Bring on the ‘Cots!

Anyone who has ever purchased an apricot at the supermarket has probably already learned an expensive lesson: don’t bother. Occasionally, if you’re fortunate enough to find fruits that are organically and locally-grown, they may indeed taste okay—but you will surely pay a premium for the rarity. This is yet another good reason to buy your produce at the farmers’ market.

In order to develop their distinctive floral fragrance, sweetness, and velvety texture, apricots need to ripen on the tree. There is simply no other way. Unfortunately the tree-ripening process also leaves them soft and far too fragile to ship without bruising. This may be less of a problem for California locavores, but many of the apricot orchards that once blessed our state have been replaced by housing developments and high-tech office parks, seriously reducing sources for tree-ripened fruit. Due to increased land values and the related expenses, apricot growers who held their ground and stayed in business now must often rely on selling to large commercial canners, jam-producers, and other fruit preservers in order to remain solvent.

To meet consumer demand throughout the United States, scientists thought the answer was to develop bruise-resistant apricot varieties designed to appear picture-perfect for weeks at a time and withstand all sorts of abuse during shipping. Too good to be true? You bet. One bite into that tough, mealy little orb and you’ll know you’ve been had. It’s frightening to think there is an entire generation that assumes this is how apricots should taste

When you first encounter a golden pile of tree-ripened apricots at the farmers’ market, no doubt you’ll immediately want to eat your fill out-of-hand. Go ahead. Be greedy. Apricot season is short but sweet, making this a perfectly justifiable indulgence. But don’t forget to purchase a pound-or-two more to incorporate into family meals for the week. Start the day with apricot halves topped with Greek yogurt, a few California almonds, and a drizzle of local honey. At cocktail time, tuck a spoonful of goat or blue cheese into pitted apricot halves. Make your own compotes and chutneys to serve with pork or poultry, or add apricots to a Moroccan lamb stew.

The following free-form tart is called a galette in France or a crostata in Italy. Regardless where you live, this rustic dessert is a winner. If making a traditional pie terrifies you, this easy preparation provides all of the flavor with none of the angst. And no peeling required!

Perfectly ripe fruit is arranged on a pastry round, then the ends of the dough are folded up and over to create an edge that holds in the juices. If you feel the urge to get fancy, top the fruit with some toasted sliced almonds or a splash of amaretto before baking…but simple is usually better. Once apricot season comes to a close, you can make this dessert with berries, peaches, nectarines, or plums.

This pastry is a dream to work with, but when pressed for time substitute a sheet of prepared pie dough.

APRICOT GALETTE

Buttery Pastry Dough (recipe follows)

1 pound ripe apricots (8 to 12 apricots), pitted and halved or quartered, if large

6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

  1. Prepare the dough and chill as directed. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

 

  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 13- to 14-inch circle or oval about 1/8-inch thick. (It’s fine if the shape is slightly irregular. There is also no need to trim the edges of the pastry; they should remain a bit ragged.) Loosely drape the dough around a rolling pin and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

 

  1. Arrange the apricots on top of the pastry, leaving a wide, 2- to 3-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the apricots with the 6 tablespoons sugar and dot with the butter. Using your fingers, fold the pastry border up and over the filling, pleating the pastry as needed to fit. Brush the pastry edge lightly with water and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.

 

  1. Bake until the apricots are bubbly-hot and the pastry is crisp and golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Let the galette cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then use 1 or 2 wide spatulas to slide it carefully onto a wire cooling rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, cutting into wedges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife. Serves 4 to 6. This is best served the same day it is made, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

Buttery Pastry Dough

 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and refrigerated until firm

1/3 cup ice water

 

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Process briefly to blend. Add the butter and process for 5 seconds.

 

  1. With the machine running, add the ice water, processing just until the dough begins to come together. Form the dough into a smooth ball and flatten into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or as long as 2 days. Freeze for longer storage.

 

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well.

Seeing Red

Most farmers’ markets are only getting started this month, “setting up shop” in asphalt parking lots across the United States. But here in Danville, where our farmers’ market thrives year ‘round, we’re merely picking up speed. Tender young veggies abound, along with a seasonal kaleidoscope of locally-grown sweeties: look for plump apricots, luscious cherries, and juicy cantaloupe. And strawberries. O, those beautiful berries!

Some foods are so perfect in their natural state that it’s a shame to mess with them too much. Take farm-fresh strawberries, for instance. Oh sure, you can boil them up for jam or jelly. Or toss them with rhubarb for a rosy pie filling that tastes of spring. You can bake them into an airy soufflé or freeze them into icy sorbets. All very nice. Or you can just grab one by its little green cap and pop it into in your mouth…and the taste sensation probably won’t be any less spectacular.

But this month ushers in times—like a Memorial Day cookout, a bridal shower, or graduation party—when you feel the urge to gild the lily and showcase spring’s perfect strawberries in an original way… without spending hours in the kitchen. The following recipe could be the answer.

