Alvarez Organic Farm

Do You See What I See?

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Wow! What a great start to our new Bellevue Farmers Market season! Hope you all signed up for the Frequent Shopper Program mentioned here. One down, seventeen to go. I've heard they're making a movie version of Where's Waldo? because--er--well, I actually have no idea why someone thought this would be a good idea. But, if we're to get in the spirit of spotting things, how many of these goodies did you spot last week on Opening Day?

(Note: if the danged pictures appear sideways on your screen, I want you to know I've tried everything in draft format --where they look perfect, of course-- and the tech gods have it out for me today.)

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I saw thin asparagus, I saw fat asparagus. I debated with another Marketgoer over whether thin or fat was to be preferred. We agreed to differ, but the main point is that asparagus is here! (As a bonus "Do You See What I See?" point, did you notice Samantha has migrated from Collins Family Orchard to Alvarez? That shirt with her name embroidered on it proved too hard to resist, I guess!)

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I saw the beginnings of a garden! After reading an interesting book on produce grown in public spaces, I'm all for trying it out in ye old parking lot.

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It seems the little garden is the "Pop Plot." Further investigation is required... But before I could get cracking, I got distracted by the refrigerator of raw milk at Sea Breeze Farm. I've had a few ventures into raw milk and learned two things: (1) you want to know and trust your farmer, and (2) it's delicious.

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If raw dairy isn't your style, maybe you'd be more interested in Firefly Kitchen's tonics. These beverages are the leftover brine from fermenting their products, and they promise a probiotic shot in the arm with each sip. Not that you'll be sipping necessarily--you may want to ease into it by using it in a cocktail or salad dressing.

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I'm going to chat up the Firefly Kitchen folks at some point and report back...

Meanwhile, on with our search.

DSCN2284Welcome to Skylight Farms! These ladies had fresh artichokes, among other items. Or, I should say, they had "artichoke," since they were down to their last one pretty quickly. If you're a fan of steamed artichokes, better get there early.

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If only beans stayed as beautiful after you cooked them. Growing Washington had these beauties, along with the first strawberries of the season!

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I'll round off this post with a long-distance picture of the new smoothie vendor PureJoy Juicing. Clearly they should have printed everything in a bigger font, if the crowd was going to keep passersby at such a distance. I hope to get a closer look next week--that is, this Thursday!

Three Can't-Misses of the Week

Abstract: (1) Pork butt for pulled pork. (2) Freestone peaches. (3) Canteloupe.  There's your shopping list for the Bellevue Farmers Market this week. Now, go!

It's high summer, people, and if you haven't eaten a grilled hamburger or a pulled-pork sandwich at least three times already, you must be a vegetarian.

Because I frequently work as an official at my kids' swim meets and get fed by the hospitality committees, I've learned that Costco has a pulled pork offering that isn't too bad. But before any of you go running off to purchase some, let me also say that pulled pork is just about the easiest thing in the world to make, and NOW is the time to make it.

All this could be yours: Greek salad, green beans with garlic, and a pulled-pork sandwich

Beginner's Pulled Pork (adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution)
1/4 c brown sugar
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 3-lb boneless pork butt roast (from one of our meat vendors!)
1 c barbecue sauce, plus extra for serving (I chose a brand in a glass bottle with no HFCS...)

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Prick roast all over with a fork and rub dry mixture over pork. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Spread barbecue sauce over pork, cover, and cook 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high in slow cooker.

Shred pork and serve with extra barbecue sauce.

Really, it's actually easier than going to Costco to buy it because now you don't have to fuss with the parking and the monster cart and the long checkout lines and the people clogging up the works at every sample stand! You're welcome.

As for the second can't-miss of the week, if you're a maker of peach desserts, now is your moment. The freestone peaches are in! Ask your favorite fruit farmer for a box, let it sit a few days to fill your house with fragrance and to reach that optimum moment of ripeness, and then dig in. My husband made four pies for the freezer, and I've got extra filling to make a cobbler later this week. (Oh, and several got eaten out of hand because they were irresistible!)

Before
After

My hub claimed that this year's freestones were even better than 2014's. No big surprise, considering the weather we've been enjoying. If only he'd taken up jam-making, as well as pie-making...

And lastly, did you notice Alvarez and a couple others of our farmers had melons? I saw watermelons and canteloupe and so far have tried the canteloupe. Same as with peaches, you pick one and let it sit out until it gets fragrant and a little soft. Then you slice it into lusciousness and the family eats the whole thing in one go before you can even remember you were supposed to take a picture. At least, that's how it worked at our house.

Really, really, really, don't miss these this week! We'll see you at the Market Thursday and Saturday.

Strawberries, Asparagus, and Garlic Scapes

Of course you saw the strawberries last week, right? I bought two pints just to eat out of hand, and they lasted precisely two hours, with one child responsible for polishing off one pint all by herself. This week I clearly need more: three pints to eat out of hand, another couple to be there the following day, and still another couple to be frozen or made into a dessert.

