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Patti Bess: Warm today! Cold tomorrow!

Patti Bess
Kristin Draz from Fog Dog Farm with her spring radishes, mixed greens, and green garlic.
Submitted photo by Patti Bess

It’s spring! And I finally made it to my first (winter) Farmer’s Market last Saturday in downtown Nevada City. It was a great day to get out, enjoy the sun and find something “springy” to eat.

The smaller winter market had plenty of produce to inspire new creations — carrots, locally baked breads, fresh fish, mustard and salad greens and plant starts for the garden were all available. No strawberries as yet. I look forward to tasty harvests this summer.

I remember last year bringing home a beautiful head of Romaine lettuce from Riverhill Farm. It’s easy to think, “Oh my gosh, I just spent $3 for lettuce,” but my husband also stopped by a supermarket and bought lettuce. We forgot that we were on our way out of town for a week. When we returned, our lettuce from Riverhill was still perky and crisp. The other lettuce was droopy and tired looking.

That $3 lettuce, which had been picked the morning I bought it, was more than worth the investment.

I feel exceptionally proud of our growing farm economy in Nevada County. We are lucky to have such an active movement that provides so much diversity and quality foods. So many young people have put their lives on the line and decided to make farming their livelihood. They deserve our support.

I chatted recently with Randy Pratini of Fresh Starts Farm. She sells her garden starts at most farmer’s markets and at the Mother’s Day Plant Sale.

“I feel meeting a farmer who produces what a customer wants develops a link between them that solidifies a relationship and then extends to the land and our immediate community,” she said. “It’s one important way we all can make a difference in the future of our planet.”

The summer weekly schedule for Nevada City Farmer’s Market doesn’t begin until June 1. It will continue on the first and third weekend of May. Grass Valley’s Farmer’s Market at the North Star House on Old Auburn Road begins Saturday, April 27. Other markets in Truckee, Sierra Knolls Winery and Combie Plaza haven’t released their schedules as yet.

Nevada County Grown published its Food and Farm Guide for 2019, which lists various farms/ranches and the food they have available. More information about upcoming markets is included as well. Enjoy!

Green Garlic, Mushroom and Chard Sauce

I merely steamed the mustard greens from the market with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil — delicious and nutritious. I also brought home a bunch of green garlic. They look like small leeks but are actually the young garlic plant before it matures and makes the bulb. It’s great for adding a subtle flavor to soups or sauces.

Use this recipe as a sauce over quinoa or rice. I added it to yesterday’s leftover polenta. The quantities here are only good guesses so use your own taste and judgment. Any mixture of spring greens could work as well as adding shrimp or a cut up chicken breast.

Four stalks of green garlic, sliced thin

Two tablespoons olive oil

Two tablespoons butter

One half red pepper, cut into bite-size pieces

About a third of a pound of mushrooms

One bunch chard, chopped

Lemon juice to taste

About a half to three quarters cup stock (good quality cubes work well)

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large frypan sauté the green garlic and red pepper in the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, butter, salt and pepper; continue to sauté. Add the chard, lemon juice and stock. Cover and simmer for a couple minutes until chard is softened but not mushy. Top with parmesan cheese if you desire and use as a sauce for pasta, rice or polenta.

Carrot and Cashew Soup

This “springy” soup comes from the first Moosewood Cookbook, still a reliable favorite. I added grated ginger and finished it with Sherry to give the soup a little more zing, but you could also flavor it with pinch or two of nutmeg and cinnamon with a half a tea bag of dried mint. Like all soups, its flavor is more enhanced if served the second day.

Two pounds carrots, peeled or scrubbed, and chopped

Four cups stock or water

One and half teaspoons salt

One medium potato (optional for a heartier soup)

One cup chopped onions

One half cup raw cashews

Two teaspoons grated ginger (or to taste)

One cup milk or unsweetened soy milk OR one cup yogurt or buttermilk plus a little honey

One or two teaspoons cooking Sherry

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the carrots, salt and potato if using. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until carrots are softened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons butter adding the cashews and ginger the last few minutes.

Add all these ingredients to the blender and puree until smooth. Return this puree to a kettle or stockpot. Whisk in your choice of milks, heating gently. Add Sherry, adjust seasonings and serve. Garnish with grated apple, toasted nuts, yogurt or sour cream.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley. She can be reached at bess.pattia@gmail.com.

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