Her cookbook is a love letter to fresh, seasonal food

Ann Evans stands in her edible garden in Davis. Evans, former mayor of Davis and co-founder of the Davis Farmers Market, has a revised edition of her cookbook, “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook.”
Ann Evans stands in her edible garden in Davis. Evans, former mayor of Davis and co-founder of the Davis Farmers Market, has a revised edition of her cookbook, “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook.”

Ann Evans helped change the way California eats.

As co-founder of the Davis Farmers Market, Evans created a role model for other farm-to-fork pioneers. When it debuted in Davis’ Central Park in 1976, the market was one of the first in the state to bring fresh locally grown organic produce to city shoppers.

“The farmers market is the most ancient way to shop,” Evans said. “It’s a way to be inspired by what’s growing around you, the change of colors and seasons. I can walk through the market and be inspired. It really changes my mood, uplifts my spirits. Good fresh food does that for people.”

Forty years later, the Davis Farmers Market is still going strong and so is Evans. In celebration of the market’s milestone, Evans revised her cookbook devoted to the local institution. She added 20 new recipes, interviewed more market stars and created monthly menus featuring Yolo County’s bounty.

Now available in stores is her new edition of “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” (Elderflower Press, $26.95, 246 pages), a love letter to local seasonal food as well as to this thriving market.

“The Davis Farmers Market has long been at the vanguard in this nation, and it has led the way for the thousands of markets that have sprung up around the country over the past 40 years,” wrote restaurateur and food activist Alice Waters, Evans’ longtime friend, in the cookbook’s forward. “This is the great beauty of the market, the way in which it effortlessly puts us on the right path and we absorb its lessons by osmosis.”

The same could be said of Evans’ recipes and prose. Her book treats seasonal eating as second nature and the market’s farmers as familiar friends. More than 30 are featured in short introductions.

Evans, 65, herself has been a familiar face since her days as an undergraduate at UC Davis, where she studied consumer food science. She served on the Davis City Council from 1982 to 1990, including a stint as mayor. Professionally, she became an advocate for school nutrition and organic produce, working with the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

“There is no better way to help people to have access to fresh local produce in season and help the viability of small farmers than a farmers market,” she said.

The market started about the same time as another pioneering project, the Davis Food Co-op, said Evans, who was involved with the food co-op movement statewide. “The co-op was a buying club; it could get staples in bulk. For produce, we needed the market.

“It was a revolution,” she added. “It doesn’t seem like that now. You can find organic foods in grocery stores. What we did has become commonplace.”

Evans also is the incoming president of the Davis Farmers Market Alliance, the nonprofit foundation that supports such local projects as the Davis Farm to School Program. All proceeds from the cookbook will go toward the program, which brings local produce and scratch-made food into school cafeterias.

That goal has become Evans’ passion. “As children, that’s when you learn about food, what you like and how to eat,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to introduce kids to good food.”

Evans and her husband, David Thompson, also grow a lot of food at their home near Davis High School. A kitchen garden fills their front yard with fragrant herbs and healthy greens. A backyard chicken coop houses six happy hens. Citrus, apple, persimmon, apricot and other trees provide abundant fruit. Olives will be cured.

“I’m not trying to grow everything we eat, but trying to flavor our meals with something from our garden,” said Evans, a Yolo County master gardener. “It’s very important to our rhythm of life.”

First published in 2012, the original cookbook became an instant classic and helped start the farm-to-fork craze.

“It sold out,” said Evans, who co-wrote the book with her former business partner Georgeanne Brennan. “It’s been out of print for at least two years. People wanted it, kept asking for it. The book had become an iconic gift for the region. I felt it was still relevant, so I did (the revised edition).”

Brennan moved on to other projects, so Evans tackled the new edition by herself. It features 75 recipes, organized by season, plus basic technique such as how to process preserves in a hot water bath or make homemade pancetta.

“This is totally how I cook,” Evans said. “This is how we eat. ... Eating what’s in season makes a difference in price, a difference in flavor. You cook differently.”

Evans prefers to make things from scratch.

“There’s something to be said for convenience, but I think it’s a dumbing down of our skill levels,” she said. “You lose your connection with nature when you don’t see and feel the seasons. There’s something about a melon-based fruit salad in the dead of winter that doesn’t feel right.”

Creating new recipes comes as naturally to her as seasoning to taste.

