Sunday, June 5, 2011

Out of the kitchen, into the market

Since my return from Nebraska, it seems like most of my waking hours have been spent gardening and perusing farmers' markets. Now that we're coming into the height of the growing season, it seems that there is a farmers' market (or two) nearly every day of the week. My favorite market stop of the week was on Thursday: my first ever visit to the Penn Quarter market, where I had been asked to photograph the first Brainfood student market demo -- something of a sneak preview of Brainfood's exciting second-year program starting next fall, which focuses on peer-led food education and outreach. (How cool is that??)

Ollie and I rolled up just as the students were arriving, so I had a chance to chitchat a bit with everyone before the enticing aroma of sauteing onions and garlic scapes drew the masses over to the information tent where the cooking demonstration was taking place. On offer: free samples of fried rice featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients chopped on site. I watched in awe as the high school students minced, stirred, tasted, and dished up one batch after another of the savory concoction. (And of course I tried a plate of it myself. I mean, Brainfood sessions always end with the sharing of food. I don't want to break protocol.)

There was not a trace of nervousness that I could detect among the group of friendly, confident youth. Not that I'm surprised: Amy and Carina are amazing teachers and offered the usual encouragement and measured guidance as students took the lead. They looked on proudly as their proteges spoke with folks of all ages about the ease of the recipe and its infinite adaptability, explaining the technique and pointing out different ingredients. These students, some of whom were pretty new to cooking less than a year ago, were cooking and talking with passers-by like old pros. I must say I was impressed. So were the market shoppers who tarried for a few minutes to sample and ask questions. One woman, coming home from her shift at the Department of Transportation, commented on how quick and easy and tasty the recipe was. "I mean, I can make this in about 10 minutes and my son will get a ton of healthy vegetables! I think he'll like this," she smiled as she finished up her sample. (Yep, and the eggs lend a bit of protein, too, I couldn't help but volunteer.) "I'm going to go pick up some eggs and carrots right now."

Yes, the fried rice was easy and tasty. It's pretty inexpensive and you can make a whole bunch of it at once (which, if you're on the kind of budget that I am on these days, is a huge bonus). Inspired, I made an enormous pot of it for a potluck barbecue with my ultimate frisbee teammates two days later. There were some rave reviews. Here's a slightly adapted version of the Brainfood recipe, which serves 12....

Farmers Market Brown Fried Rice

Heat 1 TBSP peanut oil (or olive oil) in a large pan, then add 8 eggs (beaten) and cook until eggs are set. Remove from pan and cut into strips.

Heat 5 TBSP peanut oil (or olive oil) in the pan, add 2 onions (peeled, small dice) and saute on medium heat until translucent (5 mins or so), then stir in:

- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (or 1 thinly sliced garlic scape)
- 1-2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup asparagus, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, small dice
- 1/2 cup carrots, small dice

Cook for 5 mins longer, then stir in:

- 3 tsp sea salt
- 6 cups brown rice, cooked (ideally cooked the day before and stored in fridge overnight)
- the cooked eggs
- 6 TBSP sesame oil or olive oil
- 14 TBSP shoyu (soy sauce) or Dr. Bragg's liquid aminos
- 6 TBSP mirin (rice vinegar)
- 1 tsp ground pepper (to taste)

Heat until warm, then serve and devour with friends.

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