For as long as I can remember – and far longer than that – one of the most important lifestyle differences between Europe and the United States is the way that we shop for the night’s dinner. America is the land of the Supermarket. If we didn’t invent it, we certainly “perfected” it. Europe, in contrast, is the land of the market. And if Barcelona’s Boqueria is not the food market perfected perhaps Turin’s Porta Palazzo – Europe’s largest open air market – would take that Gold.
That view of the world is not exactly accurate today. Europe has Supermarkets and America has Farmers Markets. But it was not always so. Growing up in San Diego, Farmers Markets just were not part of the weekly culinary landscape for many, if any.
Things are a bit different now. There are Farmers Markets available every single day of the week in San Diego County. In fact, Monday is the only day of the week when there is only one Farmers Market. On many days there are multiple Farmers Markets occurring in different parts of the County on the same day. Recently, Farmers Markets have become so popular that there are certain days and times where there are multiple competing Farmers Markets occurring at the same time on the same day and within relatively short distances.
Farmers’ Markets are very much a part of our lives. Scarcely a weekend goes by when we do not go to at least one. Not infrequently we hit multiple markets on multiple days. The first Farmers Market to become a part of our regular lives was the Hillcrest Farmers Market which occurs at the Hillcrest Department of Motor Vehicles location on Sunday Mornings. At first it was an aggregate of farmers and several other vendors. Over time it, and many others have grown to the point that competition is fierce – for vegetable sales, specialty food products, prepared dishes, and vendors of nearly every stripe. We have grown to have our favorite vendors and established relationships with them. From specialty products (for example, the Spanish Deli vendor) to organic vegetables (for example, Suzie’s Farm) to many others, if you become a regular at your local Farmers Markets you will develop relationships with the producers.
One of our favorites – he is a regular at many weekly markets including, where we find him most often, the Mission Hills Farmers Market — is Mark Lane’s Poppa’s Fresh Fish Company. In addition to offering freshly shucked oysters (and sometimes uni, sea urchin “roe”), Poppa’s offers amazing quality fresh fish at every market.
Even if we do not arrange for a particular ingredient to be waiting for us at the Mission Hills market, a basic part of our food rituals has become to pick up our protein for dinner on Friday night from Mark at the market. Several weeks ago it was Baby Baguetta, a variety of grouper, which we had ordered the day before. I arrived at the market with no idea what I would do with the fish but determined to work with what I looked best at the market. The standout ingredient for me was blood oranges. Several vendors had them on offer – always a good sign – and my culinary gut (increasingly substantial) suggested that blood orange would pair well with the Baguetta. It did.
Pan Roasted Baby Baguetta with Blood Orange Beurre Blanc and Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes
For the Fish:
- 2 6 ounce filets of Baby Baguetta (or Grouper)
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly ground Black Pepper
For the Buerre Blanc:
- Juice from 4-5 blood oranges
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- one slice fresh ginger root
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
For the Mashed Potatoes:
- 1 medium head garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Start the Sauce. In a small sauce pan reduce wine and blood orange juice, and ginger root until thick and syrupy.
- Start the Mashed Potatoes: Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Drizzle garlic with olive oil, then wrap in aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Cook the Fish. In a medium saute pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper, then place in pan and sear on both sides (skin side down first), turning only once. Cook three minutes on each side and then place it in the oven and cook it for about 10 minutes, until it flakes easily with a fork.
- Finish the Mashed Potatoes: Drain, cool and chop. Stir in the olive oil, milk, salt and pepper. Remove the garlic from the oven, and cut in half. Squeeze the softened cloves into the potatoes. Blend potatoes with an electric mixer until desired consistency is achieved.
- Finish the Sauce. Cut the butter into small pieces. Stir the butter pieces into the sauce one at a time, fully incorporating one before starting the next.