Farmer’s market tomato and radicchio salad

Food from the farmer’s market needs little more than simple preparation. But why does it taste so good? Read on for more information about locally grown foods, the inspiration behind this salad.

Farmer’s market stands are stocked with fresh, local ingredients, often harvested that very morning. The food itself has spent less time traveling than most conventionally grown food that you’ll find at the grocery store. Not only that, but food grown organically, seasonally, and locally equates to more flavor due to their higher quantity of nutrients, made available through their growing medium. Food grown outside of its seasonality window is likely able to do so using GMOs and pesticides, which in turn damages the soil, so that the final product lacks those valuable nutrients. This is why you can taste the difference in a tomato from the farmer’s market and a conventionally grown tomato from a grocery store. This simple salad is all about amplifying the natural flavors that occur in these foods!

When beauty strikes

For this recipe, I’ve used two types of tomatoes from the SF Ferry Building farmer’s market: Cherokee Purple and Carolina Gold. I came upon these two choices because 1) I’m from South Carolina, so I had to try the Carolina Gold, and 2) I asked the vendor which other tomato he would recommend, and without hesitation, he pointed to the Cherokee Purple. So that was that!

The radicchio and pistachios are also from the farmer’s market. The basil leaves are from my indoor hydroponic garden (which sounds cooler than it is).

This combination of food is infinitely riffable, and could certainly be served with burrata or mozzarella! I didn’t have any on hand, and it was still divine thanks to the quality of the ingredients. The dressing would also swap out nicely with nearly any vinaigrette… the main point being the acidity. And if swapping out the vinaigrette, keep in mind that you want it to have a synergistic effect with the lettuce, so you may want to swap out the lettuce to match the vinaigrette in this scenario. This is essentially a simple salad paired with tomatoes, basil, and roasted nuts.

Here’s how this salad came to be: I started with the star of the show, the tomatoes. From there, I added the basil, because basil and tomatoes are always a winning duo. Then I hand-tossed the radicchio with the lemon-caper dressing in a separate bowl before adding to the plate with the tomatoes and basil. I finished with a topping of pistachios to give a nice hit of fat to the salad.

Ingredients:

  • A few handfuls of chopped radicchio
  • 1-2 small tomatoes
  • A few basil leaves
  • Lemon caper dressing*
  • Roasted, salted pistachios (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate however you’d like, sprinkle with kosher salt, to taste
  • In a bowl, place the few handfuls of radicchio and add a tbsp or so of the vinaigrette, tossing with hands (to ensure each leaf is coated)
  • Add radicchio and vinaigrette salad to plate
  • Top with sliced or torn basil leaves and the roasted, salted pistachios
  • Grind some peppercorns on top
  • Serve!

*If you aren’t a subscriber of NYT Cooking you may not be able to access the recipe. It’s essentially as follows: 1 clove garlic, ten grinds of fresh pepper, and 1 tsp of capers, and a little kosher salt. These four ingredients are pounded into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Transfer the paste to a bowl, and stir in ~3 tbsp of lemon juice, and ~5 tbsp of freshly grated parmesan. Then slowly add in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. From there, try with a lettuce leaf, and adjust as needed by adding more lemon, olive oil, capers, cheese, and/or salt. Tinker and try a bit on the leaves after each adjustment until you think, damn! that is a good dressing!

Lemon verbena tisane

The first time I tasted lemon verbena tisane, I was at Chez Panisse with my love, Charlie. During this phase of my life, I was not drinking. I am so glad that I wasn’t, or I certainly would have completed my dining experience with a dessert wine over the lemon verbena tisane.

I thought I had never tried tisane before; but in reality we have probably all tried tisane, only called it herbal tea. Tisanes are simply an herbal infusion. Tea is technically only made with tea leaves (black, green, etc.).

The lemon verbena tisane was out of this world. Not only that, but I noticed that it had an overall calming effect similar to chamomile, which I always love. I later researched to find that it is a stomachic, which helps aid in digestion and in toning the digestive organs. Additionally, it helps to soothe anxiety and has a slightly sedative effect. I left Chez Panisse on a cloud.

When I came across fresh lemon verbena at the farmer’s market on Saturday, I knew I would be in for a treat making fresh lemon verbena tisane for at least a week.

