Crepes

Endless Summer Edition

If the back-to-school rush has prevented you from getting to the Market recently, don't miss this week! Just four Thursdays remain (the Saturday Market goes until right before Thanksgiving, thank heavens), and the Market is chock full of goodies.

We tried a new fruit this year, the Pluot. A cross between a plum and an apricot, apparently, but I've also seen "apriums" at the Market, so I'll have to remember to ask the farmers if there's a difference. (It could be that the aprium farmers kept writing/typing "plutos" instead of "pluots," as I am struggling with!) Anyhow, Robbie at Collins Family Orchard recommended these guys:

The aptly-named "Flavor Queen" variety of pluots

In a nutshell--yum! We devoured them and were back for more on Saturday. The skin is slightly tart, like a plum's, but the flesh is sweet through and through. Makes my mouth water just to write this paragraph. And you can eat the skins because Collins doesn't spray their fruit.

I love how so many of our fruit vendors price to mix and match. It encourages us to try new varieties. Wade at Rockridge treated the nine-year-old and me to a "flight" of Asian pears, so we could compare and contrast. I loved them all, especially the 20th Century. No--it was the Chojuro--no--the Kikisui! Oh, drat, I'll have to go back and try again.

Got just about all of 'em in this shot

The nine-year-old turned out to have the more discerning palate. When she bit into the Hosui, she said it tasted like the last two she had tried, put together. Wade said that, indeed, that was exactly what it was--a cross between the Kikisui and the Chojuro. May have gotten those names wrong, too. You just try taking notes when your hands are full of Asian pears! Anyhow, great size for the lunchbox.

Fruit vendors weren't the only ones enjoying the bounty of the season. At Crepes they were serving up two specials: Blueberry Salmon with Balsamic Reduction and Manchego Cheese with Prosciutto and Blueberries. Oh my word. And the jam makers are going to town.

All this fruit talk reminds me that Alm Hill had some beautiful specimens of the "magical" fruit:

Beans, beans, the magical fruit

Those would be Appaloosa beans (like the horses) in the front, and Dragon's Tongues in the back. Almost too lovely to cook, but if you do, remember that fresh beans require only a fraction of the time needed for dry beans!

For those of you who have hung in this long, hoping for some meat to this post, I offer up the following recipe we recently devoured. All ingredients from the Market have been marked with an asterisk(*).

Lion's Head Stew (basically Chinese meatballs, adapted from chinesefood.about.com)

1 lb Napa cabbage* (Rockridge) and/or baby bok choy (Willie Green's)
1 lb ground pork*
2 scallions, chopped*
1 tsp minced ginger* (was it at Hedlin I saw ginger?)
1 large egg*
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp mirin or sherry
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
cooking oil
1-1/2 c chicken broth

Slice the cabbage and/or bok choy (I used a mix) crosswise in thick strips. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix ground pork through pepper, adding enough cornstarch at the end to hold it together in meatballs. (I threw in 2 of the Tbsp and then added the 3rd.) Shape into four giant meatballs or eight smaller ones.

Heat 2 Tbsp cooking oil in skillet on med-hi. When hot, add meatballs. Brown for 3-5 minutes on one side and then rotate to brown another side.

Meanwhile, heat chicken broth and 2 more Tbsp soy sauce in a large skillet or saucepan with cover. When boiling, add meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add in cabbage/bok choy. Cover again and simmer another 15 minutes.

This is a soupy dish to serve over rice or noodles. Or you can make a cornstarch-and-water slurry, add it to the broth and thicken into a sauce.

Everyone chowed this down, and I think the next time I make it, I'll double the cabbage because it was so tasty!

Beat the Heat at the Bellevue Farmers Market

The dog days of summer are upon us. Witness this little fellow I saw at last Saturday's Market:

Meet Sawyer, Market afficionado and recipient of a complimentary dog treat

Yes, the weatherman promises, the heat is here--at least through the end of the week. As if the blessed 80s weren't warm enough, my family is headed over the mountains to "enjoy" mid- to high 90s, coming back next Friday when the Tri-Cities will supposedly zoom over 100F. The downside: I'll miss Thursday's Market. The upside: as we leave Richland, I hope to check out their farmers market, The Market at the Parkway.

But since, for most Western Washington folk, a couple days in the 80s are enough to provoke whining and rain dances, I leave you with a few beat-the-heat tips, Market-style.

