Seasonal Pantry: Healdsburg market has everything you need to put together fabulous seasonal meals

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“We’re the town that got it right,” Lou Preston of Preston Farm and Vineyard said as he was packing up his stall at the Healdsburg Farmers Market on a warm Saturday afternoon in mid-August.

Preston was speaking passionately about the Tuesday morning farmers market, which takes place on the Healdsburg Plaza. In recent years, a midweek market has been held on Wednesday afternoons on North Street, but it never really hit its stride; at times, there was a dearth of produce to be had and very few shoppers. The Tuesday market, on the other hand, has been just what a farmers market should be, with plenty of fresh produce and customers eager to buy it.

We’re the town that got it right. — Lou Preston of Preston Farm, on the Healdsburg farmers market

Not long after our conversation, Preston learned the market was scheduled to conclude for the year at the end of the month. He did not take the news passively, but instead contacted the city. Because of his efforts, the market is now continuing through the month of September and, if profitable, into October.

Profitability is entirely dependent on attendance; enough people need to show up so that the market is financially viable for both farmers and the market itself.

Currently, the market has 19 vendors, down from a peak of 24. Those that stopped attending did so primarily because they already had things scheduled this month, not because the market was unsuccessful for them. Manager Janet Ciel is hoping to get some additional vendors from the Saturday market to join in on Tuesdays.

There is an abundance of fresh produce at this market, from Preston, Middleton Farms, Alexander Valley Farm, Front Porch Farm, Reyes Farm, Bernier Farm and Neufeld Farms, which is best known for its dried fruit and nuts but also has a selection of fresh products.

These vendors provide everything you need to put together fabulous seasonal meals, from garlic, shallots and herbs to all manner of tomatoes, chiles and sweet peppers, greens, strawberries, bread made with locally grown grain, eggs, lamb, honey and more.

Anna’s Seafood participates, as does Criminal Bakery; Extraordinary Blends, a Guerneville-based vinegar company; Volo Chocolate; and Sporgy’s, which produces mushroom jerky.

Fruit Moto offers smoothies and other fruit drinks, along with sandwiches and other foods prepared on the spot from scratch. Several craft vendors and live music in the gazebo round out the market.

If you’re out of salt and pepper, you may need to visit a supermarket but otherwise, it is easy to do all of your shopping here, under the sky and beneath the trees, with live music to accompany you and a delicious breakfast or lunch, should you be hungry.

It is a beautiful distillation of Sonoma County itself, with nature’s fall abundance highlighted for your pleasure.

The market takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through the end of September.

For more information, including whether or not the market will continue through October, visit


Today’s recipe, adapted from one in my “The New Cook’s Tour of Sonoma” (Sasquatch Press, 2000), is inspired by the corn and poblanos currently in season.

I make this most often with snapper, but you can use Petrale sole, flounder or similar fish, preferably wild and line caught, that you prefer.

If you don’t want to make your own, purchase fresh pasta from Pasta Etc. at Oliver’s, Pacific Market or Whole foods.

Chipotle Snapper with Fresh Corn Salsa & Pasta

Makes 4 servings

12 ounces fresh strand pasta

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon chipotle powder, or similar dried and ground chile, plus more to taste

— Kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

4 snapper fillets, about 6 ounce each, or fillets of a similar fish

5 tablespoons butter

2 lemons, halved

6 garlic cloves, minced

— Black pepper in a mill

— Fresh Corn Salsa (recipe follows)

— Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

First, make the fresh pasta and set it aside.

Fill a large pot two-thirds full with water, season generously with salt and bring it to a boil over high heat.

While the water heats, combine the flour, chipotle powder or ground cayenne, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and the 2 teaspoons of black pepper in a wide shallow bowl or plates and use a fork to mix it well.

Dredge each fillet in the mixture and pat it gently to remove excess flour.

Set the fillets on a piece of wax paper or parchment.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet set over medium heat until it is foamy.

Add two of the fillets and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, turn, and sauté until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes more.

About 2 minutes before the fillets are done cooking, carefully squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them, being careful in case the oils in the lemon ignite.

Just before turning the fillets over, stir the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package directions.

Set a colander in an empty sink and drain the pasta the moment it is done; do not rinse it.

Working quickly, transfer the pasta to a large bowl and add all but 1/2 cup of the corn salsa; toss gently.

Divide the pasta among four soup plates or wide pasta bowls.

When the first two fillets are cooked, set them on top of the pasta. Cook the remaining fillets, using 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter. Set on top of the pasta.

Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining butter and swirl the pan to pick up any juices. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, season lightly with salt and spoon over the fish.

Cut the last half lemon into 4 wedges and set alongside the fish.

Spoon the reserved corn salsa on top, garnish with cilantro sprigs and enjoy right away.

Corn Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

3 ears of corn, shucked

1 small red onion, cut into small dice

2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and minced

1 poblano, seared, seeded and cut into small dice

1 serrano, minced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

— Kosher salt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste

— Black pepper in a mill

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

Heat a stove top grill or ridged pan over high heat and when it is very hot, add the corn and cook, rotating it slowly, until it is evenly browned but not burned. Transfer to a clean work surface and let cool.

Cut off the kernels and put them into a medium bowl, along with the onion, tomatoes, poblano, serrano and cilantro. Toss gently.

Add the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and stir in the olive oil. Taste and correct the seasoning. Cover and let rest 20 to 30 minutes before using.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The New Cook’s Tour of Sonoma.”” Email her at

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