Samish Bay

Buy or Make, It's the Last Market of the 2015 Season!

Oh my. We're headed for that long drought in fresh, local food called the Market Off-Season. Not only that, but Thanksgiving is only a week away!

Time to get your pilgrim on!

While I myself will be at a swim meet in Mukilteo all Saturday, I'll be thinking mournfully of the last Market and how I had no cash last Saturday to buy myself some Bloom Creek Cranberries. I even dragged my 12-year-old Sherpa with me through the rain to the BofA ATM, only to remember my husband had made off with my ATM card.

But you can be at the last Market. And you can fully prepare for your delicious feast. To help you out, I'm providing this Buy/Make Shopping List.

Bet our backyard squirrels would love to get their paws on these

Appetizers

BUY a Proven baguette and some Tieton cheese and smoked salmon. Or some Britt's pickles and Samish Bay smoked sausage for the relish tray.

Or...

MAKE some balsamic- and olive-oil roasted vegetables and some bread-machine focaccia, sprinkled with coarse salt

Salad

BUY some of the spinach or arugula or mixed greens and dressing at Growing Washington

And...

MAKE it into your favorite salad by adding your favorite fresh vegetables. I saw these sunchokes last week, which are crunchy like jicama and lovely in salad.

Turkey

BUY Hmm...hope you placed your order some time ago

And if you did, you'll still need to...

MAKE your roasted main dish. The New York Times offers these instructions.

Sides

Side dishes are the glory of Thanksgiving, in my opinion. And the Market is your source for side dish ingredients.

MAKE mashed or au gratin potatoes. Roast some squash and top it with your favorite sugar concoction. Grab some green beans or brussels sprouts. Don't forget to bring cash for your bag(s) of Bloom Creek Cranberries!

Dessert

BUY a pie. Heck--buy a few and freeze the extras. It is always handy to have a pie in the freezer. You never know when you'll be invited to dinner, and pies are the best way to win friends and influence people. I've never met anyone who didn't like pie. Oh--actually, I did meet one person and instantly distrusted her because how can a person not like pie?

Or...

MAKE your own pies. If there was ever a time to make an effort, this would be it. All those crunchy apples, just dying to be handed to the kids to be peeled and sliced, while you make the crust. Some folks like their apples still firm in the pie, but we like apples that get nice and soft. Ask our fruit farmers which apple is right for you.

And don't forget to grab a hostess gift! Fresh flowers or a box of toffee or a bottle of wine.

Remember, after this we're on our own until May, which means months of get-togethers where people wheel out the same Costco offerings over and over. If you just sighed, you are not alone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Three Thursday Markets Left--Eat These While You Can!

I hate the end of the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market because it comes just after the end of summer and presages the end of all Bellevue Farmers Markets whatsoever until 2015. Not to get too dramatic, but there are just THREE Thursday Markets left: Oct 2, Oct 9, and Oct 16. There will still be a goodly amount of Saturday Markets (until before Thanksgiving), but I loved thinking I could buy peaches Thursday and eat them all, since there were more where those came from on Saturday.

Don't let the season end without eating these:

Lunchbox size, unprocessed, and no artificial anything!

How can anyone resist a fruit dubbed "Dapple Dandy," even if it is unfamiliar, as a pluot might be to you. I'm happy to report that, as a lover of both plums and apricots, I'm entirely won over by their pluot offspring. They're pretty, too, which (to paraphrase Jane Austen)  a fruit ought likewise to be, if it possibly can.

Then there are the Asian pears, which Martin Family Orchards had on offer:

This particular variety is crisp and sweet and juicy. Another perfectly lunchbox-sized fruit.

I'm still seeing ears of corn at the Market! Here's a tip: buy bazillions now, and cook them all the same day. Eat the first ears just as corn on the cob. Cut the kernels off a few ears the next night to make this salad from a post last year. Then, on another night, cut the kernels off the last few ears to throw in this soup. (As always, an * indicates an ingredient available at the Market.)

Corn Potato Chowder

Corn-Potato Chowder (Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1976)

2 medium diced potatoes* (I used Yukon Gold from Samish Bay)
1 medium onion, diced*
1/2 cup chopped celery* (sometimes--found it at Hedlin Farms once)
1 tsp salt
2 cups cooked fresh corn*
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled*

In saucepan, combine potatoes, onion, celery, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Cover; cook 15 minutes or until tender. Stir in corn, milk, herb, bacon, and dash pepper. Heat through.

A lovely accompaniment to the soup and another user-upper of late season goodies is Deborah Madison's recipe for stuffed tomatoes:


I overbaked them a little. So sue me.