This two-part spread is a study in contrasts: warm, oozy cheese topped with cool, sweet-tart strawberries, made even more irresistible with the bite of fresh ginger, the mild heat of jalapeño, and the refreshing sensation of lime and mint. Best of all, it’s a snap to make, and feeds a crowd.

Instead of baking the cheese as directed in the recipe, you may choose to make your life easier still by simply spooning the salsa over a room-temperature wheel of brie or a log of California goat cheese.

Alternatively, double the salsa recipe and serve it as a dip for pita or tortilla chips, or alongside a plain omelet or cheese quesadilla. It also makes a tasty condiment for grilled or roasted pork or poultry. More adventurous souls will spoon it over chocolate ice cream for dessert. It’s all good.

There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to make this, however. This versatile, low-cal salsa is equally delish served over plain yogurt or cottage cheese.

Baked Brie with Fresh Strawberry Salsa

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon local honey

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 small jalapeño chili pepper

1 1/4 cups hulled and coarsely chopped strawberries (about half of a 1-pint basket)

1 or 2 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

1 (5-inch) wheel of brie (about 15 ounces)

  1. In a bowl, mix together the lime zest, lime juice, ginger, honey, and salt.
  2. Wearing rubber gloves, remove the stem, seeds, and ribs from the chili pepper and chop finely. Add to the lime mixture; then gently stir in the strawberries, green onion(s), and mint to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes (or as long as 6 hours) to blend flavors. This makes a generous 1-cup of salsa.
  3. About 45 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the cheese on a heatproof serving dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the wheel of cheese is soft when touched in the center but still holds its shape. Spoon the chilled salsa over the hot cheese and serve with plain unsalted crackers (water biscuits), wheat biscuits, or baguette slices. Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer.

Berry Good Things to Know

–A shiny berry is a fresh berry. Once picked, strawberries lose their natural sheen in a matter of days.

–Locally-grown berries are inevitably more flavorful and have a more succulent texture than varieties grown for shipping.

–Fresh green caps, intense perfume, and vibrant, uniform color are other qualities to look for in strawberries. Avoid those “white shoulders” that mean the berries were picked before their prime. Also remember that bigger is not always better!

–When stored properly, farm-fresh strawberries can last 1 week or longer in the refrigerator. Here’s the secret: Line a plastic container with a paper towel to absorb moisture. Gently pile in the unwashed strawberries with their green caps intact. Top with another paper towel, seal with an airtight lid, and store in the lowest part of the refrigerator. 

–Do not rinse strawberries or remove their green caps until just before using.  Rinsing berries removes their naturally protective outer layer; and their caps prevent water from soaking into the strawberries, diluting the flavor and altering their texture.

–To clean strawberries, place in a colander or large sieve and rinse quickly under a gentle spray of cold water. Pat dry with towels; then remove the green caps, if desired.

–To hull strawberries (i.e., remove the green caps), use the sharp tip of a paring knife; the pointed end of a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler; or a strawberry huller—an inexpensive tweezer-like gadget available at most cookware shops. This removes not only the leafy green cap, but also the tough little core beneath it.

–For best flavor, eat strawberries at cool room temperature.

–1 cup of halved raw strawberries weighs in at around 49 calories. They are a good source of vitamin C, and also contain potassium, iron, and folic acid.

The  Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ides of April

Chances are you’ve already filed your income tax returns…or, at least, handed over everything to your accountant. This is as good a reason as any to pamper yourself.

If you’re in a funk or simply feeling the financial pinch of tax time, a night on the town may not be in the cards. But here in California good food is always an affordable luxury, especially when you shop at the farmers’ market.

Spring is here, and the market is abloom.After months of little more than juicy citrus to satisfy our cravings for fresh fruit we revel in early strawberries, with armloads of bright flowers to lift our spirits. Also look for locally-grown asparagus, squeaky-fresh artichokes, crunchy peas, fava beans, crisp celery, and young beets.Spring is short but sweet, so shake off the seasonal doldrums and make the most of it.

Often without ever having tasted them, beets are scorned by kids and grown-ups alike. You’ll always find canned beets in lackluster salad bars, a jolt of color radiating from beneath the clear plastic sneeze-guard. A walk past the bussing station of any less-than-glamorous restaurant—where stacks of abandoned salad plates are dotted with slimy purple remnants; their shocking-pink juices bleeding into rivers of ersatz dressing—certainly does nothing to improve their image. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The first thing to remember is that canned beets are about as sexy as canned peas.

Available year-round, the best tender young beets—no larger than a golf ball—are now piled high at the farmers’ market. Earthy, sweet, and delicious, with vitamin-packed greens that are not only edible, but downright tasty. For a change, try white or golden beets, or the candy-cane striped Chioggia variety. (But don’t expect miracles. The Chioggia variety cook to a uniform color.)

A salad made from “real” beets is a thing of beauty, whether served as a side dish or—accompanied by a loaf of crusty artisan bread–a light meal on a warm day.

 AND THE BEET GOES ON….

–Large beets tend to have a woody texture. Look for small, firm beets with crisp green tops attached. Perky leaves indicate they have been freshly harvested.

