Tag Archives: Fruit

The Meal-Planning Market

12 Jul

Since I’ve been buying part of each week’s groceries at the Farmer’s Market it’s totally changed the way I’ve been going about meal planning. Although I’ve been chipping away at my Life List goal of planning meals for a year I’ve only experienced limited success, but this new world local food has given me new inspiration and motivation in a way that supported my meal planning goals.

Each week I’ve been posting my Farmer’s Market finds each week in a flickr group called Farmer’s Market Hauls started originally by Jim of Sweet Juniper. I’ve also convinced two food-blogging, local-shopping friends to join in, the fabulous Lead Paint Cookbook and home cook extraordinaire, E of Outpost 505. If you shop at a fruit stand, flea market, farmer’s market or CSA, please snap a photo of your haul and add it to the group. I think it’s time we breathe new life into it. Clicking on the photos below will take you to my flickr where you can read notes describing each item in the picture.

What I’m loving is that while I’m at the market buying produce I’ll find other, nonfood-related but still very awesome things. I’ve so far grabbed a flier to tour an alpaca farm (friends, I’m going to arrange a trip for this–let me know if you want in), signed up for free books via Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and Isobel was able to plant a little sunflower in a peat pot. All of this, free, too.

We’ve been watering the little sunflower and watching it sprout. Last night it I decided it was large enough to put in the ground. That booth also gave us free seed packets: parsley and lettuce. I told her that seeds were tiny baby plants and she helped me water them. I can’t wait for them to sprout but I really hope she won’t love them too much.

In addition to the produce we’ve picked up some fabulous clam chowder from near San Jose, Dutch chocolate zucchini bread that is so good it haunts my dreams, endless varieties of hummus and fresh pita bread, and dried organic spices. Isobel often asks for pita and hummus for breakfast, and it makes me ridiculously proud when she does so.

Our farmer’s market is still pretty small. It was just started last year and buzz about it is only just taking off. There are still a lot of things not available at the market–no meat is sold and only one vendor sells cheese and offers only one kind. But I’ve still managed to make a wide variety of things with the selection of things I do bring home, and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface.

I’m still mulling over how to pull my Farmer’s Market shopping into a cohesive plan, but I’m getting there. For now I’d like to share a list of things I’ve made with the items from my haul:

* Spicy Eggplants in Honey Sauce from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

* Blanched wax beans with dill butter.

* Figs: Cut in half with market goat cheese and honey.

* Gazpacho with local bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olive oil and lemon.

* Crudites with wax beans, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and cucumber dipped in hummus.

* Zucchini ribbons dressed with oil and goat cheese.

* Zucchini ribbons dressed with leftover Spicy Honey Eggplant sauce.

* Goat cheese slathered on baguette rounds, toasted, drizzled with honey and thyme from the garden. I could very easily eat this all day.

* The most amazing green salad with butter lettuce, cucumber, red Italian torpedo onions, heirloom tomatoes, and olive oil dressing. Even the oil was from the Farmer’s Market!

* Corn on the cob with cilantro and lime butter.

* Chopped up fresh fruit by the bucketful.

* Omelet with portabello mushroom and red onion.

* Scrambled eggs with cheese. Practically every day. Also, tastes so good with a side of spicy eggplants. I can’t explain this, but it works.

* New Hatten chowder with garlic herb pita chips.

* Pita bread spread with hummus and cucumber.

* Sliced cherry tomato salad with corn, red onion, and bell pepper and dotted with feta.

I’m looking forward to sharing detailed recipes and pictures with you (and maybe even meal plans, if I get my act together), and I really hope everyone joins me posting to Farmer’s Market Haul. I can’t wait to see what you’re bringing home.

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The Summer Market

22 Jun

One of my goals for this summer is to do as much of our weekly shopping as locally as possible, either at fruit stands, the Tuesday Remate, or the downtown Farmer’s Market. Last Friday Isobel and I stopped by the Farmer’s Market because Anthony’s vacation had ended and Isobel wanted to see “the people.” You can see our glorious bounty in the photo above. In fact, if you click on the photo it will take you to my flickr where I’ve labeled everything for the curious.

I only brought one large tote with me but I could have used two. Toward the end of the trip I managed to pick up Isobel with one arm and hoist her onto my hip while holding an armload of produce in the other hand. I was so impressed I would have wifed myself right there if it were legal.

Going to the farmer’s market has really jump-started my menu planning for the summer. I’m really getting into it again and I think it’s because it’s so inspiring to see everything laid out and to talk with the people who grew it. Most of the stuff on the counter came from 30 miles away. I pick up stuff that looks interesting and plan my protein and meals around that. The combination of spontaneous and interesting, in-season and fresh really speaks to my desire to eat well and plan for my family.

