Farmer’s Market


Busy as in Crazy Busy. Busy as in Holy Crap Is It August Yet? Those long, lazy days of summer are on hold for now.

I briefly visited the SLO farmer’s market on Saturday with my husband’s friend’s girlfriend, Princess Linzee, who prefers to go by Princess. It was a lovely morning, and at the time, I forgot to take the time to reflect upon the fact that this would be my last visit to this market in over a month. No, I was too busy running around tasting berries, popping juicy yellow plums in my mouth, and sticking Princess’s nose in the coconut orchid. “Smell it! Smell it! It’s amazing!” I like to think she shared my enthusiasm… either that or she thinks I’m nuts. But then again, she’s the one who introduces herself as a Princess.

So just a few items at the Market this week…

  • giant, beautiful, ripe, juicy blueberries
  • sweet boysenberries
  • yellow plums just small enough to pop in your mouth

Since July is so busy, and since the summer’s bounty is overflowing in my CSA box each week, the need for supplemental veggies is minimal. I’ve got enough squash in my fridge right now to…. to…. well, there’s just a lot of squash. So tonight, I’ll be shredding some up with an egg or two, a diced onion, fresh basil, and panko crumbs for some zucchini fritters.

Yesterday I made the Ultimate Tuna Salad sandwich. What made it so special? A can of Dave’s Smoked Albacore. Add to that about 3 Tbsp of Vegannaise, half a cucumber, diced, two scallions, diced, and two garden carrots, diced. Salt, Pepper, serve on freshly baked sliced whole wheat bread with baby greens. Mmmmmhmmm. Yum.

And last night I tried a new pasta salad recipe adapted from Cooking Light… The roasted peppers added a little smokiness, and the sweetness of the roasted corn was a nice contrast to the cumin-lime dressing. Overall, not my favorite pasta salad dish (I’ll post that one later), but still very good.

Penne with Roasted Poblano and Corn 

  • 2 Poblano peppers
  • 1 Red Bell pepper
  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 4 cups cooked Penne (about 8 oz dry)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups grape tomato, sliced in half
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 6 oz goat cheese (or queso fresco, if you prefer), crumbled

Preheat the broiler. Cut the peppers in half, discarding the seeds and the little veiny things (what are those called, anyways?). Place the peppers on a foil lined pan, pressing down on each to flatten. Place the ears of corn on the sheet, and put the pan in the oven. Broil for 18 minutes or until peppers are blackened and corn is browned, turning corn occasionally.

Seal peppers in a ziploc bag for 10 minutes, allowing them to steam a bit. Remove peppers from the bag, peel them, and chop coarsely. Once corn is cool enough to handle, cut the ears from the cob.

In a large bowl, combine the lime juice, oil, salt, cumin, and pepper, whisk briskly with a fork. Add the peppers, corn, pasta, avocado, tomato, and cilantro, toss to coat. Crumble the cheese over the top.  Serves 4-6.

Things I didn't buy on Market Day:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • eggs
  • beans

Things I did buy:

  • A gorgeous silk dress for "wedding season"
  • 1 pr of uber-tight, slinky, "going out" jeans for "bachelorette party season," to be worn with both wedding ring and "Off The Market" body language, of course
  • 1 pr of shorts (gauchos? culottes?) that are much too stylish for me (just look at the website, for gosh darned sake!)
  • 1 silk hot pink lace trimmed chamise-like tank, also too stylish for me, also for "bachelorette party season"
  • Countless tees and tanks (okay, not countless. More like 8) for beach and work
  • 1 gorgeous gold necklace with smoky topaz and turquoise
  • $100 worth of beads and gemstones once I realized I could've easily made the above mentioned necklace

Things I Need to Buy:

  • A bicycle seat especially made for a woman. Ahem. 

Now, just to set the record straight on a few things…

  1. Not sure I've EVER spent that much money in one day, except maybe on plane tickets or school tuition.
  2. I did NOT forego the market in favor of yesterday's foolish shopping spree. I forewent the market in favor of a 30 mile road ride with a group of much more experienced riders (read semi-professional cyclists – gasp).
  3. Said ride inspired the need for the ladies' bicycle seat (with a hole in the middle, if you catch my drift) and for the endless shopping to sooth my aching ego after one of the cyclists practically had to push me up a climb. 

