and come back when it was a little less crowded and I could snap a few pictures without getting in someone’s way. Then I bought myself a bunch of pretty yellow ranunculus with hints of purple in it.

These flowers are organic and local, which is especially important for all of the same reasons organic, local produce is. Non-organic flowers are laden with harmful pesticides, which you do not want to bring into your environment. Also, pesticides from floral agriculture has as much negative impact on the land and farm workers as non-organic produce does.

My 11th grade English teacher asked us to look for the “color purple” in nature after reading the book “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. At that time, all of us concluded that the color purple is a rare find. Ever since that assignment, I have always kept an eye out for the color purple. In the last year, I’ve changed my mind about it being rare. Purple flowers, radishes, carrots, lettuce, fruit, asparagus, artichokes it’s all over the market!

I didn’t notice a whole lot of change or new additions at the market this week. I did get two bunches of asparagus from the Fort Mason Farmer’s Market for winning an asparagus recipe contest on their Facebook page. Asparagus are one of my favorite vegetables. I didn’t grow up eating them, because they are not part of the normal Indian diet. Also, due to asparagus’ high Vata quality, it wasn’t suitable to my parent’s Doshas. Anyway, I love eating asparagus with eggs, in salads, with quinoa, and in almost anyway possible. The simplest way is of course by just grilling them, sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper, with a drizzle of really good extra-virgin olive oil.

I bought Pink Cara Cara Oranges (Hamadas Farms), Broccoli (Swank Farms), Cauliflower and Fingerling Potatoes (Rio de Parros Organics), and 1 bunch organic ranunculus (Thomas Farms) Total= $16

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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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Love Drunk Cake

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I saw this cake recipe on Food52.com a few weeks ago and just had to make it. There was something really curious and intriguing about it. How would wine taste baked? Anyway, I finally found the time to make it this weekend, after a really silly, long fight with Satish. So it was an apology cake. I followed the recipe exactly, using a $2 chardonnay from Whole Foods and 100% Spanish olive oil from the Whole Foods brand.

 

It was my first time baking a cake from scratch. (Even though I love sweets, I don’t make desserts. I rather just enjoy them when dining out on occasion.) It was definitely lopsided and I couldn’t frost it like Martha Stewart. Though, it looked charming in my opinion.

I wasn’t really happy with the results, and since I am not an experienced baker, I can’t say what really went wrong. The wine was too overpowering. If I do make this again, I would use a better white wine and maybe less of it. I would also read the comments below the recipe and learn from the tips offered there.

Even though, it wasn’t a professional tasting cake, we still enjoyed it and made up.

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Brunch for Lovers or Just You: Blood Orange Pancakes

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People either love or hate Valentine’s Day, with very few people oblivious to February 14th’s significance. I had a roller coaster of emotions when it came to V-Day. I loved it for what it stood for- hopeless, romantic, I will do anything for you, fairy-tail kind of love. Of course, V-Day never was that easy as a single girl. I’ve been through my fair share of relationships, but my husband was my first real Valentine. For the first 25 years of my existence, I never seemed to be in a relationship circa Feb 14th. Strange. I am a sucker for the commercialization of the whole thing, and I think a girl should be showered with pretty flowers, chocolates, and gifts. Equally, a man should receive the same thought and affection. I am all for fancy romantic dinners, but the prix-fix menus and price mark-ups annoy me. It also does not feel as special when you know you are in a dining room with 50 other couples who are there just because it’s Valentines Day. So it’s nice to cook a romantic, thoughtful meal at home. It’s also just as nice to cook a special meal for yourself!

Valentine’s Day or Single Awareness Day just so happens to fall on a weekday this year, so a pre-brunch is in order. Nothing is more luxe and seductive as blood oranges. Sure, strawberries are the fruit of love and seduction, but that’s only because no one has looked at blood oranges. Their season is fleeting between the months of January and February. Sometimes, they appear as early as December and last until March. They are mysterious, seductive, and one bite makes you want more. In my opinion, strawberries are played out (and not in season)!

Blood Orange Pancakes
serves 2
Ingredients
1 cup Almond meal
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
zest of one medium blood orange
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp melted, unsalted butter or 1 tbsp blood orange olive oil
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk
butter for coating
blood orange compote

1. Combine buckwheat flour, almond meal, baking soda, and salt together in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix well.  In another bowl, whisk together zest, ginger, melted butter, egg, and milk until well combined.

Zest of one blood orange

2.  Add dry ingredients slowly into the wet ingredients. Stir the batter gently as you add in the dry ingredient. The batter should be lumpy and slightly thick. Add a teaspoon of whole milk at a time if batter is too thick.

