Friday, August 2, 2013

Farmers Market Heaven

I went on a road trip last weekend to Santa Barbara. I had to get my son to a lacrosse camp in the area. I really wasn't sure what I was going to do besides eat and sight see.

Now I can't remember when or if I have ever been to the Santa Barbara area before, so I was pretty excited to check it out. It is a beautiful California beach town even if it is a large city and probably overrun by tourists in the summer.

Thanks to my friend Erin's idea, I checked out if they might have any farmers markets in the area. This turned out to be a really good idea, as they have them 6 days during the week.

I went to the downtown market on Saturday morning. Once I started walking around it was apparent that this one was a lot different. Compared to the ones that I go to in Phoenix and Flagstaff, the SB market is much more focused on farmers. There are not as many vendors selling sauces, honey, and prepared foods, etc. I guess there were probably 40 farmer stalls selling almost any type of produce imaginable. 

Walking around it was apparent that I had discovered farmers market heaven. 

Walk with me and check it out...

To the right is a table of heirloom tomatoes and to the left is a pile of corn that could have concealed a body, it was that large!

                                      This was a stunning display of peppers and eggplants.

         Squash blossoms and massive artichokes!                                          

Tomatillos and peppers including spicy green apple peppers in the front.

Many types of basil ready for someones home garden.

                       Kale, leeks, carrots and celery roots.
There were many types of grapes even though these are the only ones I got pics of. Tons of avocados were everywhere. I felt lost. I wanted to buy so many things. I guess I became flustered and didn't buy a lot of sweet corn and avocados as I was too worried about getting this stuff home. 

I did buy some stuff to put in the styrofoam cooler that I bought (because I forgot to bring one). I bought Chinese long beans, shishito peppers, lemon cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, Cherokee and Indigo Cherry heirloom tomatoes, sweet white peaches, snap peas and 2 little Bitter melons.

These goodies are keeping me extra busy trying to figure out what to make with them. I wish I could go back to the Santa Barbara farmers market this weekend, but these memories will have to do...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Heirloom Garlic

I'm writing today about some heirloom garlic that I picked up at the Flagstaff farmers market a week ago.

I've never bought this before although I've seen it. This time I decided to pick up 2.
Of course I have lost the piece of paper with the farmers information on it, so I will just have to say that they are grown in Arizona. I think lots of other shoppers decided to as well because many were carrying these funny stalks around. The mrs thought I was nuts, but as one that buys market oddities, I had to get some.

Heirloom garlic leaning against the car.

These things are over 4 feet tall. Of course after we got a bite to eat after the market, the car smelled very strongly of garlic.
This is some serious garlic!
Of course I have lost the piece of paper with the farmers information on it, so I will just have to say that they are grown in Arizona.

They told me that most all of it is edible and they were handing out tastes of the small flower buds which I have come to find out are called bulbils. These ones appear smaller than the bulbils that I found via Google. Supposedly they can be planted and will grow a better strain of garlic than just by planting the garlic cloves. I will have to try and plant some when the weather here starts to cool down a bit.

These garlic bulbils have a nice garlic flavor and I have been adding them to several things since I have a whole bunch of them. I also put a large bunch in the freezer as well.

I cut off the bottoms about 18 inches above the bulbs so that they could dry and be ready to use like regular garlic in a few weeks. Here they are hanging in the kitchen.

I also saved several sections of the slender middle stalk but I think that this is rather woody and might just be a flavoring agent for something in the future.

I had tried putting some chopped stalk with some carrot tops, green onion and cilantro in a food processor. The taste was ok but there was some that just didn't seem to get chopped up. Oh well, I'm just trying out this as best as I can figure out.

Here is a pic of some roasted chicken with
large pieces of grilled pattypan squash with the garlic enhanced chimichurri like sauce. I also
sprinkled a few bulbils around the chicken.
Tasty if you could look past having to dig
out the woody pieces. Fail.

Here is something that turned out well.

I had slowly roasted these Corno di Toro peppers and then mixed some chived goat cheese with minced cilantro, serrano pepper and some bulbils. Then I stuffed the peppers and grilled them just a bit to melt the cheese inside.

