Archive for September, 2012

Rohnert Park Friday Night Farmers Market

The summer Downtown Rohnert Park farmers market is every Friday 5:00 to 8:00 pm between June 15 and August 31 (sorry I didn’t mention it earlier). It’s actually pretty big, taking up quite a significant amount of parking lot and side park area of the Sonoma County Library, where I have found some great volumes, including cookbooks, for dirt cheap. Like most farmers markets, it’s a mixture of fresh-cut flowers, fresh produce, local food and health products (vinegars, dips, jams, homemade soaps), crafts (bags, jewelry, scarves, wreathes, birdhouses), hot prepared food and live entertainment, dubbed Party on the Plaza. Not only do they have live bands performing, there are also face painting, bounce house, an inflated slide, a little petting zoo and pony rides for kids. Then there are the other cuddly critters brought by the local ASPCA. After all, who doesn’t like adorable kitties, puppies and bunnies?

The major aspect of the farmers market that did shock me was the sheer number of booths devoted direct sales companies, like Mary Kay, Pampered Chef and Tastefully Simple. Since these businesses are not farm, artisan, craftsman, food, teaching or community based, their presence felt weird to me. I mean I understand promoting your own little business to get new clients and customers, but I don’t think those types of businesses belonged there, not when there are already other actually local gourmet, kitchen tool and spice and herb businesses. For instance, I have seen Kim Cook-Fallon’s booth, Cook’s Spices many of the Santa Rosa and Downtown Windsor farmers markets; the other shop to which I’m referring to is, of course, Savory Spice in Downtown Santa Rosa run by Pat and Cheryl, both of whom I have seen at the Wednesday Night Market with some of the gals from Sur la Table, promoting workshops and cooking classes that they sometimes co-host.

Dahlia 2009.1

At the Rohnert Park market, I was always excited to visit the O’Brien family’s Aztec Dahlias booth, who’s flowers are always a joy to see.  I actually discovered their farm location in Petaluma, which is along my normal route in and out of town. All of their flowers are gorgeous and inspiring. I hope I can visit them sometime soon, plop down on a patch of ground surrounded by a myriad of dahlias in all vivid colors and sizes and just draw, carefully picking out various mediums and colors from my rather extensive collection of colored pencils, crayons and felt tip pens. I expect it will be quite different from the last time I drew dahlias for my dad last summer; those flowers were merely based on pictures I found online. Drawing them up close and in person will be much better.

nana mae's organic

Nana Mae’s was also at this farmers market, which was a nice surprise. They don’t just sell apples. Not only were they selling their apple sauce, apple juice and apples, they also had various stone fruits, which I had never seen before. They had normal plums and plum-cherries, which were so cute, juicy, sweet, and delicious, I once bought two pounds of the little guys. Believe it or not, I ate them all before they went bad, but it was a bit challenging with their different stages of ripening. They also grown black berries, pears, prunes, pluots, lemons, quince and other fruits (I’m sure). They also work with other California farms to make specialty items, like their Spiced Date Apple Sauce (The dates actually come from Flying Disc Farms, from whom I prefer to buy my dates. Remember, I talked about them after I visited them at the Ferry Building farmers market) and Apple Mostarda (made with apples, raisins, figs, white wine, rosemary, cinnamon, coriander, and ginger in cooperation with the Girl & the Fig Restaurant)

Debbie (the head baker) was at the Mama Barretta booth! Yea! On separate trips this summer to the Rohnert Park market, I bought Debbie’s anise and almond biscotti, cinnamon raisin bread, multiseed bread, amaretti cookies and a carrot muffin. Can you tell I’m a fan? Their baked goods are so tasty and comforting. I really miss their chocolate and spice flavored pezzi, which are little raw almond truffle balls made with coconut; unfortunately, they didn’t have them at the markets I attended. Just so you know, their breads can be a bit hard, crumbly and hard to slice, but I discovered a neat trick! You can cut off a hunk to either steam in the oven of microwave with the help of a damp towel, making the bread amazingly soft, easier to slice and less crumby, like it was just freshly baked. I don’t go through bread that quickly, so usually I freeze half to save for later.

I found lots of great fresh produce at the farmers market. As far as stone fruit, the white and yellow peaches, white and yellow nectarines, plums and plum hybrids captivated my attention the most. It’s was great to try all of the samples and see all of the different varieties. I bought several pounds of those, too, and they were scrumptious! I use to love peaches the most, but right now nectarines are my favorite. I found several juicy and lovely kinds of heirloom tomatoes; I particularly enjoyed the multicolored yellow and bright golden ones in my salads and sandwiches. I was also fortunate to find that the Ortiz Brothers’ booth was selling cilantro and Italian sweet basil, which I like mixing in with my salad greens to bring in more flavor, and depending on the other flavors, sometimes I like to add these herbs to my sandwiches and lettuce wraps.


