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Cooking with Judy: Shopping the farmers market can save time

Halloween decorations started appearing in stores in July, Christmas has been featured for weeks, so forgive me for mentioning Thanksgiving this early.

Jews actually celebrate a second Thanksgiving – a week-long harvest holiday called Sukkot, which this year begins at sundown on Oct. 9. Some believe that when the Pilgrims sat down for that first thanksgiving, they had the Hebrew harvest festival in mind.

We’ll never really know, but no doubt those religious settlers were familiar with the ancient texts and commandments, and no wonder a joyful meal of thanks would coincide with the fall harvest.

While you’d hardly know it from the diet of our Eastern European ancestors (beets and cabbage being notable exceptions), Jewish cuisine, at least in the Mediterranean, from biblical times has had a long love affair with vegetables, and what better time to show them off than during Sukkot. And what better way to celebrate this thanksgiving of the harvest than with a trip to your local farmers’ market.

Recently I accompanied Amelia Saltsman – writer, cooking teacher and author of “The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook” (Blenheim Press, $22.95) and “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen” (Sterling Epicure, $29.95) – on a stroll through the market. But there are frequent interruptions, because Saltsman is the undisputed queen of this market and is instantly recognized by farmers and shoppers alike.

Every grower greets Saltsman, who immortalized them in her first cookbook, which is as much an homage to the farmers, their histories and their commitment to excellence, as it is a collection of fuss-less, original and artful recipes inspired by the amazing varieties they produce.

A deliveryman whizzes by carrying mounds of bush-like, herby-looking bouquets. “Fresh garbanzo beans,” Saltsman informs me.

“You can find unusual things at the farmers’ market that you would never find anywhere else. It’s not that they’re so rare – they’re just rare here,” she said. “And even the very ordinary things sing with great flavor – carrots, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes – it makes all the difference in the world.”

But the main reason to shop at a farmers’ market is the taste, she says. “Because the ingredients are so fresh, they will keep for a surprisingly long time, because they’re picked at their peak. Their entire shelf life is spent in your home, not being shipped.”

With the approach of fall, we spot the first Bartlett pears, giving Saltsman a “bittersweet feeling,” because they’re displayed next to summer’s Dapple Dandy pluots, which we gorge ourselves on. (Alas, by the time you read this, they’ll be gone, but make note to self for next year!)

“My message is, the time you spend shopping here is time you save in the kitchen,” notes Saltsman. “It’s really fun to find unusual things, but even the everyday ingredients resonate with flavor and health.”

Fullerton’s Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook.” Her website is


Roasted Roots and their greens with wheat berries and horseradish cream

This recipe, which serves eight to 10, comes from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen” by Amelia Saltsman

Note: The red beets will turn the dish magenta. Add them just before serving.


  • 4 cups cooked wheat berries (from 2 cups raw), cooked if necessary
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 bunches beets with greens attached, 1 1/2 pounds total
  • 1 bunch small turnips with greens attached, about 1 pound
  • 10 medium carrots, about 1 pound
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, finally chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 to 2 cups vegetable stock or 1 cup canned diluted with 1 cup water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Horseradish cream:

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in small pot. Stir in cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds pepper; heat on low until oil shimmers.

3. Cut leafy tops off beets and turnips, leaving 1 inch stem attached, and reserve tops. Scrub beats well. Cut larger beets into halves or quarters. Toss beets in shallow baking pan with about 1 tablespoon of oil mixture; turn beets cut side down. Cover with foil; roast until almost tender, about 30 minutes. Remove foil; continue roasting until tender and browned in places, about 10 minutes more.

4. Cut turnips into halves or quarters. Cut carrots crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Cut very fat carrots in half lengthwise. Cut each onion into eight wedges. Toss turnips, carrots, and onions with remaining oil mixture in large shallow baking pan (or two). Roast uncovered until nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

5. Horseradish cream: In small bowl whisk crème fraîche and horseradish. Stir in squeeze of lemon and pinch salt. Cover; refrigerate until serving.

6. Cut away and discard excess stems from beet and turnip greens, cut greens crosswise into strips 1 inch wide.

7. In large wide pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Stir in garlic, wait 30 seconds; add greens and raisins. Cook until greens are wilted, 2 to 3 minutes (add greens in batches, if necessary). Add wheat berries, roasted vegetables, bay leaf and 1 cup stock; season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat about 10 minutes, adding remaining stock as needed for moisture. Stir in vinegar to taste. Ladle into bowls. Top with a little horseradish cream and serve.

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