Friday, June 27, 2008

Free Yoga on the Lawn!

If you love yoga or just want to give it a shot, please join us on Saturdays after you visit the farmer's market at 11AM outside my apartment for a free yoga class on the lawn, open to all levels. For more info, just write a comment and I'll happily fill you in.

Part-Time Work

The lovely Paul and Jenn Trejo (a.k.a., the Lettuce People) of Garden of Eden Organics have asked me to publicize a job they have on offer. Do you love vegetables? Organic veggies, especially? How about earning extra cash? If you answered "yes" to any or all of these questions, you might consider helping Jenn and Paul out at their stand -- loading, unloading, and selling produce -- on Saturdays at the Irvine Farmer's Market. You would begin around 7AM and go until around 1PM on Saturdays. If you're interested, let me know or stop by their stand tomorrow.

Dearest Readers

Dear Readers, It has been too long since last I wrote -- over a month in fact. What, you might ask, could merit such an absence? In fact, it was caused by my much-beloved, but time-consuming yoga teacher training at YogaWorks. You will be happy to hear, however, that I have completed the course and with rave reviews, to boot. I am happy to report that I'm back -- eating and blogging and marketing and yogifying. I even have a few items to report right now:

1. George, of strawberry fame and JRB Farms, was kind enough to bestow upon me a bushel of purple basil, which I had never had the pleasure of eating before.

Unlike its green brethren, this variety has a distinctive spiciness to it. I might even venture to say that in addition to the traditional earthy quality of basil, it had an undertone of mint, which made it delightfully summery and perfect for a cool pesto-like puree amid the early summer heat wave we just survived. Pureed with green basil, tomatoes, pine nuts, olive oil, and a hearty helping of parmesan cheese, it was a delightful, colorful variation on your typical pesto sauce.

2. Summer has officially begun at the market ... if you hadn't noticed already! I am in heaven among the nectarines, peaches, blueberries, pluots, and figs. This is the wonderful season in which the parking lot is awash in juicy samples of succulent fruits. I've actually seen some interesting hybrids I haven't seen before: the watermelon pluot, for example, has translucent green skin encasing vibrant fuchsia flesh.

3. I'm looking forward to establishing a schedule for my posts now that my life is easing back into normalcy. Please do check back during the week for coverage of tomorrow's market!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Eat More Pineapple

Have you ever stood in front of the produce at the market and wondered, "What's the most important thing to buy organic? Strawberries? Apples? Bananas?" If you're like me, then you have ... and often. Thank you to the Environmental Working Group for putting this incredibly useful resource together (and thank you to Tamara for forwarding it to me): it's a wallet-sized guide that breaks down produce into "best" and "worst" categories according to the amount of pesticide found on them in laboratory testing. Conducted by the Environmental Working Group, the study tested 44 imported and domestic fruits and veggies to determine what produce had the greatest frequency of detectable pesticides, the greatest number, and the greatest number of pesticides found on a single sample. What's the worst fruit? Peaches. The worst veggie? Sweet bell peppers. And the best? Pineapple, avocado, and onion. That should make for an interesting chutney. Using this list should help you decide what to buy organic and what not to buy at all. Sorry, apple, you're not looking too good, anymore (with traces of 9 -- you heard right, 9!! -- pesticides found on just one sample). But really, take a look. They even have a downloadable version, you can print out and take to the market with you.

Friday, May 9, 2008


By the way, all, I did indulge in a cherimoya from Garden of Eden Organics a couple weeks back. And I say "indulge," because these beastly fruits cost a bundle: $5.50 a pound, and they're not light. I wrapped it in newspaper, as advised by a nice gentleman at the stand, and let it ripen for a week, until it was quite soft, like a ripe avocado. I cut it in half and scooped it out with a spoon. The soft, creamy meat was like nothing I've ever had -- it was incredibly sweet, but with an unmistakable tartness to it. Almost as though you crossed a guava with a pineapple. If you're interested in experimenting with new flavors, give this guy a shot. A few words of advice: definitely refrigerate it before digging in. Either that, or cut it in half and place it in the freezer, then scoop it out like sorbet; I think that would be divine, and in continuation with the fad of a few years past of serving sorbet in a frozen shell of its original fruit. That would make for a lovely display. For an extra tropical presentation, consider placing an orchid or other edible flower atop the frozen fruit.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

