Alhambra Farmers Market
Green, slimy and slighty hairy.
Fresh okra, also known as the oh-so-flattering "lady's fingers," is available at several stands throughout the year, but the pods will dwindle as the peak summer season comes to an end. So this Sunday is a great opportunity to pick some up. Okra has a very distinct flavor and texture, but can be used in a variety of applications. The characteristic "slimyness" can be negated with a bit of acid from tomatoes or a squeeze of lemon juice. But I think it's a bit unfair to deny okra of its natural talent. The slimy thickening power can be used succesfully in soups, curries and gumbo (of course). You can also toss sliced okra with bread crumbs for some deep fried action (the slime will help all the starch stick, without the usual egg/flour/buttermilk batters).
No rattling when shaken: how to choose fresh peanuts
Raw peanuts in the shell are available from at least two stands all the way through December. When buying make sure to choose beans that are hard and firm, and avoid any that may have excessive black spots or mold. Also look for plump shells that seem heavy for their size, and that have little to no rattling when shaken (to avoid those annoying shriveled beans). Classic preparation is boiled in salted seasoned water, but you can also spread them on a sheet pan and roast them for about 30 minutes. Boiling in shell can tend to take a bit of time, so you can always shell them first (I've found that the fresher the bean the faster the cooking time). Roast an extra pound or two to make peanut butter, or add a handful to a stirfry. Peanuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, and are packed with protein and antioxidants. And by cooking them yourself, you can avoid the excess salt that commercial brands dump on their products. (If you don't feel like cooking a batch yourself, there's also the roasted peanut booth next to the bacon wrapped hot dogs, pupusas and tamales).
Coming up next week: jujubes, papaya melons and calamnsi limes!