My oldest has to prepare a fruit dessert as part of her Home Ec class (or whatever they call it now) in high school. I suggested an apple crisp a week ago, but now that the berries are here, I think I'll put this recipe under her nose:

Lemon Shortcakes with Strawberries
BISCUITS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk (or scant cup whole milk w/1 Tbsp lemon juice)
1/2 stick melted butter, cooled

TOPPING:
3 12-oz baskets strawberries, hulled
1/4 c torn fresh mint leaves, optional
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

FOR BISCUITS: Preheat oven to 400F. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients in a second bowl. Add to flour mixture and stir just until moist dough forms. Drop in 8 dough mounds on a cooking sheet and, with floured hands, pat into a biscuit shape. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

FOR TOPPING: Slice 2 baskets strawberries and transfer to a large bowl. Puree remaining basket of strawberries in the food processor to make a "sauce." Mix with sliced strawberries, sugar, mint, and lemon juice.

Halve warm biscuits and put lots of topping on. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

[This recipe was torn from a magazine years ago. Bon Appétit?]

That's dessert. And for dinner she's planned Two If By Seafoods baked salmon alongside asparagus.


Alvarez Organic Farms was plugging its garlic scapes and onions last week, and I saw a friend with an armful that she planned to sauté. Epicurious suggests this Garlic Scape Pesto recipe. 

In fact, how about the salmon, roasted asparagus, crostini with garlic scape pesto, and a spinach salad? Beautiful colors, all rounded off with the shortcakes. Mmmm. Hooray for Market season!


Summer Fruit, YA Pop Culture Edition

Last night my book club met to discuss that ubiquitous teen tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. As always, we tried to theme our food to the book.

Here they are, in l-u-v

If you haven't read it, the story is about two teenagers with cancer who fall super-de-duper in love, and I learned that the two stars in the movie also play a brother and sister pair in Divergent, which weirded out those viewers who saw both. Having seen neither, I was good to go.

And here they are in sibling mode

But I digress.

As I was saying, we try to theme the food to the book, so we went with "cancer-fighting." And what fights cancer better than our friends, fruits and vegetables? Since book club takes place after dinner, I have to admit that no one brought a vegetable of any kind, and any cancer-fighting that was going to happen fell to the fruits.

My Peach Crisp (which I neglected to photograph before it was eaten)

There was peach crisp and peach-cherry cobbler and one chocolate cream pie because chocolate is a fruit, right? Or is it a vegetable? A bean or a berry? We need a botanist to step in here.

I know I already went on and on about the fruits in season at the Market, but really--there's more to say.

For example:

My sister has always said that, when they bred the seeds out of watermelon, they also bred out the flavor. After buying this traditional, seedful melon from Alvarez, I am inclined to agree with her. SEEDS = FLAVOR!!!

My lazy kids took some coaxing to try the seedful watermelon, but after they tasted it, there were no more complaints. (I might have given the speech, "When I was a kid, there was no seedless watermelon...etc. etc.") Get one of these melons and see if you don't agree.

Then there's River Farm's Charentais melons:

Like mini-canteloupes, they pack amazing, perfumed flavor, as if everything in the canteloupe had to be boiled down and concentrated. Don't miss these ones either!

This post now ends abruptly. I got a new laptop with Windows 8 and am still in the love-hate, I-love-this-speed/I-am-going-to-throw-the-danged-thing-in-the-street-and-back-over-it stage. But I leave you with this funny recycling idea our book club hostess had, for those darned plastic honey bears. See? Perfect for dish detergent, and much more winsome than the branded bottle!

Shopping List for Opening Day

At long last, Opening Day of the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market is upon us!

The nitty-gritty:

WHEN: Thursday, May 15, 3-7 p.m.

WHERE: Parking lot of Bellevue Presbyterian Church

Follow the sounds of laughter and music and the delicious smells!

In case you haven't looked out the window, spring has sprung, and our farmers and vendors have loads of fresh, local, beautiful food for us. Consider the following for your shopping list!

1. Fresh asparagus. Yes, you can buy it in the store, but have you actually ever tasted super fresh farm asparagus? A little olive oil and throw it in the oven or on the grill. We had some last year that we actually groaned over, it was that good. Nutty and flavorful. Look for it at Alvarez, Growing Washington, and Crawford Farm.

2. Dark, leafy greens. Recently I've been hooked on kale and chard. I've discovered slivered chard makes a great substitute for shredded lettuce in tacos, or for the greens in your salad. Since I've disavowed bagged salad, I've gotten more creative with the kinds of salads that grace our table. May I suggest this one?

Kale-Lentil-Scallion-Almond Salad with Luscious Dressing 
Not exactly what your salad will look like because Gina of soletshangout.com used some different ingredients

1 bunch dinosaur kale, slivered, with the stems stripped out
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cooked lentils (leftover from my fridge. Canned beans would also work.)
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Luscious Dressing (which I found at Soletshangout.com):
3 Tbsp almond butter
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
smidge of ginger powder
two cloves garlic
1/8 to 1/4 cup lemon juice

Blend dressing ingredients in food processor or blender and toss with salad ingredients.