The batter should be lumpy.

3. Heat a  griddle or heavy bottomed pan to medium-hot, and place 1 tablespoon of butter into it. Let the butter melt before spooning the batter into the pan.

3. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot pan. Cook until bubbles break on surface, turn and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until browned. Remove from the pan and smear a tiny bit of butter on top. Keep warm by placing the cooked pancakes in the oven, covered loosely with foil.

4. Serve warm with blood orange compote and blood orange juice.

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Blood Orange Compote

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It’s time blood oranges are brought into the culinary spotlight. They are full of vitamins, minerals, folic acids, and antioxidants. Not to mention fiber. They taste like a cross between a very sweet Valencia orange and a grapefruit. The interior is a beautiful, jeweled crimson hue. The anthocyanins in the blood oranges gives them the red color, which are flavonoids. Their season is short, making them all the more desirable. Also, they can used in savory and sweet dishes. Blood oranges have long been used in beauty products and elixirs as well. Also, they happen to be in season during Valentine’s Day. Their color speaks love and romance.

Blood Orange Compote
I use this compote to smear on toast, pancakes and french toast. Bakers can even use this compote as filling for cupcakes and cakes. It’s sweet and slightly tangy.

Try to pick blood oranges with a reddish exterior as well.

Ingredients
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar or muscovado sugar
4 blood oranges, peeled and cut into sections, membranes discarded
1/2 cup currants or black raisins
1/2 cup blood orange juice

Method
In a saucepan bring water, maple syrup and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add in the blood orange juice and blood oranges. Stir well and reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on it to make sure the liquids don’t completely evaporate. Taste the mixture and add in a bit more sugar if it’s not sweet enough. Stir in the currants and cover for 10-15 minutes, until you have a thick, sweet consistency. Transfer to a glass container and refrigerate overnight. Or you can serve it right away.

Stir compote before serving.



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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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Broccoli with Toasted Sesame Seeds

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Broccoli is not traditional in Indian cooking, but I used to love eating broccoli. Every Monday, I cooked my own meal of sauteed vegetables and broccoli was definitely part of the medley of vegetables. A few years ago, I stopped eating broccoli because it simply just didn’t agree with my body constitution. Satish, on the other hand, has almost the exact opposite of my body constitution and can digest most foods easily. His favorite snack is tortilla chips with salsa. In trying to eliminate all processed foods from our diet, I had to come up with fast, easy replacements for the chips. He also loves Chinese food, but we rarely ever eat it since high quality, inexpensive Chinese food is hard to find and I haven’t ventured into cooking it  for ourselves. This is a great recipe that combines salt (soy sauce), spice (red chili flakes), and crunch (sesame seeds).  I would hardly call this dish “Chinese”, but it has the flavor profile. The broccoli is full of vitamins and phytonutrients that will help your body fight free radicals and support your immune system. I sometimes  serve this over a bed of quinoa for a complete meal. Low quality broccoli can forever leave a nasty impression in your mind, so it’s very important to choose a good stalk. Organic, local, or pesticide-free varieties are your best choices. Broccoli are naturally in abundance during the winter and only last a few days in the fridge before it starts to loose color.

Sesame Seed Broccoli
serves 2

Ingredients
2 cups cut Broccoli florets
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2-3 teaspoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes (more or less to your liking)

Method
1. Cut and wash the broccoli under cool running water. Meanwhile bring the water in your steamer to a boil. Place broccoli in your vegetable steamer and cover. Let steam for 3 minutes. Or just add them into the boiling water and drain really well after 3 minutes of boiling.

2. While the broccoli is steaming toast red chili flakes and sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat. Once the sesame seeds start turning brown, remove quickly from heat. Toss in the steamed broccoli and soy sauce. Mix well and serve immediately. Tastes great over a bed of rice or quinoa.

Who wants to take me Asian pantry shopping, because broccoli+sesame seeds+ 365 brand soy sauce is just not cutting it for me?!

