Farmers Market Mysteries

Linda Vista Farmers Market

Go to almost any farmers market and you’ll see something new. Usually the vendor is the grower, or close to it, which is nice for any questions you might have. Asking questions is for me, part of the fun. Even if you get a bullshit answer you still have a cool product in hand with enough info to find the correct answers.  They won’t deceive you about how it’s grown because It’s standard protocol for market organizers to visit the farms; ensuring responsible farming practices.  Just take cash and be adventurous with at least one thing.  Don’t worry about the nagging feeling in your head, that’s just your brain growing.

brussels
These brussels were cute as shit. Most of ’em the size of a macadamia.

I usually drag the fam with me when I go; they love it and it feels good to support the community.  Not that it’s charity work or anything; I just want my community to support local food,  I want the idea of buying local as the standard, not the exception.

Once there, I blow through and gather my produce for that night, then we all sit for a bite of artisan something. Last time it was Papusa’s and empanadas.  Recently the Rancho location was rained out so we shuffled on over to the City Heights Market.  It was small, but as per usual, size doesn’t always matter. The smaller ones always have at least one vendor with something tweaky and rad.  Like these lil’ dudes…known as Feijoa’s or Pineapple guava, or Guavasteen.  The lady told me they were called, Italian Guavas?  Whatever lady…I shall still purchase your tasty, exotic fruit.

feijoa

feijoa2

As feijoa’s go, these were tiny and overripe.  A good pruning of this evergreen bush would yield fruit the size and shape of a small avocado.  The taste is wonderfully sweet with pear, strawberry, banana and guava.  Usually only the clear gelatinous center is used, but the whole thing is edible. Just a bit tart and bitter as you hit the flesh and skin.  Quite addicting really, as you don’t eat the whole thing you can’t help but keep mowing them down.  Their a little tricky to tell when they are ripe or overripe as the outer skin doesn’t change color. They’re overripe when they have a browning center, not clear/opaque.

feijoa3

Pumpkin

photoWhat a charming word.  It’s the kind of word that feels good to say.  Place more emphasis on the second P and you’ll see what I’m getting at.  Kinda makes you grin doesn’t it…pump-kin.  Or are you more of the punkin’ type?  Not my favorite vegetable, but this time of year I still have fun cooking it.  It’s grand…even the smaller sugar pumpkins have a dramatic look and notion to them.   I only cook fresh pumpkin for fun.  Canned pumpkin has a taste that is expected and rich.  Plus, it’s a helluva lot easier. I enjoy using it for bisque, bread, pie and as a sugar carrier, but I’ve never found the texture to be ideal.  As a raw product, it can be a little cumbersome to break down and it’s quite watery;  veering toward stringy instead of dense.   I realized about 7 years ago, that if I’m going to cook with pumpkin, it’ll come from a can…a Libby’s can.  I’m not sure exactly what they do to to remove water; meaning roast it then purée, or purée then reduce?  But they do a great job of obtaining a dense, rich product.  A product none of us will ever achieve or re-create.  Libby’s uses a proprietary pumpkin known as a Dickinson pumpkin.  Dickinson is old school,  like Pilgrims and Indians old school.  It has a beige-matte exterior with  bright orange, dense, thick flesh and minimal seeds and strings.   Really more like a pumpkin shaped butternut rather then a classic ornamental.  Speaking of butternut…that’s my go to squash for all things squashy.  I enjoy Acorn and a couple others, but butternut is the squash king of texture and sweetness. Here are a couple pumpkin recipes to play with.  One is a simple cobbler raw diced pumpkin, and the other is a Pumpkin pie recipe that you’ll not only love, but it’s easy and healthier then the classic.  Healthy as in low glycemic, not caloric count.

Pumpkin Pie

1 15oz can pumpkin
2eggs
1c whole milk
½c pure maple syrup
1T flour
1tsp cinnamon
½tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk Everything together, pour into a prepared crust and bake until just set, about 50 minutes. Let cool and serve with cream.

Pie Crust:
2 ¼c all-purpose flour
8oz salted butter, cold, cut into 1/4″ pieces
1/4-1/3c ice water

In a cold processor bowl, buzz the flour and butter until incorporated but still left with small butter chunks. Remove to a large bowl and drizzle in the water. Stir at first by holding and swirling the bowl to toss in the water. Then, quickly agitate/stir with finger tips to distribute water into the flour then pour the crumbly mess onto a couple pieces of plastic wrap. Wrap into a tight disk or ball and refrigerate for an hour. Remove the plastic wrap and roll out with a rolling pin using more flour to prevent sticking. Roll the finished dough around the rolling pin to easily transfer to the pie plate.

Pumpkin Cobbler

1 sugar pumpkin, cleaned, peeled and diced
2T butter
1tsp pumpkin pie spice, Trader Joe’s is better then Spice Islands
6T butter
½c milk
1c sugar
1c flour
1tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat a large oven proof pan over high heat until hot. Add the 2T butter and the pumpkin to cook and brown. Only add enough pumpkin to cover the bottom of the pan, not a pile. Once softened and browned, stir in the spice and the 6T of butter to melt.

Whisk together the sugar, flour and baking powder. Whisk in the milk; and pour the batter into the pan, starting with the edges, then all around. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Let cool and garnish with the pumpkin cream

Pumpkin Cream:
1T canned pumpkin
3T Maple syrup or sugar
1c heavy whipping cream

Whip until stiff peaks.