Tip #1: Grab an ice cream. From Molly Moon on Thursdays or these guys on Saturday:

Parfait is parfait--perfect for a summer day

Tip #2: Treat yourself to an apple granita (slushy) at Rockridge or a mojito-like lemonade at Crepes on Thursdays or a fresh-blended fruit-and-veggie concoction at The Juice Box on Saturday.

The unslushy version ain't bad either

Tip #3: Stay out of the kitchen and fire up the grill. A couple days ago we grilled rib-eye steak from Skagit River Ranch that had been soaked in a little lime juice and rubbed with chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, and pepper. Alongside the steak we grilled Market sweet onions and red and green bell pepper strips. Then we served it up as fajitas, on homemade tortillas (not that hard to make) and topped with sour cream and the awesome fresh Green salsa from Saturday's Seattle Salsa Guy.

John, serving samples

 John makes his salsas weekly, usually not more than a day ahead of each market. They feature freshly-squeezed organic lemon and lime juice, sea salt, Walla Walla onions, local cilantro, and, of course, plenty of tomatoes! There are Red and Green blends, in Hot and Medium levels of heat, as well as a chunkier Pico de Gallo which John labels the "Coarse Blend." His recommendation, if you don't try my fajitas? Fish tacos. Grill up some salmon or rockfish, sprinkle with garlic or sea salt, squirt with lemon. Wrap it in a corn tortilla and top with fresh salsa and sliced avocado. Mmmm... Unfortunately, we couldn't try the fish taco option because we'd already hogged down our entire container of green salsa with the fajitas. Maybe next week...

Or, Tip #4: Don't cook at all! Come down and grab a pizza or tamales or crepes or hum baos. Soup or a burger. Chase your main course with a slice of pie or the last cherries of the season, an apricot or two. Whatever you do, come hungry!

Stay cool, fellow food lovers.

Summer is Here--No, Seriously

The Chelans!

Yes, indeedy. Clouds and gloom notwithstanding, we know summer is nearly upon us by the fruits beginning to roll in. Last week I picked up this tasty, earliest cherry variety from Robbie at Collins Family Orchard of Selah, Washington. He expects the first Rainiers this week and his personal favorites, Titans, in early July. For those not quite ready to let go of the fall-winter feeling, Robbie has plenty of Pink Lady apples which still crunch satisfyingly.

The man himself

Strawberries appeared in greater number, provided by Youngquist Farms, Hayton Farms, and Alm Hill. My pint container lasted exactly five minutes once I got home, so it looks like a half-flat will be in order this week.

In the vegetable department, the perfect sugar snap peas continue. We eat these raw with our Homemade Ranch Dressing, steamed with sesame oil, or added to stir-fries.
And Kai at Hedlin Farms was selling little bags of baby artichokes last week! If they're still there this week I plan to get some, having run home to consult my favorite vegetarian cookbook, Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She suggests a simple Baby-Artichoke-and-Scallion Saute, a recipe this blogger did a post on.

Get a napkin, 'cause you're gonna drool reading this

For those of you who eat your way through the Market, I made my first visit of the season to Crepes and sampled their seasonal savory bestseller, the Copper River Salmon Crepe with Caramelized Onions and Creme Fraiche. Uh huh. (Only around for another week or two!) And washed it all down with their "mojito-style sweet tea," a minty-citrusy, refreshing concoction that Marketgoers swig rain or shine. If sweets are more your thing, Crepes' bestselling sweet offering is the Salted Caramel with Bananas, Almonds & Whipped Cream.

Not that the crepe stopped me from swinging by The Box again. I wanted to try the Mini Bagel Burger that I couldn't get my kids to order last week. De-li-cious. And at its modest slider size and price, you still have plenty of stomach and wallet to head over to the next stand.

With all the wonders of the new Market season, I haven't been able to keep you up to date on the latest food-horror books I've been reading, but I'll have a doozy for you soon. It's Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland, and, suffice to say, when my family is on the East Coast this fall for a little vacation, I'm not letting anyone eat the Florida-grown tomatoes. Be thankful we're on the West Coast, and we have lovely tomato options.

Speaking of lovely tomato options, Tina at Big Spoon Jam recommended her Golden Tomato & Citrus Marmalade when I asked what would be great on cheese and crackers to serve at book club. She was right. Piquant and very tasty. Tina says it's also her most local current offering, having been torturously and lovingly made with all those teeny, fiddly, local golden tomatoes.

So get thee to the Market this week! Pick up some old favorites and try something new.