–To store: Cut off the beet greens, leaving an inch or so of the stems attached, as the leaves tend to draw moisture from the roots. Refrigerate the greens for up to 2 days in an open plastic bag. The bulb-shaped beet roots, when stored unwashed in their own plastic bag, will last a week in the refrigerator.(Any longer, and their natural sugars convert to starch.) Scrub beets well just before cooking.

–Don’t get caught red-handed: Red beets bleed. Wimps like me wear thin latex gloves when working with them. For those who yearn for the more tactile approach, avoid unsightly stains by washing your hands, cutting board, and knife immediately after peeling and slicing. (If needed, scrub stubborn stains with coarse salt.)And wear an apron to avoid The Jackson Pollock Syndrome.

–Beets can be eaten raw: just peel and grate before adding to salads. (I once worked with an editor whose beet-loving husband regularly consumed them in their natural state, merrily eating them out-of-hand like an apple. But that’s a whole other story.)

–Cooked beets can be peeled and refrigerated in an airtight container for several days, so it’s smart to cook more than you’ll need for a single meal.

–For the best flavor and least mess, roast beets with their skins and “tails” (root ends) intact. See recipe for details.

–Beets are done when the tip of a sharp knife can be easily inserted and withdrawn from the center. When properly cooked, their skins will slip off easily, using a paper towel or your fingertips.

ROASTED BEET SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE & WALNUTS

1/3 cup California walnut halves and pieces

2 bunches (8 to 10 beets total) small-to-medium beets—any variety—with greens attached

1/3 cup California walnut oil or olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon California red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves (optional)*

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

About 2 ounces soft California goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts in a baking dish and bake until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Let the walnuts cool. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  1. Cut off leafy greens from the beets, leaving about 1 inch of the stems attached to the roots, and set aside. Scrub the beets under cold running water. Put the damp beets in a small baking dish, add a few tablespoons of water, and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast until the beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 35 to 50 minutes, depending upon size.Set aside to cool.
  1. In a small jar, combine the oil, orange juice, vinegar, tarragon, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, about 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the mustard. Seal tightly and shake the jar until the vinaigrette is well blended. Taste, adding more salt or pepper as needed.
  1. When the beets are cool enough to handle, rub off the skin and cut the beets into 1/4-inch thick slices. Combine the beets and about half the vinaigrette in a bowl, tossing gently to coat. Cover and set aside to marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or longer if refrigerated.
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Rinse the beet greens well and tear into large pieces. Add greens to the pot and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the leaves to a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well and squeeze dry.
  1. To serve, toss beet greens with the remaining vinaigrette. Spread the greens on a small serving platter and top with the marinated beets. Scatter the walnuts and goat cheese over the top and serve at once. Serves 4 to 6.

*If you don’t have—or don’t like—fresh tarragon, just omit it, or substitute fresh parsley or chives. Don’t bother using dried tarragon. It can be nasty stuff.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

A Departure from Tradition

This is the month when everyone is Irish…if not in fact, at least in spirit. That alone is cause for celebration, but March also marks the arrival of some of spring’s sweetest crops at the farmers’ market.

While shopping, don’t limit your purchases to spuds and cabbage needed for the traditional American-style St. Patrick’s Day meal. Also treat yourself to a bunch or two of freshly-dug beets; a few baskets of early strawberries; and plenty o’ green: squeaky-fresh artichokes; sweet locally-grown asparagus; tender baby lettuces; plump fava beans; and peas of all persuasions. It’s going to be a good week.

You may also want to re-think the corned beef and cabbage thing. Maybe this is the year you want to simply to nibble something good in front of the television as you watch The Quiet Man. Enter: Irish Nachos.

This hearty dish includes all of St. Patrick’s favorites, piled high onto a bed of warm, crispy potatoes.What’s not to like? Instead of opening a few cans, as one often does for classic nachos, this one is brimming with fresh ingredients, all in the colors of the Irish flag. Think of it as a deconstructed baked potato with a hint of the Emerald Isle. Serve with small plates and forks for a casual supper, or as a super-snack for sports fans.

This crazy fusion is a crowd-pleaser; and all the elements can be prepared ahead, and are easily multiplied as needed.There’s no point in offering an actual recipe here, as you are the master of your nacho destiny. Add as little or as much of the ingredients as you like. Here is the architectural blueprint for making your masterpiece, along with a couple of helpful recipes.

How to Assemble Irish Nachos

  1. Make a batch of Crispy Smashed Potatoes (recipe follows). If you will be serving soon, do not turn off the oven. Transfer the potatoes, along with any crispy potato bits, into a shallow baking dish and topwith a generous handful of cheese.

As far as the choice of cheese, your options are wide open. You can get fancy with crumbled soft goat cheese, but a robust, Irish cheddar or a bit of farmhouse blue are other good choices. If you would rather stick to the basics, use shredded Monterey jack or another favorite, cheddar.