Tomatoes Proven├žal
4 medium or 8 small ripe tomatoes*
3 garlic cloves*
1 cup flat-leaf parsley*
3 Tbsp chopped basil*
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I chopped up a heel of whole wheat)
salt and pepper
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly grease an 8x8 or gratin dish. Cut the tomatoes around their equators and dig out the seeds with your finger. In the food processor (or chop by hand), whiz together the garlic, parsley, basil, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Fill the tomatoes with this mixture and set them in the dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake 30 minutes till soft and browned on top.

Do yourself and your family a favor, and cook a real dish with real, seasonal ingredients before they're gone!

September Market Must-Haves

Something about September and back-to-school got my eleven-year-old Market Sherpa daughter asking, "Is the Market ending soon?" Not on your life! It's still officially summer by the calendar, and we have weeks and weeks more fresh, local goodness ahead. Heck, there have still even been strawberries on Thursdays, and they're delicious.

But this time of year does bring the first apples:

Comfort me with apples at Collins

I stupidly only bought two of these new Honeycrisp apples last week, and the second my son tasted them, they were gone. Seriously, there is a difference between the first of the season and the ones which have been held in cold storage from last year. I'll be buying many more this week because I only got one stinking slice.

Fortunately, there were compensations for the apple shortage. I hope you all have been gorging on the peaches and nectarines and berries. The green pluots in the picture above were also a hit in my house.

And please tell me you're eating some tomatoes. I loved this stars-and-stripes style display on Saturday.

Here's a pointillist version.
One of my favorite cookbooks (Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) offers a "Farmer's Market Salad," which is essentially whatever's in season, chopped up in similar-sized chunks, tossed with some cubes of favorite cheese, fresh herbs, and a little olive oil and lemon juice. I've made it with tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, and even leftover cooked veggies like potatoes and beans.
Speaking of beans, I found two ladies talking excitedly over this bin of cranberry beans, which I've never had. I asked them how they liked to prepare them, and I was advised to shell them and steam or boil them just like green beans. Sounds like a great addition to the Farmer's Market Salad!
Slice courtesy of Veraci
Making my own fresh food with seasonal ingredients certainly doesn't preclude eating fresh food made by others with seasonal ingredients while we shop. I'm surprised there haven't been any parking lot muggings over Veraci Pizza--or am I the only one tempted when I see someone walking out with a box?
Not to be outdone, do take a look at a grilled pizza we made at home:
Yup. Apart from the dough, this can all be made with Market ingredients: tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella from Samish Bay. I used my husband's tomatoes, including putting some through a food mill and simmering them into sauce.
The trick with grilled pizza is to have all the toppings at the ready. Roll out the dough, slap it on the grill and close the lid for a few minutes. It'll puff up like crazy, but just flip it over, puncture it, if necessary, and top. A few more minutes and it's done! Slide onto a waiting pizza pan and listen to everyone groan with pleasure over the crisp, smoky crust.
So get on out to the Market this week and (to mix metaphors) find music for your tastebuds.

Heat-Wave-Proof Food

It's time for the annual heat wave, folks! Which means it's time to think about food that doesn't heat up the house. The Market can help.

And I don't just mean ready-made food, though there's that:

Beef Picadillo was a-w-e-s-o-m-e

A cool soup, paired with salad?

And then there's the pizza, the falafel, the hum baos, and other food trucks, of course.

But supposing you wanted to have guests over? We recently had a surprise guest roll into town, and I wanted to share our Market-Fresh dinner menu with you, with all Market-available items marked with an asterisk (*).

hors d'oeuvres
carrot* and celery sticks
cubed Ladysmith with Chives cheese*
cubed Cheddar (although a second Market cheese would've been great)
raw or roasted almonds or hazelnuts*
sliced pepperoni*
main courses
Grilled Two if by Seafood salmon brushed with Seven Red Tagine's Elemental Basil Sauce
Strawberry*-Spinach* salad
Steamed sugar snap peas*
Brown rice pilaf
dessert
Blueberry Pie* with vanilla ice cream
A couple notes: strawberries are ending soon! Grab them and cherries while you can. Spinach can be hard to find, but you can substitute another favorite green. I did cook the pilaf on the stovetop, but since it only takes about five minutes of active attention, I don't count that as "slaving away." Finally, we made our own blueberry pie out of Market blueberries and the pie-crust recipe featured in the Bellevue Farmers Market Cookbook, but pie-baking definitely counts as heating up the kitchen...
They're promising another shipment...

I'll leave you with the salad dressing I adapted from an Allrecipes version. It's delicious for summer salads because it pairs well with fruit/greens combinations.