I brew it just like tea in my tea pot. I strip the leaves from a couple of stems (though you can add the stem if you’d like), and add them to the tea basket. Then, heat your water to almost boiling, and pour over the leaves. Let sit a few minutes. The longer the leaves steep, the more flavorful the tisane will be. After a few minutes, you’ll likely become intoxicated by the scent and need to pour yourself a cup!

Persimmon and pomegranate seed salad with walnuts and radicchio

I made this David Tanis recipe yesterday, inspired by its seasonality and lovely colors. I didn’t know what to expect, knowing radicchio is bitter, but not knowing how it would pair with persimmons and pomegranate seeds. This turned out to be one of the best salad I’ve ever had.

When I headed to the farmer’s market yesterday, I thought this would be the perfect recipe in which to buy all ingredients from the farmer’s market and recreate. It looked so beautiful from the photo, plus I love the simplicity of David Tanis’s recipes. I confirmed that persimmons, pomegranates, and radicchio were all in season in California in early October. So, off to the farmer’s market I headed with persimmons and pomegranates on the mind.

There were a lot of pomegranates in season. Nearly every fruit stand was selling pomegranates, pears, peaches, pluots, plums, quince, etc., (I did pick up some pluots and quince, two things I’ve never had before yesterday!), but there were no persimmons to speak of. I asked around, and it turns out they won’t be in the markets for another couple of weeks. There are a few random stands out in front of the Ferry Building that I typically ignore, but I knew I had to check every last stand before leaving.

I ventured to the front with an offer of toffee from a vendor. I accepted. Then, my friends, I stumbled upon persimmons. I had actually never tried persimmons, so I told the man working the stand, and he let me try one. My initial thought was that it was not sweet, but had the texture of a soft apple. So there you go, an expert review of persimmons. I said that I hadn’t been able to find persimmons anywhere so far, and he said his stand was the only one he knew of that had persimmons right now. I thanked him, so relieved. I grabbed two ($1.50 each), and called it a day, and victoriously scurried back to BART to begin my (25-minute) trek back to Oakland.

Once I was home, I photographed all of my farmer’s market goods, because I am trying to be better at documenting my cooking life.

The persimmons are the yellow ones in the middle towards the right.

I promptly began preparing the lettuces by slicing and then cleaning them. Once everything was cleaned, sliced, and put away, I made a quick treat of greek yogurt, sliced pluot, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, honey, and cacao nibs. I went on a walk with Gary, because I’m not a neglectful dog mom. Then… I pulled up the salad recipe, and pulled out my goods.

I started by slicing the pomegranate. And it had been so long since I’d sliced a pomegranate, I had forgotten the best technique. So, I googled it and found this helpful video that did not disappoint. I was surprised to see that, for the first time ever, I had a pomegranate that did not have the deep red-purple seeds. They were nearly clear, with a yellow tint! I tried one, to make sure it was fine. It was delicious, maybe even sweeter than what I’ve had before, and I started gobbling them by the handful. But I had to show restraint because I needed them for my salad.

Pomegranate seeds!

I first whipped up the vinaigrette for the recipe. It consisted of a finely sliced shallot soaked in red wine vinegar with a little salt for ten minutes. (Note: Here I differed from the recipe; it called for sherry vinegar. The red wine vinegar was more than delicious though.) The shallot is soaked in vinegar because it helps infuse the vinegar with delicious shallot flavor. During the ten minutes, I sliced the persimmons. Then I whisked in 3 tbsp. of walnut oil to the vinegar and shallot, and seasoned with a little salt. I dipped a radicchio leaf into the vinaigrette to test for needed adjustments, and I almost lost my mind. I did not think such a simple vinaigrette could become so flavorful and perfectly paired with radicchio. Radicchio is a hard lettuce to satisfy, not any vinaigrette will do, but this was synergistic, and I knew I was in for a treat once the salad was full composed.

From here, all that was really left was to assemble the salad. I first added the persimmons and coated with the vinaigrette.

Persimmons tossed in the vinaigrette.

I added in the radicchio, and added 1-2 tbsp. more vinaigrette and tossed it together. Once tossed, I sprinkled the pomegranate seeds and previously-roasted walnuts on top. (Note: the recipe calls for candied walnuts, but I had roasted walnuts already in the fridge, so I decided not to put in the extra effort there. It was fine.) Then I set up a photoshoot for my salad.

The finished product brought tears to my eyes.

