I am thrilled to be sharing my seasonal Farmer’s Market Feast today and how perfect that it just so happens to line up with the winter solstice!
A Farmer’s Market Feast lasts all week-long in my house because all of my food is from the past Sunday’s, Mar Vista Farmer’s Market. Majority of everything I eat is my own home cooking, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Being raised with high values around food and cooking, I don’t let my busy lifestyle get in the way of cooking an excellent meal.
I know this may not be the case for many of you, but I can help you to improve on that. 🙂
My hope is that once you read my simple menus, you will be motivated to grab a few staple ingredients and make it a habit to cook up some versatile, affordable and downright delicious meals for the entire week. The farmer’s market is lit up with beautifully bright orange, red and purple foods. Thanks to nature’s perfect timing, these carotenoid-rich foods appear in winter to nourish and heal our skin and eyes after long days in the summer sun. Below are a few of my favorite winter foods and how I enjoy them in all their glory.
Persimmons: The markets are overflowing with Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons but their season is almost up so get on them soon!
Fufu persimmons can be eaten raw when they are as hard as an apple, but a Hachiya is best when it’s so soft and overripe it practically collapses in your hand.
My favorite ways to eat persimmons are to either make a salad with pomegranate, dill, parsley, chives, shallots, basil and mint with fresh squeezed lime and olive oil or bake them with aromatics like cinnamon, vanilla, star anise and cardamom. When cooked long and slow they develop a flavor of what you would imagine an Indian sweet potato pudding to taste like! There’s nothing like it!
TRY THIS: Cut 4-6 Fuyu persimmons (ask a farmer at the market to help you pick good ones if you’re unsure) into thin half-moon shapes (skin on or off) and place in a greased (with at least 2 tablespoons of coconut oil) heavy roasting pan. Pour in two cans organic coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, a teaspoon of cinnamon extract, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, another heaping tablespoon of coconut oil and one teaspoon of butter (vegans can skip). Roast covered at 375 for easily 45 minutes or until desired consistency. Keep checking in between to baste them with the aromatic liquid. Let cool.
You can use to top biscuits with fresh whipped cream for a persimmon shortcake. You can mix with bread and cream for bread pudding. You can also boost your yogurt or porridge with roasted persimmons. I’ve even tried them in a savory stuffing served with lamb, beef or fatty chicken thighs.
Cooking savory dishes in the winter implies a lot of roasting, braising or making soups, so I always have homemade veggie stock on hand.
TRY THIS: If you eat lots of veggies like I do, then making your own veggie stock should be an easy task because you will have all your veggie end cuts, onion, garlic skins and fresh herbs on hand for your base. From there, all you need is water, a bay leaf or two, peppercorns, salt and a couple of carrots and onion or leek for depth and sweetness. I like to add a little tamari (a thicker, less salty, fermented soy sauce that contains less wheat) or Braag’s Liquid Amino’s. Once everything is in the pot, bring to a soft simmer for 20 minutes, cover and take off the heat. Let cool outside of fridge overnight and then pour in glass jars for up to a week. You can also freeze your stock.
NOTE: Don’t ever use eggplant or potato end-cuts to make stock.
Squash Pumpkin, Acorn, Kabocha, Butternut, Speckled Hound the varieties are endless. They are all easy to cook – roast, steam or sauté and they all taste pretty similar. The differences I find with squash is the texture, Kabocha and Acorn are denser and hearty while others like butternut are wetter and mild in flavor. Personally, I tend to lean toward the hearty squashes, but you find yours!
Squash tastes great with olive oil, salt, lemon, onion, and garlic. You should feel free to incorporate herbs like rosemary and sage to your heartier squashes and having caramelized onions and browned garlic for topping your squash veggie bowl. Also, try aromatics like cinnamon and curry when cooking your lighter squash. No matter what you do, squash is a no-brainer: Clean it, cut it in half, rub it down with olive oil and salt and your spices and put it in a 350 oven covered for 35 minutes.
Squash in Minutes: If all you ever did were roast squash with onions/leeks, garlic, carrots and cooked in some herbs with olive oil you would be a happy camper. With those four foods you have squash soup in seconds (see Stock below), a delicious dinner bowl with smashed roast squash and topped with the other three ingredients and use your quartet of veg to inspire a warm salad or make inexpensive couscous, which will give you meals for days. Top leftovers with a plain omelet and you have a feel-good breakfast
Greens like collards, kale, turnip, mustard, and dandelion are everywhere this season. I like to cook them long and slow with just lemon juice, plum vinegar, sesame oil, salt, chilis, and garlic. I mix them all up, adding the heartier greens like kale and collards first because they take longer to cook. You can add bacon for flavor (which some people love to do) but I prefer mine without because then I taste how delicious the actual greens are! One of my go-to bowls that I make is roasted squash topped with lots of greens, then drizzled with olive oil and a dash of tamari.
Leftovers? Serve greens with two over-easy eggs and a buttered toasted English muffin.
I hope my ideas inspire you to get cooking with farm fresh ingredients. My brand Farmer’s Market Groupie is in a pre-launch period. Stay tuned for our website in January 2017 and if you are in Los Angeles, always feel free to reach out for a farmer’s market tour via my Instagram page – @FMGroupie.