Farmer’s Market Dining

Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower

As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. Such is the case with my very own mother, who grew up on a farm deep in the  countryside of Cuba. By the time she came to the U.S. as a teenager, she had already formed strong memories of farm life. My childhood was riddled with stories of how she and her family ate what they grew. They were “farm-to-table,” before it was market apples

From a very early age, my mother spoiled my family with only fresh produce. Instead of a cookie jar on our counter, we had a large basket of lusciously ripe tomatoes, fragrant onions, whole starchy potatoes, or whatever was in season at the time. Despite living in a city so congested with people and buildings, my mother managed to create a produce garden along the side of our house, and we always had the freshest of meals. I only tasted canned veggies at friends’ homes, and thanked my lucky stars that my mother never prepared them in that fashion.

Farmers market pomegranate

Now that I’m an adult with a home of my own, I long to create my own vegetable garden. However, there are 2 elements in my way. It appears that the green thumb gene skipped my generation, because I have a tendency to kill any plant within eyesight. That whole remembering to water situation is what kills me every time. The second issue is that my home isn’t surrounded by any land. Since I can’t grow my own garden, when I need my seasonal produce fix, and I want the best tasting produce in town, I hit my local farmer’s market.

I recently learned that in other parts of the country, farmer’s markets are only available a few months of the year. However, as California has such rich farms, bursting with produce 365 days a year, we get an outdoor congregation of local farmers all the time. I love making new discoveries at the market, and getting insightful explanations straight from the farmer’s mouths about their unique produce. For instance, on my scavenger hunt yesterday, I came upon a stand with a variety of differently colored cauliflower. There were deep aubergine ones, honey amber ones, and even classic white. I knew cauliflower came in many shades, but I had never seen one with such a peculiar hue and Northwestern pride before. Purple cauliflower? After conferring with the farmer selling this produce, I learned that it tastes the same as traditional white cauliflower. The unique color just serves to remind us that it is the actual flower of the plant we are eating, and that flowers come in all sorts of shades.

purple cauliflower

With a skeptical husband at home, I tested the farmer’s theory and took a stock home to roast for dinner. Although my husband waited to see if I curled over and died before trying his own serving of purple cauliflower, the farmer was right. Purple cauliflower is just as tasty as it’s traditional cousin.

Chopped Cauliflower

5.0 from 1 reviews
Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Morrocon
Serves: 4
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A warm, smokey tribute to the wonders of the local farmer's market.
  • 1 large head or 2 small heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tbs Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until cauliflower has browned, tossing partway through.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the fresh garlic, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, parsley, and lemon zest.
  5. Spoon roasted cauliflower into the bowl with the spices, squeeze the lemon juice on top, and toss to coat. The heat of the cauliflower will cook the garlic.
  6. Serve immediately.



Turkey Picadillo with Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Picadillo YinYang

Like most Cuban food, when picadillo is presented as a main dish, it is usually plated alongside white rice, which serves to mop up the saucy overflow. However, shortly after we got married, I noticed my husband staring uncomfortably at the mound of rice left to eat on his plate at the end of dinner one night. When I asked if there was a problem, he responded that he was “too full” from the rest of the mouthwatering meal I prepared that evening to stomach finishing the rice.   As newlyweds, we’re often told that the first year of marriage is the hardest, and it was clear that my husband was trying not to stir the pot. It occurred to me that he might not be a huge fan of plain white rice. The next day, I planned to make picadillo for dinner, and knew he would love it, but wouldn’t give it a fair try if I served it with rice. So I set out to find a more suitable companion for this dish. True to his Midwestern roots, I knew my husband favors a diet rich with meat and potatoes. Also, potato balls, which are essentially a ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with picadillo, breaded and fried, are one of his favorite Cuban snacks. So, if I made a batch of my irresistibly creamy, Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, and served them alongside my picadillo, it would without a doubt please him. Sure enough, at dinner the next night my husband was inducted into the clean plate club, and I inched closer towards winning the award for wife of the year.

Classic picadillo is made with ground beef, but in an effort to lighten things up, my family swapped in the much more figure friendly turkey long ago. After trying our flavor-packed version, nobody has ever called us on our alternative ways, and for quite some time, this substitution remained a family secret. Even the naturally driest cut of turkey breast surrenders to the tenderizing ways of a low and slow simmering tomato-based bath, making Turkey Picadillo a stand-by, go-to protein in our house while I was a child. It also serves as the filling to many of Cuban cuisine’s most treasured snacks, including empanadas, meat pies, potato balls, and more.

This dish represents the essence of my Cuban influence melding with that of my meat-and-potatoes eating Midwestern husband’s. It’s the meet-me-in-the-middle compromise I was told I’d get used to making when I got married. This peacekeeper, Gandhi-style of cooking is one I particularly love experimenting with, as it presents a fun culinary challenge for me to find perfect pairings for the recipes from our respective sides.



5.0 from 1 reviews
Turkey Picadillo with Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Recipe type: Main and Side
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 6-8
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Cuba meets the Midwest with this culture-clashing dish.
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1-1½ lbs. ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • 8oz water
  • ¼ cup green olives with pimento, sliced (including the juice from the jar)
  • 1 tbs. oregano
  • 2 tbs. cumin
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
Mashed Potatoes:
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, finely diced.
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed, but whole
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ sour cream
  • ⅛ cup half and half
  • salt and pepper
  1. Place a large pot on the stove over medium to high heat, and add the olive oil, letting it warm.
  2. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic, and cook until onions and peppers are soft and translucent, about 5 min. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano.
  3. Add the ground turkey, and using the bottom and back of a wooden spoon, break up the turkey into small pieces as it browns.
  4. Add the tomato sauce, and fill the can with water, adding that to the pot, as well.
  5. Add the olives and olive juice, and stir well.
  6. Throw in the bay leaves, cover the pot, and simmer for ½ an hour to an hour, or until the turkey is soft and the liquid has reduced by about half.
  7. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.
Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
  1. Fill a large stock pot with cold water, and add the potato cubes, onion and garlic. Heat the pot over high heat, and add salt to flavor the water.
  2. Once the water starts to boil, cook until potatoes are fork-tender.
  3. Drain the contents of the pot in a colander, and using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes, onions and garlic into the now empty pot.
  4. Return the pot to the stove over low heat, and stir in grated parmesan, sour cream, and half and half. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve immediately.