And that was the journey to create this beautiful salad. Now that I’ve made it, I will be buying persimmons, pomegranates, and radicchio whenever they’re in season. I bought walnut oil especially for this occasion, and I am so glad that I’ve introduced it into my culinary world. It has a nutty flavor that is so perfect paired with the radicchio, and I’m excited to use it in new cooking applications.

This recipe should serve around 4, but for the actual composition I’m leaving up to you and how much you want to add of each item — use this as a guiding point, but use common sense when adding in the vinaigrette. Don’t be afraid to save the vinaigrette if you don’t use all of it, and serve it with only the radicchio or any other lettuce for a simple house salad later. Use your hands to mix the salad with the vinaigrette, and only add 1 tbsp or so at a time into the salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces roasted walnuts
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. walnut oil
  • 3 medium Fuyu persimmons, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 head of radicchio, or other chicory
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (OR MORE)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Make the vinaigrette: Combine vinegar and shallot with a bit of salt, and let sit for ten minutes. Then, add walnut oil.
  • Assemble the salad:
    • Toss persimmons with some of the vinaigrette to ensure they’re all coated. Then add the radicchio and more vinaigrette until the leaves are all coated and it tastes delicious (season with salt and pepper, if needed).
    • Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and roasted walnuts on top. Taste again and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • Serve!

SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market 10/5/19

Whew! I was headed to the SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market from Oakland this morning around 8:45am, when a 3.9 magnitude earthquake hit. I was on BART at that moment, which is one of my worst fears realized. It was fine. The train stopped for 5+ minutes. The conductor informed us that all BART trains were stopped for routine checks post-earthquake. Makes sense. Once we started moving, he informed us that our train was the last train of all to start moving. He could have left that out and no one would have been the wiser, but I giggled in the face of his honesty. And from there, I knew there was nowhere for my day to go but UP. And up it went.

I arrived at the farmer’s market and hit Acme Bread for my beloved pain au chocolat and a random loaf called Sweet Loaf. I figured I would slice it, save some for toast in the freezer, and leave some out on the counter to use for croutons tomorrow.

Then I started out in search of persimmons, lettuce, pomegranates, and any other veggie or fruit that caught my eye. I found a stand with many many many types of lettuce, and I grabbed a head of radicchio, romaine, and one I’d never heard of before — Pomegranate Crunch. It essentially looks and tastes like Red Leaf lettuce, so, it’s basically that. But with a fancy name. I heard the woman working the stand comparing a type of lettuce to Big Little Lies, except something having to do with lettuce. When it was for me to hand her my cash money, I told her I had just finished watching the series. Then we began talking about Liane Moriarty and libraries and books, and the people in line behind me were not pleased. Onward to the next stand!

Once the lettuce was safe, I traveled to a stand with pomegranates and a zillion sorts of tomatoes (like, 10). I purchased a Carolina Gold tomato, because I’m from South Carolina, so duh. Then the man working the stand suggested I also try the Cherokee Purple, so duh. So I headed out with a few tomatoes and a pomegranate. Thanks, everyone.

The next stand was Dirty Girl Produce. One of my favorite vendors, and it did not disappoint. I grabbed some very large parsley and kale, which prompted a conversation with the man working the stand regarding kale and aphids. Because I hate aphids. My kale was free of aphids. Sweet!

I approached the next stand in need of a few more things. I found a lovely head of green cabbage, the biggest shallots I’ve ever seen, and lemon verbena, all of which I was very excited about. From there, I hit the flower stand. I bought a huge bouquet of cosmos (for $7!) and collard greens. I continued my search for a few remaining items: lemons, persimmons, dried fruit, and nuts.

Persimmons were found at one of the last stands I visited, and the man working informed me that his was the only stand with persimmons right now, and earlier I was told persimmons would be at more stands in a couple of weeks. I also found dried cherries, shelled pistachios, and lemons.

And with that, my arms were falling off, so I knew it was time to head back to Oakland. No earthquakes hit while I was on the train, and it would have been amazing just for that, but my canvas bags also smelled of fresh lemon verbena and flowers and everything felt right as I looked out over the container ships and beyond into the bay.

As I write this, I’ve now finished prepping everything, and I’m sipping on some fresh lemon verbena tisane. I will post the recipe in just a bit. Along with more recipes based on what I bought today at the farmer’s market! xoxo -k