At the farmers’ market… for bites of summer


I love love love farmers’ markets. I feel at home in them.
Their atmosphere says so much about their location. Being at a farmers’ market
somewhere in the world, I feel I can get a sense of the place in general, of
its people, its culture, its idiosyncrasies. It’s just enough to feel like I have
an idea of what it is like to live there, for just a moment. The atmosphere at
a market in Paris, Aubagne, Barcelona,
Tokyo or Bali is completely different, and yet they have something in common. A sense of
community perhaps? Or just simply the universal need (and love) for food.

Far from Bali, there’s the
little Sherman Oaks Farmers’ market, a few blocks away from our house, a nice
stroller outing on Tuesday afternoons. It’s the little market that could. Yes,
we are in Los Angeles:
we have to walk past a freeway on-ramp, go underneath an overpass and breathe
in that smog that gives us such lovely sunsets, to get to the market set up on
the overflow parking lot of a giant mall. But it is peach season, and we need
peaches. Among other things. So off we go.

As we walk on the lookout for anything with wheels – an
absolute fascination for Pablo – I encounter this bit of grass covered with
purple petals… from jacaranda trees (I finally found out the name of that tree
for this post!). Those are the little gems of Los Angeles. Sometimes, the best views are
either up close or far in the distance, not so much in midrange. Like in
difficult times in life, I suppose. You only get through those by either living
in the moment (which children are so wonderful at), or dreaming far ahead – or
a bit of both. Sure, just outside that shot, there are trash cans and abandoned
front yards of foreclosed houses. But in the distance, there are clouds over
the Hollywood hills. And up close, there is
purple. I needed purple today.

Riding on that purple… we arrive at the market. It is small,
the selection is somewhat limited. But there are lots of peaches, plums, apricots
and cherries. It’s the heart of the season. I’m excited. And Pablo is too!

I know from what I’ve written so far, one might think Pablo
just eats everything. And well, it’s pretty much true. But it sometimes takes
him a few tries. Just a couple of weeks ago, I gave him an apricot for the
first time (he was too young last year). He put it his mouth, because he can’t
help himself. Spat it right out. Weird texture. Not what he was expecting. Ok.
We’ll try again. And again. I have faith in the apricot.

Well, it took the Farmer’s market, and the nice man selling
apricots, to do it! When the man handed him, personally, an apricot, Pablo was so proud and delighted. He tasted
it, touched it and held it like his most prized possession all the way back
home!  It made me think the love for food
goes far beyond our taste buds. At the outset, there’s taste, then texture,
smell, feel. And then there’s the whole experience around it. That is why I
love farmers’ markets: a place to experience
food.  But back to taste buds…

Peaches have been the highlights of
the goûter (afternoon snack) recently. Mostly just plain and simple. Juicy bites of summer. (Can you
feel the juice dripping down your chin?)

But this afternoon, we experimented on that theme… mixing up
a slightly overripe peach with wonderfully fragrant mint from my beloved topsy-turvy. Pablo
picked the mint himself, and chewed on it happily! I guess the kid likes mint…
and peaches. Let’s mix them up then.

So I give him an apricot to get started (he spits out a
cookie to attack the apricot… happy
mommy), while I mix up a peach with a few leaves of mint.

 I take a few pictures, give him the mixture, and then…

… he takes it upon himself to dip the apricot in the
peach-mint compote….

Mint. Yum. Apricot. Yum. Peach with mint. Double yum. Add
some apricot. Pablo heaven.  

Peach & mint raw compote

(Age note: I started Pablo on
raw fruit – berries, pear, kiwi, banana – around 7-8 months. Before that, for
all compotes, I steamed the fruit and mixed it with some cooking juices to make
it very smooth.)

