Spring time fava and garbanzo scotch egg

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Scotch egg was absolutely one of my favorites when we lived in England. I have been thinking about making a vegetarian version of it for a while now, and asparagus season seemed to be the best time for this experiment. Because we all  know it.  Asparagus, egg and breadcrumb go hand in hand in perfect harmony. For this recipe the most important thing I had to come up with is a vegetarian sausage meat replacement. I definitely prefer using vegetables over tofu, tempeh, seitan. I picked garbanzo beans because I knew that can hold other ingredients together very well. Later I will try to make it work with lentil, just simply because lentil is my favorite legume. I paired garbanzo with fresh fava beans, since  they are in season too, and also wanted to add some of that cooked to the dish as well, to bring more brightness and freshness to the plate.

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So what are the components in the dish?

I decided to serve the scotch egg with simply blanched asparagus. Scotch egg is traditionally deep fried and crispy, so it definitely needed a clean, fresh accompaniment, that is the reason for blanching, and not roasting or pan frying the asparagus. For a creamy sauce-y component I made a fresh, vibrant asparagus tarragon sauce.

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How to blanch asparagus?         

To prep asparagus cut off woody ends and carefully peel asparagus 2/3 up. (see picture above)  Bring a big pot of water to the boil and season with salt generously. Blanching takes a few minutes, s no worries, the vegetables will not be salty. When the water is rapidly boiling, add asparagus and make sure boiling never stops! After a minute or two, depending one the freshness and thickness of your asparagus, transfer them into ice cold water. Now they are ready for any kind of dish to use. You can warm them up with butter/oil, pan roast them quickly or continue cooking for a few minutes in sauces. 

I blanched asparagus, freshly shucked English peas and fava beans. After blanching, I simply warmed them with some butter and seasoned with salt, black pepper and meyer lemon zest. Be careful if you have the urge to add lemon juice, it will quickly take away the fresh green color of your vegetables!

 To introduce my choice of herb, tarragon, to the dish I made a sauce using the asparagus scrapings that you can see in the top picture, as a base. Blanched the scrapings and tarragon is salted water, then dropped them into ice cold water to retain color. Separately sautéed white onion and let that cool and blended quickly with the blanched asparagus and tarragon. Seasoned with salt and ground black pepper. Right before plating added some meyer lemon juice to taste.

See below detailed recipe for the scotch egg, included some tips for making them. It is really up to you what you serve these scotch eggs with . They are great cold, as part of a green salad, or warm with a simple asparagus soup. Scotch eggs may not be the quickest and easiest things to make but they are worth the work.

Garbanzo and fava scotch eggs

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Ingredients (for 4 eggs)

  • 4 eggs
  • olive oil
  • 1 small brown onion, chopped finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cooked garbanzo beans (or canned)
  • 1/2 cup fresh fava beans, cooked
  • 1/2 T chopped parsley
  • 1 t dijon mustard
  • 1/4 t Hungarian paprika
  • salt, ground black pepper to taste

For standard breading procedure and deep frying the eggs:

  • flour
  • 2 eggs and 1T water for egg wash
  • breadcrumb
  • grapeseed oil for deep-frying the eggs

 

  1. Start with cooking the eggs. Boil water in a pot. Cook eggs in simmering water for 5 and 1/2 minutes, so the yolks stay runny. If you plan to eat some of the eggs later, I recommend cooking them longer, around 8-9 minutes. Cold eggs are just better when the yolk is not runny. Once the eggs are cooked, immediately put them in ice-cold water to stop them cooking. This is very important if you want to keep nice runny yolks.
  2. In the meantime start sweating the chopped onions on olive oil. Carefully cook them until translucent, not to burn them. Add the garlic, cook for a minute and finally the chopped mushrooms. Cook until you get rid of moisture. Let it cool.
  3. Rinse cooked garbanzo beans and transfer into a food processor. Add the onion mushroom mixture, the cooked fava beans, dijon, parsley and spices. Process until it forms a paste with chunky bits.  A few tips : In case the mixture is dry, add a bit of olive oil. If you added too much oil at the beginning and feels too soft, add breadcrumb or even oatmeal. If for any reason your paste is not sticking together, add an egg and mix well. You will need to use this veggie mixture to coat the cooked eggs.
  4. Before coating the eggs with the veggie mixture, dredge the eggs in flour. This step will help the veggie mixture hang onto the egg’s surface.
  5. It is time now to coat the wobbly soft eggs in the veggie “mince”. The easiest way to do this: Place a portion of the mixture on a piece of clinging film. Cover it with another clinging film and with a rolling pin flatten it out evenly.  Take off top clinging film and lift flattened disk, wrapping it carefully around the egg and molding into the right shape. It is a delicate task if you want runny yolks and your eggs are soft. I did break an egg, so take your time. Once the eggs covered in the garbanzo mix, let them cool in the fridge. If you want to make them in advance, this is the stage where you can keep them covered in the fridge for a day.
  6. To finish off the eggs, use the standard 3 step breading procedure to coat the egg: dredge in flour, moisten in the egg wash and coat in breadcrumbs.
  7. Fill a small pot with enough oil to cover whole eggs. Deep fry the eggs in batches if your pot is not too big, so that oil will not cool down while doing deep frying, to avoid soggy coating.
  8. Serve the eggs with your choice of accompaniment, such as salad, cooked vegetables, soup, sauce.