Pluots (Photo credit: oceanaris)

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you about this great local farmers market until after it was over for the year. The downtown location also provides a great meetup location for me to see some of my friends, who I went to school with. Besides with my old farmers market haunts so far away now, the Rohnert Park farmers market makes me feel like I’m not missing out on as much by living all the way down in Petaluma. Michele Anna Jordan of the Press Democrat also wrote a review in the “Eat This Now” section, which goes into more detail about some of the merchants at the farmers market in case you are interested.

Patty Pan Squash

Petit pan (patty pan) squash

Patty pan squash, also called scallop squash and patisson, are cute little white, light yellow or green round squat variety of scallop summer squash that kind of remind me of flowers, since the edges look like petals. Here are a few methods of preparing the squash. You can also bake them after scooping out the centers and stuffing them, like in this recipe or this one. These squash are really healthy for you. They are low in calories, and high in fiber and vitamin C and have lots of folate, vitamins B6 and A, magnesium and potassium. I also read that patty pans are great for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as preventing certain cancers. Just like with many foods, make sure you don’t indulge in patty pans too often, since they contain a significant amount of oxalates, which can accumulate in you body and interfere with calcium absorption. For additional  information about scallop squash and their health benefits, please visit Live Strong’s webpage.

When I got home from the Cotati farmers market recently, I started planning what to make with all of my new veggies. I set some things aside for salads or other particular dishes, but there were some I wanted to cook with right away. The recipe that I listed below is a guide of sorts; you don’t have to use all of the spices if you don’t want to. I just created the dish as I went along, making rough measurements by sight and taste. If you are afraid of cooking without specific amounts, start by smelling and tasting the seasonings together to figure out scrumptious combinations; choose which spices and herbs you think will work best for what you are aiming to create. Just start in small increments. Sometimes I like to put a little bit of spices and herbs in mini prep bowls or the spice containers’ lids, carefully tapping or sprinkling in a bit at a time.

Mixed Late Summer Vegetable Saute with Seeds
Serves 4

5 T Chopped or Minced Garlic
1 Sweet Yellow Onion, coarsely chopped
4 Patty Pan Squash, trimmed, cut into bite-size pieces
4 Purple Potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 C Collard Greens, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces
1 C Russian Red or Green Curly Kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces
1 Bunch Carrot Greens, coarsely chopped, optional
1 Large Carrot, cut into bite-size pieces
2 Large Stalks Celery, diagonally sliced
1 Head Broccoli, coarsely chopped
1 – 2 C Green String Beans, trimmed, broken into bite-size pieces
1 Scallion, green parts only, cut into 2″ lengths
Cumin Seeds, ground
Himalayan Sea Salt, ground
OR Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt, optional
Smoked Hickory Flavoring (infused barley flour)
Fresh or Dried Thyme, stemmed, ground
Fresh or Dried Sage, stemmed, ground
Fresh or Dried Marjoram, stemmed, ground
Mixed Peppercorns, ground
1 C Filtered Water, as needed
Italian Seasoning, optional
Herbs de Provence Seasoning, optional
Poultry Seasoning, optional
Raw Hemp Seeds, sprouted, dehydrated
Raw Pumpkin Seeds, sprouted, dehydrated
Raw Sunflower Seeds, sprouted, dehydrated

In a large lightly oiled pan, saute the onions and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the onions become translucent (or caramelized, depending on your flavor preference), add the tubers; cook until the carrots become slightly tender. Add in the water to steam the vegetables.* Lower the temperature to a simmer. Mix in the squash, broccoli, beans, celery and spices. Cook with the cover on until the broccoli stems start to soften. Add the fresh herbs and greens, stirring occasionally. Cook until the carrots and broccoli stems are tender and the greens have wilted. Remove the pan from the heat completely. Transfer the seasoned vegetables to a large bowl. Stir the them together with a large spoon to cool and get rid of excess water (keep an eye on the general moisture to prevent the vegetables from drying out too much) until the vegetables are cool enough to pick up with your fingers. Fold in the seeds. Serve and enjoy.

*If you are using dried herbs, they need to be rehydrated. Let them sit in a cup of water for 20 minutes; this also infuses flavor into the water. Use this water to steam the vegetables by carefully straining it out into the pan, using a fork to prevent the herbs from going in to early. Add the rehydrated herbs when you mix in the fresh ones.

Cotati Thursday Night Farmers Market

Since I moved to Petaluma, it is not as easy to drive to the Santa Rosa farmers markets anymore. The move has “forced” me to drive less and visit more local markets closer to my house (darn  😉 ) and on the way to and from work and errands, which is actually much better for my wallet and the environment. Earlier this summer, I tried out the Petaluma Wednesday evening farmers market but was rather disappointed when I discovered that it was only half a block long and consisted of mostly artisans and hot-food venders. Don’t get me wrong. I like those types of merchant booths just fine, but when I go to the farmers market, I’m there to buy fresh ingredients. I have visited the much better  Saturday morning Petaluma farmers market but not since last year. Sometimes, I just want to sleep in and not go anywhere on my weekend mornings. Instead this summer, I bought my fruit and vegetables at the evening farmers markets in Cotati on Thursdays and Rohnert Park on Fridays.

