NATIONAL FARMERS MARKET WEEK – August 1-7, 2010

THE OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION

By the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America

Whereas thousands of American farmers markets offer affordable and healthful products sold directly from the farm in their freshest possible state, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for children and families, which can help promote child health and reduce childhood obesity; and

Whereas farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems, support family farms, revitalize local communities, provide important outlets for producers and the opportunity for farmers and consumers to interact; and

Whereas the United States Department of Agriculture strongly supports farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer marketing activities for agricultural producers; and

Whereas farmers markets offer fresh healthy food via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program and address hunger through donations of unsold food;

Now, Therefore, to further awareness of farmers markets and of the contributions farmers make to daily life in America, I, Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, do hereby proclaim the week of August 1-7, 2010 as National Farmers Market Week. I encourage the people of the United States to celebrate the benefits of farmers markets with appropriate observances and activities.

In whitness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 16th day of July 2010, the two-hundred thirty-fifth year of the Independence of the United States of America.

Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary

EXPERIENCE WHAT ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT “FRESH AND LOCAL” IS ALL ABOUT.  LINKS FOR  LISTINGS OF LOCAL FARMERS’ MARKETS, WITHIN THE UNITED STATES, CAN BE FOUND here or here.

I’LL BE THERE, HOPE YOU WILL TOO. BE SURE TO POST A COMMENT ON WHAT YOU FOUND AT YOUR MARKET. I’D LOVE TO SEE WHAT EVERYONE IS BRINGING HOME.


I Never Thought The Day Would Come, But It Did.

One of the stands at my Farmers’ Market has the sweetest corn, temptingly sweet. Each week I buy two or more ears, with four being the maximum since there’s only one person doing the eating.  And every week I simply cook it in a little water until it is just barely done. It has been so sweet  that recently I haven’t even wanted butter or salt on it. This has been going on for weeks now. But this last week I’d had enough of corn on the cob. I didn’t think I would get to that point but I did. Trouble was I still had a couple of ears that needed to be eaten so, I fell back on an old favorite, a sauté with smoky bacon and sweet scallions. It was the perfect transition.

Sautéed Corn With Bacon and Scallions

Serves 2

In a heavy skillet sauté 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4” slices, until well they are browned. Add two scallions that have been sliced into 1/8” slices. Sauté until wilted. Add 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 3 ears). Add a pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes (don’t be afraid to add these, it won’t make it too hot). Sauté for 1 minute then cover for another minute. Stir and serve.

You don’t have to wait until your sick of corn to try this and if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers they’re great in a salad.

Abundance

Ichiban eggplant

Abundance, when defined in an ecologic way, refers to the relative representation of a species in a particular ecosystem. That’s what’s going on in the ecosystem that is my backyard. My Japanese eggplant is producing like crazy, which is good and bad at the same time. How much eggplant can one person eat? The other veggie that is producing heavily is a Butterstick zucchini. This abundance is one of the reasons I sometimes wish I didn’t’ have my own plants and could just buy what I really want at the Farmers’ Market. But then there’s that other part of me that just loves being able to pick something and then take it straight to the kitchen. This year that is the side that won out so, I’m dealing with my abundance by eating a lot of eggplant and zucchini and sharing with my friends for as long as they will accept. Abundance has brought about need, the need to find interesting ways to fix both zucchini and eggplant.

About three years ago I found this recipe in Bon Appetite and have been using it every summer since. But, while the recipe is only focused on eggplant preparation I want to recommend that you also try it on summer squash. For this version I used the Japanese eggplant and the Butterstick zucchini in almost equal amounts slicing them to ½-inch thickness then placing them in a zip-lock with the marinade and refrigerating it for the afternoon, if you can, for 1-hour minimum. Bring the package room temperature before you grill. I usually take it out about an hour before grilling time. Grill until they are browned nicely on one side then turn. As in the original these are good right off the grill or served at room temperature.

Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget that shopping your local Farmers’ Market is the best way to buy the freshest fruits and vegetables possible. The only way to get fresher is to grow your own. Another bonus of shopping the Farmers’ Market is you can  sample before you buy and you can’t do that at your local market.

Sesame eggplant & zucchini

Sesame Eggplant with Green Onions

Bon Appetite, Jun 2007

½ cup olive oil

4 large green onions coarsely chopped

2 T soy sauce

2 t Asian sesame oil

2 t sesame seeds

2 eggplants (about 2 ½ lbs cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices

Puree olive oil, chopped green onions, soy sauce, and sesame oil in blender. Transfer mixture to small bowl. Stir in sesame seeds; season mixture with pepper. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Generously brush 1 side each eggplant slice with green onion mixture. Cook until tender and charred in spots, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Serves 6

Pasta L’Estate (Summer Pasta)

Normally I don’t eat a lot of pasta during the summer months. It can be too filling and many days it’s just too hot to cook. But, there is one summer pasta I do fix, Pasta L’Estate, or summer pasta. It’s very much like something I tried at a restaurant once. Ever since then I have been trying to recreate it and have tried on my own and through various recipes. The closest thing I have found is a recipe from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, although you will see I’ve even modified it a little. It’s a wonderful dish for those hot summer evenings.

