Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ahhh, Eggplant and Peppers

Today was the first day at the Santa Rosa market that I could purchase both eggplant and peppers from Triple T Ranch and Farm at the same time. It automatically makes me think of cooking and the Grilled Ratatouille recipe from my book. I had already bought both vegetables in Sebastopol from Neil at EasySweet Farm for a class that I did. Those became part of Quinoa, Corn, Eggplant and Chile Pilaf for a South Beach Summer class. At the end of class there was only a taste left. It was quite yummy and I wished that I had more. With the big push toward whole grains these days, people are finally starting to eat quinoa which is one of my favorites. (You will hear this over and over. Sorry.)

The weather here in Sonoma County has finally caught on that it is SUMMER. We are having our second heat wave since July, and it's hot but only in the 90s (yet in an effort to make us feel cooler the newspaper predicts weather in the 80s. It does not help cool me). The tomatoes are finally quickly ripening on the vine but my cucmbers are getting parched. It doesn't usually rain here in the summer so watering is crucial. I hand water so that I can inspect my plants daily to be sure that they are healthy and producing - they way that you will be once you eat their fruits (which are vegetables). I am gearing up for a talk on the health benefits of phytochemicals but I'll save that for another day.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Santa Rosa Heirloom Tomato Tasting

I spent the morning demonstrating 3 different tomato salads at my "home" market in Santa Rosa. Radio station KSRO was there and I got my 5 minutes on air with Steve Garner of The Good Food Hour. He knows the right questions to ask and we talked about The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment. He was amazed (as you might be) that Romano green beans only take 15 seconds in the pressure cooker to be perfectly cooked. They went into the Green Bean, Bulgur and Tomato Salad.

Salads like this one are incredibly versatile. If I had leftover cooked quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), barley or rice, I would have used that but in the interest of time, and the fact that bulgur only needs hot water to get "cooked" I used it successfully. Unfortunately each dish I made this morning had wheat in it. I got to see how many people are either avoiding wheat or carbs.I also demonstrated Italian Bread Salad (much easeir to pronounce than Panzanella) and Fattoush (Middle Eastern Bread Salad). These salads all let the color and flavor of the various tomatoes shine through. Fresh veggies at their best.

I got to see my own personal demonstration of "torching" goat cheese by Pascal of Pug's Leap Farm in Healdsburg, our latest and perhaps most authentic entry into the goat cheese market. My son Shane ate almost the entire cheese with the crackers that I brought from Dr. Kracker . These no-fat added, seedy spelt crackers are cruchy and tasty and go well with so many toppings -- and taste great solo.

The downfall of being featured at a market is that I don't get to shop, so I go home empty handed. Tomorrow I'll go to the market and shop. Maybe I'll even sell a book or two.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A New Market Experience

I went to check out the Windsor Farmer's Market ( ) where I will be doing a cooking demonstration at their Tomato and Pepper Festival on September 18th. I wanted to meet Glenda Castelli, the market manager and introduce myself.
It is a smallish market that has some good produce - lots of great tomatoes, and friendly farmers. Yet, at this week night market there were as many prepared food booths as farmers. It was the last week and it seems like people attend to have dinner and sit out on the lawn and socialize. I suspect that the Sunday morning market I will attend will be different .
I find the "market' world interesting. Each market is its own story with new characters each time. This time I met Tom Noble of Armstrong Valley Farms from a small town called Guerneville. His heirloom tomatoes were large and something to behold. His melons were ripe and ready. Tom had somehow managed to misplace his tags and couldn't tell which tomatoes or melons were which. They probably all tasted great so it doesn't matter but some people want to know what they are eating. In the back of Tom's pick up there was a box of sauce or juice tomatoes, large heirlooms with small defects or bruises. Most farmer's will have some of these and if you are ready to process large quantities of tomatoes and don't want to pay top price, just ask around. You might be amazed at what you can get. Remember that the farmer's goal is to go home with money and no product. Help the farmers out when you can. It'll be good for both of you. Treat your farmers with respect and they will do the same.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Weekend Shopping and More

My son Shane is away visiting relatives back East so my husband Rick and I got to play "grown-ups", and had a lot of fun. We went to two great free local events. The first was a ribbon cutting for a local dog park where we got our dog Bear some freebie treats and a coupon for a free rabies shot (guess which he'll like better?). Later on we went to a sculpture dedication and outdoor sculpture fair with good, free music by Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums. The weather was great and so was my "date". Rick and I stopped in at an open house of the Source Design Gallery in downtown Santa Rosa to see great design items including concrete sinks and countertops, Quartz Carpet made from recycled mirrors and co-owner Stefan Jonson's handpainted shoes. And even though I rarely drink hard alcohol, I had a taste of Charbay vodka and boy was it smooth. Just like my trips to the farmer's markets for produce.

I don't know what it's like where you live but we are coming close to the height of harvest season here which I can tell because we now have sweet and hot peppers, eggplant and potatoes. This calls for making my eggplant and potato curry. I enjoy using the strangely shaped fingerling potatoes. Stuart, the farmer at Stone Horse Farms in Santa Rosa who grew them, explained that they have a very complex root system. Take one look at their gnarled presence and you have to believe it - it;s more complex than the sculptures we saw yesterday - nature's sculptures eclipse all.

The proliferation of melons continues here and the apples are starting to arrive en masse. I have a gift bag of appleas awaiting my attention but I haven't yet figured out what to make. I also got a freebie bag of walnuts that need cracking but I'll have to wait for Shane's return tomorrow evening for that. He is the master walnut-sheller.

My one tomato on the vine turning color is coming along but the cool mornings and not-too-hot afternoons keep them from getting ripe. This weather feels like early fall, not summer but maybe it will extend the growing season, keeping us in tomatoes until December (which has happened before).

My creative juices are flowing these days with all my quiet time in the kitchen - lunch of shiitake, onion, potato and squash soft tacos with avocado and onion sprouts was great although it wasn't nearly as tasty as the baked tofu, quinoa and salsa wraps that I made the other day using Food for Life sprouted grain tortillas. Leave me alone in the kitchen with the veggies, spices and staples and watch out. Time to make more vegetable creations.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Veggie Queen arrives Late

Even though I showed up at the Farmer's market at 11:30 a.m. and not my usual 9 a.m. there was produce to be had, and that's because it is a middle of the week market. The pace is slower. My finds for the day were orange Roma tomatoes, Romano beans, salad greens and wax beans. I also got some perfectly ripe fruit -- a Charentais melon (French cantaloupe), a Spanish sugar nut (Casaba type) and white nectarines.

I did not come home and feast but prepared food for a class to sample. Did you know that green, wax or purple beans are done perfectly when cooked in the pressure cooker for 30 seconds? Amazing.

I encourage you to attend your local farmer's market and see what's new. Every day is an adventure and a chance to learn something about the farmer, the produce or you. You just never know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Blog Begins

I just realized that it's Wednesday and I am not at the Farmer's Market as I usually am. I started the day with a conference call and it threw off my routine. I am busy online promoting my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, neglecting the outside world, my errands and the fact that I will want food in the house later. So, off to search for the freshest veggies of the season, along with fruit, bread and more. Now on to the food.