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Showing posts with label Santa Monica Farmers' Market. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Santa Monica Farmers' Market. Show all posts

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's for Breakfast? Mashed Potatoes and Eggs

A hot breakfast is a smart way to begin the day. But it can take too much time to prepare. Because they're already cooked, left-over mashed potatoes are a quick and easy way to make a nutritious breakfast.

For dinner last Sunday, we had a Caesar salad made with frisee instead of romaine and roast pork (porchetta) flavored with Italian parsley, garlic and onions. Garlic mashed potatoes and roasted whole tomatoes were the sides.  A plate of cut up cara cara oranges and a custard with crystallized ginger and orange juice finished the meal. All in all, dinner was very satisfying.


The next day, the refrigerator was the beneficiary of Sunday's dinner. Considering what was left-over, we were looking at a succession of meals we could have during the week.

Reheated, the porchetta could easily be enjoyed as an entrée or a hot sandwich. The roasted tomatoes would make a delicious pasta sauce. And the mashed potatoes....! They were so delicious the first time around.

Made from King Edward potatoes bought at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, the mashed potatoes were sweet and full of flavor. Certainly we could just reheat them to serve again with the porchetta but they would also be good for breakfast.

From my hippie days, I always save the potato skins when I make mashed potatoes because I add them to stocks. It occurred to me that they would also be good sauteed (to crisp up) and added to the mashed potatoes.

Some bacon would be good too.

Breakfast Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Potato Skins and Onions

Using a non-stick pan is the way to go with this dish. Just be sure to use the pan on a medium-low to medium flame to avoid health risks.

Serves 4

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup skins, peeled from 6 large potatoes, julienned
2 cups mashed potatoes, King Edward, Sierra Gold or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 medium onion, washed, peeled, root, skin and stem removed, roughly cut
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
2 slices cooked, crisp bacon, cut into strips (optional)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over a medium flame, saute the potato skins, onion and parsley until lightly browned, add the bacon (optional) and the mashed potatoes, mix together, season with sea salt and pepper and saute until potatoes are lightly browned on top and form a crust.

Serve with eggs, any style.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Farmers' Markets' Army of Believers

Fueled by the books of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, among others, and by the recent release of films such as Food, Inc. and Food Fight, a lot of people are talking about food policy in the United States.

With so many people suffering from diabetes, Americans have paid a high price for the convenience of fast food. When the First Lady digs up part of the White House lawn to plant a garden, you know we're either at war or there's a problem with what American's are eating.

Knowing that consumers want a reliable, healthy food supply, corporations use phrases like "Organic," "Farm Fresh," "Healthy Choice" and "100% Natural" as marketing tools to keep processed foods in our pantries.

Access to fresh, affordable produce is essential to good health. The big question is how to do that?

Those of us who live in communities with farmers' markets are lucky. In our area, we have two great farmers' markets: the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and the Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market.

In Southern California the full bounty of summer is apparent on the farmers' heavily laden tables.

Besides being a source of good food products, farmers' markets are good for one's mood. No matter what modern-living crisis we're dealing with, an unhurried walk around the market is calming and reviving.

Sampling the stone fruit and citrus from Arnett Farms, eating a plate of raw clams at Carlsbad Aquafarms, talking with John, the co-owner of Sweredoski Farms, and hearing his stories about being a Marine before he became a farmer, or literally stopping and smelling the roses at Bernie and Linda's Kendall Garden Roses stand. There is something very satisfying about knowing where your food came from and meeting the farmers who brought it to market.

Recently I interviewed master chef Albert Roux, famous for having revolutionized French cooking in England. In March he opened a restaurant outside of Houston, Texas. Since he trained Marco Pierre White and Hell's Kitchen's Gordon Ramsey, Chef Roux is an experienced cook who has seen it all.

What animated him the most during the interview was his joy at having access to American food products. He delighted in the high quality of Alaskan salmon, Maine scallops, and "happy," free range chickens. And what moved him the most was the dedication of the farmers who sold their wares at the local farmers' markets.

