Camp Robber Jams

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.

Homemade Yogurt, or, Another Plastic Container Bites the Dust

Do the depths of your kitchen cabinet contain a collection like this?

After reusing and recycling, all that's left is "Reduce"!

I think I finally reached the breaking point with plastic sour cream and yogurt containers, even though I've found the City of Bellevue will recycle the lids as well, as long as they're 3" across. It was time to give homemade yogurt a try and homemade sour cream another go. I'll get to the sour cream in another post because I still had a plastic container of it in the fridge.

The book I mentioned last week suggested buying cultures creme fraiche and yogurt at Cheesemaking.com. Each individual packet of cultures made a quart of finished product. When it came time to make the yogurt (i.e., we were almost out of storebought and, dang it, I did not want even ONE more plastic container), I was torn between using the book's instructions or the instructions on the packet of cultures. I went with the book. Next time I'll try the official instructions and let you know how it goes.

First, I picked a good whole milk that had not been ultra-pasteurized, which apparently doesn't work as well when cultured. I found this (glass) bottle at Whole Foods. The book called for 4-1/2 cups, while the packet called for 4 cups. Next time I'll just use 4 cups so it fits all in one jar and gets thicker.

Then I had my little packet of cultures.

Following the book's directions, I "iced" my pot, to prevent the milk from scalding.

See that ice cube melting? (Ignore the weird suspension of the candy thermometer. I later abandoned that method.) You let the ice cube melt and then swirl the cold water across the bottom of the pot. After you add the milk, you stir only with a non-metal spoon. Voila! No scalding!

I heated the milk to 180F. Actually, to 195F because I wasn't paying attention. Then it was supposed to sit off the heat and cool to 110, but I tried to let it sit ten extra minutes at higher heat because the yogurt culture packet said that would make it thicker.

Then I forgot about it again, and the milk temperature dropped below 110F. Oops. Quickly, I whirled in the culture packet and poured it into my jars. I wrapped the jars in beach towels and put them in an insulated cooler, like one you take to the beach. About 6-7 hours later, I took the jars out. The main one had thickened nicely, but the little one didn't. No idea why.

And the result? Delicious! As good as storebought--creamy and smooth and tangy, and about the same price, when all was said and done.

The book had all kinds of suggestions for making flavored yogurt--all of which sounded like too much hassle. Instead, we just swirled some nectarine jam in from BFM's own Camp Robber Jams, sprinkled in homemade granola, and we were set!

Super easy and no plastic guilt. I highly recommend.

Summer is (Un)officially Here!

No 2013 blueberries yet? No problem!

It's the last day of school in the Bellevue School District, a day greeted with equal parts relief and dismay. Relief: no more having to get anyone up and out the door. Dismay: yes, you really did forget to buy the teacher an end-of-the-year gift, and you already opened (and ate half) of the packaged goodies you bought at the Bellevue Farmers Market last week. Thank heavens for that one jar of Camp Robber Jams Cherries with Kirsch you've been saving...

Summer is (un)officially here! Until mid-July, we're still living off last year's frozen blueberries, like Whitehorse Meadows Farm's Rubels and Jerseys. I bought a bag of Rubels to make blueberry muffins, since they are smaller and tangier than Jerseys--closer to huckleberries, in fact--and the kids approve. If you don't want the frozen berries, they also offer several preserves and chutneys and a blueberry compote perfect for dishing over waffles, ice cream, or straight into your gaping mouth.

Lovers of fresh fruit need not despair, of course.

'Cuz strawberries are in. Multiple varieties at multiple farmers. Best to try them all. My ten-year-old favors the big berries (all that brainwashing from what she sees in the clamshell containers at the grocery store), while I like them tiny.

Strawberries with a smile.

And the cherries continue.

Even on days too cloudy to see Mt Rainier, we still have the eponymous cherries

You know, don't you, that soft fruits and berries regularly make the list of produce that you want to buy organic? If you're not sure how our farmers grow their fruit, just ask! Some are certified organic; others don't bother with the (very expensive) certification, but their fruit is still "spray-free."

Our (un)official summer Market isn't just about fruit, you know. Did you see this colorful sign last week?

If you followed the arrow, it led you to these puppies...

No, those are not carved wooden beads

Raise your hand if you've never cooked with Morel mushrooms! Well, my hand went up, too. I can't even get my kids to eat the cutesy button mushrooms that make it into cartoons, so I confess I didn't buy any of these. But after a little research, I'm thinking I want to saute some for the next hamburger cookout or to add to scrambled eggs. It looks like once you've gone Morel, you'll never go back.

And finally, having just read Michael Pollan's Cooked, which I will talk about at some later date, I have to put a word in for bread and cheese.

I was at book club last night, to which I brought a quarter wheel of one of these:

and talk turned to our farmers market. One friend said she tried the Saturday Market's Midori Bakery on my suggestion, and she and her husband went back four times. It was that good. The traditional croissant and "Sugar Brioche" came in for special mention, and everyone's mouth got to watering. And I've got to put a word in for Tall Grass Bakery's Sourdough Rye, which I bought after reading how Pollan extols the wonders of sourdough in Cooked. My attempts at homemade bread are well enough, in their way, but they do not begin to approach this loaf!

So happy kind-of summer to you! Hope you celebrate lighter traffic and lazier mornings with a visit to our wonderful markets.

Well, We Still Have Our Farmers Market

Already missing the honey and berries (Photo: AP)

Okay, time to stop sniffling into my Bing cherries while I watch Ichiro videos, and get down to business. I wish our dear Seattle icon all the best (including--gulp--a World Series appearance), but he's only got two more days in our lovely, temperate corner of the country, so I hope he can send someone down to the nearest farmers market to grab these goodies before he goes:

Local honey. Imagine my thrilledness when I hit the Market last Thursday and found both Rockridge Orchard's Orchard Blossom Honey and Cascade Natural Honey's Blueberry Honey! I got a jar of each. Wade of Rockridge claims he can taste just a touch of the Broad Leaf Maple in his Apple-Pear Blossom Honey, and I've already posted about the luscious delights of CNH's Blueberry variety.

Wild Alaskan Salmon. Hit up Two If By Seafood (Thursday) or Loki Fish (Saturday) for the tastiest salmon this side of Seastar. We basted our last filet in olive oil and Market honey, seasoned with salt and pepper, and threw it on the grill. It was devoured.

Northwest Cherries. The season is brief, so load up. I've bought some of every variety so far and thrown in a jar of Camp Robber Jams' (Saturday) Cherry Jam with Kirsch for good measure. My visiting mom was inspired to buy a cherry pitter in the hopes of making a pie...

Northwest Berries. The first two blueberry pies are in the freezer, and I have orders to bring back another half-flat. The raspberries didn't even make it till dinner time. Clearly I didn't buy enough.

Pastries from Little Prague Bakery. Did I mention my mother was visiting? Every time we left the house, she seemed to come back with bakery boxes, and the visit to the Market was no exception. We had some beautiful berry cake-looking bar (my nephew called dibs), a melt-in-your-mouth apple cinnamon creation, and an apricot one that disappeared by the second time I looked in the box. These, in addition to granitas from Rockridge, scoops from Molly Moon's and a box of Dark Chocolate toffee from Pete's Perfect Butter Toffee. Yikes. That exploding sound is just my family blowing up after so many sweets.

Compile your own list of Can't-Miss Items at this week's Markets! Maybe we could send Ichiro a care package. He'll need it, with those Yankees fans.