Wash, peel, cut up and mix! Depending on
your processor, this can make a fairly chunky compote, so make sure your little
one can handle little chunks of fruit (which can easily be gummed down)

For fun – add some apricots to
the mix (no need to peel them)

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Easy summer risotto recipe

It’s the end of summer and you might have a bit of bruised up summer vegetables: peppers, eggplants, squash, tomatoes, zucchini… whatever it is you can use it to prepare a great risotto. For mine I used 1/2 and eggplant, 1 red pepper, 1 leek, 1 summer squash, 1 green and 1 yellow zucchini, and tomatoes. But add whatever you have, it’s gonna be good!

I love how this dish still has the colors and the flavors of summer, but takes you to fall. I hope you will enjoy it too!

Also I want to use this chance to thank Giulietta of Alterkitchen and Manu from Manu’s Menu for passing me the versatile blogger award and Paolo of Quatro Fromagio for passing me the Cannolo Award. Read on to discover 7 thing about me and see who I am passing the awards too.

End of summer risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 lb arborio rice
  • 6 cups broth
  • 1/2 lb of mixed summer vegetables
  • 2 oz. feta
  • 1 large bunch basil
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions

  1. Start out by cleaning and dicing your vegetables. Then warm up the oil in a large pan and add in the vegetables. Salt them and let them cook until they have softened up. Add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes until the grains become translucent. Deglaze with the wine and let it evaporate.
  2. Now start adding the boiling broth. As usual with risotto add one ladle of broth at a time and wait until all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next. It will take you about 20-30 minutes to cook the rice through. Right before the last of the liquid has evaporated add the basil and the cheese and let it melt.
  3. Enjoy warm with a sprinkle of black pepper.

3.1

Now onto the 7 facts about me:

  1. I am not much of a baker, but I just bought myself a red Kitchen Aid mixer and my last cake turned out amazing. I might become more of a baker soon!
  2. I recently went on my first diet ever to loose the 15lbs I put on in the last year thanks to blogging, working and not exercising…. it miraculously worked and now I know much more about calories.
  3. So far I have been to 16 of the US states: California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Massachutses, Florida, Washington DC. Sooner or later I will visit them all!
  4. Continuing with the traveling, the southernmost place I visit is Singapore, the northernmost is Norway, the westernmost is California and the easternmost is Japan (even if I’m not sure it counts as I’ve only been at the airport for a couple of hours). If Japan doesn’t count then it is Hong Kong.
  5. I lived in 3 different countries: Italy, Germany and USA and I am fluent in those 3 languages (well I guess you already knew about at least 2 of those countries/languages).
  6. After all this traveling, I met my BF in the Midwest, but he is actually from a town 30 miles from mine (and my mum made fun of us unendingly because of this).
  7. Said BF thinks I have some sort of psychological disorder just because I like my pantry to be always more or less fully stocked and I almost never throw away food. Even if my last culinary experiment didn’t turn out great or the vegetables look a little bruised, I will find a use for them!

Summer pasta with arugula

Let’s try to get back on track and share another recipe before next year….

lately I have been cooking a lot of simple dishes. Mostly salad or pasta salads. It is probably the beginning of summer heat (although today it is kind of cold here), but I really crave light, bright dishes.

I’ve been using raw or lightly cooked ingredients a lot, added in bright dressings based on lemon juice and stayed largely vegetarian. This pasta was no exception: barely cooked tomatoes and arugula, a little olives and mozarella for flavor and nothing more.

Simple, yet delicious!

Summer Pasta with Arugula

Ingredients

  • 7 oz. short pasta (I used cellentani)
  • 20-30 cherry tomatoes
  • 8-12 pitted kalamata olives
  • 6-10 mozzarella cherries
  • 1-2 cups arugula
  • salt
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Boil water and cook pasta al dente according to instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and cook in hot oil for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the olives and the arugula and let cook until the arugula is wilted (5-10 minutes).
  4. Drain the pasta well al dente and add it to the sauce adding a spoon or two of cooking water.
  5. Add the diced mozzarella and turn off the heat – Mozzarella tends to become gummy if you heat it too much, so don’t wait to turn off the heat, the heat of the pasta will be enough to melt the cheese.
  6. Mix well and serve hot.