|Annie at High Ground Organics|
It's winter now so the offerings at our weekly Farmers' Market are not as abundant as in the summer, but Bruce and I go every Sunday rain or shine. We call ourselves die-hards, who can't live without our regular supply of fresh eggs from Lucy, wild salmon from Pat O'Shea, red butter lettuce from Annie at High Ground Organics and juicy, crisp apples from Sylvia and her orchards at Prevedelli Farms.
|Bruce at the Acme stand|
A few steps
away, Bruce gets in line for chewy ciabatta rolls at Acme Bread Company, while I visit Toby across the aisle at Farwest Fungi.
|Toby at Farwest Fungi|
Acme bakes the bread of choice for many top-rated San Francisco restaurants, so we are fortunate they have a bakery in our back yard. At Farwest Fungi I pick out fresh shiitakes, which I put in a brown paper bag for proper storage in my refrigerator. Did you know that shiitakes have four to ten times the flavor of common white button mushrooms? In addition to their robust, pungent, woodsy, meaty flavor, they provide high levels of protein, potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. I use this delicious form of multi-vitamin in my version of Milanese risotto, fresh egg scrambles, and my sauteed chicken breasts with mushrooms and fontina cheese.
Pam's Delicious Chicken Breasts with Shiitake Mushrooms
One boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in half to serve two people
a big handful of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
two slices of fontina (or your favorite melting cheese), enough to cover each chicken breast
Lightly season chicken breasts with Kosher salt
Over high heat melt butter and olive oil in saute pan and cook mushrooms, set aside
In same pan heat olive oil and butter over high heat and quickly saute seasoned chicken breasts four to five minutes on a side, depending on thickness (don't overcook)
Remove cooked breasts and top each with sauteed mushrooms
Cover with fontina cheese and broil until cheese melts into mushrooms
|Just the right size for 2|
$17 a pound, much cheaper than at Whole Foods, but if you buy a larger salmon roast for $12 a pound, they will fillet the fish at no extra charge.
With regular practice, we can pretty much eyeball
the perfect size for the two of us, but if we can't find it, Teresa or Cynthia rummage through the big ice chests in the back and locate just what we are looking for. I love watching determined customers forage through bins filled with fish heads and scraps, and then bargain over the cost if they think the odds and ends are priced too high.
|Sylvia from Prevedelli Farms|
I learn so much from the farmers when I chat them up and taste their samples like honey crisp apples, blenheim apricots and thomcord grapes. Sylvia who owns Prevedelli Farms in Watsonville grows many varieties of apples and berries like olala's and raspberries from which she makes jam. Speaking from years of experience and bubbling with enthusiasm, she explains that being present at the market is more about educating her customers and less about making money. She has been farming in Santa Cruz County for more than 40 years and is a fixture at our Sunday market.
At $3 a pound, summer heirloom tomatoes are extravagant, but the season is short, so it's well worth the money. Slice open a reddish-purple calabash, top with some fresh burrata cheese, a sprinkle of chopped basil, a splash of aged Balsamic, and you will think you are eating al fresca at a trattoria in the center of an Italian city like Rome.
A Sonoma county rancher always draws a crowd as he answers questions about what makes grass-fed beef taste better, and an artisan cheese maker explains the importance of using high quality milk from her very own herd.
To provide some entertainment for the kids, there's a person dressed up in a clown suit, making cartoon characters by twisting balloons, and there's always a crowd around the live music, maybe some blue grass strummers, a string quartet or a solo entertainer on the harp. Bruce and I sometimes meet our good friends Sandi and Bob at the market and sit at the picnic tables to drink coffee, catch up, and people watch together.
One of the things I've noticed about Farmers' Market is that the majority of the shoppers are slim and athletic looking, unlike heavier people I tend to see at Costco. I'm not drawing any conclusions, but it's certainly my observation. And yes, it's definitely more expensive to shop at farmers' markets, but because the food is fresher, I find it lasts longer in the refrigerator and doesn't go to waste. Occasionally I shop at traditional grocery stores, but mostly to buy non-perishables like aluminum foil and paper towels. However, my market of choice sits in a train station parking lot where I rub shoulders with the dedicated farmers who grow our food and give me the confidence that I'm eating healthy every week.