That Friday I used the eggs, the garlic, and the portobello mushroom to make a killer omelet for dinner. Anthony has been making classic Greek salads for about a month now so I bought him a cucumber and those unusual-looking Italian torpedo red onions. They are really sweet and delicate and I like that in an onion that I’m going to eat raw. I think it makes it more appealing for children, too, as I’ve yet to find a kid that adores raw onions (though I’m sure they’re out there). When Isobel was about six months old she delighted in chewing on raw onion rings, but she liked many unusual things at that age. Staring at ceiling fans, for example.

I’ve eaten most of the cherry tomatoes pictures already.They were like tiny bits of candy. The larger ones I’m saving to split in half for salads. I hesitantly bought two smallish zucchini. Hesitantly because it seems like zucchini is the White Elephant gift of summer. It explodes in backyard gardens until strangers are throwing them at your car as you drive by in an effort to rid themselves of the overabundance. I’m going to try shaving them thin and drizzling them with oil and feta, but if I don’t care for that, there’s always zucchini fritters.

I’ve never eaten wax beans, aside from those regrettable canned three-bean salads everyone in America has had forced on them at some point. But this is the kind of thing I like about going to the market: I see something unusual and it inspires me to try it. My favorite instance of this ever occurred when I happened upon some zucchini blossoms. It was also the first (and sadly, only) time I’ve ever deep-fried something. As much as I love fried food, it intimidates me.

The fruit is nearly gone, now, too, and it hasn’t even been a week. I’ll probably be hitting a fruit stand soon.

I even bought an Anaheim chili pepper to pusue my goal of increasing my tolerance to spicy food this summer.

I also instantly bonded with another mother when I went to sit down and eat some soup and I heard her toddler shout a familiar “NO!” my way. Her son was mere weeks apart from Isobel and we commiserated over the stranger danger and the subsequent unsociable behavior it brings. While we ate and talked our kids took turns waving and shouting, “NO!” at each other.

Isobel looks really serious in this photo, and that’s because she is serious–about her food. If you get between her and her hummus she will cut a bitch. Actually, she will just throw a tantrum, a fact I found out when I tried to dip my carrot in her hummus. No, Mama, no. That’s my Isobel’s hummus. Also, she insists I call pita bread tortillas. We’ve been having hummus and ‘tias every day for breakfast since.


Good Idea, Bad Idea

15 Sep

 Anthony and I have been experimenting in the kitchen lately. Experimentation is a great way to learn things, and it’s also a great way to experience spectacular amounts of fail. I’m going to start with the bad idea that I had because I feel it’s just too depressing to end the post with it.

While Anthony was gone again into the wilderness hunting the elusive Sasquatch (actually he was celebrating a bachelor party by drinking beer and eating tri tip around a huge campfire–one day and two showers later he still smelled of wood smoke), I decided to make dinner by cleaning out the contents of the fridge. Although we technically have two cars now only one of them is drivable because the other one didn’t pass smog. I insisted he take the car we call The Sunday Buick while he left the jalopy home with me. If there was some sort of emergency I could leave the house of course, but I wasn’t eager to. That meant I had to get creative with dinner because all our fridge contained was some leftover grilled chicken, green beans, cauliflower, several ears of corn, and eggs. We survived two years with school and full-time jobs with only one car, so I’ve created many wonderful impromtu meals out of necessity.

I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, and like anyone who has watched someone on TV for awhile and read their books, my brain sort of considers him a friend even though we’ve never met and probably never will. Oh that Tony! I’m on a first-name-basis with him (in my mind). One recent episode of No Reservations I spied something happening in the background that caught my eye. Someone was roasting whole cauliflower heads. Brilliant! I love to make Popcorn Cauliflower by roasting individual florets with olive oil and spices, but you do have to do some chopping and some messy mixing first. (Typing it out really confronts me with the fact that I am totally lazy. It’s not that hard to chop up cauliflower and douse it with spices, people.)

 

Anyway, I saw someone on the teevee roasting whole heads of cauliflower and I thought to myself I’m going to try that! So I trimmed my head of cauliflower, sprayed it with oil and coated it with my favorite combo of paprika, curry powder, and bacon salt. I probably should have looked up say, the time it would take to roast a cauliflower. And also, an oven setting would have been useful to note. Nope! I’m a rebel. I just chucked it in at 415 and set the timer for an hour. How different could it be from a potato?