3. Canned Tuna!!!! Can I tell you how excited I am that Fishing Vessel St. Jude will be at the Market on Thursday? If you like tuna salad or Salade Nicoise, you will taste them on a whole new level if you grab this tuna. Talk to Joyce Malley about how she catches her tuna and what makes it way awesomer than garden-variety grocery store kinds.

4. Eggs. The Market is here, and I am so over eggs with pale yolks and runny whites. Bring on those happy eggs from happy chickens on the loose! Bring on those richer yolks and firmer egg whites, which must come of eating bugs or other things chickens find on the loose. If you can't bring yourself to eat bugs, eat things that eat bugs. Gray Sky Farms joins our other egg vendors this year, so this should mean plenty of eggs for all.

5. Meat. Got my yearly bloodwork done, and I'm still anemic, dang it. Rather than take iron pills, I'm trying to up my consumption of red meat, so let's hear it for our farmers and their steaks and roasts and hamburger patties and sausages. We've got Skagit River Ranch and Olsen Farms. Pure, pastured goodness. And it's not just beef. You'll also find pork and lamb and cured meats!

6. Honey and Jam? Peach or apricot or nectarine jam, to be precise. Not sure if we'll have honey or jam folks this Opening Day, but I can hope...I've been nursing one jar of Camp Robber Nectarine Jam all winter, and I'd like to use it with abandon, thank you very much.

7. Apples and some frozen fruit. Don't know if you've noticed, but we're reaching the bottom of the barrel at the grocery store. It'll be nice to ask our farmers, "What's the crunchiest variety you have?" And if anyone has frozen peaches or berries, those sure would be nice in a smoothie about now.

8. Potatoes. Ask your farmers to recommend specific varieties for potato salad (boiling), baking, or frying. And just ignore the part in recipes where it tells you to peel them!

Sneak peek of a Snohomish Bakery danish. You want the full pic? You can't handle the full pic!

9. Baked goods. The problem will be choosing. Will it be the pretzel from Tall Grass Bakery? The three-berry pie from Adrienne's Cakes and Pies? Close-Your-Eyes-and-Pick-Anything--You-Can't-Go-Wrong from Snohomish Bakery? I might have to bring more than one kid along, so I'm forced to buy more than one goodie and to "tax" them all.

10. Dinner. Say, just for argument's sake, you get so hungry just walking around the Market, buying items off your grocery list, that you decide just to pick up dinner there. Will it be gourmet mac & cheese from the new vendor Melt? Hard to resist varieties with names like "Cozy Pajamas" (three cheese) and "Game Night" (Buffalo chicken mac). Or maybe you should just pick up some soup or the tried-and-true favorite, pizza. Best yet, perhaps, would be just to meet your family or friends at the Market, that way everyone can choose his own adventure.

Lots and lots of good stuff ahead! Meanwhile, I'll see you all Thursday. I'll be the lady with the camera and the begging children hanging off her.

Color Me Surprised

My oldest started high school this week. She's pretty close-mouthed with me, as a rule, but one bit of information she volunteered to the whole family was, "At school they have all these vending machines!" Well, yippee. I groused about fake food in plastic packaging that never went away and was digested by sea animals, a comment that got about as much attention as you might imagine from a fourteen-year-old. The good news is, she has this not-unusual aversion to spending her own money, so if I don't subsidize vending machine purchases, they're not likely to happen.

What I will subsidize is real, fresh, unpackaged food from our local farmers, and, at least in late summer, there's plenty to tantalize.

Charentais (French Canteloupe)

Have you had your first miniature, super sweet and juicy Charentais melon yet? My boy has a thing about only eating foods that appear exactly how he expects them to, which means he won't eat honeydew or white-fleshed melons because melons should either be orange or red inside. (And yet he has no objection to a violently-colored aquamarine Go-Gurt or Otter Pop!) Sigh. But he will eat Charentais melons, thank heavens, since they fill the color bill.

Just the right shade of orange

Not the right shade, but crunchy and tasty were Alvarez's yellow watermelons:

After one taste, the boy rejected this, but the next day, having had 24 hours to mull over the idea, he tried again and declared, "It tastes better today." Uh huh.

In an earlier post I mentioned the great variety of peppers, both sweet and spicy, carried at the Market. Check these ones out:

Sweet peppers aren't just stoplight colors!

I forgot to write down the name (raise your hand if you know it), but they're sweet and they're going in tonight's spaghetti sauce. The downside to their color, however, is that the boy will be able to pick them out, unlike when I use red bell pepper...

For you traditionalists, you can still find familiar food looking familiar:

Although I overheard that white eggplants are actually less bitter than standard purple ones, and I've seen those at the Market, too. So take advantage of both kinds--drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and grill. I'd even add some shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard cheese when it's nearly done. Mmmm... Works for zucchini and summer squash, as well, which are all over the Market, if not being dumped by the boxload on your doorstep by desperate neighbors.