General Market Report

Well, folks, it's still pretty bleak out there, I'm sorry to say. The apples, the oranges, the citrus -- they're all there, but they are not lookin' too good. The strawberries are still going strong, which is great -- especially if you're interested in whipping up some of those margaritas. My one piece of exciting news is this: cherries have begun to drizzle in! They're still hard as rocks and much too pale in color, but they're there. According to most farmers I spoke with, more summer fruit will begin to appear within the next few weeks. So, keep your eyes peeled for pluots, plums, and apricots. This does also mean, of course, that we're in the last throes of winter citrus -- so stock up now if that brings tears to your eyes. Not me, though -- I simply cannot wait for nectarines and peaches and pluots and melons!

See you at the market!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Margaritas de Fresa

A week ago this Wednesday, some of my most loyal readers and friends joined me for a tasty tonic: strawberry margaritas made with the organic berries I froze a few weeks back. And dear readers, let me tell you, a tangier, sweeter, fresher margarita has never crossed these lips. I implore you: go freeze some berries (or other types of fruit) and indulge in this pleasure.

Now, if my mixology were more "-ology" and less "mix-", I'd have a recipe with precise proportions for you, but unfortunately, that's just not the way I roll. I eyeballed each and every intoxicating batch, but aimed to obey the basic principles of traditional margarita-making: 1 part lime, 1/2 tequila, 1/2 triple sec. Though these are strawberry margaritas, I still used the juice of a few fresh limes to add some liquid as well as tang.

I'm thinking for next time, I might add mango, or maybe make it a triple-berry margarita with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Whatever I do whip up, I promise I'll share the fruits of my labors with you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Memories of a Loquat Tree

Some of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood are of the loquat tree in our front yard. I imagine the tree was there when my parents and older brothers moved into the house in the early '70s, as it was full grown and productive by the mid-'80s, when these memories were made. I spent many a temperate San Antonio evening in its nook, made easy to access by my resourceful father who nailed three wooden slats to the trunk so I could shimmy my short little body up to the fork between two branches. Often times, I'd escape the madness that was our four-child, two-parent home by taking some melodramatic young adult book or my current diary up there and sit over the driveway, just enough hidden to evade easy detection. (To this day, I'm not sure anyone ever knew that this was my chosen hiding place for all those years.) In the days of early summer, when the fruits would yellow and ripen, I'd eat them straight off the tree, right there in the driveway, using its branches and those of the neighboring tall ash for shade from the relentless Texas sun. Loquat trees actually grew up in yards all around our home. So, on days or evenings when climbing the tree didn't provide enough solace, I'd roam the cul-de-sacs of our quiet, sidewalk-less neighborhood, collecting fallen loquats on the way for food, for what I was sure would be a long, lonely night on the street.

Eventually, the tree had to be chopped down and uprooted -- like many others at the time, it had become infected with some incurable virus (or, so I think). I remember then, even, feeling that this somehow marked the passage of time. I had long outgrown the nook, but even so, the loss of the tree and its fecund branches, stands out as I remember my last few years in San Antonio. I'm not sure what took its place, if anything.

Years later, when I moved to Irvine for graduate school, I discovered just such a tree down the path from my apartment. It had been close to 15 years since the last time I sunk my teeth into the tough skin to the soft, sometimes tart, sometimes sweet, always juicy meat of a loquat. Though they still have a few days to go before reaching sugary perfection, I simply haven't been able to resist plucking a few to relieve the branches from a bit of their droop. Like I used to do when foraging for food on the streets of San Antonio, I cupped my shirt like a basket and piled them in for sustenance for what I was sure would be a long and arduous journey.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

At Long Last... The Mangosteen

Forbidden in the United States for decades, the fresh mangosteen has arrived! I learned about its arrival through this video on the NYTimes website. I've long yearned for the opportunity to sample this tropical wonder, and genuinely thought I'd have to travel a long distance to do so. And though I'm thrilled to learn of its arrival, it is a bittersweet excitement. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I feel strongly about doing my best to support (and celebrate) local produce growers. So the arrival of the mangosteen, though titillating, makes me all the more aware of the commitment I've made to local growers. Frieda's Specialty Produce Company, the supplier of the mangosteen and many other "exotic" fruits and veggies, has a product list that includes many items available from local growers: eg., bok choy, Asian pears, atemoyas, Chinese broccoli, etc. I will probably still hunt down a mangosteen, even though it will have been shipped in from somewhere in Southeast Asia, but I anticipate a slightly bitter flavor amongst the sweet.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Newspaper?