  1. If desired, top with your choice of meat and another handful of cheese. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese has softened or melted (as you prefer) and the potatoes are heated through.

Any protein will do here, but coarsely chopped cooked bacon or pancetta; crumbled cooked sausage; or bite-size shreds of corned beef all work well.

  1. Top the warm potato mixture with a mound of very thinly sliced green cabbage or a shower of baby arugula leaves, and drizzle with Herbed Sour Cream (recipe follows). Place the remaining Herbed Cream in a small serving bowl.
  1. Scatter 2 or 3 thinly-sliced green onions and 1 shredded carrot over the top. Serve at once with a couple of large spoons, so guests can serve themselves. Pass the reserved Herbed Sour Cream on the side. Serves 4 to 6. Maybe.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

12 Yukon Gold or red creamer potatoes, each about 1 1/2-inches in diameter

Coarse (kosher) salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons California olive oil

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover, and about 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes. (This part can be done hours in advance, so all you need to do is roast the potatoes just before serving.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  1. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the oil, turning to coat.Arrange the potatoes in a single layer. Using a potato masher or a large fork, smash each potato until it’s about 1/2-inch thick. (Don’t aim for perfection here. You want plenty of nooks & crannies, with bits of potato spilling out.) Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes, turning once, until nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

 

Herbed Sour Cream

1 1/2 cups sour cream or plain yogurt

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, basil, cilantro, or tarragon

1teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

  1. In a bowl, combine the sour cream, parsley, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. Stir until well mixed.
  1. Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Other options to consider

  • Check your produce drawer! Veggies like diced bell pepper, blanched fresh peas, or bite-size broccoli florets add healthy crunch and more green!
  • Guacamole aficionados always appreciate another dose of their favorite green; or a drizzle of tomatillo salsa for a touch of heat.
  • I always think 1 or 2 sliced jalapeno chile peppers are always a good idea. No, they’re not the least bit Irish, but the color works—and I love the added zing.
  • Still yearning for beans in your nachos? Try shelled fava beans or edamame.
  • Not feeling that layer of meat? Omit the meat and cheese altogether and, just before serving, scatter thin slices of smoked salmon or trout over the top.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

Comfort in the Familiar

Most of us have undergone a detox of sorts since January 1. But between the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day and The Year of the Rooster and every other holiday-centric excuse we find for feasting, our dietary choices often expand right along with our waistlines.

Through thick and thin, however, the farmers’ market remains our portal to healthy living. More veggies; less meat. Processed foods are scarce. No elevator music = no stress. Plus, shopping in the open-air is downright invigorating.

This month’s market is brimming with juicy citrus fruits, crunchy apples, creamy pears, and other sweet starlets from the waning days of winter. February also signals the arrival of early crops like sugar snap peas and strawberries, offering a sneak-peak of coming attractions.

As we wait for spring to launch into full swing, now is the perfect opportunity to explore more common vegetables we sometimes take for granted, or view as not being “special” enough for company. Just give them a New Year’s makeover! Show everyone that plain-Janes like broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms can be as glamorous as their short-seasoned cousins.

The following has become my go-to winter recipe for both potlucks and entertaining large groups at home. Prep is limited; the recipe is easily multiplied; everything cooks together in a hot oven; and it can be served either warm or at room temperature. And, oh yeah, it also tastes great. There’s nothing ho-hum about these vegetables.

Roasted Broccolini with Herbed Mushrooms

1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (any variety), halved if large

1/2 cup California olive oil

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 pounds broccolini, tough ends trimmed

1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

  1. Position one oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and another rack in the center. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, combine the mushrooms, about 6 tablespoons of the oil, the thyme, soy sauce, and pepper Toss gently to coat.

Spread into an even layer and place the baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven. Roast, stirring once, until the mushrooms are browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the broccolini on another large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt. Toss gently to coat. Spread into an even layer and place the baking sheet on the center rack in the oven. Roast the broccolini, turning once, until the stems are crisp-tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 10 to 15 minutes.

  1. Arrange the vegetables decoratively on a large platter. Serve at once, or let cool to room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.

Recipe Afterthoughts

It’s all cruciferous. I happen to be partial to broccolini, a natural hybrid of broccoli and Japanese kai-lan. (Sometimes you will see it labeled as “baby broccoli.”) The smaller florets and long, thin stalks with tender skin make for speedy prep in the kitchen. If you are a fan of pleasantly bitter broccoli raab, it makes an easy substitute. And when substituting plain ol’ garden-variety broccoli, simply peel away the tough skin from the stems and cut lengthwise, from stem through the florets, into smaller spears.

Don’t be timid when roasting vegetables. A little char at the edges adds visual appeal as well as flavor. (After a childhood of eating water-logged veggies, it also makes for a pleasant surprise.)

If soy sauce seems out of place in this recipe, don’t worry. It will not make the mushrooms taste like Chinese takeout. It simply boosts the umami factor, helps with browning, and adds sodium to bring out the natural flavor of the mushrooms.

