All About Apricots!

With stone fruit flooding the farmers market around this time every summer, it can be a little confusing – daunting even – to learn about all of the local fruit of the Valley. Then there are all of the varieties within each fruit family! So let’s keep it simple and focus on just one tasty favorite – apricots!
Apricots are those beautifully orange colored fruits full of beta-carotene and fiber that are one of the first signs of summer in the Central Valley. Fresh apricots with a plentiful supply of vitamin C are in season in California from early May through the end of August.
Relatives to peaches, apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh, not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Some describe their flavor as almost musky, with a faint tartness that lies somewhere between a peach and a plum. 
Apricots are originally from China but arrived in Europe via Armenia, which is why the scientific name is Prunus armenaica. The apricot tree made it’s way to the United Stated when it came to Virginia in 1720, but its appearance in the Spanish missions of California around 1792 marked the fruit’s real arrival. The climate here in California is perfectly suited to apricot culture, and most apricots in the United States are grown primarily right here in the sunny orchards of the Central Valley!
When you buy apricots at the Farmers Market, you are buying straight from the source!
Apricots are rich in many plant antioxidants that provides you with the protective effects of antioxidants while adding very few calories to your daily total.
Looking for new ways to use your apricots? Here are a few quick serving ideas:
  • Add sliced apricots to hot or cold cereal.
  • The next time you make whole grain pancakes add some chopped apricots to the batter.
  • Give a Middle Eastern flavor to chicken or vegetable stews with the addition of dried, diced apricots.
  • Serve fresh apricots in your green salad.

Peach French Toast Recipe

Peaches are in season, and there are plenty of varieties to choose from this summer! Why not give this yummy peach French toast a try? Plan ahead, start the night before!

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 tablespoons water
6 fresh sliced peaches
12 sliced day old French bread
5 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon, to taste
HOW TO MAKE:
In a saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter, and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour brown sugar mixture into a greased 9x13x2 inch baking dish and top with the peaches.
Arrange the bread over the peaches.
In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Slowly pour over the bread.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Uncover and bake 30 minutes longer, or until golden brown. Serve with a spoon. Makes 6-8 servings.

Berry Goodness Smoothie

Berries are officially back at the Visalia Farmers Markets! We couldn’t be more excited. The first few berry boxes that roll off of our local farmers pickup trucks and flatbeds herald the official dawn of the upcoming summer in the Central Valley.

And what better way to celebrate late spring / early summer in the Valley than an ice cold chilly smoothie to beat back the inevitable summer heat? This smoothie is not only delicious, but nutritious too!
Berries are rich in antioxidants which help your body fight cell damage, premature aging and oxidative stress linked to the development of numerous diseases. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, but nutrient-rich berries are some of the absolute best sources, making fresh market berries a guilt free indulgence and healthy treat.
Berries are also a great source of fiber, and when combined with avocado, banana and the hydration from coconut water, this smoothie mix will also help detoxify and replenish electrolytes. Give it a try! It is as simple as it is delicious.
INGREDIENTS 
1 handful of baby spinach leaves
½ a small avocado
1 cup of mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
1 banana
1 ½ cups of coconut water or purified water
Ice cubes
WHAT TO DO 
Freeze the berries first to give your smoothie and extra chilled factor. Then simply blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

Antioxidant Rich Artichokes

As vegetables go, the artichoke is among the most fascinating visually. It is as beautiful as it is delightful to eat. While many view it as a vegetable, the artichoke is actually the bud of a flower from the thistle family and at full maturity, the plant grows to a width of about six feet and a height of three to four. If not harvested from the plant, the bud will eventually blossom into a beautiful, blue-violet flower!