In her book French Kids Eat Everything (which I mentioned some months back in this post), author Karen Le Billon writes about her year in France with her school-aged kids, and how the culture there is to expose kids to a variety of foods until they learn to like them. There are no vending machines. There are not even "choices" in the cafeteria at lunch. I remember feeling despair when I read the book because it was too late for me, and my kids were already picky about certain things, but I am here to say it is not too late after all. If my twelve-year-old can get over yellow watermelon after a 24-hour cooling-off period, there is hope.

Say no to the vending machines and packaged foods! Swing by the Market this week and throw something new and different-colored in your basket. When in doubt, grill it. If your kids want snacky foods to pack in their lunches, grab some jerky or kale chips or berries or cheese. Put some soft pretzels or hand pies in the freezer to reheat later. My kids may not eat everything, but I hope, before I'm done with them, they might reach for the handmade food first and the lab-made food last.

5 Reasons Not to Scorn Organic Corn

The Hedlin alternative

'Tis the season of cheap corn in the stores, and for the past week I've had corn on the brain. Is it worth it, to buy organic from the Market's small farmers, supposing the taste to be equal?

First, to clarify, there's a difference between "field corn" and "sweet corn." Most field corn is grown in the Midwest and made into tortillas, chips, corn syrup, ethanol, corn "plasticware," and animal feed. Chances are, if you're not eating it with your salsa, you're eating it in your processed food products, using it as a utensil to shovel it into your mouth, using it to power your car, and eating it in your feedlot meat. (For a longer discussion of this, see Michael Pollan's chapter on it in The Omnivore's Dilemma.)

Then there's sweet corn, the kind we eat off the cob, canned, or in the frozen food section, Washington State is the #1 producer in the U.S. In both cases, here's why my family has gone organic where possible.

1. Most (90% of) field corn and up to 40% of sweet corn is genetically-modified to resist Roundup and produce its own insect toxin. It used to be that field corn was the stuff you had to be wary of, and sweet corn was fine, but Monsanto's recent push into sweet corn seeds has been changing the picture. I wonder how long sweet corn can stay on the Environmental Working Group's "Clean 15." It would be a shame to see Washington's wonderful farmland go the way of Iowa and the rest of the Midwest.

2. Corn monoculture is an environmental killer. I'm talking about those fields and fields of corn. I recently read/skimmed Apocalyptic Planet by Craig Childs because I love disaster books, and one of his chapters of planetary disaster was based on the days he and a friend spent out in an Iowa cornfield, where he meditated on species extinction (there were no plants or wildlife to speak of out there, besides corn), the dangers of the favored pesticide atrazine, the rise in genetically-resistant pests, and the plummeting Monarch butterfly populations. Bad stuff, and another reason to buy corn from our small, diversified, local farms.

3. Cheap conventional corn has wrought havoc on Mexico's economy. Because our conventional corn is subsidized, we can sell it to the world at rock-bottom prices. Problem #1: some of their farmers go out of business and have to go looking elsewhere for work, legally or illegally. Problem #2: when our corn prices rise because of drought or diversion to ethanol production, everyone feels the pain.

4. Corn ethanol requires 29 percent more energy to produce than the fuel generates. I know, this post  is supposed to be about the corn we eat, but I had to throw this in because I HATE ethanol. It's environmentally inefficient and lowers gas mileage, to boot.

5. Our Market farmers grow non-GMO, organic varieties that let you bypass reasons 1-4. Try Alvarez Organic's "Rambunction Yellow" corn, grown in Mabton, Washington, over the mountains. Or Hedlin Farms' "Sheba," which Kai describes as super sweet. He says Sheba is actually an early variety, but it comes on later in Western Washington.

A perfect ear of "Rambunctious Yellow"

Boil or grill some up this week, or, if you're over beating up on Paula Deen, try her recipe for Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad. Everything but the avocado can be had at our Market!

Breaking Out of the Food Rut

"Round of Hungary with a Padron backdrop" (River Farm's FB page)

A few years ago, a friend of mine hosted a high school exchange student from Mexico, and things have never been the same. Not only because the gal was older than my friend's daughters and provided a (sometimes alarming) preview of the teen years, but because she introduced them to jalapenos, and apparently once you've been with jalapenos, baby, you never go back.

Nowadays, if you open my friend's refrigerator, there's always a jar of sliced jalapenos, to be thrown in quesadillas, scrambled into eggs, tossed on a bland pizza. If that doesn't jazz it up enough, they add their student's favorite hot sauce.

I have to tell you--my own family's tolerance for spicy foods is pretty low. My husband's eyes water; my son complains like there's a blazing inferno if a red pepper flake crosses his tongue. So whenever we eat jalapenos (mostly in last week's pico de gallo), there are no seeds involved. And we gravitate toward the larger, milder peppers. Poblanos for chile relleno? Check. Anaheims or Guernicas for a salsa verde? Sure. And, of course, bell peppers for salads and shish kebabs and roasted for all purposes.

