Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On a recent West Coast trip, I visited a farmers market in Portland on its opening day for the 2012 season. One of the most interesting discoveries for me was bundles of the bolted tops of kale, cabbage, brussel spouts and other winters, sold as "rapini." Check out this kale rapini that I photographed in the springtime snow cover on a flank of Mt. Hood, an hour east of Portland. And here's the report on my March 17 visit to the farmers market in Portland. Later on my trip down the Pacific coast, I dropped by the always fabulous farmers market in Santa Monica, Calif.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recipes for Roasted and Pickled Radishes

It had never occurred to me to try roasting radishes...until Marco Shaw, a chef in Durham, North Carolina, told me in an interview I have just posted on Seasonal Chef that roasted radishes is one thing he's serving at Piedmont Restaurant right now, in the waning days of winter, when the farmers he works with are enjoying bumper crops of tender crisp radishes. I gave it a try and was sold on the concept. Try it yourself, with this selection of recipes for roasting and cooking radishes. Shaw also mentioned pickling radishes, so I included in the list a couple of radish pickle recipes for good measure.

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Serving Local Food, From Portland to Durham, N.C.

Chef Marco Shaw was much loved in Portland, Oregon, by patrons of his restaurant, Fife, and also by local farmers from whom he purchased virtually all of the vegetables, fruit, meats and cheeses that he served. In 2009, he moved to Durham, North Carolina, and began doing the same thing at Piedmont Restaurant. The Durham area has a growing local food culture, but it's no Portland, in terms of the level of education about and support for local food among restaurant goers, as Shaw has discovered, somewhat to his consternation, and as he explained in a recent interview with Seasonal Chef. In his years in Portland, no one ever called to ask exactly what was on his menu that night, he says. Fully cognizant of the vagaries of farming, they were content to choose from among whatever local producers were able to deliver that week. In Durham, diners are fussier. "Here, I still have people who don't understand when we don't have salad because it's too hot and things died, or too cold and things froze. I still get pushback when I don't have asparagus in March or strawberries for Valentine's Day," Shaw laments. Here's the rest of my conversation with Marco Shaw.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Jersey Corn at Princeton farmers market

Farmers in New Jersey got a late start with their planting this spring, so for a while, it looked like New Jerseyans might have to make it through the 4th of July holiday without the usual Jersey sweet corn and Jersey tomatoes. That disaster was averted by a favorable turn in the weather in late spring. The harvest of tomatoes and corn commenced just in time, in the week before the 4th.

Local corn and tomatoes were just a couple of the crops on display in a couple of farmers markets that I visited in the Princeton area the weekend after the 4th.

Here's my report on my June 7 and 8 visits to Mercer County, N.J. farmers markets.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lively Evening Farmers Market in Chico

Chico is a charming, community minded, environmentally conscious college town near the western foothills of the Sierras north of Sacramento. It is surrounded by mile after mile of orchards and farmland. It's a town you'd think might have a good farmers market -- and it does.

Here's my report on my June 28, 2007, visit to the evening market in Chico, where the farmers selling their fruits and vegetables are part of a full-fledged street festival that fills several blocks downtown on Broadway until 9 p.m. every Thursday from April through October.

It was interesting to see that perhaps two-thirds or more of the farmers selling at the market are Southeast Asian, reflecting the influx of Hmong and other Indochinese immigrants into California's Central Valley, where many have taken up farming.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On the Road with Seasonal Chef

Just in time for the carefree (ha! I wish) days of summer, here's a new page -- Seasonal Chef on the Road -- with links to reports from some journeys to far-flung farmers market.

Why not add a trip to a local farmers market to your summer travel itinerary.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Heirloom tomatoes in Walnut Canyon, Arizona

I like to drop by the Flagstaff, Arizona farmers market every time I'm passing through Flagstaff on a summer Sunday. That last happened in the fall of 2005.

This time, I'm here near the start of the season, and the heirloom tomatoes from Crooked Sky Farm down in the desert near Glendale, are at their peak. After I visited the market, I headed for Walnut Canyon, five miles away, and hiked down to some of the ruins that fill many of the caves and niches in the canyon walls.

Here's a report on what I found at the Flagstaff Community Farmers Market on June 17, 2007.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A visit to the Venice Beach, Calif., farmers market

I came to the market today specifically to pick up some fixings for vegetarian sushi. The avocados, sprouts, and cucumbers that I found fit that bill. I picked up four varieties of avocados, including one of my favorites, the bacon avocado. Here's my report on what I bought at the Venice, Calif., farmers market on June 15, 2007.

The Friday morning market in Venice is just a few blocks from the beach. After doing my shopping, I went for a quick stroll on the beach, and photographed some of my market purchases on the sand.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Savory Ways to Use Sweet Cherries

Sweet cherries aren't just for dessert. To promote other uses of the fruit, associations representing cherry growers in California and Washington state have offered a wide array of recipes that use sweet cherries in savory salads, main dishes and spicy sauces and salsas.

From those sources, here is a sampling of eight savory recipes featuring sweet cherries. They include recipes for sweet cherries with pork, chicken and duck, a cherry slaw and another salad, a salsa and a couple of sauces, one with citrus flavors and another infused with mustard.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Nifty Ice Cream Maker and other Chef Gadgets

The one I've ordered hasn't even arrived yet, but I'm already thrilled by this gadget, based on the testimonials of other users. It's a new-fangled, hand-cranked ice cream maker. You put it in the freezer the night before you plan to make ice cream (or sorbet or frozen yogurt) and a liquid substance in the device freezes hard, so you don't have to use crushed ice and salt to whip up a batch of old-fashioned homemade ice cream. I like the fact that it's hand cranked. My kitchen is already overloaded with electric appliances.