I asked George again about what the advantage is to placing your strawberries on newspaper and learned that the ink acts as a safeguard against "mossification." In other words, the ink prevents any of that fuzzy, white moss/mold that often accumulates on your strawberries from doing so. There you have it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Farmer's Market Blues

It's a sad state of affairs out there, fellow marketeers, a sad, sad state. We have officially entered the much-dreaded between-season slump. Just look around the next time you go to the market: tables once overflowing with ripe, juicy citrus have just a few scrappy heaps left. Though I've still managed to scrounge up some oro blancos (from Cal Poly farms) and cara cara oranges, the range of selection (and general quality) is way, way down. That being said, the veggies continue looking good. I picked up a voluminous artichoke and sweet, sweet sugar snap peas. But the real warm-weather goodies haven't begun to pour in yet, or even trickle in for that matter. Save, the strawberries, which as I've remarked before are incredibly flavorful this year. One other fruit item I've been hankering to try is the cherimoya. I think I'll pick one up from Eden Organics next weekend.

A good friend recently reminded me of these odd fruits, one of which arrived in her weekly CSA box from Eden Organics. (If you've been considering signing up for the CSA, you should know that Eden has reached full capacity and cannot take any new subscriptions. You should still chat with them--Jenn or Paul--if you're interested, though.) Cherimoyas peak in March through April, so now is the time to try them. If you decide to do so, just make sure the fruit is firm, lacks any big brown blemishes, and is chilled before you eat it. Enjoy!

Friday, April 18, 2008

JRB Farms

This week's feature is on JRB Farms and their wide selection of organic fruits and vegetables grown in Temecula, Ca. Many of you probably know George even if you don't think you do: ever heard a bellowing voice announcing in a sing-song cadence: "Straaaaaaaaaaawwwberries! Straaaaaaaaaawwwberries! We grow 'em so you don't have to!!"

Yup, that's him. Before these last couple weeks, I had never visited or bought anything from his stand; now, after having finally perused his offerings, I can hardly admit to my earlier blindness. I've sampled nearly every strawberry possible this season, and I have to say, his have been the tastiest. But in addition to the mountain of strawberries available, he and his right-hand man Ramiro (pictured above), also have a wide array of root vegetables (carrots, beets, onions) and other veggies and spices.

I picked up a generous bushel of sweet onions, which were beautiful and delicious. Here they are:

These were exceptionally juicy and fragrant -- after lopping off the green ends for me at the market, George made sure to give us a look and a sniff. By both aroma and flavor, they seemed like a green onion hybrid. I chopped them up for an Asian-style stir-fry of beef with ginger, bok choy, broccoli and fish sauce.

Now, to report on the frozen strawberries: They look great. Just like room-temperature strawberries, but colder. Freezing them individually on the plate is obviously a convenience factor for whatever you intend to do with them, but I can't really say quite yet what the newspaper did. I'll have to ask for more information from George tomorrow.

Happy marketing!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Donovan Sez...

"Mmmmmmm. Crunch, crunch, crunch. I looooooooooooove cilantro. Crunch, scrunch, munch, crunch. It's so ... slurp ... delicious. I could just ... crunch, squunch ... eat it all day. Oh no! Sniff, sniff, sniff. Where'd it all go? I need more!"