Here’s where I get on with sautéing green beans and boiling corn. I fix Isobel and I a delicious dinner of corn on the cob with queso fresco, butter, and lime, green beans sautéed with tamari, and left over grilled chicken, which she just adores. My girl loves her some chicken.

We eat dinner and play outside while the kitchen starts to smell. Oh. Boy. I can tell by the smell that the wonderful thing that happens to cauliflower when it roasts is not happening. My acutal first thought when I smell it is, am I inhaling somebody’s socks?  This cauliflower is not roasting–it’s slowly steaming in its own cruciferous juices. It smells so bad I can’t bring myself to open the oven and pull it out till the next day. I want nothing to do with that fetid disaster.

The lesson to take from this is that it is not the cauliflower’s fault. It’s my fault. I should have looked up the temperature and times instead of just being lazy. Or I should have just roasted the individual florets like I love to do anyway.

********************

Isobel knows how to operate the pantry door now, by the way, so as I was cleaning up the kitchen later that night I opened the pantry to find poor Poppy, who had been locked in there for god knows how long. Isobel thinks it’s hilarious to lock the kittens in the pantry. Fortunately Poppy’s spirits were undaunted and when I opened the door she looked at me like, “Welcome to the party! The keg should be here soon.” Bless her feral little heart.Also note the complete disaster my pantry’s in. Each time we go to the store we just keep piling stuff on top of the mess. I’m sure I’ll clean it eventually.

In the past Anthony has created his own kitchen disasters so it came as a surprise that I epically failed at something while he epically triumphed. His most notable kitchen disaster happened right after I met him. It was so romantic! He was cooking me breakfast! I don’t remember exactly what he did to those huevos rancheros but it was unspeakable. He’s come a long way since that morning and particularly this summer he’s been leveling up his cooking skills. He wants to be able to cook delicious food for Isobel. Sniffle! He’s such a good dad.

As I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t a whole lot in the fridge to feed our family for breakfast, but fortunately we had those eggs. This is when Anthony stumbled upon a great idea that I’m filing away in my in my set of thrifty recipes in my brain. It was cheap and it was good.He noticed we had several kinds of leftover fruit plus some small remnants of yogurt. Instead of letting these items go unnoticed until a colony of fruit flies alerts us to their rotten presence, he decided that we need to create a new tradition of making smoothies out of leftovers before we head to the store.He chopped up a banana, threw a couple of ice cubes in to the blender, and added berries and pomegranate yogurt and produced a delicious smoothie to wash down our eggs. I sipped mine leisurely on the patio in between repotting my plants. A fancy thrift store glass is optional, of course, but it made the whole experience special. I imagine this ritual will only work in the summer months as we don’t have leftover fruit like this in the winter, but what a way to use up leftovers. Isobel loved it, too, and she went around with a pinkish mustache all morning long.

I think the moral of this story is: don’t be afraid to expariment in the kitchen. Sometimes things will turn out bad, stomach-turningly bad, but you are sure to discover some wonderful ideas, too.

Ideas for Avocados

2 Jun

I spend long winter nights dreaming of avocados. They are summer personified. Around here they are available in cheap abundance in farmer’s markets from June to September. Every year Anthony and I can’t wait to take full advantage.

RECIPE 1: LAUREL’S AVOCADO DRESSING

Besides guacamole, my favorite thing to do with avocados is to make salad dressing. Yes, that’s right, salad dressing. I first read about avocados in salad dressing in one of my most often-used cookbooks, 1970s-fave Laurel’s Kitchen. Both my mother and my grandmother used this cookbook. I also have an awesome friend named Laurel so the name is altogether dear to my heart.

This recipe in the book is called ‘avocado dressing’ or something boring, but given my connection to the name Laurel, I call it “Laurel’s Avocado Dressing.” It’s sharp and sour from the lemons yet smooth from the avocado. I like to add dill to this but I like to add dill to just about everything.

Laurel‘s Avocado Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs oil
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash pepper
  • dash chili powder
  • dash garlic powder

1. Mash avocado and mix all ingredients together. Keeps about a week.

I’ve tried lots of different oils in this recipe and a plain one like safflower oil or even avocado oil is preferable to a strongly-flavored oil such as extra virgin olive oil. Experiment though, to see what you like. Avocado is yielding enough to mash up into a thick liquid and love it over plain greens with carrots and broccoli.

