Living in Southern California, you just don’t experience the four distinct seasons as you would in other parts of the world. You don’t swap your comforter for a blanket when Spring arrives. You don’t put away summer dresses to make space for sweaters or coats when Fall comes.
It’s really at the Farmers’ Market that you witness seasons changing. At the moment, the cherry season is about to be over whereas peaches and nectarines are gradually making their appearance. And I’m still waiting for my favorite heirloom tomato growers to show up, which should be any week now.
Among the dozens of farmers’ markets that take place around town, my favorites have to be the Wednesday Santa Monica and Sunday Hollywood Farmers’ Markets. This past week, I took my camera along to render a few visual records of the edible finds. Take a look!
Up and down the block passing by the farm stands, wherever you look you see vivid colors in shapes and forms of all sizes piling up. The fruits and vegetables, freshly picked, seem to beam with a sort of radiance, with pride. They beckon you, like gems, and never fail to lure you, or your imagination of what they could become. I hope you see why I enjoy visiting farmers' markets.
Not to mention there are practical benefits of a trip to the farmers' market. When vegetables are fresh and of great quality, you need only to do very little to enjoy the bounty of the earth. Here's a recipe that I want to share with you: Roasted vegetables with couscous. Roasting vegetables bring out their natural sweetness. You can double up the portions of vinaigrette you make, which would serve well as a tangy dressing on the side for the roasted vegetables. This couscous dish is a great picnic or potluck item; it’s easy to transport and is full of flavor when served at room temperature.
Roasted Vegetables and Couscous
Serves 4 as main course; 6 as side dish
1 small cauliflower, cut into 1” (2.5cm ) sized florets
¾ lb (350g) eggplant, cut into ¾” (2cm) dices
1 or 2 zucchini, cut into cut into 1/4”
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 onion, sliced really thin
Extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup plus a little to drizzle, divided
3 or 4 tomatoes
A few sprigs of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cup instant couscous
¼ cup each of dried cranberries and raisins
Small bunch each of fresh parsley and mint leaves, chopped
Several leaves fresh basil, chopped
Salt and black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 C).
2. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant, and onion and ¼ cup of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the vegetables on to a large sheet pan in a single layer. Roast vegetables in preheated oven. Check in 15 minutes. Meanwhile, strip thyme leaves off their stems. Combine thyme and minced garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle in a little olive oil and mix well. Let sit. Cut tomatoes in big wedges. Sprinkle some salt on and let sit.
3. Bring stock to boil in a large saucepan. When stock comes to a boil, stir in couscous. Cover and remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. To prepare vinaigrette for couscous, zest the lemon before squeezing the lemon. Set aside the lemon zest. Whisk the freshly squeezed lemon juice and ¼ cup of olive oil together. Then season with a good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir cranberries, raisins, parsley, mint and the vinaigrette into cooked couscous.
4. Turn vegetables in sheet pan after roasting for 15 minutes to allow even roasting. Add tomatoes and sprinkle garlic-thyme mixture onto the vegetables. Roast for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Toss roasted vegetables in a large bowl along with chopped basil and grated lemon zest.
5. To serve, place couscous in a large serving bowl. Then top it with the roasted vegetables.
See you at the Farmers' Market!