Another great pic from River Farm

Expand your food horizons and check out the selection at River Farms or Alvarez. I found this pepper primer with pictures to help you distinguish all those capiscum family members from each other. This Thursday we even hope to host chef and author Greta Hardin, who would be glad to answer pepper (and other) questions because she's actually written a cookbook called Cooking Your Local Produce (Ward Street Press).

Hardin hails from Seattle, so when she says "local," she means local to us! She'll have cookbooks for purchase and signing as well, if you want to take her knowledge and recipes home with you.

'Tis also the season for that other Mexican-cooking standby, the tomatillo.

Spotted at Alm Hill

As a compulsive reader, I found myself reading the sides of my tortilla chip bag one lunchtime, and they included a recipe for a salsa verde for which I think you can find everything at the Market:

Que Pasa's Salsa Verde

15 fresh tomatillos
2-3 fresh jalapeno or serrano chillies
1/2 small white onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup water
6-8 sprigs cilantro
1/2 tsp salt

Remove husks and wash tomatillos.
De-stem and was chillies. Slice onion into julienne strips and set aside with tomatillos and chillies. On a dry skillet, toast tomatillos, chillies, onions, and garlic until slightly brown. Occasional spraying of water on the skillet will prevent sticking. Tomatillos should feel soft and slightly blistered.
Add ingredients and 1/3 cup water into a food processor or blender and puree.
Add fresh cilantro and salt and blend once more until ingredients are well mixed.

Mmm! Then serve it with chips or whip up some enchiladas verdes, and you're in business.

These would be dessert

So lose your if-it's-Saturday-it-must-be-spaghetti mindset and try some of our height-of-the season peppers this week! You might find your life will never be the same.

Welcome, October

Just two more Thursday Markets left! October 4 and October 11. If you have favorite farmers and vendors that you hit up on Thursdays, be sure to stock up and ask about alternatives: will they be moving to Saturday? Do they offer places to buy their products in the off-season (buyers' clubs or CSAs)? Do they offer bulk deals?

The sun keeps on shining, but the calendar moves on. We're seeing sure signs of fall:

  

Goose Neck Gourds, people!

And how about these beauties?

As you probably know, you don't just pay those squash to look good. If they're uncut, you can just roast those puppies up anytime this fall or winter. Our family is still eating butternut squash from last fall, if you can believe it! So grab a few to decorate your house and eat them whenever you please. You can cut in half and roast in the oven or halve them and let them go in the crock-pot for several hours. Mash up the pulp, add butter, brown sugar, salt, and a little ginger, and you're good to go!

I tried two new pepper varieties this week:

Aren't they cute?

Darling "blueberry peppers" at Alvarez went in a salad, and the ones below were suggested to me as an alternative to jalapenos. Although they didn't have the slight kick of jalapeno peppers, they had flavor and crunch and worked just fine in my pico de gallo.

And then I saw these stripe-y wonders:

If anyone out there has an easy home recipe for Baingan Bharta (forgive my spelling), the yummy Indian preparation for eggplant, I would sure love to have it. It's the Asian subcontinent's answer to Eggplant Parmesan, and so far those are the only two ways I've enjoyed the beautiful vegetable. Err--fruit.

We aren't the only ones eating well this fall. When the nine-year-old sidekick and I hit up Juice Box for an "RPP" (red pepper, pineapple, and uh--something else that starts with a 'p'), we checked out the bin catching all those leftover peels and cores and such:

Food confetti

I commented on how awesome their yard waste must be, and they told me they actually hand the stuff over to Millingwood Eggs! Dave feeds it to his chickens who--to mix my farm animals--go absolutely hog-wild over it. All the beets in the pulp have actually tinted the eggshells faintly pink, I guess to go with Millingwood's lovely pink egg cartons. So if I drink the RPP from the Juice Box, and the chickens eat the leftovers from my RPP, and I eat the eggs from the chickens--mind-blowing. Some kind of semi-closed ecosystem going on.

Anyhow, there is all kinds of food excitement happening at the Market, and I hope you get over there! Remember Saturdays go until right before Thanksgiving.

And now, I leave you with a bouquet:

Because you're worth it.

Try-New-Things Week

The red guy on the end

So I've mentioned my thing for Samish Bay's Ladysmith with Chives cheese on Saturdays. But when I went by this past weekend, their new, brick-red, paprika-coated Queso Anejo offering caught my eye. Novelty won out, and I went home with a hunk that I sliced up for some very tasty grilled-ham-and-cheese sandwiches.

Lovely red cheeses weren't the only new items I saw. In fact, I took to making a list of foods I hadn't yet tried yet this season or ever, in some cases! How many of the following can you check off the list?

