1. overbought great tomatoes—not unusual this time of year. 2. saw David Lebovitz’ gazpacho Insty story! 3. had great little cucumbers and beefsteak tomatoes from Corona Farms and a clutch of colorful heirlooms from Amy’s Farm, (IE, represent. Riverside and Ontario, respectively), plus a beautiful red onion, and, 4. My Paris Kitchen, the book with the recipe. (I hasten to add 5., it’s near 100° today.) Done and done.
Orange County foodists of some tenure might remember a time, oh, maybe almost exactly 5 years ago, when I wrote about Koda Farms California-grown, Japanese-style rice coming to be sold at O.C. farmers markets.
Well, then is now, now is then. Koda Farms is back in black in O.C., having returned to the Saturday Irvine FM the other week. The market hadn’t yet moved to its current, luxuriously commodious Mariners Church site when Koda participated the first time around, so now it’s doubly accessible. (The Irvine market continues to be open 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.)
If the Koda name is niggling at the back of your mind, it could be because it’s gotten a tremendously large amount of name-checking press as the rice of choice at Sqirl LA, the Silver Lake restaurant phenomenon. Rice obsessives might do well to give it a spin in their old Zojirushis and judge for themselves.
Insta-salad is what I call already-prepped and ready-to-go lettuce, and it’s one of those things that just makes everything go along a little better.
(Parenthetical screed: I’m not talking about any of the many and various bag o’ leafy greens. However, since I’ve invoked them, let’s just get one important thing out of the way right quick here: No matter WHAT is evinced on the label—organic, “triple-washed,” WHATEVER—you NEED TO WASH them.)
Do you have a favorite way to prep and store lettuce? If so, do that.
As for me: Whether it’s lovely tender redleaf from the farmers market, or small, sturdy-crisp Little Gem from a supermarket pack, I scrub and rinse my sink, install the stopper, and separate the leaves into this cool bath. Swish, often a drain-refill-additional swish before a trip through the plastic centrifuge of my thrift-store French salad spinner and out onto a cloth to further drip for a moment before being gently loaded into a Ziploc® bag with a piece of paper towel lining the bottom. (In these days of one-use plastic consciousness, I hasten to say that I wash and reuse my lettuce bags.) Tuck into the crisper drawer, and sleep the sleep of one untroubled by the worry of where her next salade is coming from.
YES I go to the farmers market to shop for fruit & veg, and YES also because it is the most pleasant outing you can give yourself during any given week of the year. BUT: there are other, perhaps unforeseen, benefits. Dogs in cars, e.g.
Dogs and other animals, by and large, are not allowed at farmers markets, by public health decree. Oh, yes, of course, I hasten to add before some well-actuallyer starts to have a cow, dogs have been and continue to be seen in farmers markets here and there. Perhaps their presence is even licit at some. But not at the Southern California markets I frequent, and, I posit, neither are they allowed at those of San Luis Obispo County.
Which is where I saw two examples in a single stop, at the exceedingly excellent SLO Saturday farmers market early this spring.
First this guy, upon arrival:
And then these three (look hard, they’re there), as we were leaving:
And then, back home, the very next week at my usual, much-mentioned Laguna Hills FM, this little cutie:
I’d like to take this opportunity to commend the good citizenship of owners and dogs alike—clearly they’re all very good boys and girls.
The Trader Joe’s in Laguna Hills, on Avenida Carlota near the moribund Laguna Hills Mall, has always had a parking lot that wasn’t quite as bad as other stores, which is saying something, as you know from the cliché-with-a-molten-center-of-truth about Trader Joe’s parking lots in general.
This location has long been a convenient stop after the Friday farmer’s market at the far end of the aforementioned mall. But there’s news, and it’s big: as of 8 a.m. today, things are even a whole lot better. A new, kind of huge, purpose-built Trader Joe’s has opened across the parking lot, looming—if not lording—over the old, kind of sad strip housing the original store. There’s parking aplenty! Or, seems like it. Once parked, howevah, you still take your life in your hands crossing the two lanes passing in front of the store. Some things continue to never change, I guess.
