After an early autumn absence, Sidney Spencer was back at the market last week bearing two of her most delicious late fall fruits, Zutano avocados and Satsuma mandarins. In inland San Diego County, where Sidney's farm is located, there's a brief pause in the avocado season between the late varieties available in the summer, and the first fall varieties available now. The bright green Zutano is a fairly mild avocado that you'll rarely see in the supermarket since it doesn't transport well, but is a great avocado for guacamole and other recipes. Keep your eyes open as new varieties including Hass, Pinkerton and Fuerte become available in the coming weeks, giving you a great opportunity to settle on your favorite. While avocados are high in fat (something's got to be responsible for their addictive buttery flavor), they primarily contain monounsaturated fats, the same as are found in olive oil, and which are considered protective against cardiovascular disease. Avocados are also very high in potassium and B vitamins. The changing seasonal availability of fruits, and even specific varieties, at the market is a real treat that reminds you of the connection between our food and our environment that's so easy to ignore when buying shrink-wrapped fruits from around the world at the supermarket.
One of my favorite things about winter in Southern California is the abundance of amazing citrus that you can find in your backyard and at the farmers market. Satsuma mandarins were originally developed in Japan and are one of the earliest varieties available in Southern California, but like a lot of citrus, their flavor changes substantially as the season progresses. The early season satsumas available now have a skin that sticks close to the fruit, which is still slightly tart (but easy to peel). Later in the season, the skin will peel away from the fruit and the sugars will become more concentrated, resulting in a sweeter fruit, though I personally prefer the early season mandarins with their more complex blend of flavors. In addition to Satsumas, Sidney also now has lemons and large yellow Mexican limes in season. Other new items at the market this week included the first artichokes of the season from the cool latitudes of Tamai farms in Oxnard and garlic chives from Frog Dog Farms. Take a look at http://www.friends4oldlafarmersmarket.org
for a complete rundown of what's in season at the market, along with recipes and nutritional information.
Amazingly, even with all of these early winter fruits becoming available at the market, high quality tomatoes, including heirlooms from Tamai farms, are still available at the market. Last week, I found myself with a hungry wife and a pile of ripe heirloom tomatoes so I whipped up this roasted garlic tomato sauce which I think will allow me to forsake forever store-bought sauce, and, best of all, can be prepared in the 15-20 minutes it takes to boil water and cook your pasta. Start by roughly chopping 3 large tomatoes and placing them on a baking sheet together with the peeled cloves of 1 head of garlic (or if you're less of a garlic fiend, 1/2 a head). Drizzle with olive oil and place in a broiler (a toaster oven works fine) for about 15 minutes or until the garlic and tomatoes just begin to char. As your pasta is cooking, place the roasted vegetables in a food processor along with 1/4C olive oil and 1.5 tsp salt (or to taste) and puree until smooth. If your timing is good, the sauce should be ready just as you're draining your pasta, and if you like the taste of roasted garlic, you'll love this sauce.
As always, fresh breads and pastries are available at the market courtesy of Ann's Bakery, Uncle Berch will be selling fresh cheese and fruit preserves and roasted chicken, fresh tamales and roasted corn and potatoes should tide you over until you get home. Fresh roasted nuts and fresh pomegranate juice will also tempt your tastebuds.
Please stop by the market for fresh, field-ripened, high quality produce from local farmers and spend time with your friends, neighbors and other community members.
The Highland Park Certified Farmers Market is located adjacent to the Highland Park Gold Line station at Marmion Way between Ave. 57 & 58 and operates Tuesdays from 3-7PM.