I like to use an assortment of cultivated and wild mushrooms for this dish—as grand or as meager as budget allows. The exotic ones taste wonderful, of course, and make the dish look like more of a Big Deal.

If you’re fresh outta thyme, finely chopped rosemary makes a tasty substitute. If you must use dried herbs instead of fresh, use a generous 1/2 teaspoon only.

If you are inclined to gild the lily, it never hurts to shave a bit of Parmesan over the top before serving.

Although the recipe makes 4 to 6 generous servings, it has been known to serve 8 or more as part of a buffet. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, use the veggies to fill omelets. Or eat them cold, directly out of the refrigerator. Whatever.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Over…Again

I’ve already abandoned the whole New Year’s Diet thing. For the first week or two I documented my carb, fat, and caloric intake with military precision. But now that I’ve dropped a few pounds, I’m over it. I figure any reasonable regimen is bound to be an improvement over December’s champagne-fueled evenings and Christmas-cookie-breakfasts.

In the aftermath of holiday excess, it is comforting to sit down to a healthy meal at home…providing it’s something appealing and delicious. The good news here is that the words “healthy” and “delicious” need not cancel out each other.

I know I can’t stray far off track when I’m at the farmers’ market. With no shelves of salty snacks or candy aisle or liquor department to divert my attention, I feel quite virtuous as I shop in the open air. For me, this is about as good as it gets. So as I’m leaving the market, I reward myself with a bouquet of fresh flowers. Yup, that’s how I roll.

One of the cruel ironies in life is that the New Year begins in winter, when we are naturally inclined to hibernate in the coziness of our homes. This has the potential of becoming a danger zone, for nothing satisfies like comfort food on a chilly evening. But “comfort” doesn’t have to mean giant bowls of cheesy pasta or a small trough of ice cream. Nor does it mean a scoop of nonfat cottage cheese and a few limp lettuce leaves. Somewhere, there is a happy median.

Fellow January dieters can rejoice that sweet potatoes are one of the few starchy vegetables that ranks low on the glycemic index. They are also high in vitamins and A, B6, C and D; and a good source of potassium, calcium, folate, magnesium, iron, and beta-carotene. If you have never tasted sweet potatoes without a blanket of molten marshmallows on top, you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Sweet potatoes are born with paper-thin skin and a high ratio of starch to sugar; and they’re not terribly desirable at this stage. Only after a designated period of climate-controlled storage does the skin thicken into a protective barrier and the starch contained within convert to sugar—resulting in the creamy sweet potato we know and love.

The peak season for both sweet potatoes and apples is waning, so it’s the perfect time to indulge. The following torte makes a company-worthy side dish for roast pork or poultry; and an impressive vegetarian entrée when served alongside a warm loaf of crusty whole-grain bread and a lively green salad dotted with toasted sliced almonds and juicy orange segments. It’s also a very comforting way to ease into 2017.

SWEET POTATO TORTE WITH APPLE, GOAT CHEESE& THYME

31/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small thyme sprig, plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced or chopped, including the green tops

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled soft goat cheese

2 red-skinned sweet potatoes (yam variety), about 12 ounces each, peeled and thinly sliced*

1 large tart green apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, halved, cored, and thinly sliced*

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Use some of the butter to generously grease an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, then place the thyme sprig in the center of the pan.
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chopped thyme, the green onions, flour, salt, sugar, and a few grindings of pepper. Toss gently to mix well. Stir in the cheese.
  1. Arrange a single layer of sweet potatoes in concentric circles over the bottom of the prepared pan, overlapping the slices slightly and taking care to not disturb the thyme sprig in the center. (This layer will be the only one visible when the torte is unmolded, so you’ll want to take the time to make it attractive.) Top with half of the apple slices spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with half of the cheese mixture; then drizzle with about 2 teaspoons of butter. Use half of the remaining sweet potatoes to make the next layer; and top with the remaining apple, the remaining cheese mixture, and 2 teaspoons of butter. Make the final layer using the remaining sweet potato slices and drizzle with the remaining butter. Press down gently to compress the mixture. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 40 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and bake, uncovered, until lightly browned at the edges, about 25 minutes longer. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes to 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen.To serve, invert the warm torte onto a warm serving plate and cut into pie-shaped wedges. Makes 1 (8- or 9-inch) torte, to serve 6 to 8 as a side dish.

* To simplify your life, use a mandoline or the slicing disk on a food processor to make uniform slices about 1/8-inch thick.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding Your Inner Santa

As the year draws to a close, the farmers’ market takes on a new life. Along with plants, flowers, and greenery ideal for decorating and gift-giving, there are plenty of essentials for holiday meals, including just-picked cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pomegranates, persimmons, crisp apples, creamy pears, Meyer lemons, grapefruit, and tangy-sweet tangerines and oranges.

Having grown up in very modest circumstances in Ireland, my parents considered it perfectly reasonable to include a couple of fresh oranges to our Christmas stockings. We just saw it as a sneaky way of buying us fewer toys.

