Huntington Beach Pier and the Farmers Market

 

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Like many people, I didn’t know how good I had it until it was gone. This is certainly true when it comes to the year-round produce that is available in California. Even in mid-February, a visit to the Farmers Market in Huntington Beach (located next to the pier) is a sight to see. The season’s first artichokes and strawberries make it into my tote, along with a big bundle of arugula (proudly displayed by our overall-clad farmer in the photo below) and some delicious locally made root beer and cream soda from Surf City USA. It was a splendid day – sunny, warm (~68F) and beautiful.

 

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    Check out these other sites:
      Locate your nearest farmers market at LocalHarvest
      The Orange County Farm Bureau

       

      Tương Ớt Tỏi – Vietnamese Chili-Garlic Sauce

       

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      Many of you are probably familiar with the ubiquitous green-lidded bottle of chili-garlic sauce that is sold at most Asian grocery stores. With its trademark rooster image stamped on the front, it’s a common sight in many Vietnamese (and non-Vietnamese) homes. Our family always had a jar of this sitting in our refrigerator door, right next to the ketchup and mustard bottles.

      Combined with lime, sugar and fish sauce, it made for an easy nước chắm (Vietnanese dipping sauce) or a quick topping to stir-fried noodles and soups whenever fresh chilies were out. Up until recently, I had not considered making my own. The stuff in the bottle was not quite as good as fresh chilis but it was convenient and handy to have around.

      I came across a method for a raw version and a cooked version online and it seemed easy enough. Also, I had purchased a 3lb crate of fresh cayenne at the farmer’s market. Three pounds of cayenne . Well, it was a moment of weakness. They called to me with their red siren song. And so here I am, chopping up more chilies than any Sri Lankan mama!

      Just kidding. Anyway, with that ample supply, I decided to make both versions. It was actually pretty easy and quick to put together. Most of the work was cutting up the chilis and peeling the garlic. From there, adding the rest of the ingredients into the food processor took little time.

      I’m very pleased with the results. They of course, have a fresh taste that is far better than the store-bought jar. Both sauces have a heady aroma and a heck of a kick to them. I thought that the cooked version would be slightly tamer but I find the chili flavor to be even sharper and the garlic a bit more pronounced in that one. The raw chili sauce, however, has an earthy quality and less of a sweet edge than the cooked sauce (it had less sugar added).

      I’m sure this is something I’ll be able to do from now on. So, adieu, little rooster!

       

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      TƯƠNG ỚT TỎI – VIETNAMESE CHILI-GARLIC SAUCE

      adapted from Chuck of SundayNitedinner 

      INGREDIENTS: (raw version)

      • 1 1/2 lbs. red, hot chilis (cayenne, thai, serrano, jalapeño, etc), roughly chopped with stems removed & discarded
      • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
      • 2 tsp. salt
      • 2 Tbl. sugar
      • 6 Tbl. white vinegar

      STEPS:

      • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly blended but still coarse in texture.
      • Taste the sauce and add salt/sugar if needed.
      • Transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate.
      • Makes approx. 2 cups.

      INGREDIENTS: (cooked version)

      • 1 1/2 lbs. red, hot chilis (cayenne, thai, serrano, jalapeño, etc), roughly chopped with stems removed & discarded
      • 15 cloves garlic, peeled
      • 2 tsp. salt
      • 6 Tbl. sugar
      • 6 Tbl. white vinegar

      STEPS:

      • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly blended but still coarse in texture.
      • Transfer the mixture to a sauce pan on med. heat and bring to a rolling boil. Then, adjust the heat to low and simmer for approximately 5 minutes – or until the sauce loses its raw smell. Taste the sauce and add salt/sugar if needed.
      • Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
      • Transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate.
      • Makes approx. 2 cups.

      Bon appétit!

       

      To Market…To Market… We Go

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      Some say things aren’t looking good for Ann Arbor. Pfizer, its largest employer and taxpayer, is leaving. The local auto industry is down-spiraling. Add to that the harsh climate and weather, and well, you get the picture. Luckily, we still have the farmer’s market. A visit here reminds me that amid the fiscal woes of our area, life goes on, and in brilliant color too.

       

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      This time of the year is always fun. While it’s officially fall, we can still indulge in summer’s last flourish with sugar-sweet tomatoes, crispy bell peppers and juicy raspberries. One of my favorite stalls is run by the Merkel family. They’re the only vendor who carry Asian produce, like bitter melon, japanese eggplant and bok choy, to name a few. There’s also the vendor I like who carries special varieties like chioggia beets and french fingerling potatoes.

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      Wherever you are, I hope you’ll get yourself to a local farmer’s market soon.

      And, if you want to learn more about buying from and supporting local farmers, check out these sites:

      Eat Well Guide

      Sustainable Table

      Chez Panisse Foundation