Even though, as he said, they knew they would never make a fortune from their farms, these farmers worked hard so that they could proudly deliver to the market the best produce they could.

Chef Roux called them "the army of believers".

But there aren't enough farmers' markets to solve the problems created by America's reliance on processed food.

If you're lucky enough to have one in your neighborhood, that's great. Even if you don't know how to cook it's easy enough to walk over to a farmer's table and buy pesticide-free fruit and vegetables so you can eat a fresh peach or make a salad.

But even if you don't have a farmers' market close to where you live, it's important to understand that learning to cook is important for your health. Supermarket chains and neighborhood mom and pop stores might not have the best produce, but some produce is better than none.

Access to fresh produce is one issue, the other is understanding that learning to cook is important for your health. The problem is many people have bought into the idea that prepared and convenience foods are just easier to deal with and take less time to prepare. But as Tom Laskawy recently pointed out, it's only a little more time-consuming to cook a meal than it is to microwave one.

There are many ways to promote good health, but certainly eating well is centrally important. In the long run, if you know how to shop for good ingredients and how to cook, you'll save money, have better tasting food, and stay healthier longer.

From the Palisades Farmers' Market today, we brought home a bag heavy with fresh ears of corn, ripe peaches and pluots, a tray of sweet red raspberries, just-caught fish, and fresh arugula, spinach, Italian parsley, and Persian cucumbers.

In my posts this week I'll describe what we cooked for our Sunday dinner: a risotto with squash blossoms and baby zucchini and ginger-soy poached black cod with sauteed garlic-spinach.

Both dishes took no more than 30 minutes to prepare, cook, and serve. Virtually all the ingredients came from our local farmers' markets.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic-Parsley Toasts

Cioppino is said to have originated among fishermen who made their dinners out of the fish and shellfish they couldn't sell in the morning. Although it has evolved into a pricey item on upscale menus, at heart cioppino is comfort food.

Traditionally cioppino features fresh crab, reflecting the origin of the dish in San Francisco where Dungeness crabs are plentiful. When crab isn't available or affordable, shrimp works just as well. Clams and mussels are essential to the dish, as are cubes of fish fillets. Flounder sole, tilapia, salmon, or halibut all work well.

Find a reliable supplier of seafood. To ensure we're getting the freshest ingredients, we buy our clams and mussels from Carlsbad Aqua Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market (Wednesday and Sunday) and our flounder sole from Tropical Seafood at the Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market (Sunday).

Tomatoes
are as important to making cioppino as is good quality seafood. If the tomatoes are roasted, the soup has a beautiful sweetness edged with the tomato's natural acidity.

One of the helpful aspects of this dish is that many of the elements can be prepared ahead and frozen for later use. I pick up overly ripe tomatoes at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market when they're discounted. I'll buy several pounds, roast them, freezing some whole in an air tight container and turning the rest into tomato sauce, which I also freeze.

The clams and mussels can be cooked, taken out of their shells, and frozen. If the meat is submerged in the broth, there's no danger of freezer burn. The fish fillets can be cut into 1/2" squares, tossed in olive oil, and frozen in a Ziploc bag. That way all the essential parts of the cioppino are waiting in the freezer whenever you want a taste treat.

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes

While serving cioppino with shellfish in the shell is more picturesque, my vote is to take the clams, mussels, and crab out of their shells so eating the dish is easier.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes plus 45-60 minutes for the tomatoes

Ingredients

6 large ripe tomatoes, washed
8 cloves garlic, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems
1/2 pound mushrooms--shiitake or brown--washed, thinly sliced
1 pound Dungeness crab legs, cooked, washed, cut into 1" pieces or 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, cut into 1" pieces
2 pounds butter or little neck clams, washed
2 pounds mussels, washed, beards removed
1 pound fish fillet--sole, salmon, tilapia, or halibut--washed, cut into 1/2" cubes
Olive oil
Black pepper

Method

Roasting the Tomatoes

Remove the remnants of the stem at the top of the tomato and discard. Put the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil sheet on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl, reserving all the liquid on the bottom of the baking tray. When cooled to the touch, remove the skins and discard. With your fingers, tear the tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.