Then there was the year my father got his revenge on his ungrateful children by adding a few large russet potatoes to the bottom of each stocking. Imagine our excitement when we saw those bulging stockings hanging from the mantle! I’m still working through that one in therapy. But I digress…

Before going to bed on Christmas Eve, we always left Santa a couple of slices of my mom’s Irish soda bread slathered with butter, and a cup of hot tea with milk and sugar. (Coincidentally, this also happened to be my father’s favorite snack.)

raisin bread in a marketJust in case Santa drops by my house this year, I decided to set aside the traditional raisins for a change and give my soda bread a seasonal twist; along with an orange-scented honey butter. This will be good on Christmas morning, or anytime of day with a cup of tea, coffee, or hot cocoa.

Soda bread is so incredibly easy to make, the finished loaf leaves the novice baker feeling like a real pro. There is no temperamental yeast to deal with, for it is the chemical reaction between the baking soda and buttermilk that causes the bread to rise. My mom’s version goes one step further by adding an egg, which also lightens the texture.

And don’t overlook the gift-potential of this loaf, wrapped in cellophane with a big tartan-plaid bow.As holiday baking goes, this is a lot healthier than a batch of cookies… and takes less time to make.

 HOLIDAY SODA BREAD

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine seas salt

1 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup stemmed and coarsely chopped dried figs

Finely grated zest from 1 orange

2 cups buttermilk

1 large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a 9- to 10-inch cast-iron skillet with vegetable shortening. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; whisk gently to blend. Stir in the dried fruits and orange zest to coat with the flour mixture. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and egg; mix until a stiff dough forms. (Use a wooden spoon if you must, but the most efficient way to mix this soft, sticky dough is with floured hands. Alternatively, the dough can be mixed in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the dough hook… though, as far as I’m concerned, this just creates more stuff to wash!)
  1. Remove the dough from the bowl and mound it into the prepared skillet, roughly forming a round loaf. (Don’t be concerned it doesn’t hold its shape; all will be corrected during baking.) Lightly moisten your hands with water to smooth the top. Using a serrated knife dipped in flour, score the top with a large X, about 1-inch deep. This will ensure even baking… and is said to also scare away the devil. (One can’t be too safe when baking, after all.) Bake 1 hour or until the loaf is golden brown with a firm crust, and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped with a knife. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes before cutting into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted, with or without Orange-Honey Butter. Makes 1 (9-inch) round loaf.

Orange-Honey Butter

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste

Finely grated zest from 1 orange

Dash of salt

Mix together the butter, 1 tablespoon honey, orange zest, and salt until well blended.Taste, adding more honey if desired. Use at once, or cover and refrigerate.

Some final thoughts:

–If buttermilk is not something you normally use, fake it by placing 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice in a 1-pint glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to measure 2 cups and stir to mix. Let it stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture appears slightly curdled.

–I think baking this in a cast iron skillet gives the finished bread more soul…or, at least, a better crust. If you don’t have one, just use a well-greased 9-inch cake pan.

–Remember to check the expiration date on the box or can of baking soda in your pantry. It definitely loses its oomph over time.

–The original recipe calls for 2 cups of raisins, minus the orange zest, and that version still tastes wonderful. As you wander through the farmers’ market, however, check out the wide assortment of dried fruits and nuts available to come up with your own signature holiday soda bread. I am already thinking about shaking things up with chopped pitted dates and walnuts or pistachios….

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

Giving Thanks

The holiday season kicks into high gear this month, commencing with a very special meal on Thursday, November 24. There are no greeting cards to mail or gifts to buy—we simply gather together for a higher purpose. That’s what makes this day an American favorite.

Whether hosting your own extravaganza or simply providing a potluck dish, Thanksgiving preparations generally abide by the “old school rule” to showcase California’s bounty. This is no time to go hunting in the frozen foods aisle of your supermarket to grab an icy bag of some ho-hum product manufactured in parts unknown. Memories are not made from frozen pumpkin pie. We are better than that.

To get the freshest and the best from neighboring counties, shopping at the Danville farmers’ market this month makes more sense than ever. It is also the most meaningful way to show gratitude to the people who grow the food we eat throughout the year.

The farmers’ market is about as low-tech as it gets, yet you are sure to find the best selection of must-haves for your holiday feast. As you explore your Inner Pilgrim, there are no massive carts to maneuver through crowded aisles. No empty shelves to aggravate you. No fluorescent lights to blind your eyes. And best of all, no Muzak to rattle your nerves.

There is a gamut of just-picked greens, and local olive oil for salads; sweet potatoes to bake; russet and Yukon Gold potatoes to mash; onions, celery, and artisan breads for homemade stuffing; Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, acorn squash, and plenty of other seasonal veggies for stellar side dishes; and freshly harvested walnuts and almonds to add crunch to everything from appetizers to desserts. For a touch of natural sweetness, look for local honey, plump raisins, and California dried apricots and cherries. All right there, in the crisp November air.