Seriously. You can hear the crunching. You don't even have to listen that carefully. It's like a typewriter crossed with jaws in there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Give Your Berries Some Room ... and Some Paper

While at the market a couple weeks ago, George, from JRB Farms, let me in on a little secret about freezing strawberries. For the best results, freeze them on some newspaper. I laid out a couple of sheets (from the Sunday's Times) over a plate and then set my washed and hulled berries, with an inch or so between them, on that. Apparently, the non-toxic ink from the paper helps them stay fresh. And keeping space between them is crucial because they have sharp, protruding micro-spikes on their flesh that can stab and injure their neighbors.

So give 'em some room already! I'm experimenting with this today and can't wait to see how it goes. Stay tuned for my findings, and for my general review of JRB organic farms. If all goes well in the freezer, I'll be sipping strawberry margaritas this weekend. Yummmmmmmmmmm.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sweet Tarte

Once I discovered the fuji apples at Ha's Snow Mountain Grown Apple Farms, I stopped buying any other kind of apple from any other vendor. They are that good. Always sweet and extra crunchy, these apples come in steady supply almost year-round. I particularly appreciate the great variety of sizes they always have on offer. Sometimes all I want is a teeny-tiny fuji -- I can get that there!

Even though you may not see any samples on offer, stop by, because Jenny and Kevin mete out generous chunks of freshly peeled apples to passersby. Though their prices are a bit steep -- not for the samples, of course -- ($2.25 for non-organic, $2.75 for organic), I think it's worth it. At no other stand or market have I found such dependably tasty, crunchy, and juicy apples. They also sell jars of homemade apple butter and bags of dried apple rings at the stand, which due to their price, I've never bought. Though the Ha's only offer apples at the Irvine market, apparently at the Sunday farmer's market in West Hollywood they have a much wider selection.

Initially, after bringing home my bushel of apples, I imagined baking a soft and homey apple cake; but after a bit more consideration, I decided fujis were simply too juicy for cake and opted for a tarte. Instead of going the usual Tarte Tatin route, though, I checked Epicurious to see if I could find some fabulous variation to make. Low and behold, I did! Here it is. What distinguishes this tarte from more traditional recipes, is that you essentially bake the apple slices in homemade caramel for an hour and a half in the oven before placing the (store-bought) puff pastry on top.

After the final 30 minutes it takes to cook the pastry to golden perfection, you absolutely must let the whole thing sit out and cool for several hours: they recommend three, I went for five. For the big reveal, I expected a soupy, sticky mess, and was thus so pleased to see it come out in one gorgeous piece. Look!

I served up each whopping piece with an equally healthy dollop (is there such a thing?) of creme fraiche to cut through the sweetness of the caramel. It was perfect and not a drop was left on anyone's dish. One friend, whose mother has baked apple pie almost every year for her birthday, proclaimed that she hoped to have this tarte instead at all future birthday celebrations.
Sorry Laura's mom!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Americans (Eating) in Paris

Dear Readers, My wonderful brother, Matt, and his equally wonderful family (partner Rob and too-beautiful-for-this-world children, Cory and Addy) are casting off for a six-month stay in Europe--Barcelona, then Paris--at the end of April. To record their adventures and entertain those not lucky enough to be there with them, Matt has started a blog. Though it will cover more than just cuisine, I think I can promise all of you out there that these two incomparable foodies will tell us lots about what they eat, where they eat it, and how much of a mess the kids made while doing so. And if we're (read: they're) lucky, they'll ditch the kids once or twice to head out to eat something truly divine. I'm crossing my fingers for a firsthand review of Ferran Adriá's restaurant/s in Barcelona.
Bon voyage, boys! And blog away!

Monday, March 31, 2008

How to Choose an Artichoke

I found myself asking this question of myself and others several times this past Saturday at the farmer's market when I realized I had forgotten Aliza Green's handy produce guide, and no one could give me a straight answer. One farmer actually told me to just choose one that I liked. What does that even mean? So, upon returning home I consulted my guide and here's what I discovered: an artichoke should have tightly packed and brightly colored leaves, its cut end should also be fresh and definitely not "black." Ick! You may have also noticed that the market is awash in these feisty flowers at the moment, and that's because they are in season from now through May. Enjoy them while you can!