Summer Salad Dressing
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (toasted, if you like)
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/4 cup honey*
1/2 cup olive oil or hazelnut oil*
1/4 cup rice or apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp minced fresh onion*

For Spinach-Strawberry Salad, blend and serve over 
 
10 ozs fresh spinach or greens of your choice*
1 cup sliced strawberries*
1/4 cup sliced almonds or hazelnuts* 
1/2 avocado, cut in chunks
2 green onions, chopped*

Have a great week and keep cool! As a P.S., I did get around to reading Wheat Belly and will give my report at a later date. In the meantime, suffice to say we will continue to eat wheat products in the UrbanFarmJunkie household...

 
 

 

One Perfect Market Meal

Those of you who come from families of more than one person know, it can be a difficult thing to prepare a meal that everyone enjoys. In my house we shoot for four out of five--if only one kid thinks it's kind of sick, we are in business.

Therefore, when I whipped up this meal last week and everyone ate it, my first thought was that I needed to share it with you. The meal also fit other important criteria:

1. It was a piece of cake to make.

2. It used mostly fresh, local, Market ingredients.

Drumroll, please... I give you Slow-Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup and Corn-Tomato Salad. (You can also throw in a loaf of Market artisan bread or make your own at home.)

Slow-Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup
1 lb beef stew chunks (available from any of our meat vendors)
1 cup of beef or chicken broth
1-1/2 to 2 cups sliced cabbage
3 big tomatoes, chopped in chunks
2 carrots, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything in the cooker and cook on Low 6-8 hours, or High 4 hours. Just before serving, add:

1 cup frozen peas (just before serving)
1/4 to 1/2 cup orzo, cooked (see note on pots below)
The broth is nummy--perfect to blot up with good bread, and the meat just melts.

Of course I forgot to take a picture until I'd eaten the last of it the next day.

I did remember, however, to photograph the salad:

Pretty, and tastes even better!

Corn-Tomato Salad (my variation on this Food Network salad)

2 ears of fresh Market corn (DO NOT use storebought or frozen! Everything depends on the corn.)
2 big tomatoes, chopped
2 cups of green beans, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, slivered (DO NOT use dried)
1/4 to 1/2 cup mild cheese, cubed (I was out of Market cheese and had to use shredded mozzarella)

Dressing:
1-1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Now here's the trick with the pots: bring one big pot of water to a boil. Throw in the two ears of corn and cook for ONLY TWO MINUTES. Take them out with tongs and throw in the green beans. Cook the green beans until crisp-tender, anywhere from 4-6 minutes, and fish them out with a slotted spoon. In the still-boiling water, pour in your orzo for the Beef Vegetable Soup and cook according to package directions.

One pot of water, three things cooked, minimal clean-up!

After the vegetables are cooked, combine all ingredients and toss.

This is the only salad my girls have ever asked for seconds of, and I plan on buying more corn so we can have it again before the season ends. Everything has to be fresh, fresh, fresh for the full effect. Fresh mozzarella from Samish Bay would be delicious in this, or their Queso Fresco. Tieton's feta could also work, if you wanted a tangy contrast to the sweet corn.

And finally, on an unrelated note, I have two P.S.es:
1. For fans of the crinkly variety of spinach, I found it at Hedlin! More crunch, less furry-teeth-sensation.

2. And, if you've missed the usual Asian pear harvest from Rockridge Orchards, I stumbled upon some at Tiny's Organic.

There you have it! See you all at the Market this week.

Five Can't-Miss Items at the Market This Week

Portable Caprese Salad!

If you're anything like me, with the start of school and kids' sports, Thursday afternoons and Saturdays might have become crazy-time for you. Gone are my leisurely wanderings of the Market. Now I'm a Woman on a Mission: get everything on my list before I take off to arrange carpools/run carpools/attend a kid's swim meet/get to my book club, and then do some more running carpools for good measure.

So if you, too, have a short amount of time, you can still catch the last of summer's bounty. Make time for these goodies:

1. FRESH, RIPE TOMATOES. We're headed back into the months of gassed, green, supermarket baseballs that substitute for the real thing, so get the real thing now. We've been enjoying homemade Caprese salad, homemade tomato soup, homemade tomato sauce, homemade pico de gallo. If you have a food mill to remove tomato seeds and skins, there is nothing easier than tomato soup or sauce. You just cook until the quartered tomatoes break down, run it through the food mill, and then let it simmer until it achieves the desired consistency. Sometimes I add some sauteed onions and garlic, and other times it's just tomatoes, salt, and pepper!

1.5 MARKET CHEESE. If you're into Caprese salads (and who isn't?), you don't have to limit yourself to fresh mozzarella, although Samish Bay does carry that. In my zeal to avoid unnecessary plastic containers, I've been experimenting with other cheeses. A quarter baby wheel of their Queso Fresco works just as well, as would the Ladysmith. And just about every cheese at the Market would be awesome in a grilled cheese sandwich, to go with that homemade tomato soup.