After a long, blistering hot day of shopping with girlfriends,  two things came to mind…

One… it's hard to pull on pair after pair of uber-tight jeans in a small dressing room while sweating profusely. 

Two… I needed a snow cone. But snow cones are messy and really not that satisfying once you've sucked all the syrup out of the bottom and you're just left with watery slush. What else is cool and refreshing? MOJITOS.

We pooled our resources, Al brought the bacardi and Y brought the limes, mint and soda water.  I provided the sugar, pitcher, ice and the know-how (although it wasn't A or Y's first rodeo either).

We called a few friends over and got to mixin'. A perfect way to spend a lazy evening.

 Having spent a few years behind the bar, I know my way around a fairly good mojito. However, I've always made single glasses… never a pitcher. So it took a few tweaks to get the pitcher right, but I think the end recipe looks something like this:

Mojitos Cubanos

(serves 4)

  • 12 fresh mint sprigs
  • 8 tsp raw sugar
  • 12 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 6 oz light rum (it's also great with dark rum!)
  • club soda

Tear the mint leaves into the bottom of a bowl. Add the sugar and lime juice and "muddle" with a pestle, a mudder, or you could use the top of a meat tenderizer like I did.

Pour in the rum, add ice, and stir. Pour into glasses until just over half full and top glasses with club soda. Stir once more. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge. 

And after the mojitos? Thai Coconut Ice Cream topped with fresh mango. The next best thing to real ice cream for the lactarded like me. 

Thai Coconut Ice Cream 

(serves 4) 

  • 2 cans (14 oz each) unsweetened coconut milk (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to your maker's directions. Serve at once, or transfer to an airtight container and place in the freezer for up to 3 weeks. 

market day 2 (click to enlarge)

This week's list:

-golden beets

-red beets

-blueberries (three baskets this time. Last week's basket lasted a total of 5 minutes before Husband found it and ate every berry)

-broccoli

-baby artichokes (so cute. so very very cute!)

-tangelos

-honey whole wheat bread

-lemon basil (what should I do with it?)

-squash blossoms

Off to the SLO farmer's market Saturday. June Gloom kept the sun at bay until well into the afternoon, so the morning market was quiet. I was a little confused at first. Some of the vendors had switched places, or had been asked to move. I overheard the Artichoke guy from Oxnard (the one who uses pesticides) retort, "Yeah, they keep moving me around because my artichokes are so much bigger than everyone else's." (it's true, they're abnormally HUGE) I couldn't stop myself from saying, "That's because you're one of the only ones here who use pesticides and chemical fertilizers*." A woman at the table with me looked down at the ENORMOUS artichoke in her hand, asked, "You use pesticides?"

"Yeah," the guy answered with a sheepish shrug. "We're trying to get away from it, but we still use 'em."

"Oh." She said, as she dropped the artichoke, and then walked away.

Me and my big mouth. I felt bad… but I thought it was in bad taste for him to publicly measure his produce up to his neighboring farmers like that, even if it was meant as a joke. He was young, and I'm sure he didn't mean any harm to anyone else, but it was a snarky thing to say anyways. I apologized, but he waved it away. "You didn't say anything that wasn't true. If she'd have asked me up front, I would've told her, and she wouldn't have bought from me anyways." I said goodbye, and moved on.

There were a few new vendors, but not much to note in the way of new market finds. Wait, I take that back. Baby squash was everywhere, but I've never been much of a fan of baby squash. The complexity of flavor isn't there yet, and it tends to just be bitter in my opinion. But this did not deter me from picking up some with squash blossoms still attached. Stuffed squash blossoms…. mmmmmmmmmmm. Can't wait.

So, that's my "new adventurous ingredient of the week."

Oh, so I guess it's not that adventurous. After all, I've eaten squash blossoms before in several ways. But never have I prepared them myself.

I need to sit down and make a game plan for those blossoms. Maybe I should make up a squash blossom sampler: some stuffed and fried, some chopped and sauteed with saffron and pasta, some sliced and thrown in a salad…

Any other options?

