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.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Recipe: Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Salmon, Capers, and Red Onion

I hope you can forgive me, but I forgot to photograph my dinner before I ate it! You'll just have to believe me when I tell you it was both colorful and delicious. I made this dish with Trader Joe's canned wild salmon, which was great and all I had, but I think it would be even better with a fresh fillet instead. While the pasta cooked, I just sautéed red onions and garlic in olive oil, adding the rabe (from Garden of Eden Organics, post to come) after they became fragrant, salmon, the juice of half a lemon, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. I did reserve about 1/2 a cup of the pasta cooking water to add in case the sautée needed some extra fluid, which it did. You might also consider boiling the broccoli rabe before sautéeing it and then using that water to cook the pasta if you prefer the greens quite tender; mine still had quite a bit of crunch after 5 to 7 minutes over medium-low heat.

Check back for my report on all the luscious greenery from Garden of Eden Organics farm.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Otherworldly Delights at Black Market Bakery

Black Market Bakery, Let me count the ways I love thee:

1. Homemade pomegranate (and passion fruit and vanilla and white peach and ...) marshmallows that will transport you to a Parisian patisserie. They are so delicate, airy, and aromatic, you will love them.

2. Chocolate-almond brioche, a favorite of mine, is perfectly fluffy and accompanied by ribbons of sweet chocolate throughout.

3. Cinnamon-Currant brioche: If you tend towards the fruity rather than the chocolatey, you should give this a shot. Like the chocolate brioche, this one has ribbons of gooey, buttery cinnamon throughout and is peppered with moist currants inside and out. The brioches are sold in large family-style and small single-serving sizes, which is convenient.

4. Iced-shortbread cookies: Yum! A favorite of my brother, these cookies come in some hilarious forms--eg., an alien head--and are crispy, sweet, deliciousness.

5. Stuffed focaccia pockets: To quote my brilliant friend Tamara, "the focaccia pockets are heaven in a pocket." And she's right. As of today, I have only had the eggplant, tomato, and sheep's milk variety, which I loved. The bread is nice and crusty, especially if heated, and the eggplant was tender and wonderfully complemented by the sheep's milk cheese. But other Black-Market regulars have raved about their other selections: crimini mushroom, cheddar and shallot; curried potato with carrots and onion; sweet red pepper and feta.

6. Coconut-Vanilla Macaroons: "Oh. My. God." That was about all I could muster to say after sinking my teeth into this fluffy cloud of coconut deliciousness. And they're not kidding about the vanilla: you can actually see the vanilla bean speckled throughout. These are an absolute must!

These are only a selection of the manifold delights the Black Market Bakery has to offer. When I swung by last Saturday, the chef, Rachel, was on hand answering questions and providing information about their various confections. The bakery has a helpful website with menus and great pictures, check it out here:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recipe: The Golden Greyhound

For my first recipe, I present the Golden Greyhound:

This positively genius cocktail concoction puts a new twist on the classic Greyhound. Rather than ruby reds, we mixed freshly squeezed oro blancos and cocktail grapefruits (a.k.a., the frua) with vodka, garnished with a sugared rim and a slice of blood orange. It surely would not have been the same without the explosive produce from Sweet Tree (blood orange and oro blanco) and CalPoly Farms (frua). To amp up its golden glow, we served it over ice in gold-rimmed martini glasses. I've never felt so healthy about drinking vodka before. Many thanks to Nicole and Tamara for sharing in this with me ... and for helping me break in the new juicer! I see many, many juicy cocktails in our futures.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Website Launched!

Annie from last week's Sweet Tree Farms post has launched the website for her farm. Check it out here:

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sweet Tree Farm

For my first report, I decided to feature the lovely and delicious fruit from Sweet Tree Farm. On this cloudy, chilly day, the sunny citrus on hand was a definite pick-me-up. Their always generous supply of samples, well-edited offerings, and incredibly helpful and friendly staff make this one of my favorite booths at the farmer's market. This time of year, they offered up overflowing bushels of just-off-the-tree citrus, such as Oro Blancos, Mandarines, Blood Oranges, Navels and more.

Run by the informative and friendly Annie, this farm is located not far from Fresno, but they plan to open a location around L.A. soon to better serve the area. Annie also informed me that they will launch a website soon -- I'll be sure to post the link as soon as it's up. But back to the amazing fruit. . . . Their sweet, firm, and juicy produce is a year-round favorite of mine. Right now, I am especially in love with their Oro Blancos, which have been so delicious: I love how the sugary sweet flesh contrasts with the slight bitterness of the pith. They are a perfect alternative or complement to sliced oranges at a soccer game or whenever you've worked up a sweat. You should definitely give them a try if you haven't already! Those of you planning to head over next week, don't worry, Annie predicts more of the same beautiful fruit.

So get on over there and enjoy!