  • Red Cabbage. Hmm...I think of this as a fall treat cooked with apples, but it would make a beautiful coleslaw.
  • Wax Beans. They look like yellow green beans and would make a beautiful salad mixed with the regular kind. A little vinegar, a little olive oil, a little dill and garlic, chopped tomatoes...
  • Eggplant. Both the skinny Japanese kind and little round ones are available now. I would serve these as I had them in Italy: sliced, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and grilled.
  • Kohlrabi.  (if you have a favorite kohlrabi recipe, I'd love to hear from you in the Comments!) Very odd-looking vegetable that can supposedly be eaten raw or prepared like broccoli stems.
Exactly. Bet you've never had it either. (Photo: Natural Health Solutions)

  • Flat Beans.They look like green beans that are left too long on the vine, but, unlike those, they're still tender and crisp. You can eat the pods or just pop out the beans. Raw or cooked.
  • Personal Watermelons. Round and dark green and darling. You can find these at Alvarez.
  • Fresh Mozzarella. If you have visions of serving up that quintessential summer salad, insalata Caprese, don't even think of using the Precious mozzarella from the store. It's got to be fresh mozzarella (floating in water) such as Samish Bay sells, vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil. Slice everything, alternate them on a plate like the colors in the Italian flag, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fresh mozzarella is also wonderful in the recipe below.

Keeping with the New theme, my family even tried a new dinner this week, born of my desire to keep the kitchen cool and the kids' desire to have pizza. We grilled pizza! Although it cooked faster than we imagined it would and the bottom got black, the kids were unanimous in declaring it some of the most delicious pizza they had tasted, and they've had some good ones (I'm looking at you, Veraci Pizza).

First, some tips:

  • Have all ingredients standing by and ready to go. Once you put the pizza dough on, the clock is ticking!
  • Use a grill pan/rack, greased with some olive oil.
  • Because the pizza only cooks for another minute or two once the toppings are put on, don't top your pizza with anything that isn't good raw. If you want Italian sausage, just pre-cook it. Don't like your onions crunchy? Pre-cook.

Okay? Now you're ready. For our pizzas I made my own dough in the bread machine. If you have a favorite recipe, use it. If you don't and don't want to try one, grab some uncooked pizza or bread dough from the store. Roll your dough out pretty thin, no bigger than the pan you will be using.

When everything is in place, throw your dough on the pan and put it on the grill. The crust is ready to flip over when it begins puffing up like a fresh tortilla. This doesn't take long!

Flip the crust, brush with sauce and top with toppings. Close the lid and cook until the cheese melts. All done!

Suggested toppings:
Pizza Margherita: sauce, sliced fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, sliced basil
Meat-Lovers: great pepperoni and sausage from the Market
Veggie-Lovers: sliced Walla Walla sweets, bell peppers, tomatoes, even pre-cooked potato slices!

So give something new a try this week. Ask your farmer for preparation suggestions, or hit up someone else you see buying the mysterious item--you won't be sorry!

Bellevue Farmers Market: Bad News, Good News Edition

If you're like me, you always want to get the bad news over with first. But, take heart, in the instances I am about to share with you, the good news almost always outweighs the bad.

THE BAD NEWS: First off, there is a terrible drought crippling the Midwest that promises higher food and fuel prices. We had some friends visiting from Indiana, and they reported on the endless heat and wilted fields of corn. If you want to lay eyes on some pictures, Forbes ran this photo essay recently. So if you love your frozen and canned corn, your high fructose corn syrup, your ethanol, and your countless other corn products, there are rough times ahead.

Our apologies to the Midwest

THE GOOD NEWS: Washington corn is looking and tasting great! My in-laws brought us a dozen ears from around the Tri-Cities area, and they were beauties. Full-grown ears with sweet, crisp kernels. Not unlike the ones I saw for sale at Alvarez Organic Farm (Thurs and Sat). Get your hands on about 3-4 ears and try the following recipe. You will not be sorry.

Slow-Cooker Corn Chowder (modified from a recipe found in Not Your Mother's Slow-Cooker Cookbook--Market ingredients marked with an "*.")

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 of a large Walla Walla Sweet onion, chopped*
3 ribs of celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped*
2 cups chicken broth
1 small bay leaf
1/8 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
about 3 cups fresh corn kernels, cut off the cobs*
1-2 cups diced cooked Polish Sausage from Skagit River Ranch* (ours was leftover from a barbecue, so it imparted a lovely smoky flavor)

In a medium skillet, melt the butter over med-hi. Add onions, celery and carrot and cook until the onion is transparent and browning. I dislike crunchy onions in soup, so I do this about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker and add all ingredients EXCEPT milk, corn, and sausage. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours.

Add the milk, corn and sausage. Stir. Cover and cook on HIGH another hour. Adjust seasonings.

THE BAD NEWS: No sampling of alcoholic products at our Market.

(L to R) Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Red Table Wine, & Red Dessert Wine

THE GOOD NEWS: You won't be sorry if you give those products a try! I've posted before about my deep, deep love of Rockridge Orchards' Quarry Stone Hard (Apple) Cider, and at the Saturday Market we now welcome Wilridge Winery. Wilridge is a family-owned operation with organic grapes grown outsideYakima and a tasting room at the Pike Place Market. While the selection may vary from week to week, Megan chose her recent favorites this time out. For your next meal on the patio, check out the Pinot Grigio and Viognier, two crisp whites with green apple notes and a hint of pear. If you're grilling steak, try the award-winning Red Table Wine. Or the Dessert Wine with some dark chocolate.

