Sunday, April 23, 2006

Market Recap: 2006: Week 12

The weather forecast called for rain this weekend, even thunderstorms for Saturday morning. The wet weather never materialized though/ We arrived at the market around 10:30am after a trip to Berkeley Bowl, and had to park several blocks away.

At least four stands were selling strawberries. They don't have the deep strawberry flavor of mid-to-late season fruit, but hey - it's April.

As we made our way through the market, I saw Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms. I've waxed enthusiastic about his tomatoes before, but figured he'd be selling lilacs. I was surprised to find that he's selling tomato plants for his rare tomato varieties.


Ramps (Allium Tricoccum) are a type of wild leek which smell slightly of garlic. Unlike our domesticated leeks they also have edible, broad green leaves.

Ramps are found in North America as far south as the Carolinas, and as far north as Canada. Their season is short, and runs from March to May. They are availble now at Berkeley Bowl for $9.50 a pound. You'll find them piled in a plastic bag along the eastern wall of the produce section. One word of caution, the roots will be muddy.

I first saw ramps on Iron Chef America, where Mario Batali was using them in a dish. The website for his restaurant Babbo, featured ramps as an ingredient of the month. They also offer up this recipe.

Stringless Snap Peas

You'll be able to find good snap peas at Berkeley Bowl well before they find their way into most Farmer's Markets. Stringless edible-pod peas are more expensive than other varieties, selling for between 3 and 4 dollars a pound.

Discerning pea enthusiasts will probably want to remove the stem end of the pod before eating. Still, these are so crisp and sweet right now that I ate several pods whole while prepping them.

We dropped them in boling water for two minutes, transferred to an ice bath, and then served over a pool of romesco sauce. They are also great in soups, as they do not require shelling.

Purple Carrots

As a college undergraduate, I was introduced to the practice of serving radishes before meals. The first time I ate at Chez Panisse, that small dish of radishes with a few leaves still attached was a sure sign that I wans't in Kansas anymore.

Since then radishes have fallen in and out of favor in our home. While two bunches a week used to be no problem, we can go months without eating one. We were introduced to the multi-colored carrot variation on this theme by our friend Penny.

Berkeley Bowl makes it easy to throw together an attractive plate of these salt vehicles. They stock them in red, yellow, and orange varieties. They are very sweet, and taste intensely of carrot.

Red Carrots

More multi-colored carrots from Berkeley Bowl. The red color of these carrots is limited to their skin. Inside, a more typical orange color contrasts sharply with the red blush of the skin.

Navel Orange (Heirloom)

Berkeley Bowl has a good selection of interesting citrus varieties, including these heirloom Navel Oranges from the Rising C Ranch folks who operate According to their website, the oranges are grown using "Old Line" Washington Navel Trees and a combination of sweet and sour rootstock.

Grow Quest offers this useful account of the Navel orange's introduction to the United States,"In 1873, taking advantage of the North American diplomatic services established in Brazil, technicians specialized in citrus production in Riverside, California, received three seedlings of Bahia orange, from which came the seedlings that would later be spread all over the United States and other parts of the world with the name of Washington Navel. Therefore, the citrus exchange between the two countries is over a century old, and the Bahia orange was a fundamental base for that exchange."

Here's the Rising C Ranch write up on their approach:
We only use "old line" Washington Navel trees combined with sour and sweet orange rootstock. Both rootstocks are out of favor with most growers because of different inherited problems, but no other rootstocks can produce a better tasting piece of fruit.

While the flesh of these oranges is unusually pale, they are intensely flavorful.

Ortanique Mandarins

Ortanique Manadarins are a late season varietal native to Jamaica. They are available now at Berkeley Bowl, and through The name of the varietal is a dubious confabulation of orange, tangerine, and unique.

Ortaniques have a relatively thin skin, and peeling them was not particularly easy. The flesh is a pale orange color, while the taste reminds me of honey tangerines. Hale Indian River Groves describes the taste as akin to mango.

According to Macks Grove the varietal was introduced to the states by a Mancunian:
The Ortanique was reportedly discovered in the Christiana Market, Jamaica, by a Machester man named Swaby who bought six fruits. Of the seedlings he planted when back in the States, only two bore fruit, which he exhibited at an agricultural show in the early 1900's.

Chicken Liver

You can find loose Chicken livers at Berkeley Bowl, where they fish them out of a tub with a hook. You can also find them at Safeway, where they are sold in a small container. Either way, they are inexpensive. Expect to pay about $2.50 for them.

Typical preparations involve browning both sides of your livers in olive oil, and seasoning with salt and pepper.

The livers add depth and creamy texture to Beef and Chicken Liver Ravioli, and can easily be turned into a Pate.