2. LOCAL HONEY.

Cary at Cascade Natural Honey has some tasty varieties right now, and he's happy to sample them for you: delicate Baby's Breath, perfumed Blackberry, or dark and rich Purple Loosestrife. I've visited Cary in the fields with his bees, and this honey is as local as you get. When these jars are gone, we're out of luck, thrown back on honey of mysterious provenance. (One note to remember: if honey is cheap, it's probably from China and adulterated with who-knows-what.)

3. PEPPERS GALORE.

Roast 'em, grill 'em, saute 'em. It's all good. If I chop them small enough, I can hide them in spaghetti sauce and soup.

4. MELONS. Meltingly ripe, juicy and sweet!

5. A SNACK FOR THE ROAD. If you see me at the Market, I usually have my ten-year-old in tow. She's my pack mule, for which I pay her with one Market snack. She's done hum baos from The Box, cookies and hand pies from our marvelous bakers, granitas from Rockridge, hand-muddled drinks from Deru, raspberries and blueberries, and plenty of ice cream from Half Pint. I "tax" all her snacks, of course, and can vouch for their deliciousness. Last week's orange-chocolate-chip  ice cream from Half Pint was out of this world. But don't take my word for it--try it yourself!

What's on your can't-miss list this week? Eggs? Bacon? Salmon? Pasta? Veraci pizza? The Market has it all.

You Got Problems? We Got Answers.

Happy July 4th, foodies! This week, let us celebrate our right to pursue happiness with some creative problem-solving.

Don't these baby radishes look a little like fireworks?

PROBLEM: No Bellevue Farmers Market on Thursday, so no last-minute pre-fireworks snacks or barbecue and picnic fixings. (I "planned ahead" last Saturday and loaded up on cherries and strawberries and such, but, strangely, they all got eaten.)

SOLUTION: Uh--actually you're out of luck and have to buy your 4th food from the store. But more on that later.The Market is open for business as usual on Saturday in its downtown location.

PROBLEM: You did plan ahead last week and bought a half-flat of berries, and now it's too late to freeze them and they're going to pot.

SOLUTION: When in doubt, puree it! We've made a tasty smoothie at the house, inspired by a Deborah Madison recipe.

Overripe Berry Smoothie
About 1 cup any kind of berries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup yogurt (I used Samish Bay's)
1 tsp - 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Puree and you're done! This makes one big serving or several small servings.

PROBLEM: You bought a crap-o watermelon for the 4th. Call me crazy, but I crave watermelon in hot weather, and Washington watermelons have yet to appear at the Market. So I got a couple at the store. The first was just fine for eating out of hand, but the second was awful.

SOLUTION: Puree it! Before kissing the $5 good-bye, I looked up recipes for watermelon agua fresca (because less-than-ideal fruit can often be salvaged in purees and recipes). This recipe is delicious!

And here's the photo from the Food Network. Mine looked almost EXACTLY like this.

Do puree that watermelon well, though. Drinkers of my agua fresca had to do a fair amount of chewing. I found this concoction also tastes wonderful when diluted with some ginger iced tea, which I suppose, made it some strange variation of an Arnold Palmer.

PROBLEM: Your teenager keeps asking when mangoes are in season. (Okay, you may not have this problem, but I certainly do.)

SOLUTION: Our Washington climate may not allow us to grow mangoes or pineapples or, heck, even table grapes, but I'm happy to report the first peaches of the season are luscious (we've enjoyed "Sugar Time"), and the apricots not bad. Buy them, let them sit a couple days, and then enjoy.

PROBLEM: It's too hot to cook.

SOLUTION: If it's Thursday, fire up the barbecue and throw on those new all-beef franks you bought at Skagit. (We ate our pack already, but that's another issue.) If it's Saturday, you can figure out this solution yourself--come on out to the Market, where everyone can find a tasty something to satisfy.

Pig in a blanket? Nope--it's a sausage, mushroom, goat cheese hand pie!

Hope these helped! Happy 4th to all. Recite that Declaration of Independence, and here's wishing no one blows off a finger!

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.

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!

The Market for Every Diet

That's what I'm talking about.

The weather forecast promises the arrival of summer, just in time for this week's Markets! And summer's arrival means it's time to break out the barbecues and bikinis. Well--at least the barbecue. But, if you were indeed thinking bikini this summer, have I got a Market for you.

Some parents and I were shivering poolside for morning swim team practice, swathed in blankets and nursing coffees, while we abused our children by making them actually get in the darned water. And the topic of diets came up. One woman was reading the latest book, a modification of the meat-and-non-starchy-vegetables "paleo" diet. She assured me it was an "easy" diet, one the whole family could try without too much effort. I took a quick look at its anti-sugar and anti-grains stance and handed the book back. All I know is, when I die, they will find me with pasta in one hand and bread in the other.

