I went to the Boulder Farmers’ Market yesterday, and couldn’t believe the variety of produce available this early in the year! Last week (opening day), the choices were pretty limited, but this week I came home with 10 different vegetable items. I was delighted to see green garlic showing up, having gotten completely hooked on green garlic and garlic scapes last year. They both have a bright, green garlic taste that makes a perfect addition to lighter spring dishes. I also picked up some arugula, spinach, basil, apple mint, potatoes, hot-house tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, mini-English cucumbers, and green onions.

4/14/12 Boulder Farmers' Market purchases

4/14/12 Boulder Farmers' Market purchases

And this time I made it there early enough to get a 6-pack of Street Fare mini-cupcakes. Pictured below are two each of their lemon lavender, chocolate mint, and red velvet cupcakes – all of which were wonderful tasting. Unfortunately I got there too late for the chocolate salted caramel ones. I pay in cupcakes for sleeping in late on Saturdays.

Street Fare Mini-Cupcakes

Street Fare Mini-Cupcakes

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This will be a very short post, but I was so excited that the Boulder Farmers’ Market opened this Saturday, I wanted to post some food pictures. I’ve been looking forward to this week for a month! Of course the produce selection is limited this early in the year, but it was so nice to see all the local farmers again, and to buy some local vegetation. The most prominent items this early are greens, so I bought plenty of those for salads this week. I got some lovely mache, some mixed lettuce and some spinach. It will be great with some nice homemade vinaigrette, which I’ve really gotten into creating lately. (It honestly tastes so much better than the bottled stuff).

Mache

Mache

Mixed Lettuce

Mixed Lettuce

Spinach

Spinach

I couldn’t pass up the gorgeous looking cinnamon cap mushrooms from Hazel Dell, either. They’re just so cute! We have some portobellos left over from the outstanding omelets my husband made this weekend, so I plan to use both types of mushrooms to make some sort of dish with the farro I still have in the pantry.

Hazel Dell Cinnamon Cap Mushrooms

Hazel Dell Cinnamon Cap Mushrooms

I also got some fingerling potatoes, because hey, potatoes! (Yeah, okay, that was weak. But I bought potatoes, the pictures seemed too sparse with just the greens and mushrooms, and I’m lacking in savvy potato prose right now.)

Fingerling Potatoes

Fingerling Potatoes

I also stopped by the Street Fare stand, hoping to pick up a six-pack of mini-cupcakes, but much to my dismay, they had sold out about half an hour earlier! Hopefully the’ll have a larger supply next week, because I’ve had a cupcake craving lately.

I’m definitely looking forward to the market season, and getting more fresh, local, healthy produce into my meals, as well as trying some vegetables I’ve never prepared before. Yum!

Foodie Spring Fever

March 1, 2012

There are roughly five weeks until the Boulder Farmers’ Market opens for the 2012 season. It sounds so far away. After the fall season was over, I was initially looking forward to making warm soups and stews, experimenting with different grains and beans, and using the oven without feeling like I’m overheating. But I’ve gotten to the point where I’m getting sick of winter produce. (Which, in Colorado, pretty much means whatever stores well enough to last a long time, greenhouse items, or produce shipped from warmer climates (aka – far away)).

Since vegetables are such an important part of my diet, the dearth of them during the winter months is quite apparent. It’s only been about fourteen weeks since the market closed, but I’m already craving something fresh, green, and local. And to be honest, it’s really wreaking havoc with my cooking inspiration. I get bored when I recognize every item in the produce department’s vegetable section. I have fun picking up things I’ve never heard of at the farmers’ market, and then researching just what it is I’ve brought home after the fact. 

My garlic supply from the 2011 market was gone weeks ago, and now that I’m buying the standard stuff, I really notice the difference between the boring, shippable kind and the wonderfully strong, pungent varieties the local farmers offer during market season. I’ve found some tomatoes at the grocery store that are actually not too bad compared to normal winter tomatoes (Campari is what you want to look for), but it’s just not the same. Sure they taste more like tomatoes, but they don’t taste like Tomatoes. So I’m not proud of laming out on this post – it reminds me of those annoying clip shows they do in later seasons of sitcoms where they do nothing but piece together scenes from old episodes and re-use them so they can say they produced a new episode, with much, much lower cost. But I went back and looked at the pictures of the produce I bought at the market last year, and they were sooo pretty. So I’m reposting them – perhaps they’ll cheer up other people who are impatiently waiting until the market opens again, the way I am! (To be honest, I didn’t start going last year until a bit later in the season, but still – I’ll take any kind of sprouts at this point). Soon, my fellow locavores, soon…

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

I didn’t make it to the Boulder Farmers’ Market every Saturday this season, but I made 18 visits starting in June, as part of my attempt to eat more local foods. I was never really a regular or serious Farmers’ Market customer in previous years. My husband and I would go once a year, and stop by if we happened to be downtown while it was going on, but that’s about it. I’m so glad that I started going regularly. I feel like I got to know more about many of the local farms, farmers, and what crops are grown locally, as well as discovering a few local products I wasn’t familiar with.