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Nasturtium tacos

In the world of edible flowers maybe nasturtium is the tastiest.

Its leaves have a stronger peppery taste than the flowers, and some flowers might carry sweetness too. The flowers are definitely a great addition to any salads, for pop of color and spice. The leaves look beautiful on any plated dish. When it comes to the leaves they can be used as basil, and added to pesto, sauce, oil. The result is a herby-peppery flavor that is so very distinctive. These flowers are very easy to grow, they will look beautiful in your garden, or in a deep pot on your balcony. I was told they do not like to be replanted and they can grow well only if there is deep enough space for them. If there is not enough soil for them, they will still grow, but their leaves are going to turn into smaller and smaller ones. Those are really good for presentation, but to use them in cooking, you would need lots of bigger ones.

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This flower inspired my cooking tremendously and when I found some huge leaves, I decided to use them as taco shells and fill those with all sorts of plant based goodness.

If you cannot find big leaves, you can use some salad leaves as taco shells. In any case I recommend these to have as an appetizer, or a quick bite.  I also classed this dish under raw and vegan but I actually toasted the seeds and coriander for the dukkah. To keep the dish fully raw you will need to make this condiment with untoasted, sprouted seeds.

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To have balanced flavors and textures I came up with a few layers. For a start, our taco shells will originally have quite some spiciness. I was thinking about adding a slightly sweet crema made with avocados, and since it is spring I blended that with peas and sugar snap pea juice. If you don’t have a juicer to make pea juice (you will need that to achieve soft, crema texture), you can either add little bit of water or just simply process avocado and pea in a food processor into a dip like texture.  Peas will bring lots of sweetness and flavor to the green crema. To keep the natural flavor I only added a little bit of garlic, salt, black pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.

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To make a substantial base salad I decided to go with carrots and cauliflower. I bought some very tender ones at the market, and both veggie is great with the cumin-smoked paprika flavors that I chose to add to it. After slicing them not too thin on mandolin, mixed them with the spices, avocado oil, salt, fresh chopped cilantro and some lemon juice. Make sure to keep tasting the salad and add enough cumin and smoked paprika to deliver a chorizo kind of flavor.

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For a crunchy component I made a quick dukkah with toasted pumpkin, sesame and coriander seeds. After toasting each seed separately, added them in food processor and pulsed a few times.

For the pickle (because there is no taco without something pickled!) I sliced fennel very thin on mandolin and for the pickling liquid I used agave, lime juice and champagne vinegar. Also added the fennel fronds to the pickles.

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Ingredients (4 tacos)

  • 4 big nasturtium leaves (or soft lettuce leaves)

for the avocado-pea crema:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup of young, tender peas
  • juice of sugar snap pea (just enough to be able to blend crema)
  • 1/2 garlic clove, smashed
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice

for the spicy carrot-cauliflower salad:

  • 1/2 C sliced carrots
  • 1/2 C sliced cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp avocado or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp chopped scallion
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

for the dukkah (there will be lots of letover)

  • 1/4 C toasted pumpkin seed
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seed
  • 2 tsp coriander seed (or more if you like to have strong coriander flavor)
  • salt, cayenne to taste

for the pickled fennel

  • 1 big fennel bulb (thinly sliced and salted)
  • 1 Tbsp fennel fronds, chopped
  • make the pickling liquid to your taste using
  • agave
  • lime juice
  • champagne vinegar
  • water

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To plate the tacos spoon some of the crema on the leaf, top with the carrot salad and nasturtium leaves and petals, sprinkle with generous amount of dukkah and serve with pickles on the side.

