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Locally Yours: Simple pleasures found at farmers market

By: Carol Arnold
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I was sitting at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco enjoying a pre-game look at the city by the bay when I saw something startling. I saw a woman, sitting with a very handsome man, Goog-ling something on her iPad. What earthshaking event could take her away from the moment at hand? What was worth losing the ambiance of an iconic, breathtaking opportunity to experience something special? I don’t know, but she certainly reminded me why I love hanging out with farmers.

Farmers live in the moment. They get up in the morning, look at the weather and go about the business of planting, watering, harvesting and selling their crops. Yes, they have some paperwork, marketing and other kinds of tasks to do, but the bulk of their time is spent growing fabulous food. Farmers don’t need to Google what crop will be harvested next. They see it in their fields.

In fact, local farming has, to a large extent, escaped the technological trap. Human beings grow local food and know more about their crops than anyone else. You can’t Google the effects of pests, weather or soil conditions on a particular crop grown on Horseshoe Bar Road in a particular year, but the farmer who lives on that land knows.

So where do you meet this local farmer? At your local farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets exist to provide an opportunity for farms to sell directly to consumers. They also provide the consumer the opportunity to get to know the person who grows their food. This week at the market, ask Cooper of Dinner Bell Farm how they grow their salad greens. Ask Lisa Pilz of Pilz Produce how her melon crop is coming along. Ask Bryan Kaminsky of Natural Trading Company about his organic growing practices and ask for a recipe using his fabulous kale. Have some fun, get to know your farmers and buy the best produce available anywhere.

Today’s recipe is really good. Easy to prepare and full of flavor, I think you will add this one to your recipe books. Don’t be intimidated by the pastry – the recipe is both easy to put together and very forgiving. I put the dough together in about five minutes using a food processor and the pie filling took about 10 minutes, including slicing tomatoes. Have fun with the recipe, see you at DeWitt on Wednesday or Auburn Old Town Market on Saturday, and don’t forget to get to know a farmer this week.

Find other recipes and the current market schedule at www.foothillfarmersmarket.com. See you at the market!

Carol Arnold is general manager of the Foothill Farmers Market Association. Reach her at foothillfarmersmarket@gmail.com.

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Tomato, cheese and basil pie

Ingredients

Half recipe pie dough, chilled

1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded

½ cup Mozzarella cheese, fresh if possible, shredded

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into small strips

Five Roma tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices

Fresh basil for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. 

Put the dough on a lightly floured board and roll it into an 11-inch circle. Lift the dough frequently and toss some flour over and under it; this will help keep the dough from sticking, as it is soft. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Toss the cheeses and basil together in a small bowl. Scatter them over the rolled-out dough, leaving a 3-inch border. Place the tomatoes in concentric circles, slightly overlapping each slice. Fold the dough over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you lift it up. Work your way around the pie. The pleating happens naturally – just try it!

Bake the pie for 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and the cheese is bubbly. Cool the pie on the cookie sheet on top of a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Transfer the pie directly to the cooling rack using a wide spatula or a rimless cookie sheet. Garnish with basil leaves, serve warm or at room temperature.

Pie dough

1/3 cup ice water

3 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 cup flour, all purpose

¼ cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into seven pieces

Stir the sour cream and ice water together in a measuring cup. Put the flour, sugar, cornmeal and salt in a bowl. Stir just until mixed. Drop the butter pieces into the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives, work the butter into the flour mixture until the butter ranges in size from bread crumbs to small peas. Sprinkle the cold water/sour cream mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing the flour mixture as you go. The dough should be moist enough to stick together. If not, add a bit more cold water. Turn the dough out of the bowl, divide in half and press into two discs.   Chill for two hours.    

This can also be done in a food processor. Mix dry ingredients in bowl, pulse to cut in the butter, add the liquid just until a soft dough forms. Proceed as with manual recipe.