Fresh from the Farmers Market has been on hiatus for the past few weeks. It wasn’t a planned break and it’s not clear what the future holds for the little show that could. So, instead of feeling liberated because my weekends are free from filming, I feel a bit incomplete. Like chips without salsa. Like popcorn without salt.
As it would happen, my very favorite filming day at the farmers market ended up being our last day of shooting thus far. Oh the bittersweetness of it! It was on that sunny, July morning that I had the great pleasure of interviewing a few remarkable San Francisco chefs for what was slated to be an entire episode about chefs who shop at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
The morning started with Annie Sommerville, the Executive Chef at Greens Restaurant. For over 30 years, she has passionately and thoughtfully mastered taking ingredients from the market and transforming them into imaginative, vegetarian dishes. Her love for the market, the farmers and their produce is contagious. She seemed entirely at home wheeling her oversized shopping cart through the narrow stalls, stopping to say hello to fellow market shoppers and farmers, then gently picking up a head of lettuce to marvel at its delicate freshness. Shopping with Annie was a delight.
Next up was Hoss Zare, the charming Chef and Owner of Zare at Fly Trap. He told me about his life growing up in Iran, then coming to the US over 25 years ago, choosing cooking over medical school, and finding The Fly Trap. “I am living the American dream,” Hoss said. Later that day, once we’d wrapped the shoot at the market, Hoss invited the crew and me to his restaurant to film him cooking with some of the ingredients he’d picked up. Zare at Fly Trap serves dinner only, so the restaurant was quiet, aside from a sous chef prepping the night’s menu. Hoss insisted that we stick around so he could feed us. He donned his Chef’s jacket and showed us how to grill okra and make a simple tomato and cucumber salad. His cooking style was joyful and effortless.
We set the long table near the window at the front of the restaurant and as if by magic, a Persian-influenced feast spread out before us – pistachio meatballs with harissa and pomegranate, braised lamb shank with picked carrots and spring onion, Padron peppers, cucumber spaghetti with smoked trout, tomato and cucumber salad with feta, okra with harissa and anchovies. It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in a long time. I felt completely in the moment, savoring every bite, but I was also able to zoom out and see myself at that table and feel so much gratitude – for the food, Hoss’s hospitality, the crew and the day.
Here are two simple recipes inspired by Hoss Zare. Both okra and padron peppers are in season now and available at the farmers market. Get them before they disappear!
Pimientos de Padron
- 2 generous cups of Padron peppers
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt (I like using Maldon flakes, crumbling them a bit with my fingers and sprinkling liberally)
1. Add olive oil to a hot frying pan, when the oil is hot and shimmering add the peppers.
2. Cook and stir the peppers until the skin is brown and blistered.
3. Remove the peppers from the pan, place on a plate and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
- 20 fresh okra pods
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 anchovies, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- juice of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons of harissa (Hoss makes his own harissa and it’s incredible. I’ve used a few different kinds before. I think this one is my favorite.)
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees or get your grill good and hot.
2. Combine the olive oil, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice and harissa in a large bowl. Toss with the okra.
3. Either sear the okra on the hot grill or arrange in one layer on a foil lined cookie sheet.
4. Grill until a bit blistered, just a few minutes, or roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until hot. If roasting in the oven, finish okra off under the broiler for a couple of minutes until they char a bit.
5. Drizzle with any remaining sauce and season with salt and pepper.