This one was a winner except that I didn't make enough.

Don't worry, I won't make that mistake next time.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Time for a little realization about my cooking.

If anyone read this post, I wrote about how I had entered the Arizona Republic's Best Home Chef contest. I had hoped to reach the final 3 and then would have hosted a dinner for the Dining & Entertainment people from the newspaper. 

After reading the articles about the 3 dinners all I can say is 'What was I thinking'! I've come to realize that I am glad that I wasn't picked. All 3 put on fantastic dinners that most anyone that loves fine food would have wanted to eat. For your reading pleasure here are the top 3 starting with the winner.

Win Thomas

Shereen Thomas

Anthony Coury

I tip my hat to all 3 and hope that it was fun having food critics over to your homes. My wife says she has known Win's wife for years, now she just needs to get us invited over for dinner...

I guess I was thinking that if I was chosen I would have broken out some tequila along with my sangrita chaser so that the judges would be sufficiently impaired for my unfocused dinner.

The realization to me is that cooking is like my hobby. I really enjoy picking out interesting stuff and then trying to figure out what to do with it. Sometimes it works out and other times I am the only one to try the crappy food. I don't really have a plan until like 5:15pm when I get home from work, and then I go to work on some food.

So here is a little impromptu grain salad that I put together the other night.

I started by cooking a cup of Hayden Flour Mills farro berries. They took around 40 minutes to get tender. While that was cooking, I assembled the ingredients to make a tabouli type salad.

I chopped up a bunch of Italian parsley and a large beefsteak tomato. I also used some cilantro, green onion, radish, jalapeno and red bell pepper. Then I made a simple vinaigrette with the juice of a tangerine and a little lemon juice. When the farro berries were done, I cooled them off and added all the ingredients. Tasted and added some salt and pepper and sprinkled some za'atar on top.

Pretty good with the fresh veggies, dressing and chewy farro berries.

Until next time when I realize something else to write about...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A little chopped salad...

Ok, I'm posting my attempt to recreate a salad I had out at lunch with the mrs.

If anyone went out to eat with me very often, they would notice that I tend to try new things on a menu. Well we were out at a place that serves tacos and such, but I noticed this chopped salad that sounded pretty good. It had cabbage, avocado, radish and jicama in what seemed to me to be a cumin scented vinaigrette. With some grilled mahi mahi on the side it was so good!

Several weeks later I was cooking and remembered this salad and decided to try and recreate it. Well one might say that I am missing several main ingredients from that salad, but I just went with what I had in the fridge. I chopped up some jicama, celery, carrot, red pepper, green onions and jalapeño. Then I just made up a simple cumin vinaigrette as I often do, and I think you should as well. I don't want to pour something out of a bottle onto the veggies that I had just worked with. 

It was pretty spicy with a whole jalapeño so I cut that in half. It's obviously not the same but I thought it turned out pretty tasty.
Chopped Veggie Salad

1/2 jicama, peeled and diced
1 celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced

1/2 lime, squeezed
1 T red wine vinegar
1/4 t ground cumin
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil

Serves 2

Mix together the veggies in a bowl. 
In a small bowl, mix lime juice, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper. 
Whisk in the olive oil slowly to make a simple vinaigrette. 
Taste for seasoning and pour enough dressing over veggies 
to coat, and mix well.

Have you ever tried to recreate something that you have had while dining out?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Weekend roundup.

A little catchup today about my weekend.

I started my weekend on Friday at lunch. I had to get over to Restaurant FnB because I was hoping that they still had this chips and ramps dip with bacon on the menu. It was and it was so good. Then I had the special 7th item off the menu, this BLT that was filled with many different veggies. This sammie had bacon, juicy tomatoes, cilantro, watermelon radish, pickles and probably some other things I can't recall. If you have never been to FnB at lunch you should go and experience the 6 item menu.

I had my leftover sandwich as we left town to head up north. Some key toothpicks held it together.

Some nice views of springtime in the high desert as well as a little sprinkle.

We got to our cabin in time for some wine and put together this little dinner of roasted carrots with carrot raita from the Bodega along with spot prawns that I grilled over Thai basil sprigs from my garden. I can't remember where I saw to cook shrimp in this way, but it was very good and I will try it again soon.