If you do hold with the "caveman"/paleo camp, you believe human beings' bodies function best on a hunter-gatherer, non-processed diet. We have a Market for that.

Two If By Sea

Your PALEO shopping list:

Fresh/frozen salmon
Pastured beef
Pork
Chicken
Sausage
Farm-fresh eggs
Salad Mix
Broccoli
Asparagus
Spinach
Kale
Cucumbers
Tomatoes

Strict paleo dieters lay off the dairy products, but if you lean Atkins-ward or modified paleo, you know cheese, butter, yogurt, and milk are fair game! Add in:

Golden Glen's Cheese Curds and Flavored Butters

Blessed are the cheesemakers! May I personally recommend Golden Glen Creamery's Cheddar with Sun-Dried Tomato, Samish Bay's Ladysmith with Chives, and Tieton Farm & Creamery's Feta, made with goat and sheep's milk? If you can't have crackers with your cheese, make sure the cheese is good enough to eat on its own!

Then, clear on the other side of the spectrum, was the book I read that compared the human digestive system to that of our closest primate cousins. It concluded that, based on our teeth types, length of gut and so on, we were made to eat mostly, vegetarian. Vegetables, fruits, insects, other plants. Of the primates, our innards bear passing resemblance to a Capuchin monkey's. Therefore I give you the

CAPUCHIN MONKEY Shopping List:
Blueberries
Strawberries
Raspberries
Cherries
Tomatoes
Sugar Snap Peas
Snow Peas
Broccoli
Asparagus
(any bugs you happen to find on the ground--no charge!)

Less strict Capuchin-Monkey-dieters can add in anything remotely vegetarian. If it were me, I would throw in some of La Pasta's Whole Wheat pasta, which Dmitri explains is not as chewy as the not-terribly-yummy whole wheat pasta found in stores because his is fresh. He also offers Roasted Bell Pepper Pasta, and Lemon with Cracked Pepper. Mmmm... if you're doing carbs, make them worth it.

And finally, if you've decided to ditch the bikini and the diet, there's always a scoop of Scout Mint at Molly Moon's. This, if you can believe it, was a "kids scoop"! Note the size of the Thin Mint cookie slab my twelve-year-old scored.

The Non-Dieter's Diet

Something for everyone. Enjoy the sunshine and have a happy 4th!

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.

Un-Junking Your Vacation Food

Courtesy of GoNorthwest! website

I confess. Our family just returned from four days at Cannon Beach, where all the walks in the world to Haystack Rock could not make up for the amount of food we ate. There was my brother-in-law's home-brewed beer, my mother-in-law's cinnamon rolls and Texas Chocolate Cake, my sister-in-law's "naked" cookies (Tollhouse chocolate-chip cookies, minus the chocolate chips) and pumpkin cookies, ice cream from Osburn's, the slice of the day from Pizza a' Fetta, and, of course, s'mores around the beach firepit. I gain weight just reading over the list.

I made a feeble effort not to let everything go to pot this time. Since other family members had the sweets covered, I shared some healthier snacks: Samish Bay's Ladysmith with Chives cheese on whole-grain chips, hummus, salsa, Billy's apricots. Most people, myself included, will eat whatever's in front of them because it happens to be in front of them. While treats are half the fun on vacation (YMMV), the trick is to make sure better options are also available.

If you have a trip coming up, consider packing the cooler with these farmers market finds:

Beef jerky from Skagit River Ranch or Olsen Farms
Salmon jerky from Loki Fish
fresh and frozen blueberries
cherries
apricots
granola
a cheese you can pre-slice to serve on crackers or chips
House of the Sun's kale chips
small carrots
fresh peas
watermelon, cut in chunks

Instead of soda, pack a jug of homemade lemonade or mint iced tea. Save money, save calories, save artificial additives and stabilizers, and gain in flavor and nutrition.

Any other suggestions for the road trip pantry?

The Bees' Needs

Amid the Netflix furor, my husband and I popped in the disc for The Vanishing of the Bees. "I don't really want to see it," said the hub, "but I probably should." Not just because we were paying good money for the privilege of having that disc at home and will soon be paying more, but because I often subject him to Frightening Food Films, including Food, Inc., Super Size Me, and even, indirectly, Temple Grandin or Napoleon Dynamite.

The Vanishing of the Bees went beyond a "should watch" in our house because I'd been hearing about the mysterious, widespread disappearance of honeybees in North America (had no idea it was a global phenomenon) and was aware of random efforts like Haagen-Dazs's "Help the Honeybees" ice-cream fundraiser, but--even closer to home--we're a family of honey-eaters. Yes, 1/3 or more of the world's food supply might depend on the efforts of the humble honeybee, but when that fraction is your 1/3, you'll really sit up and take notice!

