What’s in Our Basket?
"We do have seasons in LA, but without those drastic changes, my first months here felt like a time warp, until I started really paying attention to the farmers market."
By Nina Subhas
In this series, Nina Subhas takes us through some of her favorite snacks and pairings from Gjusta Grocer.
When I lived on the East Coast I got a lot of energy from the change of seasons. The first time in spring where the sun on my face really felt warm, the feeling of breathing the warm humid summer air, the smell of the rain in the fall, that first shivering wind in the winter, it all felt really exciting and propelled me through the year. We do have seasons in LA, but without those drastic changes, my first months here felt like a time warp, until I started really paying attention to the farmers market. We are spoiled with berries and oranges all year, and with really long tomato seasons, but some foods pop up for such a brief and beautifully short time that if you blink you will miss it, and trust me, you do not want to miss it. Spring has a lot of those exciting things. The fava beans while they are still so young and tender you can grill and eat the whole pods, the snap peas are impossibly sweet, and my personal favorite, the teeny tiny artichokes. They are choke-less, so you can trim the stems and the spiky tops, halve them and grill them, or shave them on a mandoline and sauté them in a super hot pan with olive oil, cracked pepper and salt, and finish with a big squeeze of lemon juice.
Sam found a forager who could send us ramps from the east coast, for a little New York spring too, so dinner tonight is sautéed ramps and shaved artichokes over pasta. We stock vermicelli and spaghetti from Poschiavo, Switzerland. Poschiavo looks like a peninsula, wrapped on 3 sides with the Italian border just north of Lombardy. High up in the alps, there is a mill and pasta factory, started by Augustinian nuns, then acquired by a family in the late 19th century who have been running the business for five generations. The pasta is impeccable, and I don’t think I will ever get over the packaging.
My go-to olive oil right now, and it changes often, is the Herdade do Esporão extra virgin. It is really beautifully peppery, balanced out with nice fruit notes and a subtle bitter finish. I also snagged some Meredith Dairy marinated feta. The sheep and goat cheese feta is impossibly creamy, and the oil is so flavorful, I always save it to use as a finishing oil, or to finish with some lemon into a salad dressing.
I enjoy starting and ending my days with tea, and my tea shelf was looking a little sad, so I picked up some green masala chai from Pondicherry Dry Goods. They source all their teas and spices directly from farmers in India, and the quality is evident. My family is from South India, and I have never seen masala chai made with green tea so I had to try it. In Kashmir, the northernmost region of India, at the base of the Himalayas, they drink this mountain chai blend. It has saffron, green tea, cinnamon and cardamom. It has a totally different character than the masala chai I am used to, and I am in love.
I look forward to this brief season all year. Looking at the produce we have on display makes me want to spend all day in my kitchen cooking. But perhaps the best thing about spring is that it means summer (and stone fruit) is right around the corner.