Four Reasons I Love to Visit the Farmers Market

It’s Sunday again. Strolling on a street filled with stands of savory produce on a sunny Sunday is always a good idea. At the farmers market, I can pick up fresh produce at a bargain price and get tasty and healthy ingredients for cooking. But aside from taste and health considerations, there are more why I love to visit the farmers market.

  1. Connect with People
The farmer I chatted with sold grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork.

The farmer I chatted with sold grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork.

While visiting the farmers market in my city today, I chatted with a farmer who sold grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork. He told me how he raised cattle and pigs on his livestock farm two hours’ drive away and why he chose not to move to the city. He even explained to me the difference between organic meat and farm-raised meat. I sure learned quite a bit about things that I could not have learned in my daily routine.

The framers market creates a casual, carefree community center — a place to connect with farmers as well as people in your own community.

      2. Discover New Foods

At the farmers market, I often find wonderful new produce that I do not usually see in a typical grocery store. It is a great opportunity to discover new food and find unique ingredients. Below are two unique foods I saw today at the farmers market:

      3. Learn Cooking Tips

The vendor shared with me how to best cook kale.

The vendor shared with me how to best cook kale.

Many times when I talk to vendors at the farmers market, they’ll give me recipe tips and meal ideas on how to best cook the particular food they’re selling. I find that most farmers are proud of their products and are genuinely passionate about sharing cooking ideas as opposed to merely making a sales pitch. Talking to them helps broaden my perspectives on cooking.

        4. Enjoy the Season

02-12-2017-image6As the produce at the farmers market are fresh from the farm, looking through the food at the farmer market connects me with the cycles of nature. As I see artichokes in the spring, beets in the summer, cauliflower in the fall, and leeks in the winter, my mind reconnects with the earth and the turning of the year – and I am engulfed with the enjoyment of the season.

If you visit your local farmers market, perhaps you’ll come across more delightful experiences than I do. 

Restoring the Good Old Flavors in Tomatoes — A New Technology

TomatoesWhile reading the online ScienceDaily today, I came across a piece of interesting food news: scientists at University of Florida have discovered the key to restoring great tomato flavor. According to the news release, during the past 50 years or so, commercial tomatoes have gradually lost their original tasty flavors. To put the flavors back to tomatoes, scientists have studied the DNA in a tomato gene (called “alleles”), identified the chemical combinations for better tomato flavors, and used genetic analysis to replace alleles in modern tomato varieties so that they can be more flavorful. The technique involves classical genetics, not genetic modification, as it is “just fixing what has been damaged over the last half century to push them back to where they were a century ago, taste-wise.” To read this new release, click here.

This is certainly great news for food lovers. Tomato is one of the most common ingredients for cooking. If the tomatoes we buy at grocery stores taste as good as heirloom tomatoes, we will be able to make and eat more tasty salads, soups, and all sorts of dishes.

Technology never ceases to delight us, even when it comes to tomato flavors.

Maybe one day, technology will bring us flavors that we do not know of today. Be prepared to open you mind – and mouth – for new food technology development.

Juggling Academics and Appetite — A Few Tips

We all have experienced that hungry moment: After long hours of homework, you suddenly crave a snack — something handy, tasty, and ideally, somewhat healthy.

Here are a few tips and suggestions for quick snacks that will boost your energy and satisfy your appetite during stressful times:

Avocado Toast: This simple snack is one of my favorites: avocado on any type of toasted bread, and topped with whatever you’d like! This version I made has sliced avocado with smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, and drizzled with olive oil. The salinity and smokiness from the salmon adds a different dimension with the creamy avocado. You can also try with different breads, toppings, and smashed avocado.

Avcado Toast

Yogurt Parfait: Simple layers of yogurt, granola, and berries make a really fulfilling and tasty snack!

Yogurt Parfait

Kale Chips: Kale chips are pretty simple to make, simply bake small pieces of kale in the oven for 20 minutes at 250 to 300 degrees. They should come out crispy and crunchy!

Kale Chips

Smoked Salmon Spread with Crackers and Crudite: Smoked salmon dip can be made with cream cheese, minced smoked salmon, and herbs. Served with (just about anything!) crackers and sliced raw celery and carrot, it’s a good way to have some raw vegetables in a tasty combination!

Vegetable Dip

There are many ways to make a snack that fits your appetite and diet. Open up our mind (and mouth) and you’ll be surprised at how well you can juggle your academics and appetite.

Juxtaposition

Same ingredients, different looks Same taste, different expressions

Same ingredients, different looks
Same taste, different expressions

When I made a cupcake with mango, raspberry, nasturtium, and matcha, I happened to have some extra ingredients. I had an idea.

Using the same ingredients, I made the dessert on the left side of the plate. Suddenly, the ingredients that made up the cupcake became vivid and vibrant.

There are countless ways to combine ingredients. There are endless possibilities to explore creativity, even with the same resources. And many times, a little ingenuity will lead to surprisingly transformative results, just like the juxtaposition on this plate shows.

Wish you a creative 2017!

Seared Sablefish in Yogurt Sauce

There is a famous proverb about cooking fish: “Fish, to taste good, must swim three times: in water, in butter, and in wine.”

