Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scripps Ranch Farmers Market: The 'Burbs Go Organic

I give the market manager for Scripps Ranch Farmers Market credit. She often sends me interesting press releases detailing what's happening at their Saturday morning food fest. It's about 10 miles north of me but I hadn't been over there and was feeling guilty about it, so I met my friend Gayle there yesterday.

This is a locals market. Not that big. Not the swinging event that is OB, La Jolla or Hillcrest. It has a kids zone but there's not a ton of food or farmers. In short, it's kind of modest -- very much like my local Tierrasanta Farmers Market.

But, even with the heat and humidity, Gayle and I had a good time seeing what the vendors had, which included some wonderful jewelry and bags. I loved the produce--the sweet and juicy peaches, plums and nectarines, the creamy avocados and the pile of enormous heads of garlic. I picked up some beautiful green beans, tomatoes and fat Japanese eggplant. Gayle bought some flowers.

Baba Foods was there selling their tempting Middle Eastern products like flavored pita chips, hummus and baba ganoush. Belen Artisan Bakers of Escondido was there with breads and croissants. And, one of my favorite vendors, Majestic Garlic, was there. I've been enjoying their products for about a year. They make a vegan garlic paste in a variety of flavors and I've been working my way through them as I discover new ways to use it. This time, I replenished my "original" stock (just the garlic) and picked up the cayenne and the cumin. (In the past I've enjoyed the jalapeno and the sun-dried tomato/jalapeno.)

The original is obviously the most versatile and makes a tasty substitute for mayo on a sandwich and is great for layering flavors in a sauce for fish or chicken or even spread on a bagel. (I know, Nana, heresy!) The other flavors are equally wonderful for these but can also be used mixed in pasta, as a veggie dip or added to soup. In fact, the company's website has a host of ideas and some recipes.

Yesterday, Vinnie Abden--the owner--was encouraging me to melt a teaspoon or so of the cayenne flavor in a skillet (it does contain both flaxseed and canola oil) and then scramble eggs in it. That's what I did this morning with the addition of diced red onion that I sauteed in it first. The spread gave this lovely heat and garlic flavor but wasn't over the top. Vinnie also had me try the cumin, insisting that it tasted like hummus. I'd just had a sample of the cayenne and so I didn't get it, although Gayle did. But I took some home and sure enough, on a neutral palate, the cumin tastes remarkably like hummus. So, try it on pita or as a dip with raw veggies.

There was one very intriguing new vendor--at least, new to me. This is an outfit called Wildtree, which sells grapeseed oil and other related products like seasoning blends to be added to the oil, as well as natural soups and stew mixes, salsas, dressings, marinades and sauces, and bread, pancake and crepe mixes.

Their hook is that the founder--Leslie Montie--wanted to create nutritious, delicious, unprocessed food products because her kids had dietary restrictions. I tried the basil pesto blend, the garlic and herb blend and natural butter flavor grapeseed oil, as well as the Asian Ginger Plum dressing. And, yes, all were delicious, but I did find them very pricey.

While I wouldn't recommend the market as a real destination for people outside of the area since it still has some growing to do, it's a lovely place for folks in the neighborhood to bring the kids and the dogs and pick up some nice produce, flowers and other items, as well as fun crafts and jewelry. Indeed, the more people in the community support these markets, the larger and more diverse they'll grow as other vendors decide it's worth participating. So, Scripps Ranch and Poway residents, get on over there!

The Scripps Ranch Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at E.B. Scripps Elementary School on 10380 Spring Canyon Road at Scripps Poway Parkway.

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