Early February I was strolling through the Sonoma Farmers Market in the beautiful wine country of California and taking in the bountiful winter harvest of our region where it’s still possible to eat food freshly harvested from our local farms. I was feeling a sense of gratitude for the warm sunny day as I reflected on how my friends and family were experiencing one of the coldest winters on record on the East Coast.
It was lunchtime, so I stopped by one of my favorite food vendors: The Green Grocer (www.windsorgreengrocer.com). “Local, Sustainable, Delicious!” is their motto. The menu changes weekly based on what the farmers’ market vendors are selling that very day. Can you imagine having a food booth and not knowing what produce and food items you’ll be preparing until that very morning? Not a difficult feat for Joe Rueter the chef, owner and gastronomist of The Green Grocer and his staff. Joe is a professionally trained CIA chef – not your government CIA, but the internationally known Culinary Institute of America CIA (www.ciachef.edu).
My lunch included freshly forged shiitake mushroom tacos with winter greens and sprouts. I complemented this with a winter green salad featuring pickled red peppers, cooked sliced potatoes and sautéed kale. The salad was topped with sprouts and locally made feta cheese. Yum! As I savored each bite, I was pleased to see young mothers bringing their children to have lunch at the farmers market to teach them where their food comes from. I was especially pleased to hear sounds of children laughing and marveling at the bright colors of fruits and vegetables that greeted them at eye-level. Truly endearing were the sounds of pre-school children delighting in the textures and tastes of their Green Grocer lunch. It was obvious to those standing by that this was a special lunch outing for the children who valued what they were eating. I spoke to the giggling girls and they shared how excited they were to be there because they had their own school garden and they knew that the food from the farmers market was garden fresh and the best!
I invite you this spring to take your inner child with you to a farmers market and look at the produce from a child’s eyes and take in the beauty and appreciation for what both farmers and food venders bring to your table: Local, Sustainable and, oh, so Delicious!
To your health,
Sonoma Lemon Dijon Vinegrette
by Chef Lynne Bennett
1/2 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice to taste
1-2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
*Use fresh organic and local ingredients when available.
Directions (Best prepared 1 hour ahead of time and chilled):
Prepare shallots and garlic. In a mixing bow whisk together lemon, vinegar, shallot, garlic and mustard. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate. Toss on salad and serve. Enjoy!
The chef-owner is Swedish borne Helene Henderson. Cooking is not a new profession for Helene. She grew up on a farm and in the kitchen. In 2005 she even published a cookbook titled, The Swedish Table (University of Minnesota Press) which draws on her childhood memories and her insight into the treasures of Swedish cooking. The 125 recipes found in the cookbook offer both traditional Swedish dishes and modern recipes.
Helene hadn’t planned on opening a restaurant when she and her husband bought a two-acre property in 2008 on the coast of Malibu to start a family farm. She only opened her restaurant a few years later from the urgings of her family and friends who tasted many of her incredible dishes.
Malibu Farm’s menu and website (www.malibu-farm.com) makes it clear what is served and why I love this place so much. They serve fresh, organic, and local: everything from the menu comes from four local farms including their two acre Malibu Farm where everything is organic and seasonal, and the chickens, pigs, and goats are named, live happily, and are range-free.
Their cuisine is simple “real food,” prepared to bring out unique flavors and complementary blends that tantalize and tickle both the sophisticated and finicky taste buds. Nothing is low fat or non-fat, as “whole” foods is best. No fake food like margarine, veggie butter, nor sugar substitutes. Their mantra: Lots of local, fresh, organic veggies, whole wheat and whole grains, free-range and sustainable dairy, meats, and seafood.
We arrived around 9 AM and although there was a line, the seating was very prompt and stress-free. My husband ordered the multigrain pancakes, bacon bits and maple syrup dish ($12). The pancakes were fluffy, gorgeous, and scrumptious. I had the quinoa oatmeal maple syrup with coconut milk ($8). A lovely blend with a sweet base of coconut milk that was a tasty, healthy, and a delightful way to start my day.
This unexpected dining pleasure reminded me that the sustainable and locavore food movement for the few is no longer. Instead it has become a lifestyle choice that is now out in the open for all to enjoy.
ADDRESS: Malibu Farm 23000 PCH, Malibu, CA 90265
(located at the end of the Malibu Pier)
CONTACT: (310) 456-1112, firstname.lastname@example.org,
HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday, 9am-3pm. Closed on Monday and Tuesday.
What's at the Market This Winter?
The following produce can be found at most local farmers markets and grocery stores. Seasonal foods vary depending on your region:
Winter Vegetables: Arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, chards, collard greens, fennel, garlic, kale, kohlrobi, leeks, lettuces, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, parsnips, rutabagas, scallions, spinach, sweet potatoes and turnips.
Winter Fruits: Citrus, apples, kiwifruit, Pears (Asian, Cactus), dates, and red currants.
A Winter Recipe with Seasonal Vegetables
Enjoy this warming recipe made of winter root vegetables. Expand the “home fries” concept by including local seasonal winter root vegetables from your region alongside of, or in place, of potatoes. I have made this recipe several times and it is absolutely delicious. It will warm up your chilling bones during any meal on a cold winter day or evening.
Recipe taken, with permission, from Flavors of Health Cookbook, page 74. By Ph.D. Ed Bauman, N.C. Lizette Marx,
© 2012. To purchase: http://astore.amazon.com/baumcollholin-20/detail/0985722908
Lynne Marie Bennett is a certified Natural Chef, Nutrition Consultant & Educator, and certified Culinary Travel Professional through World Food Travel Association. Her company is California Culinary & Wellness Adventures.