Parsley-Garlic Toasts

To make the parsley-garlic toasts, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, seasoned with half the garlic and parsley. Make two slices for each person. Saute the bread on each side until lightly browned.

Cioppino

In a large stock pot, drizzle olive oil on the bottom, heat on a low flame, saute the remaining garlic and parsley until softened. Add 1/4 cup water, the clams and mussels, turn the flame to high, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove all the clams and mussels that have opened. If any are still closed, put the cover back on and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Any clams and mussels that still haven't opened at that point should be discarded.

Slowly pour the broth into a large bowl. Discard any grit remaining in the stock pot. Return the pot to the stove, drizzle more olive oil, and saute the mushrooms over a low flame until lightly browned. Add the broth and roasted tomato pulp and sauce. Simmer 15 minutes.

Add the fish fillets, stir well, and cook 5 minutes. Add the crab or shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add the mussels and clams, stirring them into the broth, being careful not to break apart the fish fillets. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Place 1 slice of garlic-parsley toast on the bottom of each bowl, add the cioppino, then place the 2nd slice on top.

Variations

Instead of garlic cloves in the cioppino saute, use 1 whole green garlic, outer skin of the bulb and root end removed, white and green parts thinly sliced

Add 1 cup cubes of cooked, peeled potato, preferably Yukon Gold or fingerlings, unpeeled and quartered

Add kernels from 1 grilled corn on the cob

Substitute cilantro for the parsley

Saute thin rounds of Italian sausage or chorizo, add to the broth

Use 1/4 cup white instead of water

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New to Me: R+D Kitchen and M Cafe

Yabu, Il Fornaio and Musha are my favorite restaurants. They have great food and they're comfortable and affordable. I'd go to them every week if I could. Having said that, without realizing it, I'd fallen into a rut. It took my wife, Michelle, to shake things up and get me to try two new restaurants.

R+D Kitchen (310-395-3314) is part of the Hillstone restaurant group that includes Bandera, Gulfstream, and Houston's among others. Recently opened at 1323 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, R+D took over an address that was something of a black hole. Montana Lounge and Yu Restaurant had failed. Even a successful entrenpeneur like Wolfgang Puck couldn't make the space work for him. With the Aero theater directly across the street, this should be a good location.

Good design makes such a difference. The previous tenants had sealed off the space, creating dark interiors. Walking into the restaurant, it's easy to see that R+D came up with a fresh approach. With a minimalist design, a skylight in the middle of the dining room, an L-shaped bar to one side, and windows that open out onto Montana, R+D is inviting both inside and out.

Running along the street side of the restaurant is a window space that in warm weather is covered by almost invisible screen. The effect is complete openness.

A single sheet, bar-style menu focuses on a few choices: sandwiches (cheeseburgers, Reuben Sandwiches, Veggie Burgers), salads (Mediterranean tuna salad, chopped chicken salad, and an heirloom tomato salad), a few entrees (chicken, pasta, omelet, and steak), and one or two specials.

The night we visited the restaurant we came early while it was still light, all the better to enjoy the airy interior. The portions are large. The Featured Sandwich for the day was an ahi tuna burger which the kitchen obliged us by splitting. We shared a salad as well. The Newporter was a perfect salad entree, with pieces of roast chicken sharing the plate with a mix of apples, bacon, cashews and greens. Judging by the crowded tables and with a lively bar and a good wine list, R+D certainly seems to have hit a sweet spot on Montana.

M Café (310/838-4300) adds a macrobiotic kitchen to the ever-expanding restaurant row on Culver Blvd. Like R+D, M Café is a member of a larger family of restaurants. The Chaya organization in Los Angeles has always been known as a design-savvy company with an eye on fusion cuisine. M Café in Culver City is an inviting restaurant with a large space inside and a shaded patio out front. With its refrigerated cases, the offerings have the feeling of an upscale deli.