“I write them down as I cook,” Evans said. “I’m writing new recipes all the time. It’s a habit. If it turns out really good, I put that recipe in a different pile.”

Those piles represent the makings of more cookbooks as well as fodder for her monthly Davis Enterprise column, At My Table, and online blog (at

Her favorite ingredients change with the season, although pie, salad, eggs and beans are menu constants.

“Right now, I love leafy greens; we’ll be eating a lot of those,” she said. “ My fall favorites are frisée, pomegranates and walnuts; all are plentiful this time of year.”

Fall also brings a favorite fruit.

“My all-time favorite fruit is quince. I love quince!” she said. “It’s the most old-school and dignified of fruits. (When cooking), it smells like apple pie baking in a flower shop. It used to be grown at the end of every country lane to provide pectin (for preserves and jam making), but now it’s hard to find. Fortunately, we added two new quince growers to the (Davis) farmers market last year.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Meet Ann Evans, get her book

Ann Evans, author of “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook,” will be doing book signings at the Davis Farmers Market on three Saturdays:

▪ 8-11 a.m. Nov. 12

▪ 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 10

▪ 9 a.m.-noon Dec. 17

▪ Davis Farmers Market is at Third and C streets in Central Park, downtown Davis. The market’s winter hours are 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and 2-6 p.m. Wednesdays.

▪  “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” (Elderflower Press, $26.95, 246 pages) is available at the farmers market plus several Davis and Sacramento locations including Avid Reader, Davis Ace Hardware, Davis Food Co-op, UC Davis stores, Soil Born Farm and Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Find it online at and at the UC Davis online stores.

Frisée salad with egg and pancetta

Serves 3

In her version of this French classic, Ann Evans uses her home-made pancetta and eggs from her backyard chickens for this “market lunch,” a fall family favorite. Frisée (pronounced free-ZAY), a close relative of endive and chicory, can be found at local farmers markets throughout fall and winter.

Adapted from “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” by Ann M. Evans (Elderflower Press, $26.95, 246 pages)

5 ounces pancetta or 8 ounces bacon, cut into bite-size pieces

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

3 to 6 eggs (either 1 or 2 eggs per serving)

1/2 large head frisée, primarily the pale inner leaves, torn into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)


1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, fry the pancetta, turning pieces often, until crisp and golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Pour water to a depth of 4 inches into a wide saucepan or deep sauté pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; add vinegar and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is at a gentle simmer. Crack each egg into a ramekin or small bowl. One at a time and working quickly, submerge each ramekin about 1/2 inch into the water and tip the raw egg into the simmering water. Set timer for 3 minutes exactly. After 1 minute, reduce heat to low.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. In the bottom of a salad bowl, combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper; mix well. Stir in mustard, mixing well again. Add the frisée, but do not toss just yet.

When the eggs are almost done, toss the salad and divide among individual plates. Divide the pancetta among the plates on top of the frisée. When the eggs are done, remove the pan from the heat. With a slotted spoon, lift each egg from the water, pat the bottom briefly on a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture, then place in the center of the salad. Serve immediately.

California lime pie

Serves 8 to 10

While citrus is considered winter fruit, limes will be rolling into farmers markets very soon. This variation on key lime pie uses California-grown Bearss or Persian limes. The sturdy crust is similar to shortbread.

Adapted from “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” by Ann M. Evans (Elderflower Press, $26.95, 246 pages)


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 cube) unsalted butter, frozen and cut into walnut-size pieces

3 tablespoons ice water


5 egg yolks

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

4 to 5 limes

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

To make the crust: In a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse five to seven times, until the butter is in pea-size balls and covered with flour. Add ice water all at once and, using short half-second pulses, pulse about five times, just until the water is incorporated and the dough comes together in a rough mass. Do not overwork the dough or the gluten in the flour will develop and crust will be tough.

Remove dough from processor and shape into a firm ball. Lightly dust with flour, then flatten ball into a thick disc. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes or freezer for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round (to fit a 10-inch pie pan) and about 1/3-inch thick. Move and flour the disc two or three times to avoid sticking, while handling the dough as little as possible and working quickly so the dough remains cool. Place a rolling pin on the far edge on the round and roll the crust up onto the pin. Position the pin over the 10-inch pie pan and unroll the dough round, centering it over the pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim and flute the edge. Line the pastry with a sheet of aluminum foil, pressing it against the sides and bottom of the pan, and fill with pie weights or dry beans.

