painting shows January fruit, vegetables and tulips from the farmers' market

January Bounty. 12″ x 12″ gouache, watercolor and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

One of my Saturday habits is to journey to the Berkeley Farmers’ Market — I go if I can at all justify a trip because I like walking through the market and seeing what is there. I usually go with my friend Margit. We walk up one side of the market and down another. Today I stopped to buy black trumpet mushrooms, cilantro, small red grapefruit, a couple of jumbo artichokes, carrots, fresh lemongrass and a bouquet of orange tulips because January is a month of orange and green, fueled by greens and citrus. Then I found a twenty dollar bill on the ground and promptly bought a bottle of vanilla palm syrup (I had tasted it months before). I saw many things that I did not buy today: attractive displays of tiny red kabocha squashes that would make adorable soup bowls, tulips in purple, hot pink and a variety of reds. I could stare at the tulip stand for ten minutes and not get my fill.

You can walk through the market tasting things. At one stand the vendor handed me a slice of raw milk cheddar cheese. At Frog Hollow Farm, they had a whole row of preserves with tasting spoons: my favorite was a mild Meyer lemon marmalade. The artichoke farmer had tiny squeeze bottles of his preserves so I was able to taste the Tayberry jam that I had bought on a previous visit but have not opened yet.

I have no idea what I will cook this weekend: I have blogged about things I am still eating, such as romanesco with gorgonzola, and black bread. I have cooked some things that were edible but not worth writing about. In my refrigerator I have several celery roots, parsnips, green garlic, baby bok choy, braising greens, eggs, milk and cheeses and sourdough starter. On the counter I have winter squash  (delicata and buttercup), seven tangerines and eleven oranges. We have potatoes in our potato bin and a couple of yams. Shall I make soup from one of the recipes I’ve saved, a celeriac version of Five Euro Foods’ Jerusalem artichoke soup or a sweet potato and carrot concoction inspired by Kat at Sensible Lessons? If I simply cook the artichokes in water with lemon and a garlic clove and we eat them with lemon and butter, what is there to blog about? We eat three meals a day. Sometimes I cook three meals a day. Sometimes we eat all leftovers for a few days: I shred cabbage on the mandoline and serve it with the last of my orange-tahini dressing and a couple of helpings of leftover romanesco with gorgonzola. My freezer is full of citrus peel to candy. There is plenty to cook and plenty to eat and yet…

The blues are still dogging me around, but January doesn’t care. Tulips bloom in profusion and a grower hauls them to market. The sun shines again although the morning temperatures require long underwear. I paint a picture of my tulips and most of my other Farmers’ Market finds. I acknowledge that January in the Bay Area is easier than January many places: we have no snow, no ice. This year we have little mud and rain. I have fingerless gloves and silk long underwear and cashmere sweaters for when the temperature dips. I have the radio for company, the Saturday folk music shows, my cat on the love seat, my mother in the next room watching T.V. I am healthy. I am counting my blessings for you and for me, but I am not convinced that I am blessed in the moment. Count the miracle of electricity that powers my computer and the wondrous WordPress templates that let me drop things into them. Count ears to hear. Count fingers to type. Count eyes to see the glorious colors at the market.

Try something. Okay. I made polenta croutons, which I have been wanting to make since I first saw them. I thought, “Make something fun.” I put in extra Parmesan because I like Parmesan and wanted to make sure I could taste it. I used polenta instead of cornmeal because they were called “polenta croutons.” Alas, the 1 tsp of cayenne overwhelmed the other flavors even with the extra cheese. I was not happy with them. I think I might have the kitchen equivalent of a “black thumb” today: if I had started with 1/4 tsp of cayenne I could have always bumped it up in a future batch, but I followed the recipe for the spice level.

I have run out of flour. Well, not exactly. “We” have run out of flour: I have some that I bought for a baking contract that I am carrying out for a friend, but we have run out of shared “household” flour. This morning I made sourdough waffles with the last 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour — I had to use cake flour and whole wheat flour to make the batter, which tasted frighteningly sour. I added another tablespoon of sugar. The waffles were fine once I had folded in the egg whites and baked them — just fine, though, not outstanding.

I make lemongrass tea. Not much of a recipe to that: cut up some fresh lemongrass. I slice it in rings from the root up toward the top of the stalk. One stalk makes a couple of large mugs of tea, plus a little more. I use one stalk of lemongrass to 3 cups of water. I put in a little minced fresh ginger for a little sweetness and a little kick. I let it simmer for awhile while I go do other things. Technically a tisane rather than a tea (there’s no “tea” in it) it is nice to drink when you want more hot fluids and can’t take anymore caffeine. I store what I don’t drink in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It’s good hot in the winter and cold in the summer. If you want it sweet, put a little honey in it or make simple syrup. Lemongrass is in season in northern California right now, part of the January bounty: it freezes well if you want to save some for later. January will pass. The food in the fridge will be eaten. Meanwhile, enjoy the tulips and make yourself a cup of tea or a lemongrass tisane.

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