Today, I defied this tradition by cooking a sablefish fillet without butter or wine. I tried to cook the fish with something new—plain yogurt.

Seared Sablefish in Yogurt Sauce

 

Sablefish, scientifically known as “Anoplopoma fimbria” and commonly known as black cod, Alaskan cod, or butterfish, is a deep sea white-flesh fish famous for its flaky texture and mild flavor. To preserve the tender taste of the fish, I figured it might be a good idea to try a sauce base that does not contain a buttery or oily flavor, such as plain yogurt.

To compliment the natural taste of the sablefish, I used freshly diced celery and carrots along with unsalted pistachio seeds. I also used a little ground chicken to add some excitement 🙂

Ingredients:

- One sablefish fillet (1/3 to ½ pound) - One fresh lemon - 1/3 cup of freshly diced celery - 1/3 cup of freshly diced carrots - 1/4 cup of unsalted pistachio seeds - 1 to 2 cups of plain yogurt - ½ to 1 cup of ground chicken (optional)

– One sablefish fillet (1/3 to ½ pound)
– One fresh lemon
– 1/3 cup of freshly diced celery
– 1/3 cup of freshly diced carrots
– 1/4 cup of unsalted pistachio seeds
– 1 to 2 cups of plain yogurt
– ½ to 1 cup of ground chicken (optional)

Procedure:

Add the sablefish fillet to a heated pan, and turn heat to medium-low. Cook for about 5 minutes or when both sides turn golden brown.

Add the sablefish fillet to a heated pan, and turn heat to medium-low. Cook for about 5 minutes or when both sides turn golden brown.

Place the yogurt-based mixed sauce on the plate, and add the fillet on top of the sauce. Ready to eat!

Place the yogurt-based mixed sauce on the plate, and add the fillet on top of the sauce. Ready to eat!

My experiment turned out to be quite delightful: the plain yogurt added moisture to the fillet’s texture, and celery and carrots permeated the yogurt sauce with a garden fresh taste—all have nicely preserved the tender flavor of the sablefish.

Another famous saying flashed over my mind: “Better to be happy with the cod fish in your plate now, than to linger for the taste of a tuna that is still swimming in the sea.”

I am happy with my black cod today. Perhaps next time, I’ll try something new for tuna.

Matcha Green Tea Lava Cake with Caramel

Matcha – powdered green tea – is popular because of its stress-reducing and immune-boosting benefits as well as unique flavor and is central to Chinese and Japanese traditions. It is most often used as a drink ingredient.

How about using matcha to make a dessert? Health benefits aside, matcha’s emerald color will add an interesting personality to any dessert plate. It is the perfect combination of Asian flavors with a traditional dessert.

Today I tried making a well-known dessert, a lava cake, with matcha. Below is the completed dish, served with mango sorbet, caramel sauce, and fresh raspberries.

Matcha Green Tea Lava Cake with Caramel

Ingredients:

- Matcha green tea - White chocolate - Butter - Sugar - Flour - Egg - Milk - Raspberries

– Matcha green tea powder
– White chocolate
– Butter
– Sugar
– Flour
– Egg
– Milk
– Raspberries

Procedure:

 

Caramel is ready.

Caramel is ready in a few minutes.

After about 15 minutes in the oven, the matcha cake puffed in the ramekin. Take out of oven.

After about 15 minutes in the oven, the matcha cake puffed in the ramekin. Take out of oven.

Flip the ramekin -- the matcha green tea lava cake is here!

Flip the ramekin — the matcha green tea lava cake is ready!

The matha green tea and raspberries provide a healthy balance to the sugar and butter in the dessert. They also add great colors to the plate. Best of all, they deliver a unique taste. Top it off with ice cream or mango sorbet, as I did!

Enjoy your weekend!

Snapshots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Alice Waters, the chef credited for pioneering the California cuisine’s “farm-to-table” philosophy, once said, “My Saturday morning trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is one of my most beloved rituals.” Today, I visited the famed Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco.

Located at the center of tourist actions near the Embarcadero, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is renowned for the diversity of its fresh produce, most of which are certified organic food. It is operated by the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture, a nonprofit organization aimed at developing a healthy food system through farmers markets. Every Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, small local farmers show off their freshly-produced organic vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, meats, and eggs to local residents and tourists alike. They also sell a variety of artisan specialties such as jams, cheese, and snacks. There are also a few prepared food options.

Through chatting with a few farmers, I learned that their regular buyers include not only local residents, but also a large number of local restaurants. More and more restaurants are enhancing the quality of their food by using locally-produced fresh ingredients, which drives the need for more local organic farm products. This creates a healthy cycle for local farmers to engage in more small-scale, sustainable farming.

About a year ago when I wrote about sustainable farming on an urban farm in Fremont, I wrote the following lines. I’ll say the same about the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco:

Farming with nature, farming with pleasure
Small-scale farming keeps us healthier
Farming with nature, farming for the future
Small-scale farming preserves Mother Nature 

Buy fresh, buy natural. You’ll not only be helping yourself with a healthy, tasty meal, but also be making your share of contribution to sustainable farming.

Enjoy your weekend!