The just picked fruit, vegetables, and herbs I find at local farmers’ markets are loaded with flavor, and therefore it takes very little effort in the kitchen to create marvelous, healthy dishes when using them. They are what inspire my cooking. I intend to frequently highlight produce I bring home from the markets, and tell you about the easy preparations I make. These dishes are simple to prepare without complete recipes, they are more ideas than formulas.
German Butterball Potatoes
: Found at Weiser Family Farms
stand, at many Los Angeles farmers’ markets. From the grocery store: choose Yukon gold potatoes instead.
The season will soon be over for these buttery tasting heirloom potatoes, but they are so outstanding, I encourage you to try them before they disappear. They are round to oblong in shape, with light brown smooth skin, and yellow flesh.
Their flavor is intense; therefore little butter is needed to make divine mashed potatoes. I cut them into 1-2” pieces with the skin still attached, and cook in boiling salted water until tender. After draining, I mash them with a little olive oil and chicken broth or milk, and season with salt and pepper, occasionally adding a small pat of butter- but the butter really isn’t necessary. Topped with sautéed mushrooms, and served alongside simply roasted or sautéed chicken, fish, or meat, they make an easy meal memorable. For an even simpler preparation, cut the potatoes into wedges about 1-inch thick at the widest part, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast them at 450°F until crispy and brown on the outside and yielding inside, for about 35 minutes. These are addictive, and great with almost anything.
: Found at several stands at local farmers’ markets. I have been purchasing them from Mello AG, at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, and Vital Zuman Farms at the Topanga farmers’ market. From the grocery store: Gelson’s and Whole Foods Markets carry chanterelles, but they are costlier than at farmers’ markets. Button mushrooms or shiitakes can be used in the suggestions below; they will be tasty, but won’t offer the same woodsy flavor or substantial texture.
The big rains have helped produce a plentiful supply of local chanterelles this year, and because they are abundant, the prices are low (about a $10 a pound as opposed to $20 or more). Mello AG’s mushrooms are foraged just up the coast in the San Luis Obispo area, and some are huge, weighing close to two pounds.
Chanterelles are an apricot colored wild mushroom, with a fanciful trumpet shape and undulating edges, a network of ridges on their underside runs down the stem, and they have a fruity aroma. Small or large, they are chewy in texture, earthy and slightly peppery in taste, and a favorite of French chefs.
Sautéed in olive oil with minced shallots and fresh thyme or rosemary, they are ready for many uses: I love them mounded atop mashed German Butterball or Yukon gold potatoes; tossed with fettuccini and Parmesan cheese they were the star of an easy dinner for friends; or try them on a pizza
, or fish fillets. To take the procedure one step further, add dry Marsala, Sherry, or Port to the sautéed mushrooms, and then simmer to reduce the fragrant liquid before spooning over chicken. One morning, I folded cooked mushrooms and Parmesan cheese into scrambled farm fresh eggs. And, last Sunday for a sumptuous sandwich, I sautéed a big batch of the ‘shrooms, and mounded them atop toasted rustic bread with Fontina cheese melted on top.
: Found at McGrath Family Farms
and Weiser Family Farms
at many farmers’ markets around Los Angeles. From the grocery store: select the freshest carrots you can locate- vibrant green foliage and firm carrots without rootlets will be the best clues.
With names like purple dragon, purple haze, purple rain, atomic red, white satin, yellow stone, and Nantes, and in fanciful hues to go along with the titles, these brilliant winter vegetables are enticing. Surprisingly similar in flavor, they all make refreshing accompaniments to sandwiches; bright dippers for hummus or yogurt mixed with Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and a little tarragon; and tasty snacks (I am crunching on a purple skinned, orange centered purple dragon carrot while I write). I like to cut the carrots into 2-3 inch pieces, toss them with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper and roast alongside chicken, sometimes adding potatoes or yams and parsnips to the pan. For a lively version, I sprinkle the carrots and chicken with Garam Masala, an Indian spice blend found in the spice section of grocery stores.
One of the farmers taught me that the cold weather makes carrots sweeter because water is displaced with sugar as a defense against freezing, and that the original carrots were not orange, but more likely purple and yellow. He shared the story that the orange color was bred in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century, to honor William of Orange. The Carrot Museum
does not substantiate this rumor, but the history of carrots is as colorful as the varieties at the market right now.