Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Bay Area Bests #2

Monterey Market, on the corner of Hopkins and Monterey in north Berkeley.

Okay, maybe it would be more fair to give the nod to Bay Area produce, in general, because we are constantly swimming in fantastic fresh and seasonal produce (and bread -- as I've mentioned before -- and cheese and seafood and other animal products for those who eat those things).

But the folks at Monterey Market (MM) are my favorite produce purveyors for a lot of reasons. They display their wares half inside, half outside, creating the atmosphere of an exotic third-world mercado. They have an incredibly wide range of veggies and fruits to choose from (remember my #1 Bay Area Best, diversity?). And their prices are the lowest around.

This place is a wonderland for adventuresome cooks. True, you have to be comfortable with the occasional untidy bin, where perhaps the key limes or sweet Mauai onions have gone a bit soft. But this is no problem for a veteran forager like me. I love searching for treasures amidst the ordinary, and MM gives me this experience time and time again. They have all the usual stuff, but so much more besides. I might never have bought chickpeas still in their pods on the drying vine, if not for Monterey Market. I would surely have missed fresh turmeric root.

So here's one little story in my MM chronicles. They have a bargain bin, where they put bags of over-ripe stuff they've pulled from the bins that needs to sell fast. On my last visit, I noticed a large bag of avocados sitting there, with .99 price grease-penciled on. They were smallish, and I could tell some of them were hopelessly soft. But there were a LOT of them in there, and I figured at least some would be usable.

The super-spouse was with me and agreed that when life gives one an abundance of cheap avocados, it's guacamole time. So even though they were certainly not seasonal, local, or organic, I took my dollar's worth of avocados home -- turned out to be 14 avocados, only two of which were useless -- and made a BIG batch of great guac. (Did you know guacamole freezes well, as long as you don't include any dairy products in the mix?)

Here's an overview of my guacamole process: 1) Squeeze a couple of juicy limes into a large bowl. 2) Cut several medium avocados (somewhat over-ripe is fine) in half, discard the seeds, and scoop the avo into the same bowl. 3) Toss the avo around with the lime juice to prevent oxidation. 4) Add a splash of tamari soy sauce,some chile powder, and a couple of cloves of garlic, mash to a paste with some salt. Mix well to make it chunky and well blended, but not totally runny. 5) Stir in anything else you like, such as minced serrano chiles, chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, and cilanto leaves. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. 6) Use as a topping for tacos or tostados, wrap up with beans and rice to make burritos, spread on good chewy bread, or use as a dip with your favorite chips. This time out, we chose some fantastic Native brand fresh-cut blue tortilla chips, thick, from Kjalii Foods of San Francisco.

Blessings and bon appetit!



At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mindy--avocados for $.99--love it. and yes, freezing the guac works well. Love this info.MQ

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Mindy T. said...

Is this the MQ I know and love? Thanks for visiting. What have you been cooking lately? xxxoxoxooo

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Fiber said...

Really? Does freezing guac keep a green color, or does it turn brown?

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Mindy T. said...

Hi Fiber. Freezing works for me without the guac turning brown, but then I generally use a lot of lime juice in the mix. I suppose you could add a pinch of ascorbic acid (vitamin C powder) instead.


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