Peppers aplenty


There was a definite nip in the air when I took the dogs for their walk this morning.  We needed a flashlight to finish grilling on the deck last night and the evening was just cool enough to pull on a pair of socks after months of barefoot living.  No doubt about it, fall has arrived.

Summer lives on, however, in the beautiful peppers that have been stealing the limelight at farmers markets for the last couple of weeks.  Since this is California, we can expect to continue finding them through October.  There’s still time left to taste the fruit of months of sunshine and warm breezes. That’s cause enough for celebration.

Peppers are never so sweet as when they’ve ripened in the summer sun. And the selection is fantastic right now.  I counted seven different peppers, from the mild Italian Corno di toro to the spicy poblano, at the Live Earth Farm booth in Santa Cruz last week. Continue reading Peppers aplenty

Figs and raspberries, a perfect match

fig:raspberry tart

For years, I avoided  figs at all cost.  My childhood memories of throwing rotten fruit that had fallen from the tree in my best friend’s yard tainted any thoughts of actually eating one.  As far as I was concerned, figs were gushy, sticky and positively repulsive.

Then, as an adult and a food writer at that, I felt compelled to at least try one of these fruits that so many others had described as utterly ambrosial.  Plucked right off the tree, it was perfectly ripe and felt like a miniature water balloon in my hand.

I was a convert at first bite.  The flavor was mild and sweet as honey with faint undertones of vanilla.  The pink inner flesh glowed like a jewel.  It was silky and soft, all but melting in my mouth, and the seeds popped between my teeth like caviar.

It’s amazing how much difference it makes to eat fruit in its time.

Now I know why some people suggest the forbidden fruit Eve nibbled in the Garden of Eden really was a fig.  Few fruits are as sensual.

Continue reading Figs and raspberries, a perfect match

Tomatoes get a Lebanese twist


This is my favorite time of year, when lush, sun-warmed tomatoes are everywhere in the farmers market.  Although I’m a devotee of heirlooms such as Cherokee Purple and Big Rainbow, I find it hard to resist any tomato plucked dead ripe off the vine.

When Molino Creek Farm in Swanton was saved from devastation in last month’s Lockheed fire, I was overjoyed – not only because it would be a tragedy for anyone to lose their home to wildfire, but also because some of the best dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes come from there.  Small and firm with a delightful balance of sugar and acid, they’re the perfect tomato for fattoush, the Lebanese riff on the more familiar tabbouleh. Continue reading Tomatoes get a Lebanese twist

Plum terrific kuchen


Summer is winding down and the stone fruit season is almost at an end.

Apricots are long gone. Peaches have passed their peak.  Still, plum lovers can rejoice. Some of the most complex and appealing varieties of this multi-faceted fruit are still flourishing.

Gorgeous elephant hearts, their lush burgundy flesh ready to burst out of pale purple skin, were irresistible at the Aptos farmers market last week.  Then Sunday I was seduced by cute little French prune plums, the original sugar plum, at the Live Oak farmers market.  Long before the dried version of the fruit became the butt of so many jokes that marketers changed the name to dried plums, they were a major cash crop in the orchards of Santa Clara Valley.  The French still treasure them, both fresh and dried, but they’re hard to find outside of farmers markets.

These extraordinary varieties taste nothing like supermarket plums, which usually are picked so early that their flavors never really develop.  They’re sweet but complex, much like a dessert wine.  The tart zing of the thin skin is fleeting and only adds to their interest.

Continue reading Plum terrific kuchen