THE BAD NEWS: Razey's Orchard reports that Bing cherry season is drawing to a close.

THE GOOD NEWS: We still have another couple weeks of Rainiers and still longer of such varieties as Lamberts and Sweetheart. Binge while you can!

THE BAD NEWS: I locked my keys in the car at the Saturday Market and had to borrow a Market volunteer's cell phone to summon my understandably irked husband.

THE GOOD NEWS: Before I could get a hold of him, I thought I would have to walk home, bag of iced Loki Salmon, hunk of Samish Bay Ladysmith with Chives, and all. It was very hot on Saturday, if you recall, so to prevent possible heatstroke I stopped at The Juice Box and ordered their "most fruity" option, the RPP. This freshly prepared juice concoction featured sweet red bell pepper, pineapple, key lime, and coconut water. Delicious and refreshing. Next up I want to try their "Julius," which I heard them recommend to a mom as something her kids would like. Before I could even finish my treat, my hub called, and I was spared the long trek.

THE BAD NEWS: Economic times are tough (duh).

Lori, naming names

THE GOOD NEWS: Farmers markets march onward, growing in number by nearly 10% last year, according to Reuters. This is made possible by eaters like you, committed to good food and community, and wonderful folks like the Bellevue Farmers Market sponsors, which Director Lori Taylor spent time calling out and thanking last Thursday. Thank you again, sponsors and Marketgoers, for making our wonderful Market possible!

Food of Champions: Olympic Edition

#4 on Unpleasant Things to See: Frenchmen triumphing over you (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

So, like many Americans, I've been glued to the couch, subjected to whatever NBC chooses to show me of the 2012 Summer Olympics, whether that be interviews with John McEnroe (huh?) or Ryan Seacrest (seriously--what???), gymnastics at 10:30 p.m., or a replay of the swim final I already watched hours before on the live stream. By the time they aired the Men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay, I had begun to hope that maybe I only dreamed the crushing livestream version, where France's anchor ate Ryan Lochte for lunch. Alas.

France's Olympics aren't going too shabbily. As of this morning, they have 9 total medals to the U.S.'s 18, and a greater proportion of theirs (44.4%) are Gold, to our 33%. Their secret? I mean, besides hard, hard work and carefully-cultivated natural talent? Lately I'm thinking it's the food. I recently finished a fascinating read by Karen Le Billon, French Kids Eat Everything. The title says it all, really, and when I had finished her account of her family's year in France, where they were all indoctrinated into the French culture of food, I was convinced. Dang it! Why did my kids turn up their noses at odd vegetables--all right, at even many common vegetables--beg for snacks all afternoon, and make faces when I presented something new at the table? No more. I was going to introduce more variety in our diet, limit the snacking, and, when the inevitable chorus of "What is that? Ewww!" went up, I was going to go with the French response: "Try it. If you don't like it this time, you will after you've had it a few times." I might even throw in a "you don't wanna swim like Ryan Lochte, do you? You wanna swim like Yannick Agnel. To swim like Yannick Agnel, you must eat everything, like Agnel does."

Take this recent salad, I made, 100% with Market ingredients:

Spinach, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, onions, Tieton goat cheese feta. And then I dressed it with

because Wade at Rockridge had urged me to try it out and give feedback. He's told me twice what "shiso" is, and I've remembered it zero times. Some kind of Japanese herb. In any case, the dressing tastes cucumber-y and very, very fresh. Our houseguests took seconds, if not my children.

At the same meal we served grilled Market vegetables alongside: bell peppers, sweet onions, and teeny tiny baby potatoes I got at Alvarez. The main dish: Two If By Seafoods salmon glazed with olive oil and honey.

Recently the Huffington Post ran a slideshow on some Olympian diets. Beach volleyball champ Misty May-Treanor likes Greek yogurt with honey, for instance. On Saturdays you can find Samish Bay's luscious Greek yogurt. Swirl in a spoonful of Cascade Natural Honey and a handful of granola or almonds, and you're set. Just about all the athletes ate a variety of vegetables and steered clear of processed foods. For those who needed to carb load before a big event, sandwiches hit the spot. And you know you can put whatever you want in the middle--it's the bread that makes the sandwich, and we have such tasty ones both Thursdays and Saturdays. The athletes would love our Market.

One final reason to hit the Market this week: some theorize all those fruits and veggies and whole grains relieve depression. The jury may still be out, but it certainly might impact minor bummed-out feelings, like seeing your relay get trounced or looking at all those Olympian bods and trying to calculate how many calories you've (not) burned, prone, on the couch.

Somewhat Natural Some of the Time

Last Saturday Market, while picking up perfectly enormous celery at Hedlin Farms, I got into an interesting discussion with a woman who was buying eggplant. She was raving about the "Weeknight Curry" recipe she tried from a new cookbook entitled Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. Apparently there were so many holds on the book at the library that she took the plunge and bought the book, all untested. Everything she had tried so far was delicious, original and garnered rave reviews--even her father, who "hated soup" loved Heidi Swanson's green lentil soup. And what did she plan to do with the darling little eggplants from Hedlin? Try Heidi Swanson's "Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant with Tempeh," of course.

