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Fresh From the Farm

Bell peppers 0008Looking for great last minute holiday gifts? Try the Culver City Farmers’ Market. There are wonderful handcrafted soaps, delicate orchids plants, artistic succulent gardens in colorful ceramic containers, fresh roasted coffee beans, cookies, pastries, nuts, dried fruit, and other gourmet items. The flower vendors at the north and south ends of the market promise to have a wide selection for your holiday needs. The market will be open this coming Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m.

The Farmers Market recently welcomed a wonderful vendor specializing in rare and exotic mushrooms. White and black truffles and flavorful morel mushrooms are among the delicacies available this month. A simple way to show off the flavor of truffles is to thinly shave them over fresh homemade egg pasta tossed with butter. Morels should be cleaned in a stream of water, not soaked. If there is any visible soil, it should be removed gently with a wet toothbrush. They should be eaten within a day or two of purchase, as they are at their best when fresh. Aficionados often eat them the day they harvest them, cooking them simply. They are delicious when sautéed gently in butter, with a little cracked pepper on top and sprinkled lightly with salt. They can also be dipped in beaten egg and then in finely crushed saltine crackers before they are sautéed.

A number of vendors at the market offer fresh button and crimini mushrooms. Portabella mushrooms are fully grown crimini mushrooms, and are wonderful grilled. You can find oyster mushrooms, too, up and down Main St. Mushrooms are low in calories and are a good source of minerals. Mushrooms (except enoki, oyster and wood ear) should be firm, not soft. Do not store them in a plastic bag, as their quality will deteriorate rapidly. Instead, store them so that cool air can circulate around them. They keep well when placed unwashed in a pan or sheet in a single layer with a barely damp paper towel on them. Do not soak them while washing, as they will absorb the water and become mushy when cooked. The wide variety of mushrooms currently available at the market is celebrated in the recipe found in Fresh From the Farm.

The Culver City Farmers Market is held each Tuesday from 2 to 7 pm on Main St. between Venice and Culver Boulevards.

Fresh From the Farm:

Fresh Mushroom Soup with Tarragon
(Serves 6)

4 shallots, finely chopped
1T butter
6 c. mushrooms (cremini or a mix of wild and white button), finely chopped
1 c. whole milk
1-2 T. chopped fresh tarragon
1 c. vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
several mushrooms, sliced and gently sautéed

Melt butter in skillet, add minced shallots and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms, and continue cooking gently for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock and milk and bring to a boil. Then cover pan, turn down the heat, and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes until soft. Stir in chopped tarragon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cook. Puree in blender or food processor. Return to pan and reheat gently. Serve with sautéed sliced mushrooms as garnish.

Katie Malich is a food maven who loves to shop, cook, taste and compare.

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