Quiche with Gouda, Mushrooms, and Shallots

I am a lover of our mighty, ovoid friend the egg, but usually for a main dish, I veer the route of the frittata rather than the quiche. This time, however, I went against the grain and made a quiche (with store-bought crust, sorry). As you might imagine, it was a basic fundamental recipe with a few twists by way of the ingredients.

I sauteed amply seasoned shallots and crimini mushrooms in olive oil, thyme, and a little sherry, which after letting cool to room temperature, I poured into my egg and cream mixture (six eggs and about half-a-cup of heavy cream). After laying thick slices of gouda over the bottom of the crust, I baked it for about half an hour or so. I served it up with some toasted artisanal bread, sliced tomato, and rosemary for garnish. All in all, it didn't wow me, but then I suppose I didn't expect it to either. If I were to do it again, I'd grate much, much more Gouda into the egg mixture and on top of the surface to brown a bit, too. You might even try throwing in some cayenne pepper for kick.

Winchester Cheese, Twenty-Two Days Later

A long, long time ago, on Saturday, March 8th (she writes, while wincing: is anyone still out there?), I visited the booth of southern California's own Winchester Cheese, the only cheese vendor at our humble market. Manned by the friendly and generous Dan, Winchester offers a mouth-watering assortment of homemade Gouda cheeses.

On my visit, I saw mild, medium, aged, jalapeño, cumin, and garden herb, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be others. Dan has an organized selection of samples on offer; I had only the first three, mild, medium, and aged.

But before going on, I just have to remark on how wonderfully meticulous Dan was in meting out his samples: he'll make sure before you take your first test that you start with a milder cheese so that you don't sully your palette for these subtler samples by beginning with a sharp cheese. I thought this was so mindful, I couldn't let it go without remark.

Now, we can proceed with the more general cheese commentary. Though usually a fan of aged Goudas, like that sold at Dean & Deluca in NYC, I opted to purchase the medium, here. I found the aged to be a smidge too sharp, for me. Eaten alone, the semi-soft medium cheese is creamy, with a subtle, but still unmistakable bite at its end. I recommend eating it slowly and alone at first, then maybe adding a mild cracker or olive with it.

In browsing their website, I discovered that Winchester offers membership in a Cheese Club, which provides bimonthly shipments of two cheeses for an average cost of $20-$25. This seems about on par with the cost of cheese at the market, which can get pricey at around $10.

I will post my recipe from my cheese (Quiche with Mushrooms, Gouda, Shallots, and Fresh Thyme) and a post with Ha's Apple Farm and a general market report presently. Please don't give up on me readers! I'm here, I promise.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Don't Eat Anything That Doesn't Rot"

This is the title of a very interesting interview with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. We can all thank Brock for sending it to me. And at the end if you don't heed my command to "Get thee to a farmer's market!" then you're crazy. This does lead me to a confession I have to make: I missed the market this morning. But guess what happened instead! I got a new nephew! Simon! Look how cute and sleepy he is. Being born is such hard work.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Calling All Yogis & Yoginis

I am officially signed up to do the YogaWorks Teacher Training Program that begins this April and I am so excited!!! Though some people do the program to deepen their own personal practices, I really want to teach. So, if you or anyone you know is looking to get started with some private lessons, I'm you're gal.

A Plum Pick

We all have our theories about how to pick out the best broccoli, pomegranates, and melons, but sometimes they just don't work and we get stuck with a week's worth of strawberries that shrivel in a day or a 5-pound dried-up watermelon. If you count yourself among this unlucky group, check out this great article on about how to select summer fruits.

Though I'd love to become the standard-bearer for evaluating produce, I've still got a lot to learn. And for that reason, I decided to pick up a copy of Aliza Green's book mentioned in the Slate article. It's a handy--and handsome--guide that covers both fruits and veggies. (And because I love it, a few more words on the design of this book. It's short and chubby and just over pocket-sized with rounded edges and a smooth-to-the-touch, colorful, matte-finish cover.) Each entry provides a general description where you can learn fascinating things about fruit. For example, did you know that cherries first originated in the Balkans but have been cultivated in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions for 2,000 years? I didn't!

In addition to fun and useless trivia, you can also learn during what months each fruit is harvested, what to look for (and what to avoid) when picking it out at the market (either farmer's or super), how best to store it, preparation instructions, and, my personal favorite, a list of some of its "flavor affinities."