Top Five Uses for Honey in Our Household:

  1. To sweeten the afternoon tea.
  2. For my son's peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. The kid does not do jam.
  3. For making Deborah Madison's granola. Her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone gets put through its paces in our house (and we're not even vegetarians). Here's a link to the easy, tasty recipe.
  4. To dribble on hot-from-the-oven buttered biscuits. (Also Deborah Madison's recipe, with 1/3 graham flour substituted.)
  5. To mix into Samish Bay's Greek Yogurt, along with a sprinkling of granola. (See #3)

Featuring beekeepers, farmers, politicians, Michael Pollan (no pun intended), and thousands of the little buzzers themselves, Vanishing of the Bees builds a compelling case for the crucial role bees play in the global food supply and what could be possibly leading to their catastrophic losses in so-called "Colony Collapse Disorder." Both a scary movie and a hopeful one. It made my husband want to keep a little colony in our backyard, following in the footsteps of his step-grandfather, who decades ago raised bees in Dayton, Washington, selling both honey and honeycomb locally. Thankfully this urge passed, since, in true UrbanFarmJunkie fashion, I would rather just pay the experts to do it.

Bellevue Farmers Market vendor Daniel's Honey of Black Diamond can be found on both Thursdays and Saturdays. I bought the monster 40-ounce jar for the discount and also because I like my honey stored in glass. That way, when it starts to crystallize, as all honey does, I can just give it a quick nuke in the microwave. Real honey from real local beekeepers is liquid gold--that was the sidebar I learned from the movie. Frequently, imported "honey" is adulterated with all manner of things to bring down its price. Chinese honey, in particular, has been called out several times, both for containing adulterations like high-fructose corn syrup and antibiotics banned in the U.S. But, hey, our country demands a cheap honey supply for its multitudinous processed foods.

With honey especially, buy local and know your farmer!

News from Over the Mountains

Gloriously Sunny Richland, Washington

Like many of you, I spent the 4th gadding about--in this case, east over the mountains to the Tri-Cities. Sadly, I missed our Bellevue Farmers Market but was thrilled to see plenty of fresh produce that will make its way to our Thursday market this week. Cherries abounded, both Rainier and Bing. More strawberries (my mother-in-law bought a flat for Independence Day strawberry shortcake). Blueberries. Green beans and snow peas from Yakima.

On the Day of Days, we grilled up hamburger patties of grass-fed beef hailing from the Dudley ancestral hometown of Dayton, Washington. As tasty as you might imagine, and leaps and bounds more flavorful than the Costco patties I've been downing at the weekly swim meets. If you haven't tried the pastured beef and hamburger patties available to us through Skagit or Samish or Sea Breeze, this is the week! Fire up the grill and give it a go.

My in-laws treated me to dinner at the Apollo Greek Restaurant in Richland, where I was pleased to see our own Tefft Cellars Winery on the wine list. With such agricultural and viticultural bounty, "eating local" has experienced a resurgence east of the Cascades as well. We had two lunches at Frost Me Sweet, a bistro that began as a cupcake business and now encompasses lunch and dinner. Local food where possible, soups and salads to die for, and--of course--cupcakes! I tried the "Elvis"--chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and an injection of carmelized banana. Wow.

Even the chats at the church potluck yielded interesting nuggets. I happened to meet Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's head of environmental research. He mentioned having been over in Sequim to check on a project measuring the impact of electromagnetic forces underwater on marine life. (People think of everything!) They wanted to see if all the human activity, and the possibility of using the ocean to generate power, bugged the clams and oysters and fish and crabs. Well, it turns out the crabs were bothered. You might ask, as I did, how they knew? The answer: they moved funny. Crabs move oddly to begin with, but I didn't have a chance to follow up on this point. The second nugget I learned was that they're studying three local dams to see the pass-through rate of salmon. They surgically implanted transmitters in tens of thousands of salmon and then monitored them as they negotiated the ladders. I was thrilled to learn that the pass-through rate is in the mid-90s, percentage-wise, and that the study will soon be expanded to include seven dams. Next time you want to complain about your job, just think--you could be performing tens of thousands of surgeries on salmon.

And one final vacation thought: Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm is a great read. Not only does it recount the rough lives and riveting deaths of several Gloucester, Massachusetts, fisherman, Junger also covers the area's commercial-fishing history and how technological advances and governmental oversights led to industry collapse. Fascinating. Read it and you'll know why getting your fish from Two If By Seafoods and Loki Fish is the way to go.

FAQ about the Bellevue Farmers Market

Photo courtesy Cook's Illustrated

You probably have some of your own, but here are the main ones I've been hit with:

Q: Has the Saturday market started yet?
A: YES! At least, as of this Saturday, June 4, 10-3.

Q: Where will the Saturday market be this year?
A: NEW LOCATION! Directly behind the First Congregational Church on NE 8th Street, two blocks east of last year's site.

