Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria Farmers Market abounds with fresh choices for the summer

Cherry-Apricot Clafoutis
Cherry-Apricot Clafoutis Special to The Cambrian

It’s springin’ up summer! The Cambria Farmers Market abounds with fresh produce to fuel the body and fire up the imagination.

Meal prep is a sweet KISS: Keep It Simply Seasonal.

The A-Team is at bat! Asparagus, artichokes and avocados champion the dining table breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mashed avocado with a splash of lemon, a shake of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper spread on toast powers morning or noon meals. Diced into a great green salad with lemon and olive dressing, it pleases the palate.

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!

Speaking of which, English peas are worth the shelling. Raw in salads, added to pastas or braised with lettuce ala the French method, enjoy these green seeds of spring.

Asparagus is a personal favorite. My first kitchen task was to de-stalk the spiky green spears. Mom set my 4-year-old fingers to work gently bending and snapping the stems at the perfect juncture. To this day, I cringe if someone takes a knife to the stalk. Bounty of the Valley in King City will continue to supply asparagus through June. Steamed, grilled or three minutes in a pot of boiling water, enjoy this treat while it lasts. Chilled and dipped in mayo thinned with lemon juice, who needs fries? Fine finger food.

Ditto for the artichoke. Rhubarb is another story. Esther’s Garden purveys the tartly succulent stalks. As a child, I eschewed them. Decades down the road, I recognize its virtue. Combining a versatile chicken thigh preparation with a roasted rhubarb relish inspired by Melissa Clark, New York Times food writer, I created a winner last week.

Spring rhubarb glazed chicken thighs are yummy! On deck for summer, McCall’s Farm promises an abundance of ripe tomatoes. I can hardly wait to make angel hair pasta with fresh tomato-basil sauce.

A bunch of basil, garlic and olive oil paired with luscious ripe tomatoes over pasta burst with aroma and flavor. Come the end of summer when watermelon is chin-dripping sweet and tomatoes are heavy on the vine, I’m told this duo is a dynamite team. I’ll test the theory and let you know in August.

Leeks are lovely boiled up with spring onion and young potatoes. Add milk, season with salt and serve piping hot on a foggy day. Baby beets pickled in red wine vinegar and sprinkled with feta cheese perk up the taste buds to complete the meal. Squash blossoms, baby zucchini, crookneck and patty pans sauté nicely with onions and spices of choice to create a corn tortilla quesadilla with grated jack cheese (mild or pepper).

Memorial Day weekend signals summer is on the way. For me, it means cherries. Oh, how I love them! Apricots are the first stone fruit to blush on the scene. To honor their arrival, I experimented with a cherry-apricot clafoutis last week.

The colors are gorgeous and “le mariage” sublime.

Spring rhubarb glazed chicken thighs

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/2-inch

1/2 cup sugar or honey

1 orange, juiced and zest of 1/2

1-inch knob fresh ginger, finely grated

3 whole cloves (optional)

Combine ingredients in a bowl to macerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Prepare chicken:

4 chicken thighs (preferably bone in, skin on) can remove before eating

1 meyer lemon, squeezed

1 tblsp. soy sauce, reduced sodium preferred

Oil or butter to grease dish Rinse and pat dry chicken. Place pieces skin side up in 9x9 greased pan. Mix lemon juice and soy sauce in small bowl and brush chicken with half the mixture. Turn chicken skin side down and brush with remaining sauce. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes on the upper shelf. Pour macerated rhubarb mixture into a baking dish. Place dish on lower oven rack under chicken pan. Turn chicken, baste with pan juices, and bake 25 more minutes. Stir rhubarb occasionally. About 10 minutes before chicken is done, remove rhubarb from oven. Glaze chicken with rhubarb juices and continue baking until done. To serve, spoon rhubarb relish over chicken and pass extra sauce. Brown rice and green vegetable go well. Serves 4.

Angel hair pasta with fresh tomato-basil sauce

1 bunch fresh basil

3 cloves garlic

3/4 cup olive oil

Scant tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, coarse lay chopped by hand

1/2 cup white wine (optional) Angel hair pasta for 4-6 people

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process basil, garlic, oil, salt and pepper until well blended. Transfer to refrigerator bowl. Chop tomatoes; add to basil mixture. Stir in wine if using. Marinate in refrigerator several hours, stirring occasionally. When ready to serve, transfer mixture to saucepan and heat over medium-high heat about 5 minutes for chunky, fresh tomato sauce. If you prefer a more blended sauce, cook about 1/2 hour. Just before serving, prepare pasta according to package instructions. Serves 4-6.

Cherry-apricot clafoutis

4 cups fruit (6 apricots and about 1 pound halved and pitted cherries)

1/2 cup milk (any % except skim)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tblsp. all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 tblsp. butter, melted

1/2 tsp. almond extract

Butter to grease dish

Grease round baking dish. Pour prepared fruit into dish. In a blender, combine milk, sugar, flour, eggs,melted butter and almond extract. Mix until smooth. Pour over fruit. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes a out clean. Serves 8.

Culinary Corner: Meet Me at the Market is a special to The Cambrian. Questions or comments? Nancyal@pacbell.net.

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