If you think that "macrobiotic" means a subsistence diet of whole grains and raw vegetables, you will be pleasantly surprised. M Café bends the rules to include fish. An avoidance of refined sugar, eggs, or dairy doesn't mean that the pleasures of the patisserie are ignored.

An extensive menu offers salads, rice bowls, sandwiches (hot and cold), sushi, and desserts. As befits a restaurant that has "fusion" embedded in its corporate identity, Cole slaw comfortably shares space in the deli display with whole-grain brown rice inari sushi.

Since Michelle has recently embraced a whole grain, sugar-free, largely vegetarian diet, M Café is a dream-spot for her. With the original M Café at 7119 Melrose, she can enjoy her new diet on the West Side and in town as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blackened Peppers Go to the Head of the Class for Versatility

We're at the end of summer and some seasonal vegetables are getting scarce, but happily there's still a bountiful supply of peppers at the local farmers' markets. On a recent visit to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market I saw beautiful examples of red, yellow, and orange peppers at Gloria's Fruits and Vegetables and the Beylik Family Farms stands.

Peppers can be used raw in salads or in a crudité and they're a welcome addition to a stir fry or a sauté.

I've come up with a way of prepping peppers so they're even more versatile.

Grilling Peppers on the Stove Top

To start, simply grill the peppers on top of a gas range, remove the blackened skin, discard the seeds, and put them in a sealed jar where they'll keep a week in the refrigerator or for months in the freezer.

Miraculously overnight the peppers will create their own oil. The peppers can then be used as an appetizer on bread with cheese, in a pasta, or a sauté.

Use a mix of peppers so the result is that much more colorful. As a side note, I haven't had as much success grilling green or purple peppers, so I stick to the red, yellow, and orange ones.

Blackened Peppers with Capers, Parsley, and Garlic

Yield: 6-8 servings
Time: 15 minutes

To add more layers of flavor, I've come up with a simple marinade.

Ingredients

3-4 red, yellow, or orange peppers (washed, pat dried)
4 garlic cloves (skin on)
1 tablespoon capers (drained, finely chopped)
1 tablespoon parsley leaves (washed, dried, finely chopped)
1/4 cup oil from the grilled peppers
4 anchovy fillets (finely chopped) optional

Method

Lay the peppers on a wire rack on a gas burner with the flame turned up high. Turn frequently so the charring happens evenly. Be sure to char the tops and bottoms of the peppers as well. Let cool on a plate, then remove the blackened skin and cut open the peppers and discard the seeds. Put the cooked peppers in a jar and refrigerate.

In the morning you'll find that the peppers have created an oil, approximately 1/4 cup for every 3-4 grilled peppers. The peppers can be kept in any form you like: whole, quartered, julienned, or diced.

The garlic can be used either raw or grilled. If cooked, they'll have a milder flavor, which I prefer. Leave the outer skin or paper on the garlic and skewer the cloves. Blacken them on an open flame on top of the stove until the skins have all but burnt away. Remove and finely chop.

Toss together the peppers, garlic, parsley, and capers. Return to the sealed jar and keep in the refrigerator.

Marinated Peppers as an Appetizer

Yield: 8 servings
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 cups marinated peppers (julienned or finely chopped)
1/2 pound soft cheese
Olive oil
Pepper flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Toast rounds or crackers

Method

Perfect for a TV-watching party (Presidential debates, football games, any reality show) or an appetizer with wine before a meal, the peppers have so many layers of flavor, they go well with lightly toasted or grilled toast rounds or even with crackers.

Start with a thin slice of goat cheese, a triple cream, or mozzarella, lay on a strand of marinated pepper, and drizzle some of the pepper's own oil. There are variations to play with: add chopped avocado or scallions or cherry tomatoes or grilled corn...

Top with a little olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.