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Traditional Meatless Greek Dolma (Recipe)

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Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. A friend, Carina Ost, made a new year’s resolution to learn how to make dolma and set up a learning session at Mezes Greek Kitchen. Carina invited a few other blogger friends, including myself, … Continue reading

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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A Meatless, Unprocessed Christmas (With Pumpkin Soup Recipe)

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Satish and I drove down to LA last Wednesday to spend the Christmas holiday with his sister and family. I had planned to make the Christmas Eve dinner as I really want to create tradition for Satish and I.  This entire  meal was going to be vegetarian, since my sister-in-law is a vegetarian and with all respect doesn’t like meat cooked in her kitchen. Therefore, I had packed up all of my key spices, herbs, oils, and favorite kitchen tools. I almost packed up my most versatile pan, zester, and spatula, but decided I could live without them. (Later, I learned I can’t live without the zester.) It’s tough cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen. I had plans to visit a farmer’s market in LA for the main ingredients.  LA has at least 120 farmer’s markets happening during the week, so there is hardly no excuse to not go.  I curiously went to the Westwood farmer’s market on Thursday, with high hopes of finding all of the ingredients I needed for the Christmas Eve dinner.  I was disappointed to find that it was a sparse market, but I still bought kale and parsley. Later, I met my dear friend for tea and hot soup. She suggested we stroll through the farmer’s market nearby, but time seemed to slip by at the Jewish bakery as we sipped our tea, flirted with the rows of baked goods, laughed, cried, shared, and reminisced. By the time we were ready to leave the bakery, it was dark and I needed to rush back to avoid being stuck in traffic. Of course, I didn’t listen to our GPS, made a couple of wrong turns, and missed the closest 10W onramp. Awhile ago, I stopped getting upset with myself for making wrong turns and getting lost and started enjoying the new route I created. Due to the wrong turns, I happened to drive by the La Cienega Farmers Market. Since, I was crawling in the local traffic, I got to look into the farmers market held at the parking lot of the La Cienega Plaza Shopping Center. It was beautiful. The sun was already gone, Christmas lights were bright, food trucks, fresh flowers, all amidst red break lights. Peering, I saw berries, popcorn, chestnuts, citrus, and greens. I was surprised by the berries…maybe it’s the mild, spring like weather in SoCal. I was tempted to pull into the driveway and finish shopping for the ingredients needed to make the next day’s dinner. Though, I knew that every minute I waited to get onto the highway would be to risk being stuck in major LA traffic. I sighed and kept driving.  The next morning, I woke up early and rushed to the nearest Whole Foods in hopes of avoiding the last minute mad dash for groceries. I had a simple grocery list: pumpkin, Delicata squash, arugula, eggplant, spinach, ricotta, feta, and Parmesan. The Whole Foods in Santa Monica has a very tiny fresh produce section so I drove to the one in Brentwood. Surprisingly, most of the Whole Foods in West LA are much smaller in general. I nearly had a panic attack when I couldn’t find half of the fresh ingredients that I needed. The problem was solved easily by asking the grocers, who went into the back to get what I needed. (I had not made a back-up dinner menu)…

After getting a great latte at Caffe Luxxe (which was recommended to me on twitter), I was ready to start cooking. The menu was simple but I wanted to give myself ample time and not rush to finish during the end. The starter was a rather easy pumpkin soup spiced with cumin and cinnamon. I had an incredible pumpkin soup at Garibaldi’s earlier this week, which was the main inspiration. I had even made it on Tuesday, using my beloved Fairy Tale Pumpkin. Next on the menu was the Squash and Pomegranate Salad, Kale and Quinoa, and Garlic + Bread (inspired by Little Star Pizza). The main course was a variation of my vegetable rich lasagna. My niece helped me make the pistachio cookies that I made for 18 Reasons’ cookie swap, which would be dessert along with rich, hot chocolate.

Cumin Scented Pumpkin Soup

1 medium Sugar or Fairy Tale pumpkin (4-6 lbs)
olive oil for coating pumpkin
4 large garlic cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons cumin, fresh grounded
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1/2 stick of unsalted butter or 1/3 cup olive oil
6 cups water, approximately
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Creme Fraiche (optional)

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut pumpkin in half, discard the stem, seeds and stringy pulp.  Rub oil over the pumpkin, coating well. Place the pumpkin cut side down on the prepared pan. Tuck 2 garlic cloves under the cavity of the pumpkin. Bake pumpkin until it is very tender. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to touch, remove the peel. Cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces so it’s easier to puree.

2. In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the cinnamon sticks. Once the cinnamon sticks open up, add in the cumin and ground cinnamon. Cook for 30 seconds. Remove pot from heat.

3. Puree the pumpkin in batches by adding in 1 cup of the pumpkin pieces  with a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add water to reach a consistency of your liking.

4. Put the pot back on the stove-top and heat on medium. Once the soup is heated thoroughly, add salt and pepper to your liking. Stir in the Creme Fraiche. Taste and adjust seasoning.

 

Pumpkin Soup garnished with Sage

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