Pasta Primavera. Maybe you know it as that dish at the Italian restaurant that’s kind of loaded with cream sauce and a few wan veggies. And if so, it may not strike you as an uber healthy recipe. Or as a hallmark of spring farm-to-table cooking. And yet, it’s a dish with roots (see what we did there?). Primavera means “spring” in Italian—think Boticelli and his cavorting Renaissance nymphs—and an authentic pasta primavera is a dish that should herald the bounty of the season. When it’s made properly, it’s the kind of farm-to-table recipe that just begs you to visit one of Anaheim Center City’s farmers markets and load up on the delicate veggies that are at their freshest and most seasonal right now. And there’s a slew of other great recipes, too—all weeknight quick—to help you put a healthy farm-to-table dish in front of your family in a hurry. Are you hungry yet?
Farmers Markets: Shopping Straight from the Source
Here’s step one in your farm-to-table cooking adventure: Hit the farmers market. When Anaheim Center City was coming into focus, it was obvious that honoring the neighborhood’s agrarian heritage meant giving local farmers markets access to primo real estate. So now, twice a week, local farmers roll into Anaheim bringing with them a wide variety of seasonal produce and flowers, much of it organic, all of it ready for a farm-to-table feast.
On Thursdays, Downtown Anaheim’s Certified Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair takes over Center Street Promenade from 11am-4pm. Among the market stalls you’ll also find food vendors—including some vending seriously tempting treats, like Lucky 13 Sweets, Le Petit Pommes Frites, Bakeshack and Kettle Corn King—but keep your focus. Remember, you’re here for healthy recipes! Here’s a tip: Your objective is to try and “eat the rainbow.” That means vibrant green kale and Swiss chard and collards, and dark, colorful berries. Beets the color of garnets. Stone fruits in jewel tones.
On Fridays, the healthy farmers market action moves to the Farmers Park Market in the Packing District, open from 4-8pm in the 2-acre park next door to the historic Anaheim Packing House. At this time of year, you’ll find seasonal delicacies there like artichokes, cherries and peaches, plus apricots, pluots and nectarines, along with the first ripe tomatoes (check out the heirloom varieties) and early summer squashes like zucchini, patty pan and crookneck. Farmers Park Market also has sustainable beef, pork, lamb and chicken from Da Le Ranch, a small family farm located in the central Inland Empire. It’s the type of enterprise that exemplifies what’s best about farmers market shopping: The opportunity to put together a farm-to-table feast of healthy recipes while simultaneously supporting local agriculture and small farmers that farm with the future in mind.
What should you buy at the market? Everything! Seriously. That’s the other great thing about farmers market shopping. Supermarkets buy from national and international brokers, and as a matter of course, you can get just about any kind of fruit or vegetable you want at any time of year. It just may taste like… nothing. At the Anaheim farmers markets, on the other hand, you’re buying from local growers, and that means that the produce on offer reflects what’s actually growing in Southern California at that time of year, and so loaded with flavor. So feel free to shop to your hearts content. We like to graze when we’re shopping, freely snacking on samples to see who has the sweetest tomatoes and berries, the juiciest citrus. After all, scoring the most flavorful ingredients is key to your farm-to-table feast!
Putting it All Together
So are recipes. You’d be surprised, though, how many of the best healthy recipes are essentially straight forward and simple. They let your hard-won farmers market produce shine, relying on a little oil, a little acid and a little seasoning to highlight its natural deliciousness.
Here’s a basic farm-to-table technique to master: Take root or cruciferous vegetables like beets, parsnips, carrots, cauliflower or broccoli and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, then roast in a 350°F oven until the veggies have a light char. Before serving, splash them with a little vinegar (try seasoned rice wine vinegar or sherry vinegar) or a squeeze of lemon juice. For extra nutritional and flavor dimension, you can add cooked grains (farro, barley, quinoa) to your roasted veggies, but that’s going beyond. Serve the dish with a simple protein like chicken (go for the thighs!) or salmon and you’ve got a healthy meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes.
That pasta primavera dish is equally fast and delicious. While your salted pasta water comes to a boil, prep a variety of fresh spring farmers market vegetables. Think sugar snap peas, asparagus, baby carrots cut into thin slivers, delicate slices of summer squash, and maybe a few mushrooms for meaty texture (this healthy recipe is vegetarian). Try adding shelled fava beans if you’re feeling adventurous. While your pasta is cooking (toothsome fettuccini is the best choice here), quickly sauté the vegetables all jumbled together in olive oil with some chopped garlic. We’re talking 5-7 minutes here, max—about the same length of time as it takes to cook the noodles al dente. Season the veggies at the end of cooking with salt and pepper and a splash of white wine. Then add the hot, drained pasta to the pan with a squeeze of lemon juice, check your seasoning (add salt and pepper if necessary), then serve hot with parmesan cheese for sprinkling. No cream, no overcooked vegetables—just farm-to-table fabulous.
For a few more healthy recipes to help you with your farm-to-table feast, check out this Asparagus & Leek Pizza from Shutterbean; an exotic Moroccan Fava Bean & Vegetable Soup recipe that was published in The New York Times; and this bright and flavorful dish of Crispy Lemon Roasted Baby Artichokes by Running to the Kitchen.
With the days lengthening and growing warmer, ‘tis the season for fresh food. Head to Anaheim’s Center City and the farmers markets and get cooking!
p.s. So inspired you’re thinking of making cooking your career? Check out the classes at Culinary Lab at the Packing House.