Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Visit to Your Farmer’s Market

Here's my May column from the Petaluma Post:

Spring time is here and the sun is shining, and we are all ready to through off the mantle of winter and jump out into the world. We are not the only ones that feel that way; the gardens are bursting with the first offerings of the season.

I do my best to make a habit of going to the farmer’s market once of a week; I probably make it three out of four times a month. I go not only to shop, but for inspiration and to see what is coming into season; one of my growers also sells at the Marin county farmers market so I can plan my ordering for later in the week.

As you can guess I cook a lot, yet like everyone I can have a hard time figuring out just what to cook for dinner. Is that not the age old question? A trip to the farmer’s market helps a lot. Just seeing what is fresh and new gets my mind thinking. Did you know that when kids help to grow or choose produce they are more likely to eat them. So, make it a family trip to the market. It does not have to be a whole day thing, depending on which one you go to it can be 30 minutes to 2 hours (with travel time).

There are many to choose from:

Petaluma has two farmers markets (same organization, but different feel). Saturdays in Walnut Park from 2 to 5pm (late May to October), and the Wednesday Night Market on 2nd Street from 4:30 to 8:00pm (June to September). The second one has more of a street fair feel.

The Sunday & Thursday morning (8am to 1pm) market in San Rafael is the one I most frequent. The time works for me, and they have a lot of producers. It is behind the Marin Civic Center.

Santa Rosa has two markets. Wednesday by Santa Rosa Plaza at B Street from 5 to 8pm, very street fair, a good place to wander and nibble. Or the more traditional market at the Veterans Building Wednesday and Saturday from 8:30 to noon.

And there are a lot more. Morning, noon and evening markets, and on just about every day of the week. Just Google Sonoma or Marin and Farmers Market and you will find them.

The market has so much to choose from, not just fruits and veggies. From fresh baked breads to organic meats and sea food. There is always local honey, and I’ve been seeing raw milk products lately. There is often music and entertainment. Grab a latte and just enjoy the stroll. My pattern is to walk the aisles looking at all of the booths, then to make a second round to make purchases. When I was little I was the only one that was willing to go to market with my Baba. It would be Sunday morning in Sacramento and we would go to the Roseville markets. We had to leave at 5:30 or 6 to be there when it opened. He knew so many of the vendors and enjoyed talking with them as much a buying. He never cooked a thing but would come back with crates of fruits and vegetables for my Grama to can and preserve.

On a recent trip to the market I picked up Red Frill Mustard. I had never seen it before and I fell in love. It is only in season for a short time, but that is what is great about going to the market, farmers will bring items that they cannot take to commercial stores. This delicate green is very similar to wild arugula with a deep red color. It was so delicate that I choose not to cook it, rather than that I simply let it wilt from the heat of the dish I plated on top of it. Perfect.

Seared Salmon with Wilted Red Mustard and Orange Fennel Relish
Serves 4
4 salmon filets (6 oz.), boneless, skin on
2 heads baby fennel, shaved
2 oranges, peeled and chopped
1 sprig of tarragon
2 T olive oil
1 T champagne vinegar
½ t honey
2 c red frill mustard or wild arugula
salt and pepper

Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Then heat a sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until just before the oils smoke point. Add the salmon flesh side down, and sear 3 to 4 minutes, till golden in color. Try not to touch and move around. If it is sticking give it another minute or 2. Place the pan in a 350 degree oven for 8 to12 minutes, till cooked through.

Combine all the other ingredients but the mustard to make a relish. Place the mustard greens on a plate, place the salmon over the mustard, and then top with the relish. This dish would also work well with chicken breast, pork loin chops or turkey breast. Enjoy.

This is fresh, gourmet, healthy and delicious. Healthy eating can be really good and a family experience; we should teach kids to be excited by healthy foods (just don’t tell them it’s healthy until after they eat it ;)

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