The world gets smaller every day.
Many of my loyal café fans will remember that we used Maya Tea Chia for the Dirty Chai and Iced Chai drinks. I’m in Tucson for several days, and I actually met the man behind Maya Tea this morning at the Tucson Farmer’s Market. And why did I meet him there? Because he is the Co-Executive Director of the amazing Heirloom Farmer’s Markets in Tucson!
What a joy to attend a crowded Sunday market! I was greeted by interesting Food Trucks and a long covered walkway lined on each side with lots of vendors selling fresh local ingredients under a (fairly new) permanent structure. There were occasional breaks in the action where tables and chairs were available for gathering to eat the bounty. Soups, tamales, fresh pizza from a wood fired oven, freshly brewed coffee, baked goods, the list goes on and on! I came away with beautiful chard, baby turnips, local beef bratwurst, and fresh goat cheese. I tasted incredible honey and olive oil and sampled some freshly roasted and brewed coffee that was good enough to make me stand still and give it some thought.
I stopped at the info booth to use my debit card to purchase some market tokens. I know markets everywhere use a token system, not so in Charlotte. For me, it was a great way to shop. Each token is worth $5, and they never expire. Farmers and vendors don’t have to run credit cards or keep a whole lot of change on hand, and for this market, it seems to work pretty well. I saw several people using cash and many vendors were asking for small change, so I know not everyone is utilizing the option. I actually came home with one token left, and I look forward to returning next Sunday to see what additional treasures I can find.
In a stroke of luck, Manish Shah was available to chat for a few minutes. I introduced myself and told him I had been a loyal Maya Chai customer on the east coast. I complimented him on the awesome market, and that led to a quick conversation about the struggles of growing all local markets and the time it has taken to get the Tucson markets under a permanent canopy. What I was experiencing was a mere seventeen years of ideas and growth and struggle and inch-by-inch success. It reminded me of the past twenty years in Charlotte as markets have struggled to gain a foothold to survive and grow.
Manish is a man on a mission, and I am thrilled to see what dedication and several people with vision and positive outlook can manage. Additionally, Manish has a knack of making you feel right at home. Despite being almost frantically busy greeting people and working as back up to the cheerful and helpful young man selling market tokens, I was gifted with several moments of complete focus with interesting informative conversation. I tried to get a good photo, but he was moving fast and constantly surrounded by people while solving little problems and smiling the whole time.
Here’s the deal: I have a big crush on the Heirloom Farmer’s Market at Rillito Park. The parking lot was jam-packed, the people-to-dog ratio was fairly high, and though it was busy, no one was pushy. I sampled, I took notes, and I bought a few choice ingredients. I am in Tucson for another ten days, so I will go back with a plan and some cash for tokens, and I will revel in the sunshine and happy market people!
When I returned to the car to unload my bags, the woman getting out of the next car looked me up and down and asked if I had spent all my money and bought more than I needed. I told her that I had spent a small amount and got a few great ingredients. Without missing a beat, she told me to go back and spend some more money because the farmers needed my support! I mean, that’s my line!!! How fun to be on the receiving end of that statement for a change!
I have to admit the standout ingredient I bought was freshly roasted green chili. They were right out of the roasting basket and so hot that I could barely hold the bag! The car smelled so heavenly from those fresh hot roasted peppers that I nearly drooled on myself. I spent the whole drive home in a haze of half-formed ideas for goat cheese and fresh roasted green chili.
- Oven 350 degrees
- Ovenproof glass baking dish
- 8 large roasted green chilies
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
- 8 leaves of chard
- 5 eggs
- ¼ cup whole milk or half-n-half
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- Peel, split and de-seed the roasted green chili.
- Use spray release or olive oil to grease the pan. Arrange the green chilies in the pan covering the bottom completely.
- Crumble the fresh goat cheese and sprinkle randomly over the top of the green chili.
- Trim the stems from the rinsed chard and thinly slice the remaining stems and leaves and sprinkle over the top of the goat cheese layer.
- Mix the eggs and dairy until combined, add the salt and pepper and whisk again . Pour egg mixture into the pan and tilt the pan to make sure the eggs are covering the whole pan. The egg mixture will not cover the top of the other ingredients.
- Place in a hot oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Check to make sure the eggs in the center of the pan are set , return to the oven for another 3 to 5 minute if it is not completely done.
- Pull from the oven and allow to cool.
- Serve hot, warm or cold.