A quick trip to my garden brought a harvest of Sweet 100’s and lush basil. It was time to fix summer pasta. The recipe description says “We invented this pasta to preserve our favorite pesto flavors without having to put everything in the processor. A happy result with lots of texture and pizzazz.” I would agree. The only thing to keep in mind is that it takes at least 3 hrs or so to mingle the flavors in the sauce. Allowing less time will greatly compromise the flavor and that’s what sauce is all about, the flavor.

L’Estate

Serves 4

2 cups fresh basil leaves cut into ¼ inch strips

5 oz Parmesan cheese, cut into tiny squares

¾ cup pine nuts (pignoli), lightly toasted*

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup best quality olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1-pound linguine (I prefer spaghetti or buccatini)

Cherry tomato halves or tomato wedges

Combine the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the olive oil over all. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.

Cook the linguine in boiling salted water until tender but still firm. Drain and toss immediately with the sauce. Place on a large serving platter and arrange the tomatoes around the edge. (I toss the tomatoes with the sauce. I have also marinated, cherry or chopped, tomatoes in the sauce and liked the outcome.)

*Toast pine nuts in a skillet over very low heat, shaking the pan frequently, until evenly golden, about 2 minutes.

Pick up some fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and maybe even some pine nuts at your farmers’ market this weekend. Some markets may even have cheese and fresh pasta for sale.

103° Today!

Is there anything that tastes better than a slice of icy cold watermelon,

on a hot,

hot summer day?

I don’t think so. Do you?

The summer heat isn’t one of my favorite things about summer but it does bring us watermelons. Watermelon may just be the perfect summer food. We all know it’s sweet and juicy but did you know that watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than fresh tomatoes?

Check out the  Watermelon.org site for information on nutrition, selection & storage, how watermelons grow, recipes and a fun facts kid’s page. And, don’t forget to pick up a watermelon this weekend at the Farmers’ Market.

Cool Asian Slaw On A Hot Day

It’s hot today and so I opted for a cool salad for lunch.  I had a small cabbage, some carrots, a bit of broccoli, sweet red pepper and a left over cooked chicken thigh all needing to be used and so inspired by a few Asian style slaw recipes I have read of late I started slicing and tossing and this is what I came up with. I used chives instead of onion because that’s what’s in my garden. Besides, the flowers look pretty in the mix. Sliced red onion, or a sweet white onion would work just fine. I think the addition of Thai basil would be a nice touch but my garden’s supply isn’t ready yet. It also would be tasty to add some sliced nectarine or mango if you have some. I’d definitely try this again. Maybe next time with some salad shrimp.

Please let me know if you have any ideas for additions. I’m sure there are lots that I haven’t even thought of. Enjoy and stay cool!

ANNIE’S ASIAN SLAW

Dressing:

2 T rice vinegar

1 T honey

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

¼ cup canola oil (if you substitute peanuts for the cashews then substitute peanut oil for

the canola.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup mix all the ingredients and whisk until dressing is well combined.

Salad:

½ small head of savoy or regular cabbage, cored, and shredded

1 medium carrot julienned

½ red bell pepper julienned

1 stalk broccoli, peeled and julienned (optional)

½ to 1 cup shredded cooked chicken

¼ cup unsalted roasted cashews

2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (you could also substitute unsalted sunflower seeds)

1 Tablespoon chopped chives (plus the flowers)

Toss ingredients together; add dressing and toss again. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings

An Occidental Adventure

Last Friday evening my sister, Gwen and I headed west in search of Gerard and his infamous giant paella pans. This search was sparked when I read an article about the Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market. It mentioned Gerard\’s Paella as being one of the vendors. Paella, I love paella.  I checked out Gerard’s website. The photos were enticing. I could almost smell and taste the paella. We just had to go and try some.

And, so the adventure began as we traveled the Bodega Highway towards the setting sun, dreaming of the giant pans of paella that awaited us. Arriving, we found the little town of Occidental bustling with shoppers and couldn’t wait to check it out.

The market included about eighteen vendors; farmers with their fruits and vegetables, ranchers with meat,  sellers of prepared foods, several crafts people and a couple of  community service groups, all lined up in two tidy rows along the main street.

We slowly made our way up one side of the market to the end, watching carefully for Gerard and the giant paella pan. Then, down the other side enjoying chatting with farmers and tasting samples. No giant paella pans anywhere. Was I mistaken about him coming to this market? By chance, we ran into a friend of my sister’s and she asked about Gerard and guess what. He wasn’t going to be there that night. WHAT? I came all the way from Sacramento and he’s not going to be here. My dreams of paella for dinner that night were not to be. And, so with my paella dreams dashed, we headed towards the car, stopping only at the mushroom grower to buy some of his incredible shitake mushrooms.

Now what do we do for dinner? Running into Gwen’s friend again we asked for recommendations and she gave us several. We chose to drive to Graton, just down the road, and try the Underwood Bar and Bistro, which has outdoor dining, and a small plates menu.  As we sat outside, enjoying a glass of wine, we read through the menu.  It all sounded so good. We finally decided on a selection of several small plates, including a lovely roasted beet, endive, walnut and feta cheese salad and Hoisin glazed baby back ribs with a Napa cabbage and mango slaw. It was the perfect ending to the evening.

As for Gerard and his paella, we’re not going to give up. We’ll be going back to Occidental for another try. The market is open through October.