Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

There’s little chance that shoppers and tourists will confuse Culver City’s farmers markets with England’s Scarborough Fair of yore. Bok choi and tamales, gourmet coffee and chilled fruit juices, nopales and kim chi are all pretty good indicators that it’s no longer the Middle Ages. With electricity and refrigeration our markets are definitely 21st century. On-line shopping is coming soon to the Culver South Saturday farmer’s market. Many of our regular farmers and vendors have websites. How much longer are fava beans in season? Check the harvest calendar at Looking for no-sugar butters, jellies, and fruit rolls? You can support a local farmer without leaving your laptop or smart phone by ordering from the Ha’s Apple Farm website. Yes, Lady Dorothy. We’re no longer in Merrie Olde England anymore.

The internet and its websites were nearly 100 years in the future when Mark Twain published A Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court. His satirical work is a commentary on life in post-Civil War American, cloaked in the guise of inexplicable time travel. A blow to the head from a subordinate during a scuffle at a manufacturing plant sends Twain’s Yankee to King Arthur’s Camelot. Merlin wants him dead, but the stranger is spared the noose when he correctly predicts an eclipse. Twain’s tall tale juxtaposes industry and chivalry, but produce available at markets remains the same. The potato has yet to reach the Old World. Maize is fed to livestock, not roasted, buttered and eaten by shoppers at outdoor markets. There were no fava beans, let alone sugarless jams, jellies, and fruit rolls proffered to fair-goers and travelers in Twain’s 1889 novel.

Born near the Mississippi River, Samuel Langhorne Clemons was a licensed riverboat captain before the Civil War. His famous pseudonym, Mark Twain, is the river term for two fathoms deep. Twain’s Missouri childhood is well-known. Few know that California’s Gold County, not life on the Mississippi, propelled Twain to national prominence. When the Civil War put a stop to river traffic, Twain ventured west. He was unsuccessful at prospecting and turned to journalism to support himself. The small mining settlement of Angel’s Camp is the site of Twain’s humorous short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

The wildly popular 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago inspired many localities to hold fairs of their own. Calaveras County jumped on the 1893 fair bandwagon. Frog jumping did not enter the scene until 1925, when the mining community of Angel’s Camp organized the first Jumping Frog Jubilee as a local fundraiser. Around 15,000 people, and an undisclosed number of frogs, attended. Contestant Pride of San Joaquin jumped an impressive 3’6” to win the first ever frog jumping contest.

Fast forward to the 21st century. The Calaveras County Fair and the Jumping Frog Jubilee merged to become an annual event. This year’s theme is “Pirates of the Carrots and Beans.” The fair runs from May 19- 22, 2011.
But you don’t have to travel as far as the rolling hills east of Stockton to stock up on carrots and beans.

As Glinda told Dorothy, “there’s no place like home.” And there’s no carrot like one just pulled from the ground.
Here are some carrot and bean recipes which should make you jump for joy. The simplicity of the first recipe allows the freshness of the vegetables to shine. The generous use of roasted garlic in the second recipe kicks the flavor up a notch, while the third recipe blends Indian spices with the natural sweet taste of the vegetables.

Green Beans and Carrots
(serves 6)

1 lb. tender fresh green beans
1 small-medium carrot (about 4 ounces)
bowl of ice water
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
Optional: 1 t. rosemary leaves and 1 t. thyme, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Place a large pot of salted water over a medium-high flame. Wash and trim the green beans. Set aside. Peel the carrot and cut it into thin strips about 2 inches long. Set aside. Prepare a bowl of ice water. When the water reaches a boil, add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender, around six minutes. Remove the beans to the bowl of ice water. A slotted spoon or small sieve comes in handy, as you’ll be using the same boiling water for the carrots. Add the sliced carrots to the water and cook for a minute or so until they are crisp-tender. Remove them to the ice water. When the vegetables are cool, drain the water, and pat them dry.
Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the vegetables. If you’re using herbs, add them now. Heat for around two minutes, tossing to coat and heat through. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve hot.

Carrots, Green Beans and Roasted Garlic
(serves 6-8)

2 c. water
16 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 T olive oil
1/2 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
2 quarts water
2-3 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from flame, drain, and peel. Heat the oil over medium heat in a small, oven-proof skillet. Add the peeled garlic, cover loosely with tin foil, and place in oven. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes, until the garlic is golden brown and tender.

Bring one quart of water to boil over medium-high heat. Add a bit of salt to the water, if desired. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Run cold water over the beans and drain again. This will prevent them from overcooking. Set aside.

Bring a quart of water to boil, adding the sugar and 1/2 t. salt. Add the carrots and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and run cold water over them. Drain again.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a large heavy skillet. Heat the oil for 30 seconds to a minute over medium-high heat. Then add the roasted garlic, beans and carrots. Saute, adding additional oil as necessary, until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Green Beans and Carrots, South Indian-Style
(serves 4-6)
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed, chopped into small cubes
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled, trimmed into small cubes
1 T olive oil
1 t. mustard seeds
1 t. urad dal
2 red chillies
1  t. salt
2-3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut

Heat oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, urad dal and red chillies. The seeds will make a popping noise. When that happens, add the vegetables and salt. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Check to see if vegetables are cooked. Add 2-3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut. Serve.
If you cannot find urad dal (small black lentils), you can substitute adzuki beans, pigeon peas or small green lentils.

The Tuesday Culver city Farmers Market is held on Main Street between Venice and Culver Boulevards from 2 to 7 p.m. The Culver South Farmers is held on Saturday in the Westfield Culver City parking lot at the corner of Hannum and Slauson from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. If youare into green, it’s always good to bring your own bags.

Katie Malich likes to read the classics  and watch old moves while compiling her list for the farmers market.

The Actors' Gang

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