TIP:  In case you are missing the creaminess, you can also make a simple cashew sourcream which is made with soaked cashew, lemon juice, salt, apple cider vinegar and just enough water to be able to blend into a cream.

ENJOY!

 

 

Pea and stinging nettle gnudi

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for being away a bit long from my blog and not to be sharing new recipes with you. I have been very busy with moving and finishing my raw vegan studies at Matthew Kenney Culinary. But now I am back!

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Probably those of you following me on Instagram, saw that I found an urban gardening plot very close to our new home in Encino, California. It is called Sepulveda Garden Center. It is a spacious community garden with hundreds of plots of flowers & plants maintained by local residents. I had my friend @farmerkelley to visit the plot today and even she was soooo impressed!!! And that is a big thing because she does farming, gardening for a living!!! On the hottest day of this year, in 97F we just never wanted to stop exploring the gardens… And Kelley has her own garden, grows beautiful edible produce for chefs in Los Angeles. Still, again, she was impressed….

So back to my story about the pea tendrils…. Last week when I discovered the place, I saw people cutting out their pea full of tendrils and leaves!!!

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If you never tasted pea tendrils, you may not know what you are missing out…… Imagine eating crunchy lettuce that tastes the most delicate, sweet pea! (not the not edible sweet pea flower!!! but real, spring pea that is sweet. ) So insanely delicious, not to mention its beauty, how stunning it looks in salads and other dishes. So when I saw that some people are not aware of what they are throwing out, of course, I had to say hello 🙂 and suggest them not to do this next time:) 🙂 :)… So hopefully when they cut their peas back in the future, they will take the tendrils and blossoms home and eat them…. Until then with their permission I took some home. And of course I could never stop thinking, what to do with them, how to show you their beauty, and how to use them to highlight everything they have to offer. The only way to do it if the dish is all about them. Peas. Different textures, but same flavor. I also picked some stinging nettle (using a plastic bag;) during one of my walks. Stinging nettle is another spring messenger and has to be blanched to lose its stinging ability, and then it can be handled without gloves. This weed is true to its name for sure! Stinging! It is full of nutrients and really good to make tea, soups, sauces, oils.

So I decided to make a vegan gnudi using blanched peas and stinging nettle. Gnudi traditionally is made with ricotta, so I made my own almond one to replace it. I didn’t want to cook the gnudi, and the almond ricotta, blanched peas and nettle had the perfect texture to hold. If you want you can also try adding some flax meal or almond flour to the mix. I knew that I will add the pea tendrils and blossoms with a touch of lemon juice, to bring more pea flavor and crunch to the soft gnudi. So now the only thing I needed some cream to bathe that gnudi in. I decided to use almond milk because I didn’t want a different nut profile to introduce.

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To make a flavorful crema, I braised some fennel and blended with almond milk and meyer lemon zest juice. The dish is fresh, vibrant, full of springy pea flavor with lemon essence and it is also an easy one to make.

I really hope you will try either making this whole dish or at least just use it as a flavor or technique inspiration in your own translation!

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ENJOY!

Ingredients ( serves 4 )

  • 1 C  blanched peas
  • 1/4 C blanched stinging nettle
  • 1 C almond ricotta
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 2 small fennel bulbs or 1 big fennel bulb sliced
  • olive oil
  • zest of 1 meyer lemon
  • salt, black pepper
  • optional cayenne and ground nutmeg
  • meyer lemon juice to taste
  • pea tendrils and blossoms and/or blanched peas
  • fennel fronds