RECIPE 2: AVOCADO CITRUS DRESSING


Not too long ago I decided to deviate from my normal avocado dressing recipe when I stumbled upon another dressing recipe by the venerable Mollie Katzen. The first cook book I ever bought myself was Mollie’s seminal “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.”  I was in seventh grade, a vegetarian at the time, and I never knew food could be so exciting. This recipe actually comes from her more recent book “Eat, Drink and Weigh Less.”  I think it’s the most informative diet/healthy lifestyle book I’ve ever read, but it does sort of make me depressed that I don’t exercise. I can eat healthily all day long but let’s face it, I don’t get a whole lot of cardio.

This recipe is more complex than the first one and quite a different experience altogether. It’s very creamy and sweet and would make a fantastic dressing for a fruit salad, should you happen to have lots of ripe fruit lying around. It’s also delicious on greens.

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small perfectly ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) honey
  • Salt
  • Zest of lemon  & orange

1. Combine OJ  & lemon juice in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Scoop out avocado and add to juice. Mash with a fork until very smooth.
3. Use a whisk to beat in honey &  yogurt
4. Add salt to taste &  zest. Chill before serving.

RECIPE 3: BLUE CHEESE GUACAMOLE

Now, I know you don’t really need me to wax poetic about guacamole. If you like avocados you’ve most certainly had it and probably have a recipe for it. But I think this transcends guacamole and could make a fantastic appetizer for a cocktail party or a gallery opening. The combination of blue cheese and avocados is heavenly. Deep, rich, and tangy. You don’t want to miss this.

This recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook “Nigella Express.” 

Roquamole

As far as the blue cheese goes, Roquefort would be the obvious choice, and Nigella does have another kind of blue cheese that she suggests but let’s face it: the woman can afford to have a pig slaughtered and brought to her house whenever she wants to bake a ham. You don’t need to find the most expensive blue cheese out there to make this. Just find some delicious blue cheese that won’t break the bank.

She also suggests eating this concoction with blue corn tortilla chips. Tasty! But don’t limit yourself. I like this with the tortilla-like Mexican corn chips you find in restaurants. You can find them freshly made in small batches or you can find them mass-produced in 3 feet tall plastic bags. Hell, use any old corn chip, toasted bread, or pita wedges you prefer.

When I make this I don’t add the jalapeños even though I don’t doubt that would be awesome. My goal is to work my way up into adding them in, but I’m too much of a gringa to tolerate much heat. You could also try substituting red pepper flakes for the jalapeños if you don’t want to bother with them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup sliced jarred green pickled jalapenos
  • 2 tbs finely sliced scallions
  • 1/4 tbs paprika
  • blue corn tortilla chips
  1. Combine the cheese and sour cream.
  2. Mash the avocados and add to the cheese mixture.
  3. Roughly chop jalapenos and slice scallions. Add to the cheese mixture.
  4. Dust with paprika and serve.

RECIPE 4: CALIFORNIAN AVOCADO SAUCE

This last recipe comes from The California Cook by Diane R Worthington. I found this book at a second hand store years ago. I made this recipe just to try it and magic happened. Diane suggests using this sauce on fish but I’m squeamish about cooking fish at home. I think this would be exceptional on grilled prawns or scallops also.

An ‘English’ cucumber is simply the seedless, unwaxed variety sold encased in plastic. I’ve heard them sometimes referred to a ‘hothouse variety.’ Their skin is thin and they contain only small amounts of seeds, but regular cucumbers would be fine as well.

Californian Avocado Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 English cucumber, chopped fine
  • 2 tbs fresh dill
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tb rice vinegar
  • 1 tb fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed

Mix all ingredients together and serve soon after.

SOME OTHER THINGS TO DO WITH AVOCADOS

  • Mash into a chunky paste and use as sandwich spread/mayo replacement. Particularly yummy with a bit of roasted garlic paste mixed in.
  • Add to an omelet for breakfast
  • Toss slices or chunks on top of a garden salad – delicious with vinaigrette and a friend of bacon
  • Garnish gazpacho with avocado cubes and a slice of lime
  • Add slices to grilled hamburgers
  • Mix chunks with chopped tomato and red onions and serve on top of refried beans
  • Add to quesadillas
  • Add to fruit smoothies
  • Add to jarred salsa

AVOCADO STORAGE TIPS

  • Avocados turn brown quickly after being exposed to air but this is a cosmetic issue more than something that affects flavor.
  • Sprinkle cut slices of avocado with lemon or lime juice to prevent browning.
  • When storing mashed avocados or guacamole, press plastic wrap onto the surface of the avocados. This will form an airtight seal to prevent browning. You’ll lose some of the avocados to the film when you remove it, but it’s worth it.
  • I’ve heard some people suggest storing avocados (whole fruit) in the fridge, but I’ve never done that. I leave them on the counter and in patches of sunlight to get as much ripening action possible before using.