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Three meals in one day … all with ingredients from the Farmers Market

Amit Tandon, of Guzzetti’s Catering & Indian Food, sets up at the Saturday Farmers Market.

Amit Tandon, of Guzzetti’s Catering & Indian Food, sets up at the Saturday Farmers Market.

Chico Farmers Market
Downtown Chico.Thursday: 6-9 p.m. through Sept. 27.Saturday: 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round.

Henri had a wonderful idea one recent morning that he presented, over croissants and espressos at the Upper Crust Bakery, to his dear sister, Colette: Our Sunday-evening repast, made entirely of ingredients purchased at the Saturday Chico Farmers Market. Colette was thrilled, and we began immediately to brainstorm possibilities.

“Wait,” Colette said suddenly, setting her coffee cup down. “I’ve got a better idea. All three meals. One day—this Sunday—all three meals made only with ingredients from the Farmers Market. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Sacre bleu! Brillant!

Thus was born the Farmers Market Challenge, the two of us spending a half-hour the next Saturday shopping and then eating only Farmers Market food the following day.

The shopping
1 dozen eggs ($2)

1 avocado ($1.25)

3 baskets strawberries ($5)

1 bag red-leaf lettuce ($1)

1 bunch green onions ($1)

1 bunch chard ($1)

3 red onions ($1)

1 bunch cilantro ($1)

1 bunch asparagus ($1)

1 brick tofu ($2, from Chico Tofu)

1 pound carne asada beef (grassfed, from Alston Farms, $12.50)

Garlic curry chips (from Guzzetti’s catering, $3)

Fire-roasted eggplant dip (from Guzzetti’s, $5)

1 bag brown rice (from Massa Organics, $3)

1 loaf rustic white bread (from Hearth and Stone Bakery, $3.75)

1 bottle kiwi poppy seed salad dressing (from TJ Farms, $5)

1 dozen chicken and pork tamales (from Rosarito’s Tamales to Go, $15)

1 key lime pie (from Dixon Ranch Foods, $5)

Total: $68.50

The cooking and eating
I awoke to the delicious smell of coffee wafting through the house, Colette having already made two cups of Bidwell Perk French roast, mine waiting, right next to the Pink Section of the San Francisco Chronicle, which Colette had opened to my favorite column: Ask Mick LaSalle. We lingered for an hour or so reading the paper, then went to work on breakfast, Collete scrambling the eggs with a bit of chopped cilantro, while I sliced the bread for toast and cut the strawberries, which I arranged in rings around the rims of small plates, the eggs inside.

By early afternoon, I was getting hungry for lunch and popped four of the tamales into the microwave and munched as we watched Cabaret. Even reheated, Rosarito’s are the best tamales Henri’s ever tasted, although I wish I had thought to bring home some of Rosarito’s wonderful salsa.

For dinner, Colette prepared an absolutely divine stir fry, cooking the beef (cubed) first and then tossing in the chopped vegetables and the tofu (also cubed), which we served over the brown rice. Delicious, along with my simple salad of lettuce, green onions and avocado. For dessert: the key lime pie.

All in all a wonderful day, and Colette and I retired satisfied and feeling good about keeping local. We also not only had leftovers for later but had quite a bit of food (including tamales, rice, eggs, salad dressing and eggplant dip) for other meals. Our only regret? That Chico Creek Wine Cellars and LaRocca Vineyards don’t have booths at the market.

Confession: We weren’t totally pure: In addition to the coffee, we used butter, olive oil, coconut milk, teriyaki sauce and a handful of spices that we had on hand, although, of course, you can buy excellent local oil at the market.

The challenge
Create an entire meal, or better yet an entire day of meals, made only with ingredients from the Thursday or Saturday Chico farmers markets—with summer’s bounty just around the corner, the possibilities should be virtually endless. Send Henri your shopping list and recipes, and I’ll print the best ones here, along with your name(s) and anything else you have to say about your experience. Send them to the e-mail address above. Note: Contest not open to vendors.