Perhaps the most fun aspect was seeing the progression of crops during the season. I’m re-reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and with perfect timing, have gotten to the chapter where she describes the conceptual vegetannual. The vegetannual (which would be a really handy plant to grow in your garden, by the way), represents the evolution of crop types during the growing season. The season evolves as a plant does, first sprouting shoots and leaves, then flowering, then growing small fruits (or vegetables as the case may be), which progress to larger, more colorful versions, and then finally to hard-shelled produce. And as I looked back at the pictures of what I brought home from the market each week, I could see the progression of color from green to more and more vibrant colors, and then finally to fallish colors. I didn’t necessarily buy the best representatives of each stage (I’m missing good examples of the ‘flowery’ vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli), but in general, I could see the pattern. My purchases for the season went from leafy/shooty garlic scapes, and greens, to chard and kale, to more vibrant and diversely colored eggplant, green and yellow wax beans, sunburst squash, red, yellow and orange bell peppers and heirloom tomatoes, and then to more fall-colored, hard-shelled pumpkins and winter squash. (Granted the hot-house grown tomatoes kind of threw things out of whack in the early months, but hey – tomatoes!).

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Over the course of the season, there were multiple stands I visited every week. 2R’s Farm kept me well supplied with early tomatoes, purple potatoes, and red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. I loved Far Out Gardens’ herbs, heirloom tomatoes, and wild arugula. From Red Wagon Organic Farm, I bought a huge amount of beets, greens, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Munson Farms was my corn supplier (and I got most of my pumpkins from their stand at 75th and Valmont). Discovering the variety of garlic at Wee Bee Farms started a new obsession with garlic. After attending a farm dinner at Aspen Moon Farms, I started visiting them for hot peppers, onions, and winter squash. Hazel Dell provided wonderful mushrooms, and I discovered a couple of varieties I hadn’t eaten before. I also made frequent stops at Cure Organic Farm, Isabelle Farm, Black Cat Farm, Growing Gardens, and Oxford Gardens. On the non-produce front, I replenished my supply of cinnamon-cayenne almonds as needed at Olomomo, tried many varieties of pasta from Pappardelle’s, and regularly procured a six-pack of mini cupcakes from Street Fare.

What a great season of local food! Thank you to everyone associated with the Boulder Farmers’ Market for a great year, and I look forward to the 2012 season!

I was talking to a fellow local produce lover last week when she brought up the fact that pretty soon we won’t have local tomatoes. We’ll just have the pale imposters you get at the supermarket. I guess I’d been unconsciously avoiding that thought, because after she brought it up, I started to feel a little panicky. What am I going to do when the heirloom tomatoes are gone? NOOOO! So, with that in mind, I set out for the Farmers’ Market this past Saturday with one primary goal. To buy a large bunch of heirloom tomatoes and a spaghetti squash, and to make ‘pasta’ with tomato sauce. (I know I’ve done a couple of posts about tomato sauce in the past, but this turned out to be the best I’ve made to date, so I figured I’d go ahead and post it). The previous week I bought quite a few paste tomatoes from Far Out Gardens at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, and they were great tasting. (Paste tomatoes generally have fewer seeds and are well suited for sauces. Roma tomatoes and San Marzano tomatoes are two well-known paste varieties). So I returned to Far Out Gardens and filled a bag with a large variety of heirloom tomatoes of the paste variety, and some others as well. (They were about out of paste tomatoes, or I would have gotten more of them). I also found a gorgeous spaghetti squash at Red Wagon Farm, got some garlic from Wee Bee Farms, and grabbed an onion at Oxford Gardens (at least I think it was – seriously, I need to take a notebook with me – I always forget where I got something or other. (Have you noticed how much I love parentheses? Bad writing style? Sure! Will I keep using them anyway? You bet!))

I bought a few other things at the Farmers’ Market as well – my usual cupcakes and pasta, more winter squash, and a few other assorted vegetables.