Regular readers, all three or four of you, know that I wait all year for the wild salmon to roll into my local fish boutique, Costco. Serious as a heart attack here, here: Costco happens to be the very best place for a regular consumer to buy fish, for a number of reasons starting with freshness, running through the company’s commitment to sustainable fishery, and not even ending with price. This year, our first was even the famous Copper River designate, the earliest to come to market. It is not too strong to say it was superb. Roll on, 2019 wild salmon season.
For years I’ve made preserves and pickles, originally to get in touch with how my grandmother might have run her kitchen and later just for pleasure, always canning them in a boiling-water bath so they’ll be shelf-stable. (Have not yet made the leap to pressure canning; perhaps someday.) But with my first 2017 strawberry jam, made from a three-pack I bought at my new favorite Chino farm stand and Meyer lemon from our little tree, I merely refrigerated, part of a newly hatched plan to streamline the process of keeping my family in homemade preserves for breakfast toast. You might not imagine that daily breakfast toast, which accompanies daily breakfast omelets, could account for all that much preserve use—but every-day-ness adds up. With a few discards, the three-pack nicely filled two 500-milliliter French jelly jars—which I’ve always considered the Platonic Ideal of jelly jars. Even though I’ve owned them for 30-plus years, my jars and their orange lids have never actually been used for jelly. Jam’ll have to be close enough. (This is 2017’s second batch.)
It’s long been my favorite of our many good Orange County farmers markets, something that remained true today when I stopped in: the Friday Laguna Hills market, at Laguna Hills Mall. It was the first day of a new, construction-accommodating configuration near JCP, nicely visible from Carlota and the 5, that displays the superb vendor selection and ingress/egress ease to fine effect. I love it because it’s a real cook’s market—which is SO not to say you shouldn’t avail yourself of the fab prepared food. Just be sure to take home a couple big bags of raw ingredients, to fuel a weekend of great cooking.
How Costco Has Really Brought It Lately—A Brief Compendium of Especially Good Products Available at the Moment
I’m going to skip any Costco-explano preamble, because it’s truly one of those if-you-know-you-know situations—in which case you might be, however mildly, interested.
- Giant, actually-made-in-Normandy Brie: You’ve seen the regular-sized version—and if you’re lucky, you’ve also bought and eaten it. Holiday time brings the super-sized, which is even better, with a larger mie-to-crust ratio perfect for gently melting and serving insouciantly in its own très authentique wooden box.
- Organic medjool dates, properly from the Coachella Valley: In the date hierarchy, medjools are the top of the heap; adding organic may be pure gravy, but oh my goodness these are capo di tutti capi… so good, perfect for your bacon-wrapping needs—but don’t neglect the eating-out-of-hand option.
- PEI mussels: It’s usually PNW mussels on the ice behind the sneeze guard, but shopping for my Christmas Eve Simon Hopkinson mussels “Rockefeller” this year they were from PEI, which resonated deep in my Anne of Green Gables heart, but grated discordantly on my West Coast bias. Surprise: they were the best mussels I’ve bought in years. And the price… I mean to say.
- Kirkland Signature goat cheese: Speaking of price—always sort of the subtext of any Costco conversation, isn’t it—the cost of this duo-log pack has always been incredible, but useful only for preparations where its very slight chalkiness wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. I’m happy to say this is no longer a concern—I’m guessing there’s a new supplier because the soft lightness will make you think of the very freshest French chèvre, which is a very good thing.
Cauli is where it’s at, at the moment. These were at Laguna Niguel/Aliso Viejo on a recent Sunday, but you’ll find ‘em at all O.C. farmers markets. I nabbed that big yellow one in the center there. Rinse, slice, onto a baking sheet, generous salt & pepper, drizzle with oil. 400̊ for 15-20 for retaining slight crispness, or longer at 375̊ to utter tenderness and deep caramelization—my favorite result.