Mario Batali maintains that Italians would find it unthinkable to eat a chicken and not its organ meat. Not surprisingly, of the 50 recipes for Chicken Liver over at, Mario accounts for 18.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Market Recap: 2006: Week 11

The rain is threatening to turn these posts into a broken record. The guy we buy our lettuces from hasn't been around for three weeks now. Most of our citrus staples are no longer in season. All the same, the market was busier than we expected today. By the time we left, four or five cars were circling the lot next to the Grand Lake Farmers' Market, waiting for a spot.

The big news of the day turned out to be about the Marin Sun Farms eatery just outside Pt. Reyes Station. Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch, told us that the place had closed its doors after flooding twice. Long time readers may recall my post on a Rib Eye we picked up there, or an earlier post that described their tantalizing condiment bin.

Doug held out hope that they might re-open their doors when the weather improved and the day-trippers returned.

Our aims for the market this week were a bit differnt. Some recent dental work has left me consuming liquids for the time being. With that in mind, I went looking for things to turn into soup. I found this giant mushroom cluster. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Grilled Short Ribs with Mole Sauce

Writing on the occasion of the 34th consecutive rainy day in the bay area. And let the record show, I grilled. Short ribs are something of a staple here at consumptive HQ. I usually lean toward the Zuni Cafe Cookbook recipe. Instead of porter, I use New Belgium Brewing Company's 1554 Black Ale. Have also been known to prepare them a la Mario Batali (use the cheapest barolo you can find). I know that the secret to short ribs is in the browning.

After a recent stretch of short ribs, beef cheeks, and chuck roast my wife however let it be known that she is done with braises. So, having braised this batch of Prather Ranch Beef Short Ribs, I grilled them, and slathered them in a Mole sauce. The mole recipe came from, of all places, the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook.

Grilled, braised meats figure in the cooking of many cultures. Carnitas leaps to mind, and Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch recently recommended a milk-braised pork shoulder for grilling. The outer shell of these short ribs was crispy, theinterior was nearly liquified. The closest I've managed to get to the carnitas at Dona Tomas. The depth and complexity of the mole sauce put this one over the top.

Market Recap: 2006: Week 10 (08 April 2006)

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted my last market recap. The rain seems to have caught up with people, as a few of the ususal suspects (County Line Harvest, the lettuce guy from Monterey county ) were missing in action this time around. The week before it had been the lady we buy our apples from.

Citrus varieties are disappearing from the stands each week now. Page Tangerines from Lagier Ranches and Cara Cara Oranges from Hamada Farms are both gone until next year. You might still be able to find both at Berkeley Bowl or Market Hall Produce though.

I did notice peas starting to show up this past week, but haven't had a chance to sample anyones pods. We'd already picked ours up from Berkeley Bowl, where they've been available for weeks now.

Fruit: Curd: Meyer Lemon

Lemon curd is a tart cooked cream traditionally served with scones. This distinctly tart preparation distinguishes curd from other creamy fruit confections, like custard. The batch you see here was made of Meyer and Eureka lemons. For a step by step recipe you might try this one by Alton Brown.

My wife has an outsized lemon curd habit. Her recipe doubles the amount of lemon matter (juice and zest) that you find in "High Tea" friendly versions. If you want to —eh hem— take it up a notch, try these amounts:

• 3 Eggs
• 6 Oz. of butter
• 1/2 a cup of sugar
• A Pint Glass of lemon juice

Given that curd is essentially egg, butter, and sugar, and that a batch yields several jars worth of the stuff, we wind up gifting a fair amount of it to friends. As food gifts go, it is a relatively safe bet and keeps in the fridge for weeks.

We gave a few jars to people whose stands we frequent at the Farmer's Market two weeks back; when they asked how they should eat it, A. replied,"With a spoon." Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch reported back that he ate his over vanilla gelato.

You can also try it on english muffins, between cookies, and as a tart filling.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Salad: Potato, Cress, and Quail Egg

I've had a few requests lately to start including recipes in my posts. I'm disposed against them though. I tend to not use recipes, and any that I do use are bound to be the work of others. A lot of the food that you see here, to borrow an insult once directed at Alice Waters, has as much to do with shopping as it does cooking.

So it is with this dish, based on my memory of a similar salad served at Chez Panisse. The quail eggs and cress can be found at the Grand Lake Farmers' Market. I'm a big fan of the greens that County Line Harvest sells there, everything from white peacock kale to heirloom chicory varieties. Their water cress is peppery and tender, without being bitter.

I cooked these quail eggs for about 6 minutes, 4 minutes is probably best for a semi-soft boil. A Meyer Lemon vinaigrette, with plenty of dijon mustard, works well with the potato and stands up to the cress.