Farmer’s Market Challenge: Round Two

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Some say you can have too much of a good thing, well the Piacere Farmer’s Market Challenge isn’t one of them. I could easily go each Thursday with new and exciting foodie finds for Chef Miriam to transform into a multi-course meal fit for a king.

For those of you who don’t know what the Farmer’s Market Challenge is, read my previous blog post about it (Part 1 and Part 2) which will only reinforce how silly you feel not to have been there every Thursday for the past month.

This time we went as a group of nine and with a basket full of wild and wonderful ingredients – some of which we had never eaten or cooked before. I didn’t expect anything less than fantastic, but the results were astounding.

Our basket included:

From the farmer’s market:

Arugula
Turnips
Watermelon radishes
Hawaiian blue sweet potatoes
Candy stripe and golden beets
Fava beans
Fresh garbanzo beans
Fresh English peas
Sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
Squash blossoms
Garlic (reputed to be the best ever by the grower)

From home:

Cherries
Rosemary
Spring Onions
Onion blossoms
Society garlic
Grape leaves
Eggs
Honey
Bee pollen
Dried porcini
Rainbow carrots
Mint
Fingerling potatoes

And here is the fabulous meal we had – believe me, we enjoyed every last morsel.

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With the candy stripe beets, watermelon radishes and sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes), Chef Miriam sliced them super thin and put them in a salad with fresh, raw peas, mint, goat’s cheese and onion flowers. It was a great dish for a summer’s day – nevermind it was so windy and unpleasant outside that we had to seek refuge in the very busy restaurant an hour before our reservation. I might add that we were graciously seated and offered pre dinner cocktails despite how early we were. This dish proved that you can use raw beets to delicious effect! It was a classic combination of ingredients: mint, goat’s cheese and peas are buddies and goat’s cheese and beets are buddies, but somehow this combination took on a fresher, more modern vibe and was just utterly delicious.

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Next up was something that might sound quite unusual, but I can’t tell you how well it worked. This is definitely a do-it-at-home dish, so easy and with things that are readily available – especially if you grow them yourself – but totally show stopping. It was a salad of cherries, arugula and ricotta wrapped in grape leaves. The ricotta and grape leaves had been warmed slightly (baked perhaps?) and were little pillows of creaminess blanketed in slightly bitter (in a good way), leafy, earthy love. The slight bitterness and juiciness of the cherries complemented the salty, creamy ricotta and the peppery arugula just made everything taste better (as it always does). For me this was the most surprising dish of the night, but there is a close tie for the most tasty which is coming up. So keep reading!

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Next came the main courses and sides, starting with some interesting potatoes I had never seen before. They’re called blue Hawaiian sweet potatoes and are purple on the inside. They taste like sweet potatoes but are much denser, almost the consistency of plantains. They were served roasted with sautéed green peppers and squash blossoms, chilli, meyer lemon and lots of toasted cumin and they were absolutely delicious.

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Next comes the other contender for tastiest dish of the night and it earns points for being creative, too. It was poached eggs (home grown from my aunt’s chickens!) with gnocchi, applewood smoked bacon, fava beans and croutons served in a delicious broth. This absolutely blew my mind – runny, oozy poached eggs? gnocchi? croutons? bacon? It was a new take on breakfast for dinner and it was out of this world and I will have to try to recreate this at home, stay tuned for that blog post!

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The first of the meat dishes was flat iron steak with spring onions and porcini mushrooms. You can’t go wrong with steak and mushrooms, so this was fabulous. As you can see, the steak was cooked perfectly and it was moist and tender.

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Last, but not least, was stewed chicken with root vegetables which included the turnips, rainbow carrots, fingerling potatoes and spring onions cooked with rosemary and garlic. It was such a great mixture of vegetables; the carrots were sweet, the turnips were bitter and the potatoes and sun chokes were starchy and absorbed the flavor of the broth. The chicken was deliciously moist and just melted in your mouth.This would be a show stopping Sunday lunch, if only I knew how she did it!

As before, the whole experience was just wonderful and for Chef Miriam to be able to create such a great meal for nine people, especially with the restaurant and bar full to the brim with customers and the fact that she didn’t know what the ingredients would be until the last moment, it makes it a really special and memorable dining experience. If you live in the Bay Area, you’ve got to go!

Bon appetit!

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