Thank you Aliza Green. Never again will you see me shaking a cantaloupe or knocking on an apple. I now know what to do.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I am completely obsessed with Westies. I know this has no relation to the farmer's market or fruit or cooking, but I don't care. Look how cute! I want one! Do you think he and Donovan could be friends? I do...

Unsolved Mysteries Revealed

I don't know why it's taken me so long to finally find out what oro blancos and cocktail grapefruits and pomelos actually are, but I have, and I'm sharing my research with you.

Oro Blanco: The oro blanco is apparently a pomelo hybrid.

Pomelo: A variety of grapefruit, the pomelo is a native of Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, but is obviously grown elsewhere. Like its sibling/offspring/relative, the oro blanco, pomelos have spongy flesh and sweet fruit. I have found my samples from the farmer's market to have a more bitter flavor than oro blancos.

Cocktail Grapefruit: This mythic fruit, unknown to my East Coast readers, is actually a hybrid of the frua mandarin and pomelo. As far as I know, they are only grown in California. (Sorry for the poor quality image.)

Please feel free to share anything you've discovered as well.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Market Notes

I know, I know, I'm a neglectful blogger. But I'm turning over a new leaf and really getting down to business. Before I post this week's feature report on Winchester Cheese, I thought I'd share some general market news with my regular readers. Although you may not be able to tell by the weather in Irvine, winter is coming to an end, which means the citrus season is, too. Lovers of Sweet Tree's petite mandarines, I'm talking to you: beware, you only have until the end of March to eat your weight in those bright and tiny pockets of perfection. I've also begun to notice already that the once abundant sweet, firm, juicy navel oranges have begun to dry up, which means my beloved oro blancos and fruas will, too. I'm so sad! Run, go, make another golden greyhound while you can! When the first Saturday arrives without them, you'll surely hear my sobs across campus.

In other happier news, crates of strawberries have begun to pop up all over the market! I tried as many as I could today and finally decided to pick up a bundle. And sugar snap peas are also beginning to roll in, which is great news for me: I love to make a cool pesto puree in the summer with sugar snap peas, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Let's also hope that before long we can start to see some good tomatoes. It has been a long, dry, almost completely tomato-less winter for me.

Though before summer's sugary sweets begin to roll in, we'll have to make it through the no-man's-land of April. In the meantime, stock up on citrus!

See you at the market!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Donovan Sez..., Cilantro v. Chrysanthemum

This is it. The face-off you've all been waiting for: Cilantro versus Chrysanthemum. What will he devour first? Will the little-known green leaf from Yao Cheng supplant Big D's all-time favorite? Could it be?

Let's find out!
At the start, the competition stays pretty close, while Donovan weighs his options.

But, wait, before long he seems to head for something. Is it ... the cilantro?
Yes, indeed it is!

And the cilantro wins!!!!!!!! Woo!!!!

Poor chrysanthemum. It sat there all night, untouched, unloved.
For our next battle, I'm thinking cilantro v. oro blanco. Care to make a wager?

Yao Cheng, Part II

I went back to Yao Cheng Farms this week to continue my report on their offerings. I found largely the same selection of leafy greens and gourds, but with just a couple noticeable alteration: it was out with the honeydew, in with wintermelon and shark fin squash!

The latter is a green-and-white speckled, fairly rare variety of winter gourd, which often appears in soups. Though I didn't buy the shark-fin squash, I did pick up half a kabocha squash, which I'm quite excited to try. I also filled up a bag with the chrysanthemum greens I saw at Yao Cheng last week, which I've never seen or tried before.

It has a powerful floral flavor and aroma, which I think is going to be amazing in the tangy lemongrass soup I plan to make with it later this week. (Stay tuned for that recipe.) Yao Cheng also had some absolutely gorgeous green onions, which I snatched up and will also incorporate into the soup.

In general, the market had a strong selection of the citrus we've seen all season: navel oranges, mandarines, oro blancos, pommelos, and Fuji apples. I picked up a couple navels from Garden of Eden, which were quite dry, so I plan to stick with Sweet Tree next time. If you've seen anything fabulous, please do let us know.

