Field notes from California's North Central Valley

Farmer’s market to mouth, #1: Winter comfort

With my husband laid up after minor surgery last weekend, a farm visit was out of the question. It seemed like a fine time to let the farmers come to us. Luckily, the Saturday morning Davis Farmers Market is open year-round, and true to reputation, it happens to be one of the best around. I went in search of winter comfort food.

I used to go to the farmer’s market because it made me feel good–to be outside, to “do the right thing” and support small farmers, to buy stuff in season. I still go for those reasons, but my driving force these days is becoming far more selfish: I come for the food. Maybe it’s my age; perhaps my palate is finally growing up. But every time I go to the farmer’s market lately, I have some surprising food moment. I bite into elevated versions of what I’ve had all my life: The pears are crisper, the carrots sweeter, the apple cider more substantial. It’s food, only better.

This weekend I wanted to cook an all-local meal that was easy to prepare, used just a few ingredients and featured some of my favorite standouts so far at the Davis Farmers Market.

Here’s what’s on the menu: Roasted chicken with carrots, golden beets and fingerling potatoes, all seasoned with salt, pepper and Yolo-pressed olive oil.

My first stop was Cache Creek Meat Co.’s vendor booth for a whole chicken. Cache Creek farmers Kristy Lyn Levings and Brian Douglass raise their happy, free-range birds on a small farm in Yolo County. I’d had their chicken before. I’m an average, by no means outstanding cook, so I could only attribute the juicy, tender, savory outcome I’d experienced before to the bird and its producers, not to my culinary abilities. Naturally, I came back for more. I lucked out and got the last one, a 4.5-pound lovely.

Next, I found some fingerling potatoes from Stockton-based Zuckerman’s Farm. I decided to roast them with some golden beets that caught my eye at the Rancho Cortez booth. I also chose some melon-colored carrots from local farm Fiddler’s Green. These guys grow tons of things, but they deserve a special mention for opening my eyes to the true potential of carrots. I first bought a bunch of their rainbow carrots–in purple, red, orange and yellow–a few weeks ago, and I was shocked they were so good. I felt like someone who has only ever eaten tomatoes from a grocery store in the winter must feel biting into a July brandywine.

So I took my little bundle home and laid them on the table to admire before chopping them to bits.

Lily “helped” with quality control.

I seasoned the chicken with melted butter, olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary, stuck half a lemon from our backyard tree in its cavity, and roasted it for about 1.5 hours (20 minutes per pound).

Mid-way, I added to the oven a pan of chopped beets, carrots and potatoes, which were tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted that for about 45 minutes.

I made a little gravy with the pan drippings, some flour, chicken broth and sherry.

Dinner was served. We were happy. And there was plenty of chicken left over to make my man-on-the-mend some easy enchiladas the next day.


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One thought on “Farmer’s market to mouth, #1: Winter comfort

  1. Debbie on said:

    Thanks for sharing your stories with us. Can’t wait to visit some of the wonderful places you and your beautiful family have discovered!

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