Dale Simmons, a fourth generation farmer who owns Lone Oak Ranch in Reedley, CA or one of his extended farm "family", have been coming to the Oakland Kaiser Permanente Friday Fresh Farmers' Market every week since it opened in May 2003. From them I have learned the genetics of apriums (75% apricot and 25% plums) and pluots (you can do the math). I also learned that asparagus doesn't sprout until the ground temperature hits 65 degrees in Fresno. At last Friday's market we discussed the freeze and the vast impact on many farmers. He talked about the value of crop diversity in the use of his land. While he lost a significant portion of his citrus crop, a substantial part of his farm is devoted to other crops thus the smile from him when he talked about the freeze's beneficial impact on his stonefruit trees. Evidently peach and nectarine trees really like cold weather. They need 800 hours of temperatures below 45 degrees to prosper. It may be a great year for peach pie.
In response to a recent recipe, a number of you wrote to explain why lentils should be "picked over". Many told stories of finding little lentil sized pebbles which are hard on your teeth and harder to digest.
This week's recipe is just right for anyone who has self doubts about their culinary skills. Find a number of winter vegetables. Simmer, purée, sauté, season and eat. I didn't have any broccoli, but it would be good to add the florets from 1/2 of a head. This is a low fat and easy way to enjoy the flavors of the winter market.
- 6 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 yellow onion thickly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 baking potato or the equivalent in smaller potatoes, cut into large chunks. Leave the skin on.
- 2 carrots, thickly sliced
- 1 stalk celery, thickly sliced
- 2 heaping tsp dried herb mix (I used Italian)
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 bunch spinach, tough stems removed or the equivalent amount of baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 Tbsp butter or low fat butter substitute
- Chopped parsley
Bring the stock to a boil in a soup pot. Add the onion, garlic, potato, carrots, celery, salt, and herbs. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the white pepper and spinach. Cook some more until the spinach has wilted. Purée in batches in a blender or use a hand held immersion blender (much easier — a worthwhile invention). Sauté the mushrooms in butter over medium-high heat and stir into the soup. Garnish with chopped parsley. You can adjust the consistency of the soup by adding more stock if you wish. Served with a salad you probably get your five servings of vegetables for the day at one meal.
Nutrition Information (per serving)