Forbidden Fruits

If you haven't already seen this op-ed piece in the New York Times, you should take a look at it now. Chances are, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll be interested to learn about the disturbing, but not altogether unsurprising obstacles put into play by the Farm Service Administration (essentially the bureaucratic puppet of corporate agriculture) in order to prevent local growers of subsidized crops like corn and wheat from cultivating other fruits or vegetables on these so-called subsidized "corn-based" acres.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Green, Green, Glorious Green! at Yao Cheng Farms

After much deliberation, I have decided to do an extended two-week profile of the farmer's-market staple Yao Cheng Farms. I simply did not acquire enough from their stand to post a comprehensive review. Known for their wide selection of unusual leafy greens (Japanese broccoli sprouts, chrysanthemum) and gourds (kabocha squash and winter melon), in addition to more common varieties (the only garlic I ever buy, ginger, bok choy, and more), Yao Cheng Farms is a great table to visit for a vegetable exploration mixed with culinary brainstorming.

David (above) spent a few moments with me pointing out a number of favorites among Irvine's health-nuts and frequenters of his stand. He raved about the "sweet" kabocha squash (the green gourd below), which he said possesses all sorts of health benefits for heart troubles, diabetes, and more. Though I didn't pick one up this time, I will next week; I'm thinking about using it to make some kind of a warm, savory, sweet mash, or maybe a soup...

And nuzzled in between the kabocha squash and the baby bok choy is the bright yellow Chinese honeydew, which tends to be quite a bit firmer than the honeydew we're used to seeing in the supermarket. I love it because it provides the sweet crunchy break from the citrus-overload I always find myself in this time of year.

Do check back soon for my recipe using pea tips and next week for another post on Yao Cheng Farms!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Donovan Sez...*

I am so excited to finally introduce the much-anticipated and soon-to-be-regular post "Donovan Sez...," featuring reviews from the palate of the ever-discriminating Donovan "Runtz" Labouff Ostrower. In the following short documentary, we were lucky enough to record Donovan enjoying oro blanco pulp leftover from the Golden Greyhound juicing extravaganza. As you can see, the oro blanco gets "two ears up" from big D.

* Many thanks to Tamara for coining this ingenious title.

Recipe: Butter Lettuce with Ricotta Salata, Radishes, and Mandarin Orange

This quick salad was a tangy, fresh change from my usual Greek salad diet. I used the supple, tender butter lettuce from the Garden of Eden, a sectioned mandarin orange from Sweet Tree Farms, some spicy red radish, and soft and salty ricotta salata. I topped it off with a simple red wine vinaigrette with garlic, oregano, and plenty freshly crushed pepper. And this time, I managed to take a picture or two before inhaling it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Garden of Eden, Indeed!

I am so thrilled to be able to make this week's post about the much-beloved Garden of Eden Organics. Known all-too-simply as "the lettuce people" among many regular farm-goers, Jennifer and Paul Trejo are the inimitable duo behind this farm and its well-edited selection of lettuces (red oak, red leaf, butter, romaine), thick dark greens (yellow chard!, rapini, succulent spinach), herbs, and produce (oro blancos, avocados, eggplants, navel oranges, and more). If you haven't yet visited their stall, you should; the Trejos have developed quite the loyal following among farmer's market devotees.

This week, I dug into their butter lettuce and broccoli rabe, both of which are tender and delicious. I've already posted one rabe recipe, but there will surely be another; I'm predicting a lamb chop with a sautée of rabe and yellow chard. I actually still have some of the latter left over from the week before. In fact, the staying power of these greens is truly remarkable, if not positively magical. Even a bag of their assorted lettuces (pictured below) can stay fresh for over a week if stored properly.

I had a chance to speak with the Trejos about their ongoing CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. Unlike other CSAs in the area, theirs is a co-op of six different farms, which means more variety for you. Subscribing to their program will bring you a box of produce at wholesale prices each week with six fruits and eight to ten veggies. (You can learn more about it here.)

In the next few weeks, you can look forward to more luscious greens as well as strawberries (hooray!), turnips, and cauliflower.