Maybe I’m just a wimp, since I grew up in LA and have spent my whole life in California, but this winter has been really cold for the East Bay. It seems like the coldest winter we’ve had in my eight years living here, and it’s been one of the wettest too.
Yet somehow I’ve managed to make it down to the Temescal Farmers Market at least a couple times per month to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the winter. And I have to say that it’s been well worth it.
The winter market is enjoyable in a very different way than the summer or fall market. It’s quieter, very serene, and a bit slower. I sometimes get into a meditative mode as I walk from stand to stand, picking out onions, potatoes, greens, apples, and dried fruit. The summer market is more frenetic, and I tend to walk more briskly, sometimes having to push through crowds to grab the perfect peach.
A lot of people I know dread winter’s produce, but I feel pretty lucky to have so much fresh food during these cold days. One of my new year’s resolutions was to cook at home more, and I’ve been following through pretty well. Mostly, I’ve been making soup after soup after warm soup, all from ingredients found at the farmers market.
I’ve also started making vegetable stock, which I now can’t believe I’ve never made before. It’s really easy, and it costs nothing. I just save my vegetable scraps throughout the week and throw them in a pot of water while I’m cooking something else. An hour or two later I have vegetable broth.
I’m not much of a recipe follower (or creator), but here are some attempts to share what I’ve been cooking. Please excuse the impreciseness, but this is how I cook…
Creamy Purple Cauliflower Soup
This can be made with white cauliflower, but purple cauliflower makes this soup a beautiful lavender hue.
- 1 head purple cauliflower, chopped
- 4 tablespoons oil or butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups liquid (can be vegetable broth, water, milk, or any combination of these)
- Spices or herbs (I prefer Indian spices, such as cumin, coriander, and garam masala)
Heat a tablespoon of oil or butter in a wok or pot. Add in the chopped cauliflower and saute for about 5 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt, cover, and cook until cauliflower softens.
While this is happening, make your roux by combining the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil or butter with the flour and cooking over low heat in a pot. Stir until combined – it should be a light brown color. Add your 4 cups of liquid to the roux and stir until combined. This can sit while the cauliflower cooks.
When the cauliflower is ready, combine with the liquid. Blend half of the mixture and then combine this back into the soup pot. Season with salt, pepper, and anything else you like. Enjoy!
(Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables) This recipe calls for a LOT of spinach, but it’s well worth it and is surprisingly satisfying and filling.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 pounds spinach
- Agave or honey
- Salt & pepper
Heat the oil in a large pot (I use the biggest one I own). Add the carrots, onion and garlic, saute for a minute, then cover and cook until onions are translucent.
Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat.
Add the spinach. If your pot isn’t big enough, add it in small chunks, stirring. It should shrink down pretty quickly.
Blend half of the soup and return to pot. Add a small amount of agave or honey to taste (it rounds out the flavor), as well as salt and pepper.