Bake the crust until the edges begin to turn lightly golden, about 6 minutes. Remove the weights and foil, prick the bottom in several places with a fork and continue baking until the bottom is lightly golden, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks just until blended. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk. Grate the zest of one lime; set aside. Juice the limes until your have 3/4 cup juice. Stir the lime juice, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, into the yolk mixture. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Bake until the filling is firm, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form again, about 4 minutes longer. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Spread the whipped cream over the cooled lime filling. Sprinkle with the reserved lime zest. Serve at room temperature (if serving within 3 hours) or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Then bring to room temperature before serving.

Roasted vegetables

Serves 6 to 8

Ann Evans varies this basic recipe according to the season. In spring, she uses beets, young carrots, fennel and turnips with new potatoes. In summer, she chooses eggplant, summer squash and sweet potatoes. Use the reserved beet tops like chard, the celery tops in soup stocks.

Adapted from “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” by Ann M. Evans (Elderflower Press, $26.95, 246 pages)

1 bunch beets

1 bunch carrots

1 winter squash (such as acorn or small butternut)

1 celery root or 2 pounds potatoes

2 yellow onions, quartered through the stem end

15 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt

Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig, about 5 inches long, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim off the green tops of the beets, carrots and celery root. Discard the carrot tops; reserve beet and celery tops for another use. Peel the celery root. Peel other vegetables if desired.

Chop beets, carrots, squash and celery root or potatoes into bite-size pieces and put in a large bowl. Add onions and garlic; mix well. Add olive oil and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Season with salt and rosemary; toss again. Transfer the vegetables to a heavy baking dish or pan large enough to accommodate them in a snug single layer.

Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes. With a spatula, scrape the bottom of the baking dish to ensure nothing is burning or sticking. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to roast until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. Every 20 minutes or so, check the baking dish to make sure the vegetables aren’t sticking, scraping the bottom again with the spatula. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Olde English piccalilli

Makes 5 to 6 pints

What to do with all those green tomatoes? Ann Evans turns hers into piccalilli, a classic English relish. This relish makes a great gift.

Adapted from “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” by Ann M. Evans (Elderflower Press, $26.95, 246 pages)

1 small cauliflower, cut into florets

1 pound small white onions

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 cucumber, cut into small cubes

3 large green tomatoes, cut into small pieces

2 cups green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup coarse sea salt

8 cups water

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground tumeric

4 cups malt vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

In a large bowl, combine cauliflower, white and yellow onions, cucumber, tomatoes and beans. Dissolve the salt fully in the water, then add the salted water to the vegetables. Cover and chill for 24 hours, turning the vegetables in the brine frequently. Drain the vegetables just before you are ready to begin cooking the piccalilli.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, mustard and tumeric. Mix well. Add 1/2 cup of the malt vinegar and stir to form a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a large saucepan off the heat and gradually add remaining 3 1/2 cups vinegar while stirring constantly to mix well. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the vinegar mixture to a boil. Add sugar and drained vegetables. Stir well and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

When the piccalilli is ready, using a large spoon, transfer it into hot, sterilized canning jars, filling the jars to within 1/2 inch of the rim. With a clean damp cloth, wipe the rim of each jar and seal with a two-part lid. Process the filled jars in a hot water bath; boil for 20 minutes.

After jars cool, check seals. (The lids should be indented. Refrigerate any jars that did not seal correctly and use within one month.) Label jars and store in a cool dry place. Use within one year.

Musquée de Provence with new crop walnuts

Serves 8

Musquee de Provence is a beloved French heirloom pumpkin. Sometimes called “fairytale pumpkin,” these handsome hard squash are deeply lobed with dark orange, meaty flesh. This flavorful pumpkin shows up at the farmers market at the same time as the new crop of walnuts, which are moist and sweet. Together, they’ve become one of Ann Evans’ go-to fall favorites.

Adapted from “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” by Ann M. Evans (Elderflower Press, $26.95)

Eight 1-inch-thick slices Musquée de Provence pumpkin

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons walnut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pumpkin slices in a bowl or baking dish and toss with olive oil, coating pumpkin evenly on both sides. Arrange slices in a single layer on two baking sheets and sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper.

Roast for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the pumpkin slices with walnuts and return to oven. Continue to roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes more.

Transfer to a large warmed platter or individual plates and drizzle each slice with a little walnut oil. Serve hot.