Always on the lookout for a silver bullet, I was sorry to hear the recipes admittedly did not win over her picky-eater son (the other son liked some of the offerings), but I nevertheless did put the book on hold at the library and do a little cyber-stalking of Heidi Swanson. I'm happy to report she has a lovely blog which probably everyone on the planet has already heard about because it's won lots of awards and such, but it was new to me. I especially appreciated the recipe archives, where you can search by ingredient. No idea what to do with that kale you bought at the Market? Hit Heidi up! She covers it all, from cilantro to spinach, lentils to lilikoi. As she describes them, her recipes are "flexible." If you don't have the exact ingredients, substitute ones you do have--perfect if you try to cook according to the seasons and what's available at our Market. Asparagus might give way to green beans or zucchini to cauliflower. No harm done.

Cookbook aficionados probably already know that what some people claim to cook "every day"--what they whip up in the kitchen after a long day at the office--doesn't always tally with what the more-beleaguered of us feel up to, come five-thirty. I'm still waiting for someone to put out the Compromise Cookbook--not all from scratch (no, Heidi, I cannot mix and grind my own curry powder tonight!), but not all from cans and boxes. When I find myself serving a compromise meal, such as offered below, I try to accompany it with something "pure," like simple sliced fruit or cucumber slices dashed in seasoned vinegar. In fact, that is exactly tonight's menu.

Instant Black Bean Soup (adapted from a Cooking Light recipe)

2 cans of black beans (or substitute 1/2 lb of Alvarez Organic Farm dried black beans, cooked as here)
1/2 cup salsa (I'm using the salsa I made with my neighbor!)
up to 1 Tbsp chili powder, depending on how much heat you like, and the heat of your salsa
2 cups chicken broth
garnishes like crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream, grated cheese, cilantro

Throw it all together, except for the garnishes, and leave it in the slow cooker on LOW for a few hours. Or do it on the stovetop: bring to a boil, reduce heat to LOW, and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with garnishes.

Dang-I-Forgot-the-Briquets Meals

Not just the Fall Guy anymore

Our house has no air-conditioning, unless you count the constant chill provided by La Nina and the Summer of 2011. We did, however, hit a stuffy 78F inside yesterday--perfect weather to grill out. In preparation, I had bought a monster bag of charcoal briquets (my husband is a purist) and then left them in that very bottom rack of the grocery cart and driven home. Grrr...

If this ever happens to you on what promises to be a hot day, consider some summer slow-cooker meals. Just like the barbecue, the slow-cooker doesn't heat up your house. No slaving over a hot stove! Here are three I've made this summer, using Market ingredients and pantry staples:

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork (this one requires planning!)
1 pork roast from Skagit River Ranch or Sea Breeze Farm or Samish Bay
1 bottle BBQ sauce of your choice OR
1 c ketchup
1 c chili sauce or salsa or taco sauce or even pizza sauce
1/4 c mustard
a few Tbsp soy sauce or teriyaki sauce or Worcestershire
a couple Tbsp honey (we have the big jar of Daniel's Honey)
minced garlic, to taste (we like a few good-sized cloves)
dash of hot sauce or Cayenne or red pepper flakes

Mix sauce ingredients and marinate roast the night before. Then dump everything in the slow-cooker, add another 1/2c-3/4 c water, depending on how "saucy" you like things, and cook on low 8-10 hours. Shred meat and serve over rolls. (I bought a baguette from Snohomish Bakery and just cut it in several pieces.)

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Black-Bean Burritos
1 lb dried black beans from Alvarez Organic Farm
2 tsp chili powder
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (several farmers have jalapenos at different times)
6 c water OR, even better, 5 c water and 1 c leftover red wine

Throw it all in the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-6 hours. Check the beans at 4 hours. Alvarez beans are fresher, so they will take less time to cook. If you can't be bothered to watch the beans, set the cooker on low and let it go for longer.
Serve with tortillas and desired condiments. I usually scramble some Skagit River Ranch eggs and make them "breakfast" burritos.

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Thai-Style Peanut Pork (adapted from Not-Your-Mother's-Slow-Cooker Cookbook)
1 pkg Skagit River Ranch Pork Stir-Fry, thawed. (I've also thrown it in totally frozen and cooked a little longer)
2 bell peppers of any color, cut in big chunks. The farmers have lots of them now!
1/3 c teriyaki sauce
2 Tbsp vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes

Throw it all in and cook on low for about 3-4 hours. Then stir in 1/4 c peanut butter. Serve over rice, passing chopped scallions or crushed peanuts for garnish.

Needless to say, the perfect side to any of these would be a fresh salad, leaf or chopped. With the Thai Pork, I often steam some broccoli or green beans or peas and just add them to the finished dish because the sauce is so luscious. Couldn't be simpler, so hit the Market this week and don't despair if the charcoal or propane runs out.