Instructions

  1. How to blanch peas and stinging nettle? Bring a very big pot of water to the boil. Add salt so the water so it tastes like sea. (it doesn’t mean your pea will be salty- because you blanch for a very short period, but the beautiful green color will be retained!) Prepare another big bowl with cold water and lots of ice cubes in it. Working in batches blanch your vegetables only for a minute, and add only as much vegetable to the boiling water so that you don’t lose boiling. It might be a bit tricky, but the result is very different! So once you blanched the peas/nettle, immediately transfer it into ice cold water, to stop cooking and retain color. Drain well and dry it on a paper towel.
  2. How to make almond ricotta? Soak almond overnight. Next day remove the peels. Add almond with enough water to blend into a ricotta like texture in a food processor and process it. Do not use blender, that will make it into cream/milk. Add water bit by bit so you don’t get a loose cheese. Once you are happy with texture, add nutritional yeast, salt and a few drops of lemon juice. Then flavor with a smashed garlic clove or garlic powder if you want it. The nutritional yeast content is very subjective. For 1 C of almond use at least 1 tablespoon, and keep tasting it to achieve the cheese-y like flavor you like. Nutritional yeast is good for you, so don’t hold it back! 🙂
  3. To make the gnudi add blanched peas, blanched stinging nettle and almond ricotta in a food processor. Process it to keep a good structure, see on my close shots of the gnudi. I left the gnudi tasting very fresh and spring, so didn’t add anything else to it. I decided to shape them into quenelles with the help of two small teaspoons. If you don’t want to do that, you can simply make small balls. But the two spoon way of making quennels is so easy, and it looks beautiful with this dish.
  4. To make the crema first I sautéed the sliced fennel on a tablespoon of olive oil. Added a little bit of water (you can add stock), covered and cooked on very low heat until soft. Once cooked, in a high speed blender I blended the fennel and almond milk. Start adding little milk and add more bit by bit to make sure the sauce is not getting too thin. Season the sauce with salt, black pepper, meyer lemon zest, meyer lemon juice, touch of cayenne and the optional ground nutmeg.
  5. Drizzle pea tendrils, blossoms and blanched peas with olive oil and and meyer lemon juice. (my plating doesn’t have added blanched peas, but it is really good to add!)
  6. To plate, place a swirl of the crema on a shallow plate, arrange gnudi quenelles or balls alongside the swirl and arrange the pea tendril and blossoms and the peas, if you add that too, so that they form a close unity.

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ENJOY!

Strawberries

Strawberries…. Depending on where you live they are in season in spring and early summer. They are not here forever. And if you never bought them directly from a farm, or picked your own, you don’t know what you are missing out on…. SoCal strawberries are famously good. And we have probably the best farm, Harry’s berries in Oxnard, CA that supplies amazing varieties, so different in taste and texture, to some of the best restaurants even to the East Coast. I am so lucky to have access to their strawberries at 3 different markets.

But wherever you are if you have local, organic! strawberries go get some and not only eat them as a simple fruit but try and cook/bake with them.

As a principle strawberries go well with any kinds of cream. Clotted cream, creme fraiche, cream cheese, mascarpone, sourcream, yogurt etc. As for alcohol best to be matched with champagne, cognac and the orange liqueurs. When you mix them with other fruits, try and add tart ones such as rhubarb, citrus, raspberries and peaches, nectarines which are not overly sweet and soft.

Let’s see some ideas!

Strawberry milkshake for breakfast? You only need the berries, good full fat milk, vanilla  and a little bit of maple syrup.

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Make a quick jam without any preservatives, using only the strawberries, lemon juice and white cane sugar and eat it in a couple of days. Have a toast with your homemade, natural jam, or serve it with churros, doughnuts if you don’t mind that white flour.

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quick strawberry jam
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buttermilk doughnut balls with strawberry jam

 

Make a sweet, intense sauce adding old aged, thick balsamic and serve it with a simple cake, rice pudding, ricotta dumpling, or whatever you feel like. Strawberries are great with almond so it is a really good fit to make an almond cake to serve it with.

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balsamic strawberry sauce
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almond flour ricotta cake with strawberries
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almond cake rhubarb and strawberry sauce, poached rhubarb and fresh strawberries

 

Chop them in fruit salad, they are perfect contrast with some slightly tart nectarine, raspberries, passion fruit, kiwi. Add mint, anise hyssop or basil and serve it with some yogurt or ice cream.

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strawberries and nectarine salad
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farmers cheese dumpling with fruit salad

 

Change that tiramisu into a fruity one with adding a thick layer of sliced strawberries in between those lady fingers.

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strawberry tiramisu

 

Do not stop at the sweet things!!!

Strawberries are great in salads with savory components. Feta cheese, cucumber, celery are match made in heaven with strawberries.

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savory strawberry salad
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brunch

 

Any kinds of goat cheese and balsamic goes very well with strawberries too, hence my favorite bite of some ripe goat brie, old aged, thick balsamic and basil on a toast.

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goat brie and strawberry bruschetta

 

Have a strawberrylicous early summer Everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Market veggies on a whipped farmers cheese, feta cloud with boysenberry droplets

This is actually a veggies and dip recipe. The only difference how it is plated and a little bit of extra tip I am going to share with you that will elevate the dish to another level.