Q: Will Skagit River Ranch be at the Saturday market?
A: No, but Samish Bay offers their delicious meat, and--forgive me--the woman known by my family as "the egg lady" has fresh chicken (and duck!) eggs.

Q: My kids eat a lot of storebought crackers for snacks. Do you have any other suggestions?
A. I do! For one thing, slap some cheese or flavored butters on those crackers. A little fat slows down the blood sugar spike caused by the starch. Golden Glen's cheddars are delicious, and they've added Cinnamon Spice butter this year. On Saturdays I could eat Samish Bay's Ladysmith with Chives till the cows come home. And you haven't lived till you've tried their Greek Yogurt. I add some honey and granola and--mmmm... In the fruit and vegetable department, the summer berries aren't in yet, but my daughter likes cucumbers sliced thin and drizzled with seasoned rice vinegar. She also went for House of the Sun's kale chips. And don't forget the marvelous beef and tuna jerkies!

Q: How do you cook the spring vegetables?
A: Always feel free to ask the farmers, but here's a favorite preparation (pictured) for baby bok choy from Cook's Illustrated. Asparagus couldn't be easier: just break off the woody stems, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and roast in a hot oven for 20+ minutes.

Last Market of the Season!

Stolen from someone's blog because they have better presentation

It's that time, folks. Time not only to pull out all the food stops for Thanksgiving, but also to stock up for the long, Market-less winter. Tiny's Organic had a helpful retweet this week on market produce that will keep and how to keep it, from old standbys like squash and potatoes to cabbage and cauliflower!

On my to-do list this week: make homemade rolls to stick in the freezer and fresh cranberry sauce. (Have to--ick!--buy a can as well, for my stepfather, 'cause it ain't cranberry sauce unless it has rings in the side and can be sliced.) Other than those items, I hope to eat local this Thanksgiving. Have you taken the Pledge yet? Puget Sound Fresh has aimed really low, and only asks that you purchase one teensy item locally, so with my Skagit River Ranch turkey, I'm already good to go. The brussels sprouts and potatoes I buy this Saturday are pure frosting. As are any pie pumpkins from Hedlin Farms.

Stumbled upon two luscious things this week that I want to share with you, as well. The first was the Braeburn caramel apples at Jonboy. You have not had a caramel apple until you've had one of these suckers. I had to share it with my daughters (the boy, thankfully, didn't want any), and the 7-yr-old even caught me later in the kitchen sucking every last milligram of caramel off the eaten-down core. Sigh. I can only hope there'll be more this Saturday...

My other tidbit was an appetizer I invented. Usually I'm a recipe modifier, but this one is my own brainstorm: Ladysmith Cheese with Slivered Prunes. Uh huh. Take one slice of Samish Bay's Ladysmith cheese (plain or flavored) and top it with a sliver of those canned pitted prunes. Mmmmm...Getting your fiber never tasted so good. Cracker optional.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Starting next week, the UrbanFarmJunkie goes into off-season mode, meaning I'll be bringing you the latest nutrition and food news I've garnered from trolling cyberspace. Stay tuned.

Two Farmers Markets Left!

The good news is we aren't going anywhere for Thanksgiving because the parents are coming this direction. The bad news is we aren't going anywhere for Thanksgiving because the parents are coming this direction. Meaning, I don't have to be organized when it comes to luggage and the kids' schoolwork, but I do have to get my act in gear about Thanksgiving dinner. Especially since there are only two Saturday markets left!

When you're thinking about eating local for Thanksgiving, don't forget the following goodies on the shopping list:

  1. The perfect hostess gift. Caramels? Toffee? Smoked Salmon? A jar of jam? Fancy cheese? Flowers, naturally.
  2. Appetizers. Assemble a cheese tray with Golden Glen's Cheddar with Red Pepper and Samish Bay's Ladysmith (Jalapeno, if you feel adventurous). Or whip up some cream cheese and serve it alongside Handmade in Seattle's Ginger Pear Butter. Or stop at Hama Hama for some smoked oysters.

  3. Potatoes. Whether chopped and roasted or mashed with tons of butter, the Market carries every variety. And I've said this before, but after you read Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire, you will never want to eat a non-organic potato again.
  4. If you aren't making rolls, grab some tasty bread at Ble. Slice it and throw it in the freezer until you need it.
  5. Don't forget that Samish Bay carries sausage, if you prefer sausage-and-cornbread stuffing. Not to mention, onions and celery can also be found at several stalls. If you like oyster stuffing, hit Hama Hama.
  6. Having a pescatorian Thanksgiving? Treat your guests to Food Magazine's Thanksgiving Salmon recipe, complete with cranberry sauce. Loki Salmon tastes wonderful cooked any which way, and the diehards might not miss the turkey.
  7. And finally, for dessert, there are plenty of apples for homemade apple pie, and I've even spotted a few pie pumpkins. Tiny's Organic had a new apple--the Golden Russet. Not as dramatic to look at as their Arkansas Blacks, but very tasty and crisp.