Mine will arrive shortly, just in time for summer fruit season. You can order one of your own. Or check out one of the other ice cream machines, along with dehydrators, juicers, woks, salad spinner, graters, knives and various and sundry other kitchen gadgets, that you'll find in the Seasonal Chef Culinary Supply Store.

Cooking with Apricots

In Southern California farmers markets, apricots appear in early May, the first of a succession stone fruits -- including peaches, nectarines, and plums, pluots, apriums, and other variations on the theme -- that will run well into the fall.

The apricots, however, won't be around much past June. So now's the time to get your fill of them.

Here are 10 recipes featuring apricots, ranging from a couple of apricot chicken dishes to an apricot vinaigrette and a cake, a cobbler and a scone topped off with a recipe for apricot ice cream.

A Bunch of Recipes Starring Flat-Leaf Parsley

When tomato season rolls around, I've always got to have a bunch of Italian flat-leafed parsley on hand. That's because there's no better -- and no prettier -- summer salad than a multi-colored platter of heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar and a handful of minced flat-leafed parsley. I also use parsley in a couple of other summertime staples: pesto and gazpacho.

An herb than can so effectively enhance the flavor of other ingredients deserves, it seems to me, an occasional opportunity to be the star of the show.

Here are four recipes featuring Italian flat-leafed parsley, ranging from an Argentine condiment to a Persian omelet.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Six Ways to Serve Red Amaranth

The Southeast Asian farm stand where I bought this at the Santa Monica farmers market called it "Chinese spinach." In fact, it is red amaranth, called hin choy in Chinese. Though it is unrelated to spinach, there is some similarity in tastes. The smallest most tender leaves can be eaten raw but is is more commonly cooked.

The plant is indigenous to South America, but it was carried to Asian centuries ago and has become part of the diet throughout the region, from China through Southeast Asia to India.

Here are six ways to use the nutrious green.

Picnicking at the Farmers Market

Fresh fruits and vegetables play second fiddle to other attractions at the Sunday farmers market on Main Street at Ocean Park in Santa Monica. Vendors of prepared foods and other merchandise outnumber the farmers.
It makes for a festive atmosphere. It also keeps the local merchants happy, since the market management offered them space in the market to peddle their wares.

Here's my report on what I purchased on my May 27 visit to the market, including my first sampling of stone fruit this year.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Two New York City Greenmarkets in May

My last three visits to New York City -- in December, January and March -- happened to coincide with weather so bitterly cold that I could barely make it a couple of blocks on the street, from subway to office. So I passed up the chance to stroll through a wintertime greenmarket, as I did the winter before, when the weather was less forbidding.

On my visit in May, the weather was glorious, so I happily checked out the Union Square and Tompkins Square greenmarkets. This was a quick trip to New York, with my two daughters in tow this time. And I wasn't doing in cooking while I was in the city, so I didn't buy much. But some cheese and apples were good for a picnic in Central Park, and I bought a bunch of ramps to carry home with me to L.A.
Here's my report on my visit to the two markets.

Springtime is Time for Ramps

In a couple of decades of shopping at California's cornucopic farmers markets, I've seen just about every type of fruit and vegetable that grows in the temperate latitudes. But I've never seen ramps. I'd heard of them, but never had a chance to sample this plant, also known as the wild leek, that is native to eastern North America, until my visit to New York City in May. I arrived just in time for the peak of the brief ramp season. They were everywhere in the Union Square Greenmarket, which was otherwise still fairly sparse, less than two months after the last ice storm blanketed these parts. I bought a bundle to carry back with me on the plane to L.A. They held up well in my carry-on luggage. I wish I had picked up three or four bundles. I had barely begun to experiment with them when my tiny supply ran out.

Here are five ramp recipes, including my very own (and excellent, if I might say so myself) Ramp and Carmelized Shallot Pesto Pasta. I didn't have enough to try pickling some ramps, but next year I'll give these three pickled ramp recipes a try.

Monday, April 30, 2007

April at a farmers market in LA

It's still a little too early for strawberries, in my opinion. It's got to get hotter for them to sweeten up -- and that'll happen in about six weeks. But the price is coming down, so I figure it's time to try my first strawberries of the season. Blood oranges won't be around much longer. Time to buy a bunch, juice them, and boil the juice down to reduce it by half or more to make syrup for salad dressings that I'll freeze and use for months to come. Fava beans have been in the markets for some weeks now, but at $3 a pound unshelled, they're a pricy delicacy. They'll get cheaper until they vanish in about month. Today, I got these for $2 a pound -- a fair price for a fleeting springtime treat. Here are nine fava bean recipes that I like. The Catalan stew is time-consuming, but well worth it, once a year.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ever wondered what to do with the oddball vegetable celeriac, also known as celery root? Wonder no more....

Here are five celeriac recipes.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring 2007 Farmers Market reports

Here are my latest market reports from Santa Monica and Culver City, California.

I haven't posted a New York City market report lately because my last three trips -- in December, January and March -- coincided with Arctic blasts and an ice storm so I missed any greenmarket that braved the weather on those days. I haven't been to a market in the city since November.