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Seasonal Pantry: Why farmer's markets are the perfect place to find fall veggies

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Sunday morning was warm and bright, with fall’s chill vanishing as the sun rose higher in the sky. By noon, it was as warm as a midsummer day. At the Sebastopol Farmers Market, vendors’ stalls dazzled the eye and teased one’s appetite as summer’s bounty intersected with fall’s.

At The Patch’s stall, heirloom tomatoes covered the inner tables, with summer squash, onions, green beans, colorful sweet peppers, potatoes, garlic and what may be the last of the year’s corn ringing the tomatoes on the outer edges of the booth.

Across the walkway, the Triple T Farms booth glowed with yellow, orange, red, and green chiles, some of them very hot, perfect for fermenting and making your own hot sauce. Red H Farm had beautiful peppers, too, including shiny poblanos that will soon be transformed into a potato-poblano stew in my kitchen.

Apples, apple cider vinegar, apple sauce, several varieties of pears, persimmons, Cheddar cauliflower, all manner of braising greens, lettuces and lettuce mixes, spinach, Italian parsley, mushrooms, freshly harvested lamb, delicious linguiça, Paul’s Smoked Salmon, and Joe Matos cheese all shimmered in October’s golden light.

Why would anyone choose to shop in a florescent-lit indoor store when this glorious alternative is available throughout the county nearly every day of the week? The last time I counted, there were more than 15 farmers markets each week. A few have already closed for the year and seasonal closures will continue, but, by year’s end, we’ll still have about seven that operate year round.

As much as we love our farmers markets, they are not as crowded as they should be. In a Saturday market in Sacramento a few weeks ago, I could hardly make it through the crowded walkways. I hear the same thing from friends and colleagues who visit other communities throughout the country. Farmers markets are thriving, with enough customers that vendors typically sell out by day’s end.

What’s up, Sonoma County? I think it’s the abundance itself that sometimes lulls us into a sort of voluptuous lethargy.

“If I don’t go today, I can go tomorrow,” we say to ourselves if we’d rather sleep late, sit in the sun and read, or tend the garden. I’m as guilty as the next person, and then suddenly my refrigerator is empty and my produce baskets hold nothing but a few dried leaves. And then, off I go.

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This breakfast is similar to the breakfasts you find in the United Kingdom, though they are typically accompanied by some sort of bread, too, which you should add if you want. I prefer Revolution Bakery’s Whole Wheat Sourdough, cut thick and slathered with good butter.

Farmers Market Breakfast

Makes 1 serving, easily doubled

— Butter or bacon fat

1 garlic clove, crushed and minced

1 small potato, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced

— Kosher salt

1 3- to 4-inch piece of linguiça, cut in half lengthwise

2 eggs, beaten

1 thick tomato slice, from a dense-fleshed heirloom tomato

— Hot sauce of choice

Put a dollop of butter or bacon fat into a large heavy skillet set over medium heat. Put the sliced potato on top of it and corral the potatoes with a small lid. Cook for about 6 minutes, uncover, and turn the potatoes over. Season lightly with salt.

Add the linguiça, cut side down, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn and continue to cook.

When the potatoes are tender, transfer them to a plate and remove the linguiça. Add a small dollop of butter to the pan and when it is melted, pour in the eggs, cook for about 30 seconds, and season with salt. Turn the eggs with a fork or spatula and cook until as done as you like. Quickly add them to the plate with the potatoes.

Set the tomato in the pan, cook for 1 minutes, turn, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomato and the linguiça to the plate. Pour yourself your favorite morning beverage (for me, it is iced New Orleans coffee or hot puerh tea), and enjoy your breakfast outside, in the morning’s golden light.

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Here you have a stew or a hash that can take you through several meals. It is delicious on its own, ideal as a filling for tacos,and can even be pureed into a luscious fall soup. Suggestions for serving follow the main recipe.

Potato-Poblano Stew

Makes 6 servings

— Kosher salt

4 or 5 medium dense-flesh potatoes, washed and cut into 1 ½-inch slices

3 tablespoons lard, butter, bacon fat, or oil oil

2 shallots, minced, or 1 yellow or white onion, cut into small dice

4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 serrano or other hot chile, stemmed and minced

6-8 poblanos, seared, peeled, seeded and cut into medium julienne

— Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and stir in a generous tablespoon of salt. Add the potatoes, set over high heat, and, when the water boils, reduce the heat until the potatoes are not quite tender. Drain, spread on a clean work surface or sheet pan and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the fat in a large sauté pan, add the shallots or onion, and cook gently over low heat until very soft and fragrant, about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not brown or burn. Add the garlic and serrano, cook 1 minute more, and season with salt.

Add about a tablespoon more fat to the pan and, when it is melted, add the potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, turn, cook 5 minutes more, and taste for doneness. Continue to cook, turning gently to brown the potatoes evenly, until they are fully tender.

Add the poblanos, heat through, and add half the lime juice. Taste and correct for salt and acid, adding more lime juice to suit your taste.

Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy right away.

Variations

Heat two soft corn tortillas per serving until very hot and pliable; do not let them get crisp. Set the tortillas on top of each other, fill with the stew, top with cilantro and either shredded cabbage or minced radishes.

Divide among individual soup plates and top each serving with a poached egg before adding the cilantro. Serve with hot sauce alongside.

After the potatoes are tender, add about 2 cups homemade chicken stock and heat through. Puree with an immersion blender or, for a chunkier soup, smash the potatoes with a fork. Stir in the poblanos and continue as directed in the main recipe. Serve in soup cups.

Serve grilled pork chops, grilled chicken thighs or slow-roasted pork shoulder over the stew, with lime wedges alongside.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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