On Saturday we made our usual pilgrimage to the House that Chilaquiles built, MartAnnes in Flagstaff. The wait for food is usually pretty long here so I took pictures of the artwork as well as their cute salt and pepper shakers. Then came this plate of pork green chile Chilaquiles with beans, rice, tortillas and hash browns.

Obviously we had a light dinner and I was woken up later on the couch when Milo saw this raccoon on the deck.

Well we just hadn't had enough food, so we went back to MartAnnes on Sunday. I had Chilaquiles with chorizo and red sauce this time. Then we went to Pier 1 for some retail therapy plus we bought some of the salt and pepper shakers.

I think I'm full now and had better head to the gym...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A little catch up

Well it happened. I haven't posted in quite a while and so I'd just like to catch up a bit.

Tax day has come and gone and my signing hand is now recovered.

Spring is in full bloom around here and my little tomato plants are over 3 feet tall now. They also have a lot of small tomatoes on them. Probably they are shading my other plants too much but this was all an experiment anyways. We shall see if they make it as things are starting to heat up here.

An orchid that I have been regrowing even has showed off its colors once again.

Also a closeup of some Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

And here is some Thai basil growing happily.

Of course I watched in horror with everyone else at the Boston marathon bombing. The story of this is just so sad but we were so happy when it came to an end on Friday. How crazy is it that they shut down the whole city so they could track down the suspects?! We applauded the police along with everyone else when they captured the 2nd suspect.

Since my last post, I entered a local newspaper cooking contest. This Top Home Chef competition involved creating a menu for six, a recipe for an appetizer, and an essay about your cooking style and why you think you can cook like a real chef. If I had made the final 3, I would have had to make dinner for the main restaurant reviewer as well as others from the entertainment section. I carried the article with me for weeks as I wrote my entry.

Well I didn't make it and while I'm disappointed, I am happy I entered and my appetizer pic was even on the website.

Here is a link to the contest and the entries, I am #32.

Here is my menu and appetizer recipe.

The Hefe Kitchen Menu

Crostini sampler plate: carrot top pesto with burrata, herbs and tomatoes plus classic radish, butter and sea salt

Herb grilled whole beef tenderloin with chimichurri, chard stems gratin, roasted and grilled assorted market veggies

Margarita pie deconstruct with graham cracker crisp

Farmers Market Crostini plate:

With Carrot Top Pesto and Burrata
1 loaf crusty French or Italian bread, sliced

1 locally made burrata cheese ball
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2 Campari tomatoes chopped
1 T minced fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano etc.)

Carrot top pesto (recipe below)

Heat oven to 375°. Drizzle or lightly brush bread with olive oil and place in
oven until toasted, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

Remove burrata ball from container and lightly dry off with a paper towel. On a
plate sprinkle burrata ball with salt and pepper, then olive oil, then the herbs
and tomatoes. Set aside.

Assemble crostini: spread toasted bread with carrot top pesto and then cut into
burrata and put some on top of pesto.

Carrot Top Pesto

1 packed cup of fresh carrot tops, stems removed, cleaned & spin dried
1/4 cup raw pepitas, lightly toasted in a dry skillet, cooled
1 garlic clove chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 big pinches kosher salt
2 tablespoons Parmesano Reggiano
1 small lemon wedge

Combine pepitas and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add in
carrot tops and start pouring in the olive oil while processing. Scrape down
sides as needed until sauce comes together. Scrape into a bowl and add salt,
Parmesan and lemon squeeze. Stir together, taste and add salt or more oil as
desired. Refrigerate and use or freeze within a couple of days.

Radish and Butter Crostini

French breakfast radishes, thinly sliced
Unsalted sweet butter, room temp.
Coarse sea salt

Assemble these by adding a smear of butter, several radish slices and sprinkle
with sea salt. I used red Hawaiian sea salt.

Serve Crostinis on a platter with drinks before dinner.

Have you ever entered a cooking contest and how would you feel to be judged by a restaurant critic?
It definitely made me uneasy but I feel that I would have been fun to try...
Until next time, peace.