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When I get some tiny and really pretty vegetables I always feel it is a sin to ruin them with any kind of cooking. I can highly recommend you keep them as well and enjoy all the benefits of raw vegetable. Unless you have some digestion problem and you do need to blanch them. So these are the vegetables and edible flowers I used in this dish to create a plate that you first eat with your eyes and then you immerse in the freshness of vegetables and herbs.

 

You can add any kinds of vegetables to a crudites plate. Crudites is a French term and it  means raw sliced vegetables served with some kind of dip. I would suggest in this case definitely use radish, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and even california pepper. They are really good with this whipped dip. If you want to create a nice plate you need to cut and slice your vegetables into different shapes and thickness to give your dish a diverse look and texture. You can also serve it simply just cutting the vegetables into similar size and serve with a bowl of dip.

The vegetables, herbs, leaves on this plate

  • radish
  • carrot
  • cucumber
  • cherry tomatoe
  • salad brunett leaves
  • borage flower
  • tarragon flower
  • mixed micro greens

For the dip (not vegan)

In a deep bowl mix 2:1 portion of farmers cheese and really good quality strong sheep/goat feta cheese. Add 1-2 tablespoon of sour cream and with a fork mix it and try and whip it a little bit, giving it a fluffier texture which will work very well with the raw vegetables. Once it is done, season it with 1 clove minced garlicsalt, ground black pepper, ground caraway and hot Hungarian paprika f you like heat (or any other ground chili or paprika) Also add chopped chives, green onions and parsley and mix thoroughly.

To make your dip vegan the only thing you will have to do is to make a fermented cheese and that will replace the feta here. I made a fermented cheese using cashew and almonds and after fermenting in my kitchen cabinet for 2 days I let it age in the fridge for 5 days. Not longer because I didn’t want it to harden too much. This resulted in a stronger taste which made it more similar to a nice feta.

Ingredients and instructions for fermented, aged feta like cheese

  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 1/2 cup soaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 acidophilus capsule or replace the water with 2 tbsp rejuvelac

Mix all the ingredient in a blender. Place the mixture on a piece of cheesecloth and wrap tightly. Ferment in the kitchen cabinet for 2 days without opening the door.

After 2 days check if your cheese looks good and make sure there is no mold. It should have a nice crust and smell fermented.

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Put it in your fridge to age 3-5 days. Do not leave longer because aging not only changes the taste but also makes the cheese firmer. Here you will need a texture that can be spread.

After the aging take your cheese out from the fridge, put in a bowl and mix it well with

  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, or 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (or chili or cayenne pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or whole caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mixed, chopped chives and parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoon almond milk to adjust texture to spreadable (use any vegan yogurt if you have it)

To plate the individual crudite plates place a spoonful of cheese spread on the plate, with the back of the spoon spread it slightly on the plate. Place any kinds of vegetables, micro herbs on top.

And this is the point where my extra tip comes in. I actually really like fruit with savory dishes and vegetables. So what I did here when I was ready to eat, I smashed a few boysenberries, added a few drops of lemon juice and just sprinkled it over the veggies. You can use blackberries or youngberries instead of the boysenberries.

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youngberries

The dip and the boysenberry was just a real match made in heaven.

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Sunday morning

Getting up early on a Sunday when everybody else is sleeping. It is only me, quietly making my capuccino to go and off to the market.

Freeway 134 from Pasadena to Hollywood is so empty, only a few early risers driving slow wherever they are going. Hollywood Blvd is showing its quiet face too, without that usual craziness that comes later. And then you walk into Ivar street and it is already buzzing. Food vendors getting ready, people queuing up at the coffee place, grills are getting cleaned and farmers still prepping their stands. It is only my second Sunday here, but I know so many of them. From other markets.

I engage in chatting. Always. Living in California totally changed me in this respect. I would never have started small talk with strangers. But here I do. With vendors, shoppers, everyone. I see the screen of someone else’s camera, while taking a photo of the exact same thing I did just minutes ago. Tasting peach at so many stands and then walk back to the very first one because that was the best. Happily sharing my recipe using duck egg and sorrel with a farmer. I so love this place.

And then I come home. My husband is still sleeping. Doggies greet me with big smiles, and off we go for a walk. But it is the photos I took at the market that is on my mind. So when we are back I turn on my computer and get lost in Lightroom and the photos.

Hope you enjoy them!

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raisins
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fennel pollen
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heirloom carrot
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tiny carrot
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radish
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chanterelle
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white peach
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boysenberries
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chamomille
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lemon verbena
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ramp