The Hillcrest Farmers Market is fantastic this time of year. Before the summer heat takes a toll, an amazing variety of local produce is available. La Milpa Organica has tables full of kale, chard, purslane, sorrel, lamb’s quarters, yellow beans, green beans, edible calendula, lavender, mint, dill, fennel, dandelion, beets and radishes. This week, Barry was also selling provocatively described black cherry tomato plants.
Down the way, the Rodriguez brothers were still offering candy-sweet organic strawberries, a wide variety of lettuces, tomatoes, zucchinis and herbs. Matt at Lone Oak Ranch had spectacularly sweet organic fruit which included white & yellow peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and pluots .
Phil from Sage Mountain farms gave me a couple of bulbs of Russian chesnok garlic last week and I came back for more. These tiny one-and a-half inch bulbs were incredible roasted, having a mild and nutty flavor. This week I picked up some broccoli, homemade organic strawberry jam, zucchinis and sweet torpedo onions.
Arriving home from the market, I put away the morning harvest and formulated what to prepare. While the purchases will last a week, the first meal of the afternoon which spotlights the fresh picked nature of the produce. This evening did not disappoint. I started with a Market Ratatouille using long purple Chinese eggplant, tomato, sweet torpedo onion, chesnok garlic, red bell peppers, fresh basil and Sage Mountain zucchini. While slow cooking the ratatouille in a large pot, I also prepared a Basmati rice, Millet and Black quinoa pilaf with magenta spreen lamb’s quarters and lemon from our tree. As a plate garnish, the fresh picked incredible yellow beans from La Milpa Organica added textural balance and color. This was a simple dinner and there was some dessert from the previous evening to add a sweet finish: Nectarine Upside-Down Cake which had fruit from our tree lightly candied with a gran marnier syrup. It was even better the second day!
Often, I find the simple pleasures of going to the market, prepping, cooking and then serving to add meaning and depth to daily routines, adding depth to an entire week. Grounding, centering, connecting, or whatever words one wishes to use, market-centric cooking makes for a good life.