Get cracking, and we'll see you on Saturday!

Good News, and I Don't Mean the Weather Report

It was with guilt I sent my children running through the pouring rain this morning to their respective school bus stops. Maybe I should be homeschooling them, so they could huddle at home on icky days, wearing their sweats. Not that I would know anything about that. The only problem is that I don't have it in me to homeschool, so their education would go out the window. Is it better to be comfy and dry, or literate?

Well, better than either option is to be well-fed. Therefore, rather than wrestle with such weighty issues, let me distract you from the soggy gloom with good news about our food providers at the Bellevue Farmers Market.

First off, Samish Bay recently competed in the American Cheese Society's annual competition at Seattle's Benaroya Hall, and--drumroll, please--took home a boatload of awards!

First Place, Fresh Unripened Cow's Milk Cheeses: Ladysmith

Second Place, Farmstead Cheeses Aged up to 60 Days: Aged Ladysmith

Third Place, Farmstead Cheeses with Flavoring: Ladysmith with Chives (all I can say about this is, if Ladysmith with Chives got third place, I really have to get my hands on first and second place because this is a huge household favorite!)

Third Place, Cultured Products from Cow's Milk: Samish Bay Yogurt Cheese (Labneh)

Congratulations to Samish Bay! Today for lunch I'm making myself a sandwich with roast beef, Ladysmith with Chives, and cucumber. And for breakfast I had their Greek Yogurt, to which I added BFM's Sweet as Can Bee Honey, Hedlin Farms blueberries, and homemade granola. Delish.

In other good news, Loki Fish reports a banner year for the Frasier River salmon run. This tasty variety rivals King for oil-content but is slightly leaner. Get Frasier River salmon fresh now. Loki also has fresh King salmon from Pt. Roberts, Washington, and frozen Keta. Remember: buy 10 lbs and get 10% off!

And my last tidbit: the first apples of the season are in. This is the lovely part of the year where peaches and pluots and berries and apples overlap. Could it get any better? I snapped up some Gingergolds, but once my children tasted them I realized I didn't get enough. This Thursday and Saturday I plan to remedy that.

Swing by the Market this week, whatever the weather, and enjoy the bounty of our award-winning farmers and producers!

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers

...for they allowed me to invite myself to someone else's house for dinner last night. Really. There I was, sitting by our neighborhood pool at 5:15 p.m., chatting with a friend. Talk turned to our respective dinner menus, and she was planning chicken-pesto pizza made on the grill(!!!). "How about you?"

Uh...I thought of what was thawing on the counter at home, which was exactly nothing. I thought of how good that pizza sounded. I thought of how much more fun it would be to go to someone else's house and eat their planned meal than to come home and rummage through the freezer. "We'll probably grill some sausages," I said. Which was true, since that's probably what I would have whipped out of said freezer.

"Hmm...that sounds good."

"We could come grill them at your house!" I suggested, sensing weakness. "Have a potluck!"

"Oh..."

"They're from the farmers market! Skagit River Ranch Beef Summer Sausage and some Italian."

"Well, the house is a mess..."

"So's ours! I don't care about that. And I have some sugar snap peas--and pluots--" There was further softening, but I saw I would have to use the ace up my sleeve. "--And I have cheese."

Now this friend has a weakness for cheese. Her ears perked up. "What kind of cheese?"

"I picked up two kinds at the Market. This cheddar with salsa from Golden Glen Creamery and this fresh kind with chives from Samish Bay. They're so luscious! Four out of five Dudleys love them." (The fifth Dudley being my son, who only tolerates shredded cheddar that falls in a certain range of yellows on the color spectrum.) That clinched it. Have cheese, will travel.

And I think they weren't sorry to have us. They complimented the sausage, although it took a little extra grill time since I pulled them hard as rocks from my freezer, and the cheese was pronounced delicious with a "great texture." Even their nine-year-old boy had several thick slices of the Ladysmith with Chives, and my oldest daughter attempted to toast some of the Queso with Salsa over the fire, while others roasted marshmallows.

It's one thing to use our Bellevue Farmers Market as a source of hostess gifts. Another thing altogether to use it to get yourself hosted in the first place. If you haven't picked up farm-fresh cheese and you're still buying those generic blocks from the grocery store, let this be the week you branch out. Our cheesemakers carry everything from fresh curds to aged, grating cheeses. And Samish Bay's Ladysmith was named by Seattle Weekly as "the best, and by best we mean Most Addictively Snackable, New Cheese."

I know I'll be picking up some more varieties this week because we are cleaned out!