Saturday Market Morning

by Joan Greenblatt

Mom JoanOn a winter morning in northern San Diego county, while the temperature still lingered in the high 60s and low 70s, and the sun was strong and bright, I visited the Vista Farmer’s Market. There, I found the usual organic lettuce and cucumber vender along with the ancient husband and wife cactus team, the crusty bread and organic egg family, the lemon and lime lady with the infectious smile, the homemade tamale team (spicy mushroom is our favorite), and the ever-energetic olive guy (you can’t pass by without tasting at least one olive). There is also the Chinese wonder woman who sells seedlings of all varieties of herbs and plants—some extremely rare. She’ll tell you every little detail about each seedling you glance at and offers invaluable planting and cultivating advice when you actually buy something. In other words, this sprawling outdoor market is a veritable kaleidoscope of ethnicity, color, flavor, and scent. Besides being a wonderful way to support community producers and organic farmers, it’s really fun to discover what is in season at the moment, then spend the rest of the week figuring out recipes to go with whatever ends up in your cloth bags each Saturday morning.

This particular morning, my mom had a brilliant idea: I should take along her “Brooklyn style” basket on wheels, which she has dubbed her vegala (some sort of Yiddishism). So off we both went, no longer having to schlep the many small bags from table to table; the vegala carried it all effortlessly. A few of the seasonal items we found ended up on our weekly table. Here are a few of the recipes that were created to honor the market and the organic producers.

Chopped Organic Salad with Fried Tempe
There is nothing as tender and fresh as organic baby greens; they come in all varieties and are just adorable. It’s good to mix them with a bit of crunchy romaine lettuce to balance the soft texture of the greens.

When bell peppers are in season there are yellow, orange, green, and red to choose from. The nice thing about getting them from the market is the ability to select a separate bag containing each different color pepper.

Fresh cucumbers should still have the little bumps on them and actually snap when you bend them in half. Tomatoes come in a myriad of colors and shapes, sometimes oval and squat. There are also a large assortment of cherry tomatoes (some really small), grape tomatoes (super sweet) and baby Romas (ideal for roasting).

2 C organic mixed greens, torn
1 C organic romaine lettuce, chopped
1 C mixed peppers (red, orange and yellow), chopped
1 C cucumber, sliced thin
1 carrot, shredded
1 C tomatoes, chopped
¼-½ C feta cheese (optional)
¼-½ C fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped (optional)

Fried Tempe
1 T olive oil
1 C tempe, cubed
1 T tamari
¼ t ginger powder
¼ t turmeric

1. Heat oil, add tempe, tamari, ginger, and turmeric powder
2. Fry on medium heat until golden
3. Cool in a bowl

Simple Dressing
½ C olive oil
¼ C balsamic vinegar
Dash of fresh pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper
drizzle of honey
1 t brown mustard
½ t lemon zest
dash of dulse flakes

1. Place dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well.
2. Combine salad ingredients (You can make this ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator.) add cheeses, cooled fried tempe, and dressing just before serving.

Cranberry/Orange relish
The seasonal organic oranges and lemons are incomparable. They are candy-sweet and incredibly juicy. There’s nothing to compare them with. These fruits don’t have the polished orange presentation that you find in supermarkets.

Cranberries have thick skins and a waxy appearance. This wax-like surface causes pesticides to “cling” to the berries, which is why it’s so important to buy them grown organically if at all possible. They are quite a bit more expensive than those that are commercially grown, since there are only a handful of organic cranberry bogs throughout the country.

You can use this relish as a condiment with almost any stir-fry dish and rice that you make. It adds a sweet and tart bite to the meal.

This recipe uses the natural sweetness of apricots and raisins, rather than extra sugar, to balance the tartness of the cranberries.

3 C fresh cranberries (12 oz. bag)
1½ C turbinado sugar
1 C chopped dried apricots (cut with kitchen shears)
1 C raisins
½ t cinnamon
1 C orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 T grated orange rind
1 T grated lemon rind
1 t ginger, freshly grated

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a heavy bottom large pot.
2. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
3. Increase heat, cover and boil until cranberries burst, (approximately 8 minutes), stirring occasionally.
4. Pour mixture into a bowl.
5. Cover and refrigerate until cold (mixture will thicken as it cools down).

Zucchini Stir-fry
Organic zucchini goes really well with lemon zest and red peppers. It’s a simple and quick stir-fry that I often cook as my weekly staple. I tend to add fresh ginger and turmeric to most of my veggie and rice dishes—both herbs are healthy powerhouses.

2 T olive oil
1 red chili pepper, fresh or dried (chopped)
1 onion, sliced
2 red or yellow peppers, chopped
1 t ginger, freshly grated
½ t turmeric
4 zucchini, chopped
1 T salt and pepper
2 t fresh thyme
2 T lemon zest

1. Heat oil and add crushed red chili
2. Stir-fry onion and red peppers until almost soft
3. Add ginger, turmeric, zucchini, salt, and pepper and continue to fry for 2 minutes.
4. Cover and turn heat to medium and cook an additional 5-7 minutes; stir occasionally until zucchini is tender.
5. Top with fresh thyme and zest.

Sesame Brown Rice and Red Scallions
A specialty at the Vista Farmer’s Market is red scallions. They have a delightful color and add a unique flavor, especially to brown rice. Long grain brown rice has a bit less carbohydrates in it and yet retains all the health benefits and fiber of whole grain.

1 C organic long grain rice
2 C water or vegetable broth
½ t salt
2 T olive oil
1 t sesame oil
1/8 C brown sesame seeds
1 T tamari
1 t ginger, freshly grated
½ t turmeric
4 red scallions, diced along with green tops
¼ C cilantro leaves, fresh, chopped small

1. Combine water, rice, and salt in pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a rousing boil and then lower heat to very low.
2. Cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until all the liquid is absorbed. Do not stir or lift lid during the cooking process. When the rice is cooked, remove lid and let the excess steam evaporate to cool rice.
3. Heat oils and add sesame seeds, brown for a few minutes.
4. Add tamari, ginger, turmeric, and scallions and stir-fry until scallions are tender, about 4-5 minutes
5. Add cooled rice and mix well.
6. Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top.