For some, the idea of fresh anything may be a stretch-so accustomed are we to food that's prepackaged, ready-to-eat, no fuss, no muss, straight out of a bag or box, ready to microwave and eat on the run. But even if you swear you can't boil water, now's the time to treat yourself to summer's seasonal produce available at local farmers' markets.
Why shop the farmers' markets? San Diego County is blessed with a bounty of locally grown produce, and the weekly markets provide a place for the community to support our farmers and the foods they grow. According to the San Diego County Farm Bureau, nearly two-thirds of the 6,000 farmers in our county harvest on nine acres or less. Support the farmers and, in turn, our economy prospers; plus, you'll know your food didn't travel halfway around the globe to arrive in supermarkets out of season, expensive and tasteless. And unlike the supermarkets, many vendors have samples you can taste-peaches, nectarines or other fruits-before you buy.
With summer's hot days, sometimes cooking is out of the question. No need to eat out every night when you can fix a simple salad with fresh organic or pesticide-free lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms and maybe some avocado. Even if you swear you can't cook, you can make salads or throw a couple of ears of sweet white corn on the barbecue or in the microwave.
Many summer fruits and vegetables need no cooking. Think of dessert as fresh peaches, nectarines or plums, cut up and served over ice cream or gelato. I recently served that dessert at a dinner party and it was quite the hit-it's a treat to eat fresh fruits that are sweet and juicy. Before you whine about the cost of shopping at the farmers' market, consider that you're getting organic or pesticide-free "just picked" freshness and you're connecting with the farmers.
In my May 3 column, I wrote about ready-to-eat foods at my favorite market, the Sunday one in Hillcrest at the Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot. Here and other markets, you'll find everything from terrific dressings, pastas and condiments to meat, fish and other goodies to augment your vegetables and fruits. For example, you can buy 100-percent organic meat or prepared meals from Personal Gourmet Foods, 858-455-0917, www.personalgourmetfoods.com.or buy fish at World Famous Fish Co., 619-280-0310. If you'd rather try your hand at growing your vegetables, look for purveyors of plants who sell herbs, vegetables and flowers. If you'd rather have someone else grow your flowers, there are a dazzling array of seasonal cut flowers.
Some of the farms are part of a nationwide program called community supported agriculture (CSA), a group of nearly 2,000 farmers. In San Diego County, at least four farms have CSA programs. In a nutshell, consumers pay a farmer in advance to be a shareholder or member in that farm. In return, the farm delivers (or you pick up) a box of organic produce each week, depending on what's being harvested. Each farm has a slightly different program, so it's worth checking to see if one fits your needs in terms of amounts of food. Remember, a box of produce can be shared with others. Garden of Eden Organic Fruits & Produce, 760-994-5861, www.gardenofedenorganics.com; Seabreeze Organic Farm, 858-481-0209, www.seabreezed.com; Be Wise Ranch, 858-756-3088, www.bewiseranch.com; and Tierra Miguel Foundation Farm, 760-742-4213, www.tierramiguelfarm.org.
Farmers' markets aren't just about food; you can buy everything from cookware and jewelry to pottery and clothing. I like to think of the farmers' market as a wonderful bazaar where, if the moment strikes me, I can spend time chatting with the vendors or friends who happen to be there at the same time. I have friends who make going to the market a social as well functional excursion. For a list of markets and what fruits and vegetables are available during the year, check out www.sdfarmbureau.org.
Vida Gourmet restaurant in La Jolla opens in August. Vida moves into the restaurant business from its already well-known catering and home-delivery meal services. Vida's menu of "healthy California fusion" comfort foods will include all-natural and organic ingredients, when available. 7523 Fay Ave., La Jolla, www.vidagourmet.com.
San Diego native Matt Rimel, creator of Zenbu Sushi Bar, Rimel's Rotisserie and Mesquite expands his eco-friendly fishing fleet with the creation of Ocean Giant. The fleet, six fishing boats in Hawaii, use only hook and line to protect the environment and endangered species that commercial net fishing can harm. Rimel's fish arrives on the plate within 24 hours of being caught. Having eaten at Zenbu many times, I can attest to the freshness and high quality of the fish.
If you love wine and travel, check out www.womenwine.com for trips, wines and much more. (The site is geared for everyone, not just women.)
Also for women (and guys, too) is Wine Adventure Magazine a bi-monthly publication. This month's issue includes recipes and fun things like golf getaways, wines to pair with grilled foods and a cover story featuring Gina Gallo of the famed Gallo Winery.
Write to marcie[at]5dollarchef[dot]com and editor[at]sdcitybeat[dot]com