By Katie Gatlin
You may have come across Tomatero Farm at your favorite East Bay farmers’ market, and if you’re like me, you can feel the warmth of a community there.
“We’re not pretentious, not showy. We’re family. It’s just good produce,” says Vanessa LeJeune, a market worker with Tomatero. She’s been with the farm for three years now, and she is still in awe of the great work their farmers do to cultivate such outstanding organic crops.
Tomatero founder Adriana Silva was just 21 when she started the farm with Chris Tuohig in 2004. They now produce 40 types of organic vegetables on 80 acres in Watsonville.
“I feel so lucky to have such a great, diverse group,” says Silva. “I love the people—the strenuous work doesn’t seem so hard if you like the people you’re working with. We work hard to make it feel like a family here, have a good time, and be as positive as possible.”
Chefs love Tomatero’s produce, and so do shoppers at the Temescal, Grand Lake, Marin, and Alemany Farmers’ Markets. This writer especially loves their kale, Early Girl tomatoes, and candy-sweet strawberries, but if you’re looking for an expert’s recommendation, LeJeune suggests, “When in season, the strawberries, and the damn cauliflower.” She pauses with a smile, adding, “Yeah, the damn cauliflower.”
I bought a bunch of their stunning lacinato kale to prepare one of my favorite winter foods, Vegan Cream of Kale and Broccoli Soup, which you can find along with other recipes on my blog: theLittleArtichoke.com. The kale and broccoli get sautéed with onion and spices. Then they’re simmered in vegetable broth and blended all together. Swirl in the velvety cashew cream and top with a spritz of lemon and good olive oil.
Vegan Cream of Broccoli and Kale Soup
Makes 8 servings
35 minutes cooking time
1 cup raw cashews
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound of broccoli florets
5 cups roughly chopped kale
3½ cups vegetable broth
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
To prepare the cashew cream, measure the cashews into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Cover the cashews with warm water and soak for 2 hours, or microwave for 3 minutes. Then, using an immersion blender (or a food processor) blend the cashews and water together until an ultra-smooth consistency is reached (3–4 minutes). Set aside.
In a large pot, add the onion, olive oil, and salt (about 1 teaspoon) over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they’re golden brown and soft—about 15 minutes (if you notice them getting too dark too quickly, lower the heat to medium-low).
Then add in the broccoli and kale. Pour a splash of vegetable broth into the pot, then cover and let the veggies steam for 10 minutes. Next, pour in enough vegetable broth to cover the veggies, then add the smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.
Let the soup simmer for another 10–15 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Stir the cashew cream into the soup. Mix in the lemon juice. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings if needed. Drizzle with good olive oil and enjoy with a nice hearty bread!