Add a bowl of olives and a glass of chilled white wine, and you'll have an easy-to-make starter.

Vegetarian Pasta with Blackened Peppers and Garlic

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

3/4 box pasta, penne, cavatappi, or spaghetti (cooked in boiling salted water until al dente)
1 cup pasta water
1 cup marinated grilled marinated peppers
1 tablespoon red or yellow onion (peeled, finely chopped)
1 cup olives, cracked green or kalamata (pitted, quartered)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
1 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese (grated)

Method

Sauté the marinated peppers, butter, and deglaze the pan with the pasta water. Simmer a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the pasta and toss, continuing to reduce the sauce until it coats the pasta. Add the olives and onions, toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper. If you're using anchovies, you won't need any salt.


Top with the grated cheese, finish with a drizzle of olive oil, toss and serve with a green salad.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sunday Mornings at the Palisades Farmers' Market

Farmers' markets are enjoyed throughout the country. Southern Californians are uniquely blessed because almost every neighborhood has a market and we can buy locally grown, fresh vegetables and fruit all year long.

We regularly shop at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market and the Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market on Sunday.

In today's Bitten I posted a description of the Palisades market: A Farmers' Market on the Edge of the Pacific.

If you have time, please take a look and come by the market on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

At the Santa Monica Farmers' Market

Today was one of those picture perfect moments in Southern California. After days of overcast skies and the threat of rain, the sun was shining brightly and the sky was a deep blue. A few women had on tank tops and some men were wearing cargo-shorts, but there was enough of a cool breeze that light sweatshirts were still the order of the day.

Last week the Santa Monica Farmers' Market was uncrowded--maybe people were out of town in advance of Memorial Day--but today was another story. Getting close to the farmers' tables took a lot a patience and excuse-me's.

Flowers were everywhere and as Russ Parsons described in today's Los Angeles Times, early season cherries made an appearance--Rainiers, Burlats, Black Tartarians, Queen Annes, and Brooks.

The best news was the return of the pluot. Besides the Ha Farm's Mountain Grown Fuji Apples, Scott Farm's pluots and plums (which come later in the season) are my favorite fruits. There were nectarines and peaches but they looked too green and didn't have the fullness that comes from long days of summer heat.

Jimmy Williams of Hay Ground Organic Gardening was selling potted herbs and vegetables. Amazingly he grows all of his high-quality plants in the backyard of his Hollywood home. In the past I had been tempted to buy his plants but never did because our backyard was too heavily shaded. Happily our next-door neighbor is renovating her house and she's thinned out the giant bamboo that had doomed our garden to perpetual shade. To celebrate our backyard's return to full-sun, I picked up an Italian parsley and three tomato plants: Green Zebra, Sweet Olive, and Cherokee Purple.

Walking through the market today made me very happy. Compared to the waxy displays in the supermarket produce section, the farmers' market feels alive with displays of freshly cut flowers, mounds of cherries, arugula, corn, squash, onions, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, carrots, beets, bok choy, spinach, lemons, oranges, apples, apricots, cantaloupe, Lily's eggs, Rockenwagner's baked goods, Carlsbad Aquafarm's shellfish....the list goes on and on.

Because Michelle is out of town, I didn't need much, just the pluots, a bunch of scallions, parsley, and arugula for Michael's salads. The cherries looked so beautiful I couldn't resist buying a pound. I could happily have eaten them straight out of the bag, but friends were coming for dinner and with a little extra effort the cherries would turn into an easy-to-make dessert. I ate one handful and consigned the rest to the oven.

Baked Cherries
Yield 4-6 Servings
Time 45 Minutes

1 pound cherries
1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pit the cherries and put the halves on a Silpat sheet on a roasting pan. Lightly sprinkle the cherries with raw sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove and let cool. Cherry nectar will have accumulated inside each cherry, accented by the raw sugar's caramel flavor.

Dust with raw sugar and serve with yogurt, ice cream, or mixed with other fruits like mango or cantaloupe.