Circassian walnut isolated on white background

For those with dessert on the mind there’s a plethora of sugar pumpkins, as well as rosy pomegranates, fiery orange persimmons, creamy pears, and a rainbow of newly picked apples. For the aspiring home decorator (or very thoughtful guest), there is a staggering variety of Indian corn and gourds, along with locally-grown flowers, plants, and wreaths—fresh as can be, and often priced at a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere.

With all there is to do this time of year, advance prep is a must. I always like to keep some sort of nuts on hand to serve along with drinks, or to package in cellophane bags as a thoughtful gift for holiday hosts. Recipes for herbed, candied, or spiced nuts abound, but this one is my current favorite. (And judging from the number of times I’ve been asked for the recipe, others seem to like them, too.) These can be made well in advance, and—as an added bonus—smell wonderful as they bake.

The key here is to use fresh nuts—not some limp or rancid ones that have been languishing on a shelf for years. At the farmers’ market, rest assured you will buy only the latest snapping-fresh crop from California.

                                                         Spiced Praline Walnuts

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 tablespoons water

1 pound California walnut halves and pieces (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar*

1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a half-sheet pan with a silicone baking mat, parchment, or foil and spray with no-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and water until foamy.  Add the walnuts, stirring gently to coat well. Scrape the mixture into a colander in the sink and let drain for 5 minutes. Wipe the mixing bowl dry with paper towels.
  2. In the same bowl, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to blend. Add the walnuts and vanilla and toss to coat well.
  3. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring 3 or 4 times, until fragrant and nicely browned, about 30 minutes. (Watch carefully so they do not burn.) Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack. If any of the nuts are stuck together, carefully use a fork to separate them. Let the nuts cool completely. Serve at once, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. Makes about 4 cups.

* It is best to use only pure cane sugar here. Less expensive store brands are often blended with beet sugar that makes the caramelization process difficult, if not downright impossible.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

Grape Expectations

There’s no denying it. Summer has passed. The mornings are crisp, the days are short, and we feel the year drawing to a close. My nesting instinct shifts into over-drive this month, and I view this as cause for celebration. Stack up the firewood, light the candles, hang a wreath on the door, and pile the pumpkins on the front porch! There are still plenty of good times ahead.

Although the last of vine-ripened tomatoes still abound, this month’s farmers’ market also features autumn’s star crops: crunchy apples, creamy pears, plump figs, juicy pomegranates, fiery persimmons, pumpkins (of course), and sweet table grapes.alive-media-magazine-october-2016-market-fresh-peggy-doherty-fallon

Grapes imported from far-off lands are available in supermarkets throughout the year, but usually a sorry excuse for the real thing.  When not shriveled or moldy, they’re often unpalatably sour. Though technically in season from May through January, autumn is when locally-grown grapes come into their own.

Grapes have a natural affinity for cheese—which is why they are nearly always used to garnish cheese platters. Their cool sweetness adds color and zest to all sorts of salads—from mixed greens to chicken to Waldorf. They are a healthy snack eaten out of hand; and a surprise burst of goodness when frozen for icy “poppers.”

This month’s recipe involves the less-common technique of roasting grapes, which intensifies their unique flavor. In addition to making a delicious topping for crostini, roasted grapes make a stellar accompaniment to all matter of poultry and pork, including grilled Italian sausage.

Fruit-of-the-Vine Facts

California’s grape growing tradition began with the Spanish missions, with grapes planted for sacramental wines.

In the early 1800’s, Californians began growing grapes to eat fresh. In the 1900’s, European immigrants began growing grapes in the Central Valley.

Thanks to our unique climate, California grows over 98% of the table grapes sold in the United States.

In 2015, California grape growers harvested their third largest crop in history– 110.5 million boxes!

Americans consume an average of over 8 pounds of grapes per year.

Look for plump grapes with pliable green stems.

Many grape varieties have a subtle white coating called “bloom.” This is simply nature’s way of keeping moisture inside the grapes, and rinses off easily.

Refrigerate unwashed grapes in an open plastic bag until ready to serve; then rinse under cold water and pat dry.

__________________________________________________________________

California Grape Crostini

1 pound seedless red table grapes, such as Red Flame

3 fresh thyme and/or rosemary sprigs, plus extra for garnish

2 tablespoons California extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse (kosher) salt

1 large pinch crushed hot red pepper flakes

12 to 14 ounces soft cheese, such as California goat cheese, blue, or fresh ricotta, at room temperature

Small arugula leaves (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the stems from about 12 ounces of grapes; and cut the remainder into small grape clusters. (Keeping grapes attached to their stems ensures that some of the grapes will retain their shape during the cooking process.)
  1. Place the loose grapes and grape clusters on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Top with herb sprigs and drizzle olive oil over all. Season with salt to taste, and sprinkle with pepper flakes. Toss to lightly coat the grapes with oil, and spread into an even layer. Bake until most of the loose grapes have collapsed and wrinkled, 12 to 15minutes.
  1. When cool enough to handle, discard the herb stems and either remove stems from the grapes, or use the small clusters as an edible garnish when serving. Scrape the grape mixture into a small serving bowl. (The grapes can be prepared a day or two in advance, and returned to room temperature before serving.)
  1. Arrange the crostini, cheese, arugula (if using), and bowl of roasted grapes on a wooden cutting board or large platter, and garnish with fresh herb sprigs. Have each guest spread cheese over a crostino and top with a leaf of arugula and a spoonful of roasted grapes. Serves 8 to 10.

