Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring's Bounty

Dear friends, I implore you to get to your farmers' market this week...that is, if you have one open near you, especially if you live in southern California. Today's market was bursting with greens, not the thick winter kind, but the fresh, light, tender spring kind. The greens that require only a dunk in hot water to cook through. The greens that can be eaten raw or sauteed gently in butter. I was more than thrilled to see my favorite farmers back again this week. They had nothing to sell in the last few weeks, which explained their absence, but today their stand was overflowing with beautiful and unusual produce. The variety was absolutely astounding and as I stood there, inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of the herbs piled high on the table, I must admit that I became a bit giddy and a bit greedy. I grabbed fistfuls of aromatic herbs and baby greens, stuffing my two bags full to the top. I was surprised when they totaled it up, I only owed them $12.

These pea shoots look too beautiful to eat, don't they? I love the coiled tendrils and dainty white flowers. But they will make for a fantastic quick stir fry, or even taste wonderful on top of a lightly dressed green salad....not a horrible way to meet one's maker, I suppose...

I have no idea what this is, but I thought it had the most exquisite coloring. I love the pink and pretty, so preppy. Of course I asked the name, and a petite, visor-clad, older Asian lady standing nearby told me the Chinese name for it, because that's the only name she knew...and since my Chinese is a bit rusty (I wish) I cannot for the life of me remember what she said. She shared that it is in the spinach family, but slightly more bitter, and is a quick and healthy dinner when stir-fried. As it cooks, it releases a pink juice that she used to use, along with some chicken stock, to cook her children's tofu. Pink tofu was the only kind they would eat. "It wasn't boring that way," she said.

And would you just look at these herbs? There is dill, cilantro with root attached, and BASIL. Oh basil, how I have missed you! I mentioned that the root is still on the cilantro because it is so difficult to find it that way. But the root is edible too, and packs quite a punch when it comes to flavor. It can be ground up and used in sauces or marinades, and if you like cilantro as much as I do, you will be surprised at how much more cilantro-ish something can taste. In addition to all of these beautiful things, I bought lemongrass, ginger, snap peas, apples (yes! available 'til May), limes, strawberries, asparagus and bok choy. I'm sensing Thai food ahead...I'll share a recipe with you as soon as I figure it out.

Another quick thing before I you ever read the section in some magazines where they share funny overheard conversations? The farmers' market it a great place to eavesdrop. For example today I heard...

"Mommy, can we please, please, please buy this?"

"NO! Stop asking me! You won't eat it!"

The girls were frantically pointing at a pile of asparagus. Now that's what I call an opportunity lost. Such a shame. Sigh.

Well, I'm off to look through my cookbooks, and sit by our warm and crackling fire, which is probably the last one of the season. I hope you all have time for a sit-down, comforting Sunday supper with your friends or family.

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