Greg Cole

Greg Cole

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This year you can think of April 15 in one of two ways: as approaching tax day or as opening day of the Napa Farmers’ Market. Let’s go with the latter!

Saturday marks the start of the market’s 37th season and its second year at the South Napa Century Center on Gasser Drive. Responding to community demand, the season begins earlier this year and runs later, with the last market on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Every Tuesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. you will find a group of dedicated local vendors offering fresh produce, specialty foods and artisan goods.

I am excited to be a new board member of the Napa Farmers’ Market. As a former (recovering!) restaurateur, I look forward to following the seasonal changes at the market, much as I did when I was a restaurant chef.

One of the challenges of the market’s earlier opening is that it is just 20 days after the spring equinox and very early in the growing season. However, one dependable star of late winter and early spring is citrus. We are fortunate to live in a region where several types of citrus thrive, providing fresh fruit when the days are still short and the weather unstable.

I grew up in Southern California and my father worked for Sunkist Growers, a cooperative of citrus farmers in California and Arizona. There was always a bowl of fresh oranges and grapefruits on our kitchen counter and often a case of oranges in the garage where it was cool and dark.

My mother, a California transplant from Minnesota who loved rhubarb and citrus, ate grapefruit every day. I can vividly picture her at our Eero Saarinen-like white round breakfast table with her serrated-edge grapefruit spoon and grapefruit half.

One type of citrus that was not part of the Sunkist portfolio then is the red-fleshed blood orange. Now relatively common at California farmers’ markets, the blood orange is native to Italy and Spain. ‘Moro’ is the most widely grown variety.

You may also see cara cara oranges at the Napa Farmers’ Market. They have red flesh, too, but they are navel oranges, not true blood oranges, and they can be used interchangeably in recipes. The peak season for navel and blood orange varieties is December through April, so visit the market in the first few weeks to enjoy these oranges while they are still in season.

We are dusting off the market’s stove, and I will be doing a cooking demonstration at the market this Saturday at 11 a.m. I plan to use blood oranges from our vendors in a cake inspired by a recipe from “Lost Recipes” by Marion Cunningham. If blood oranges aren’t available, I’ll substitute navel oranges or Meyer lemons. I hope to see you there.

Volunteers needed: The non-profit Napa Famers’ Market operates for the community with the help of volunteers. We are always looking for friendly people to volunteer at the market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. If you enjoy being at the market and would like to lend a hand, please contact Connie Evans at connie.evans@stjoe.org.

Citrus Pudding Cake

This cake is one of my favorites; we served it frequently at Celadon. It is quick, delicious and adaptable to other citrus such as the Meyer lemons that are flourishing on trees throughout Napa Valley right now. Different kinds of citrus will impart different levels of sweetness and color to the finished dessert.

1 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange, blood orange or Meyer lemon juice

Zest of orange or lemon

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3 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 1 1/2-quart baking dish or 8-inch square baking pan.

In a bowl, stir the 3/4 cup sugar, the flour and the salt until blended. Add the melted butter, citrus juice, citrus zest and egg yolks, and stir until thoroughly blended. Stir in the milk.

In a separate bowl with a whisk or electric beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff but moist. Fold the beaten whites into the batter, and then pour into the prepared baking dish.

Set the baking dish in a larger pan at least 2 inches deep and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or chilled with slightly sweetened whipping cream.

Serves 6 to 8

The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., April 15 through Nov. 21, in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. The third Tuesday of every month is Seniors’ Day at the market, with some vendors offering discounts to shoppers 65 and older. Ask about

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