Variation

The roasted grape mixture can be spooned over the top of a small wheel of brie anddrizzled with a bit of local honey. Garnish the platter with fresh herbs and a handful of toasted whole almonds or walnut halves. Serve with crackers or crostini.

Crostini

24 baguette slices (cut 1/4- to 3/8-inch thick)

3 tablespoons California extra virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange a single layer of bread slices on a baking sheet. Brush the top of each slice with oil.
  1. Bake until golden and lightly toasted at the edges, 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Use at once, or store airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days.

 Variation

To make Garlic Crostini: Bake the crostini as directed above. When cool enough to handle, rub the browned side of each toast with the cut side of a garlic clove, grating against the rough surface to distribute the garlic flavor.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet September

Days may be shorter and the evenings a bit cooler, but here in California, September is little more than a gentle transition into fall.

Although the farmers’ market is still stocked with truckloads of vine-ripened tomatoes and sweet corn, this month marks the final days of watermelons, cantaloupe, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, and nectarines. As nature’s consolation prize, however, September brings the new crop of creamers and fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, citrus, figs, and my favorite: Bosc pears.

PearsUnlike other pear varieties, these are best eaten while still slightly firm. For the next few months they will undoubtedly be part of every cheese course I serve—sometimes drizzled with a bit of local honey for added glamour. And Bosc pears will be my first choice whenever I reach for a piece of fruit to snack on, or something special to toss into a green salad.

With their long tapered necks, russeted skin, and almost sandy-textured flesh, Bosc pears maintain their elegant shape when cooked, making them ideal for poaching, baking, or grilling whole or halved. I often sauté sliced pears in butter, seasoned with salt and pepper and perhaps some chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, to serve alongside roasted or grilled pork.

To celebrate September, here’s an easy dessert that delivers all the goodness of pie without any of the angst. Its free-form structure eliminates the drama of easing pastry into a pie tin; blind-baking the crust; and worrying whether the edges will collapse in the oven. Known as a galette in France and a crostata in Italy, this rustic tart is something that belongs in every good cook’s repertoire.

The following recipe can be tweaked to fit your mood. To the filling, toss in a few dried cherries, raisins, chopped walnuts, or sliced almonds; add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg; a teaspoon or two of finely grated fresh ginger; or a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped candied (crystallized) ginger. It’s all good.

And no one will complain if you serve a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

BOSC PEAR GALETTE

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Dash of salt

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 firm but ripe Bosc pears

Buttery Pastry Dough (recipe follows), well-chilled as directed

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the 3 tablespoons sugar, the cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the lemon juice. Working one at a time, stem the pears, peel, cut in half lengthwise, core, and cut into thin slices. Add the slices to the bowl, tossing gently to coat with the sugar mixture.
  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 13- to 14-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Do not trim the edges; they should remain slightly ragged. Loosely drape the dough around a rolling pin and transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. (If the pastry has become soft, refrigerate or freeze the cookie sheet for a few minutes until the pastry is cool.)
  1. Scrape the pear mixture onto the center of the pastry, leaving a 2- to 3-inch-wide border around the edge. Scatter the butter pieces over the pears. Using your fingers, fold the pastry border up and over the edges of the filling, pleating the pastry as needed. The fruit in the center of the galette will remain uncovered. Brush the pastry edge lightly with water and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.
  1. Bake until the pears are bubbly-hot and the pastry is crisp and golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes. Let the galette cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then use 1 or 2 wide spatulas to carefully slide it onto a wire cooling rack. Serve the galette slightly warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife. Serves 4 to 6. This is best served the same day it is made.

BUTTERY PASTRY DOUGH

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/3 cup ice-cold water

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Process briefly to blend. Add the butter and process, pulsing the machine on and off, just until the mixture resembles very coarse crumbs with bits of butter still visible.
  1. With the machine on, gradually pour in the ice water, processing just until the dough starts to come together. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1hour or as long as 2 days. (Freeze for longer storage.)

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

Pear Pointers

Handle pears gently. Even hard, un-ripe fruit can bruise easily.

 

Pears are picked when fully mature but not ripe. If left to ripen on the tree, they develop deposits of lignin, which cause the flesh to become grainy. So purchase your pears several days in advance to allow time for ripening. (If you’re in a hurry, enclose the pears in a brown paper bag to accelerate the process.)  Once ripe, store in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

 

To judge the ripeness of a pear, start with the sniff test. Then gently press the neck of the fruit—near the stem—with your thumb. The flesh should give slightly to pressure.

 

The average pear weighs in at under 100 calories, with 5 grams of fiber.