Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sunday Market Research

I was spending last weekend on the Peninsula, and of course I had to use the chance to compare Mountain View Sunday farmers market to the Marin Sunday farmers market that I've been writing about here all this time.
The first thing you notice is the crowd. They are Indian and Chinese, Russian and German, men, women and kids, but you can clearly see that most of them are Java programmers. With the exception of those who are C# programmers, programmers' wives and kids (and they probably do some Java programming too). And they wear Java programmers uniforms: shorts, T-shirts and sandals. No fashion show here, while in my market, Marin inhabitants Type I (yuppy-type) compete in perfection of their dressed-down designers yoga outfits, and Marin Type II (hippie-type) go overboard with artistic creativity. No show means no problems with the parking. People just come, get their groceries, and move on. There are more people in Mountain View market than in Marin, but this crowd is easier to navigate - fewer people with carts and strollers.

OK, enough antropologic observations, it's a food blog and I am expected to write about groceries. Both markets happen at the same time, so the vendors are different. I imagine that some really big farms may be able to send their employees to sell in both markets, but then what would these large producers be doing in a farmers market at all?

The quality and selection of fruits and vegetables is about the same in both markets, however the prices are some 20% higher in Marin (no surprise here).

We found some very colorful peppers, perfect baby artichokes, fresh lettuce, and a selection of mushrooms (we selected large Portabello 'shrooms for the grill). And at the tomato stand, FatCat™ found a huge ugly heirloom tomato (the uglier ones are the tastiest), way over two pounds, that he absolutely had to take home. He is still eating it.

I missed the seafood vendor that we have in Marin - here is just a small oyster stand - the butcher and the artisan cheeses. What's nice about shopping on the Peninsula is that whatever you missed on the market you can get in the numerous ethnic stores. There is the Milk Pail for fruits, vegetables, and cheeses, several Chinese and a Japanese supermarket for fresh fish, a Persian market for lamb and exotic spices, or go to a Mexican market and get all the vegetables you need, some interesting cut of very fresh meat and a pound of queso fresco - cheap! The one we went into just became another fine example of California fusion: the Fiesta Super market now has a large sign "РУССКИЕ ПРОДУКТЫ" (Russian groceries) over the entrance
and sells both Mexican and Russian stuff.

I'm not posting a recipe here because we just marinated the tri-tip steak with cumin, oregano and lime juice, brushed the vegetables with salt, pepper and olive oil, grilled everything by the pool and ate with fresh made pesto.

OK, here is the pesto:
1 bunch of green basil, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
2/3 cup olive oil - I use half of light olive oil for blending, then add half of EVOO. (For some reason the EVOO doesn't like to be put in a blender and turns bitter if blended.)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted or not - matter of taste)
salt, pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan - optional

Put basil, light olive oil, garlic and pine nuts in a blender, blend until almost smooth but leave some chunks for texture. Add EVOO, salt, pepper. Mix in parmesan.
If you are going to store the pesto for a few days, it's better to leave the cheese out and add it just before serving - it stays fresher without the cheese. Also for storage cover the surface of the pesto with olive oil to preserve the color.

Serve as a sauce for pasta, over grilled meat, fish, chicken or vegetables, or add to mediterranian-style soups. Or add even more extra-virgin olive oil and use for dipping bread.

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