The bud of the artichoke flower contains the heart, the coveted meaty core of the artichoke, and is topped by a fuzzy center, or choke, which is surrounded by rows of petals, which protect the artichoke heart. With their tiny thorns, the artichoke’s petals reveal their thistle heritage. (The thorns aren’t a problem if handled carefully and they soften in cooking.)
The artichoke is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable. According to the USDA, one medium artichoke is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, and a good source of folate and magnesium. Artichokes are a delicious way to get nutrients that research shows we typically lack in our diets — fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and above all, antioxidants!
Artichokes contain phytonutrients, or plant compounds that have antioxidant properties and promote human health. Some of the most powerful, polyphenol-type antioxidants are found in artichokes, a few of which are highlighted below:
QUERCETIN
A flavonoid that works as an anti-carcinogen and antioxidant to protect against cancer and heart disease.
RUTIN
A flavonoid that promotes vascular health, helps prevent cell proliferation associated with cancer, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties.
ANTHOCYANINS
Color pigments in artichokes that are associated with a lower risk of certain cancers, urinary tract health, memory function and healthy aging.
GALLIC ACID
An antioxidant also found in red wine and black tea. It has been shown to inhibit cell proliferation in prostate cancer cells.
LUTEOLIN AND CYNARIN
Polyphenol antioxidants that may lower cholesterol levels. Artichokes contain cyanarin, which may also help in regeneration of liver tissue.
CAFFEIC ACID AND CHLOROGENIC ACID
Contain anti-cancer, antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral properties.
SILYMARIN
This antioxidant may aid the liver in regenerative tissue growth.
Our bodies are battlegrounds for infection and diseases. Simple body functions, such as breathing in city air, and other lifestyle habits, such as smoking, produce substances called free radicals that attack healthy cells, causing oxidation (a process similar to “rusting”). When these healthy cells are weakened, they are more susceptible to heart disease and certain types of cancer. Antioxidants help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.

When it comes to nutrition, no one can out smart Mother Nature. Artichokes, with their beautiful packaging and exquisite taste, offer a unique nutritional inventory.

Spring Greens Greek Salad

This is a quick and easy salad that utilizes some of the best of springtime and early summer veggies! This recipe serves 2, and is easy to double, triple or scale down for a light snack!
Ingredients:
2 cups mixed spring greens salad
2 cups shredded kale
1 cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
½ cup sliced red onion
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh minced oregano
½ teaspoon salt
How to Make:
Combine the spring greens, kale, cucumber, tomato, onion and cheese in a large bowl.
Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt in a small bowl. Pour over the lettuce mixture and toss until coated.

DSC_6815

Sautéed Chicken with Green Olives

This tasty recipe was submitted by one of our Visalia Farmers Market vendors, Adam’s Family Olives! The sharp, briny bite of olives is the dominant flavor here, which is why it pairs so well with chicken breast. This is one of those dishes where, if you tasted the chicken and sauce separately, you probably wouldn’t be very impressed, but together they’re magical!

For that extra boost of citrus, be sure to use Adam’s lemon stuffed olives when making this particular dish, available at our Saturday Market in Visalia at the Sears Parking Lot on Mooney and Caldwell! The ingredients sourced from the Visalia Farmers Market and used in the picture of the dish above and below include: Fresh mixed greens from Oak Patch, herbs and shallots from KMK Farms, olive oil and olives from Adams Family Olives, lemon zest and juice from Lindcove Ranch and fresh butter from Organic Pastures Dairy!

Ingredients:

4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup sliced shallots
1 cup pitted and sliced green olives, brine reserved
1 cup chicken broth
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into four pieces

To Make:

Season skin-side of chicken with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Turn breasts over and season skinless side with salt, black pepper, cayenne, and herbes de Provence. Turn again so that the skin-side is facing up; rest for 10 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Place chicken skin-side down in hot oil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook chicken until skin is well-browned, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken and cook until just browned, about 2 minutes; transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Cook and stir shallots in the hot skillet until just softening and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir olives into shallots and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Pour the chicken broth into the skillet; bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the reserved olive brine, lemon zest, and cumin; increase heat to high and cook until sauce is reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and return chicken, skin-side up, to the skillet. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 5 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Remove chicken to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
Stir parsley and butter into sauce, stirring continuously until butter is melted and sauce is shiny. Spoon sauce over chicken. You can also serve this over a bed of fresh greens, as in the photo above and below!

DSC_8297