When we first came back to CA, Greg would jokingly tell people that we moved for the produce. This may have retroactively become true.
The produce is just so pretty here. And there’s so much of it. I hit the farmers market near our place almost every weekend and I’ve gotten pretty good about finding the deals and making the most of each haul. I’ve divulged some of my tips this week on BayArea.com in Winning at the Farmers Market on $30. Check it out.
We’ve admittedly been going out less than usual since we’ve been back in CA–the move was expensive and we’ve been trying to save money. However, this really hasn’t been a hardship since the new-again access to CA’s bounty has been so inspiring in the kitchen.
On top of this, I’ve found programs like Blue Hill’s inspiring on a whole other level. Seeing how they try to make the most of EVERYTHING firsthand, then later reading about their wastED project where chef’s were invited to create menus out of things that might have otherwise been tossed, really started me thinking about how much more we can get out of the things we buy at home. This is especially true when the produce is bought fresh at the farmers market and comes with all parts in good condition, as opposed to packaged for the grocery store where parts might be cut off to make it more manageable.
Thinking or researching new ways to use things or preserve them has lead to quite a few creative moments in the kitchen. (Balsamic beet stalk relish anyone? It was actually quite tasty.) Of course, the added bonus is that using every part of the veggie stretches your bucks that much more. In the BayArea.com article I give a few ideas for how to use up some of those bits and pieces. In addition, just today I made an herb oil out carrot tops based on this recipe from Bon Appétit. (My many uses for carrot fronds are starting to become a ongoing joke with a friend of mine.)
After I come back from the market each weekend, I spend a little time organizing and prepping the veggies so I can make the best use of them, which sometimes requires a little extra research. In addition to the internet, I’ve found that cookbooks from restaurants with a farm-to-table focus can be really helpful. This is perhaps predictable, but these places are likely to include their own tips on maximizing the use of produce. One I’ve been really liking for these little tips (and many other reasons) is This is Camino, which just happens to be in our neighborhood.
Edible San Francisco recently had a wonderful article on this topic for those looking for further inspiration. I also just started Root-to-Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable, which is pretty much says it all and I’m sure will yield many new ideas.
Admittedly, this all takes a little extra time, a luxury that a lot of people are strapped for, but even little tweaks can go a long way.
What are you tips for making the most out your produce?
Ok, this one isn't produce, but it's one of my favorite vendors at the market–Home Maid Ravioli Company. It doesn't hurt that they give out lots of delicious samples.
All photos are of the Grand Lake Market in Oakland.