Thursday, May 7, 2009

Isn't it Grand: The Escondido Farmers Market

I admit it. I just don't go up to North County all that often, or at least as often as I should. But I've reconnected with a cousin who lives in Escondido and she finally convinced me to come up on Cinco de Mayo to go with her and her husband to their farmers market.

Of course, I couldn't refuse. And, as it turned out, a friend of mine was there as well.

The market is held year-round on Tuesday afternoons in downtown Escondido on Grand Ave. on the block between Kalmia and Juniper. Here I found a lot of familiar folks -- Majestic Garlic, George Petrou, J. R. Organics and Smit Orchards. But, there were some stand-out folks I hadn't met and items that were either irresistibly gorgeous or that I hadn't seen before. So, I'll share:

In the irresistibly gorgeous category was the produce of The Morning Star Ranch from Valley Center. I don't think I've ever seen Swiss chard or carrots or lettuce quite so stunning. "We grow with love," said the gentleman in the booth. And, they welcome visitors to the ranch.


Now, if you can't make it up to Escondido, no worries. They also have a stand at the Ocean Beach farmers market on Wednesday afternoons.

Also in the gorgeous produce category were the offering of J. R. Organics. I've seen them at the La Jolla farmers market and love their radishes and carrots. They had plenty of them available at the Escondido market.


But, I also found some lovely spring onions and also bought a big red head of butter lettuce.


Now, we tend to gravitate to the beautiful and produce is no exception. But sometimes it should be. The best apples tend to be the homely ones and sometimes you have to be a little forgiving aesthetically with other produce. I found these small -- not really baby -- purple artichokes and bought half a dozen. They weren't the prettiest around but they were delicious.


I basically just trimmed them, cut them in quarters and put them in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then I drained them, tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees. While they were cooking I put several ounces of rotini pasta in the artichoke water and made a little dressing with olive oil, minced green garlic, lemon juice and minced anchovies. I toasted some pine nuts, shaved some Parmigiano Reggiano and when everything was cooked, put it all together for a lovely dinner -- actually, it ended up being enough for dinner and lunch a day later. Not bad for two bucks.


On the south side of the market, look for Valley Center's Behneman Family Farms' citrus and avocados. I bought several avocados for a ridiculous price. And, not just Hass avocados but a variety called Zutano, which are the first of the season. They have a bigger seed than Hass with a shiny yellow-green skin. They're very buttery and tasty. Because of the thin skin, they don't travel well, so if you want to try something a little different, you'll have to seek these out at the farmers market.

I also bought a bag of delicious tangelos from them, which I turned into Mother's Day marmalade gifts (thank you Ina Garten for writing completely reliable, delicious recipes. This was from her Barefoot Contessa at Home book).




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