*For the record… I don't know if that's REALLY why they're so much larger than anyone else's artichokes. Maybe they're just a different kind or something.

Hot this morning. All the regulars were there, as well as a few new faces. This is the first I've seen of the organic blueberry man, for example. Had to buy some… short season and all.

Once again, I visited the market for just a few items and walked out with all $40 spent. I splurged on a few specialty items that I would normally pass up, payday being yesterday and all.

So here's the list, as far as I can remember.

  • Eggs from Mt. Olive Farms in Paso Robles
  • Tuscan Kale from Arroyo Grande
  • Golden Beets and Magda Squash from Bautista Farms in Arroyo Grande
  • Heirloom Romaine Freckles from Huasna (green with lovely purple flecks)
  • Yukon Gold baby potatoes and Spring Onions from Paso Robles
  • Blueberries from the new blueberry man!
  • Plums from somewhere relatively far away (about 150 miles southeast)
  • Lambs Quarters from Mt. Olive in Paso
  • And my splurge: an orchid!

About the orchid. This is no ordinary orchid, no sir. This orchid smells JUST like coconuts. It really is amazing. I saw it at the market two weeks ago, and I've been thinking about it ever since. (These are the things I think about, people. This is a problem.) So when I saw the Orchids of Los Osos booth, I had to ask about it. And then I had to buy it and take it home. Maxillaria tenuifolia. I can't walk by it without sticking my nose in there and taking a big sniff. Special stuff.

So my new goal is to try something new from the market each week. This week's brave venture: Lamb's-quarters. I've heard of Lamb's-quarters here and there, but never tried it. Here's what Deborah Madison has to say about the green in her book, Local Flavors:

Here's a wild plant (and a cultivar) whose greens are tender like spinach but with a slight edge of the wild in their flavor. Lamb's-quarters taste as if they're bound to be good for you–in a good way, that is, for they're mild and quite delectable. They're always delicious steamed until tender, after just a few minutes, then treated as you would their relatives, spinach and chard. Among the various cultivars, there's one that's stunning in a salad, Magenta Spreen lamb's-quarters, available from Seeds of Change. It goes from magenta at the base to lilac and finally to green.

Well, I'll be! This is the one I found! What luck!

So what to do with it? Sautee it with shallots, garlic, and a splash of white wine? Chop it up and toss it in a salad? I wanted to use it tonight, but time got the better of me and I ended up throwing together an ol' faithful: blackbean polenta casserole with the diced magda squash, frozen corn, Emerald Valley salsa, goat's milk monterey jack, and a pile of cilantro from the herb garden.

Funny, recipes like the above used to be the norm, made up of some fresh items, some convenience items. Now I feel a stab of guilt as I pull the pre-packaged polenta roll out of the cupboard and the box of Cascadian Farms sweet corn from the freezer. I reach past bags of fresh, local vegetables to grab a plastic container of non-local, pre-made salsa. Well, at least I can feel better about the fact that 1% of the sale of Emerald Valley products go to Humanitarian and Ecological Projects.

And actually, I should feel better about the fact that I ammend the recipe to include fresh ingredients. The original recipe is from Bon Apetit, which I found on Epicurious. The only fresh ingredients on the list:

3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic, minced

I pile in whatever fresh veggies I have on hand, or whatever I feel like adding. Onions, zucchini, tomatos, whatever. Yay me.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to make Palak Paneer to test a recipe for a fellow Mrs. B's cookbook to be. A few things I didn't think about before volunteering:

  1. 1. We have virtually no Indian community here in San Luis Obispo, which means there are no Indian markets. Which means no Paneer. Which means I'm gonna try to make my own.
  2. 2. Slightly ironic, thinks I, that I will attempt to make cheese, seeing as I'm lactarded and all. Lactarded meaning lactose intolerant.
  3. 3. Taylor hates cooked spinach. So I will make the palak paneer, and I will bring it to work tomorrow for coworkers to taste test. Hope the Mexican Cellar workers like Indian food! They can eat it with a tortilla, so that should help.

I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I've got to catch up on my reading!