cucina bene; mangia bene (shop your local farmers’ markets)
The local farmers’ markets have opened here in Lincoln County. We have several to choose from: Lincoln City, Newport, Toledo, Waldport, and Yachats. Bruce & I have been faithful shoppers of the Newport farmers’ market since we moved here almost 14 years ago. Before that, we were faithful shoppers of the markets in San Francisco. Why do we shop at the farmers’ markets, you may ask? There are several reasons: we like to support our local economy, we like to know where our food comes from, we have developed relationships over the years, the food is more nutritious, and it tastes better. I made a salad last summer for a client who asked me if I grew my own carrots; my answer was no, the carrots had come from the Newport Farmers’ Market. The client’s answer was: ‘wow, these taste like real carrots’. It’s unfortunate that most of the produce available for sale in the grocery stores is not flavorful. The reasons are many: picked too soon, traveled too far, genetically modified, sprayed with chemicals, or dyed a different color. None of these reasons have anything to do with the flavor or nutritional value of the actual fruit or vegetable; it has everything to do with marketability, shelf life, and profit.
One of the things I love about going to the farmers’ market each week is the slow build up of the amount of produce available each week. In the beginning, there isn’t much: a few different types of greens, radishes, potatoes, etc. Each week, new things appear: the first strawberries of the season, spring onions, fava beans, and peas (if you’re lucky to get some). As the season progresses, more berries arrive, along with peaches, eggplant, peppers, corn, and tomatoes! I wait all season to buy fresh tomatoes from the farmers’ market and I buy them mainly from Dominique Jumel who grows the best tasting tomato I have ever had! I never do any menu planning ahead of time; I always wait to see what I will find at the market first. We have created some amazing meals from our forays every Saturday morning.
Of course, there is more than just fruits and vegetables available at the farmers’ markets; you can buy plants, planters, handcrafted yard & home décor, artwork, jewelry, soap, breads and pastries, and clothing. Whatever it is, it is certain to be unique, hand-made, and definitely local.
Here is a recipe for roasted tomatoes which can be made into sauce or soup, but most definitely requires good quality fresh tomatoes from your local farmers’ market…..buon appetito!
Fresh tomatoes (about 5 lbs.)
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 350F.
Wash and core tomatoes and place in an oiled roasting pan. Fit as many tomatoes as you can in the pan(squeeze a few if you have to). Scatter coarsely chopped onion and whole, unpeeled garlic cloves over the tops of the tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper and then drizzle olive oil over the top. Roast the tomatoes for approximately 2-3 hours or until they begin to flatten and blacken. The key is to roast as much of the water out of the tomato as you can to concentrate the flavor.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool completely. Run through a food mill to separate the skins, seeds, garlic and onion.
To make sauce, cook the tomatoes for about 1-2 hours or until the sauce thickens and gets darker. For soup, just heat and top with your favorite toppings such as chopped green onions, fresh basil, crème fraiche. Just add a little cream for a cream of tomato soup….serve with a salad or a toasted cheese sandwich.