The Cotati farmers market is small but surprisingly satisfying. I usually find most everything I need, buying the remaining produce at Oliver’s Market, about five minutes away from the farmers market in La Plaza Park. There’s a nice big lawn and a playground for children to entertain themselves, next to which an inflatable bounce house and slide rental company sets up. (What a great way for them to advertise!) There is also live music played by a featured bands at the gazebo, so you can eat dinner, let your kids go play and listen to the bands while you sit out on the lawn after you get your groceries. The hot food vendors occupy about a third of the booths, produce another third, leaving the remaining booths to arts, crafts, potted plants and the inflatable rentals. I was quite impressed.

I purchased red leaf lettuce, collard greens, chioggia beets, red beets, tomatillos, red Russian kale, patty pan squash, green string beans, purple majesty potatoes, Italian sweet basil and broccoli from a cheerful and helpful woman at the French Garden Farm’s organic produce tent; it really was a one-stop shop. I was glad to see French Garden there, since I was so accustomed to seeing their booth at the downtown Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market. She also had some great looking bunches of carrots, beautiful mixed salads with edible flowers, and various microgreens (sprouts); I may have to buy carrots and sunflower seed sprouts the next time I attend the Cotati farmers market. The farm has a “cloud store” or online store, where you can shop and pay for produce and then either arrange to pick up your order or have it delivered. French Garden also has a restaurant in Sebastopol, where they also set up their own biweekly little farm stand on Sundays and Wednesdays in the parking lot .

Pedro of Ortiz Brothers Farms was really nice and was very generous with all sorts of free samples; I bought two baskets of his delicious strawberries and got a free pint of boysenberries! How awesome is that! In the past, I bought kale, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, carrots and other produce from Maria Ortiz, at the “original” Santa Rosa farmers markets at the Veterans’ Memorial Building (before they moved to the Wells Fargo Center) on Wednesdays and Saturdays when I lived in southern Santa Rosa. It is absolutely terrific to see this family farm selling their produce at so many different places; I even read that they drive down to the San Rafael for the Thursday night summer farmers markets. When you do get to visit the Ortiz Brothers booth, I hope you get to see the handmade seasonal wreathes that Maria and her family make year round out of fruit, herbs, oak, bay, branches, leaves, flowers, seed pods and all sorts of neat things.

I’m sorry the last day of the Cotati farmers market was yesterday; it’s only open during the summer on Thursday nights from 4:30 to 7:30 pm between June 7 and September 20, so please visit it next year.  The farmers, artisans and other vendors have all sorts of neat items to look at, like the interesting fantasy and steampunk themed jewelry and hip bags. There are also lots of great small local business to check out in the downtown area. You simply never know what little wonders you might find. For further information, read Michele Anna Jordan’s review in the Press Democrat’s Eat This Now section.

Local East Bay Tofu Companies

Bitter Sweet’s blog post about The Bridge Tofu factory reminds me of the organic tofu beanery in Berkeley, called Tofu Yu LLC, which has a catering and a store front with a deli counter that displays all sorts of tofu and tofu dishes. I keep meaning to visit. They also sell their products at several Bay Area farmers markets and organic grocery stores (visit their blog for a complete list and recipes), including the Santa Rosa Community Market and many Whole Foods.

In addition, there’s an organic tofu factory in Oakland, called Hodo Soy Beanery, where you can take a tour once a month for $12. Occasionally Hodo soy also has work shops, such as how to make tofu blocks. They sell their tofu at some Bay Area and LA area farmers markets, too, including at the Saturday San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market, and at Whole Foods. Make sure you check out their recipe section of their website as well as their blog.

It’s difficult for me to pick which beanery to visit, so maybe I’ll go see both of them! That way I can get a tour and see the deli, not to mention taste the different flavors and kinds of tofu dishes that the two companies have to offer. Earlier this year, I also noticed that there was a whole festival surrounding soy and tofu at the Japantown Peace Plaza in June, which I unfortunately missed, but I think I’ll try to attend it next year. It looks like it was really fun, with two taiko groups, a dessert competition, a lion dance troup and many other stage performance.

Vanilla Coconut Ice

I’m really tempted to make this. Not only is it vegan but also has a low glycemic index value. I don’t think I would use stevia though; I’ll probably use sucanat, turbinado or agave due to their flavor profiles. This recipe would also make a great base for all sorts of more gourmet ice cream flavor combinations.

The Mommy Bowl

It’s been hot. I haven’t been baking. Except those darn coco-meal cookies that I can’t get quite right even after 5 batches.

My food has been boring. Some might even say vanilla.

Except sometimes vanilla is good.

Like this.

Vanilla Coconut Ice

1 can (14 ounces) full fat coconut milk
2 T. date paste
1 t. vanilla extract
10 drops (or to taste) NuNaturals vanilla liquid stevia
3 ice cubes
1/2 cup cold water

Blend all ingredients in a blender until well-mixed and frothy. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Top with your favorite toppings (that’s nut butter and chocolate chips in my house.)

Want more slightly indulgent treats? Try Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

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