Boulder Farmers' Market purchases - October 1, 2011

Boulder Farmers' Market purchases - October 1, 2011

To go with my spaghetti squash and tomato sauce, I made salads. It’s been quite fun eating salads with fresh greens this summer, and finding ways to make them look different each week. I’ve been trying to buy colorful carrots or tomatoes to use for that. A couple of weeks ago, just because I hadn’t heard of it before, I purchased a watermelon radish, which is certainly a strange little thing. It looks kind of like a big round Japanese turnip (white on the outside), but when you cut it open, it’s a bright pinkish red. If you cut the slices in half, it’s obvious where the name watermelon radish originated.

Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

Paired with some dragon carrots and arugula, they made quite an attractive salad.

Arugula with Dragon Carrots and Watermelon Radish

Arugula with Dragon Carrots and Watermelon Radish

Now, back to the serious subject of tomato sauce. I had some Mexican oregano I planned to use, and my new supply of Miguel and Valentino Smoked Extra Virgin Olive Oil had just arrived a couple of days before. So I was all set to make tomato sauce. As I was cutting up the tomatoes, I tried small bits of the Far Out Gardens heirloom paste tomatoes. Had anyone walked in on me at that time, they would have heard me loudly talking to myself, exclaiming with disbelief at how incredibly AWESOME these tomatoes were. I’m serious. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had tomatoes with this much concentrated flavor. I think that was a large part of why this tomato sauce turned out so well.

There were a few other things which I believe contributed to the great taste of the sauce. I used a whole head of garlic (which was labelled as being a strongly flavored type). The smoked olive oil contributed a bit of smokiness, and I think the Mexican oregano was a big factor as well. Mexican oregano is not actually oregano (which a member of the mint family), but is a member of the verbena family. It’s much stronger than Mediterranean oregano, and not as sweet. I made a dish a couple of weeks ago that had a disappointing absence of taste. I added a couple of teaspoons of Mexican oregano and a little salt, and it was like magic – it completely turned the dish around, and it ended up being great. So anyhow, this recipe for tomato sauce is one I’ll repeat.

I’ve always thought that spaghetti squash was kind of a crazy vegetable. How strange is it that you can bake a squash, take the seeds out, then run a fork down it and have it form little strands? It’s got a fairly mild taste, so it’s perfect for tomato sauce. And if you’re looking for a filling, lower calorie meal, it’s a great substitute for pasta.

Spaghetti Squash Strands

Spaghetti Squash Strands

Spaghetti Squash and Heirloom Tomato Sauce Ingredients

Spaghetti Squash and Heirloom Tomato Sauce Ingredients

Spaghetti Squash with Heirloom Tomato Sauce
serves 2-3 (plus a little extra sauce)

1 large spaghetti squash
3 lbs heirloom tomatoes (ideally paste tomatoes)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp smoked olive oil
1/2 to 1 tsp sugar
1 to 1+1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
fresh ground pepper
pecorino romano

Pierce the spaghetti squash multiple times with a sharp knife, place in a baking pan (or just something to catch drips), and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes (until the flesh is tender).

While the squash is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. (If you don’t have a skillet that will be large enough when you add all the tomatoes, you can use a stockpot instead.) Sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds, and then add the onion. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, and increase heat to medium high to bring to a simmer. Adjust heat as necessary to keep the tomatoes cooking at a vigorous simmer. (If that isn’t a real cooking term, it should be – you don’t want it to boil and splatter, but you want a lot of the liquid to cook off, so simmer it vigorously). I generally kept the heat between medium and medium high. After the tomatoes have mostly broken down and turned to liquid, add the oregano and 4 grinds of pepper. Then add 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of sugar, and taste the sauce. Add more sugar and/or salt if desired. Continue to cook until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. I cooked it for about 30 minutes from the time I added the tomatoes. If the squash is nearly done, reduce the heat for the tomatoes to low. If the squash still has a while to cook, just turn the heat off and reheat the sauce closer to when the squash is ready.

Heirloom Tomato Sauce During and After Cooking

Heirloom Tomato Sauce During and After Cooking

Remove the spaghetti squash from the oven, and place on a cutting board. Being careful to avoid steam burns, cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and loose pulp with a large spoon. Using a fork, run the tines down the length of the inside of the squash. As you do so, the flesh will come out in a clump of strands, which is your spaghetti. Place in bowls, add sauce, and top with freshly grated pecorino romano.

Spaghetti Squash with Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Heirloom Tomato Sauce

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