Veraci

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.

Let Me Eat Cake

So my bread machine broke last week. It was 6:30 p.m., and we were back from the usual afternoon flurry of activity. I opened the lid, expecting to find a plump, perfect ball of whole-wheat speckled pizza dough, but discovered instead a heap of unmixed flour and plenty of goo leaking out the bottom of the pan. Bummer. And did I remember later to get a new machine or replacement part? Not until I thought about whipping up some pizza dough for tonight. Sigh.

Fresh pizza dough is one of the few items our bakers don't offer at the Bellevue Farmers Market. And why should they, when Veraci is sliding pie after perfect pie into their clay-and-concrete, wood-fired oven? But Marketgoers can pick up just about everything else: pastries, cookies, loaves of bread, pretzels, fresh pasta, whole dessert pies or by the slice--even gluten-free offerings from Manini's!

Tricolore Egg Pasta in upper right

Speaking of pasta, I decided to use up some of our garden-tomato extravaganza with a Pasta Pomodoro, featuring La Pasta's beautiful Tricolore (Three-Color) Fettucine. Let me just say, a pound of pasta is a lot of pasta. Good thing it tasted just as yummy reheated the next day. Can't wait to try those ravioli in the lower left: mushroom, cheese, garlic, herbs. Dmitri sells sauces to go with, or I might just whip up some Alfredo with--what else--added tomatoes.

And then on Saturday I discovered a new vendor, Let Them Eat Cake of Seattle! Artisan pastry chef Laura Springfield graduated from The French Pastry School in Chicago some years ago and worked thereafter making and decorating cakes. When her husband entered the PhD program in Philosophy at UW, they moved out to Seattle, and Laura started this venture. The Bellevue Farmers Market is her first and only farmers market at this point.

Laura was sampling these cut-out cookies which are almost too beautiful to eat, but my nine-year-old managed with no problems:

If you look carefully at the album behind the cookies, you'll see a Cinderella scene with coach, all done in cake and fondant! Talk about looking too good to eat. No way would I let anyone cut into my creations if the birthday cakes I made my family came out like that. Mine are all about the 9x13 pan, and the only bragging rights are that they don't come from a mix. Just a quick scroll through Laura's website will assure you that you don't want any of your children seeing the pictures, or they will never be content with homemade again.

Too often, beautiful baked goods are not the same thing as yummy baked goods, but, having brought home the Pumpkin Cupcake with Cream-Cheese Filling and Chocolate Ganache, I have to say you don't want to save these treats for the display case. Yum.

Pumpkin is the one not shadowed by the giant reflection of my head.

And if baked goods aren't your thing, Laura also does chocolates. Haven't tried these yet because we must draw the line somewhere, for crying out loud.

The problem is which to try first

I don't just load up on carbs at the Bellevue Farmers Market, however, or at home, when my appliances are operating. I also stalk vendors on the off days in their home territory. Yep, a friend and I hit up the antique shops in Snohomish one morning and then finished with a visit to both the Snohomish Bakery and the Snohomish Pie Company, located across the street from each other. You'll be interested to hear that these are both lovely little eatery/bakeries. The Pie Company has all its pie-baking out front, so you can see racks and racks of their offerings. You can't see into the Bakery's back room, but all the pastries and breads we find at our Market are right there, and they'll even serve up a sandwich on your favorite bread. (I recommend the Meatloaf on Pumpernickel.)

We have just three more Thursdays left this season (Saturday Markets go until Nov 17), so we'll see you this week, I hope. I'll be the one holding the pretzel!

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!

May Day

Good news, everyone! The countdown to Opening Day is on. If you follow any other local farmers markets, you see them all gearing up. My own hands are twitching for some Loki salmon, some Fishing Vessel St. Jude tuna (can you say "multi-can discount"?) and a quirky new vegetable to try, depending on what's on offer. Word has it Foraged and Found will be there with possibilities like nettles, morels, various wild lettuces, and fiddleheads! (Recipe ideas for such items can be found in the Bellevue Farmers Market Cookbook or at a blogsite such as Mixed Greens.) The kids and I were also sitting at MOD Pizza last night, agreeing that it, while tasty, couldn't touch Veraci at the Bellevue Farmers Market.

Market Season also means I'll have fresh blog fodder for you, rather than just fear-inducing food factoids that I've trolled from the media. Speaking of which, here's the round-up for the week:

1. If you haven't yet seen FOOD, INC., it's an informative and entertaining movie. And it's now on Netflix Instant Play, for those of you who considered seeing it in a theater but thought you might be stoned for bringing in your processed snacks and super-sized Diet Coke. I confess I have a thing for smart bald guys who talk about food, and this movie has two: Eric "Fast Food Nation" Schlosser and Michael "Omnivore's Dilemma" Pollan. (Celeb farmer Joel Salatin may also be bald, but he never took off his hat.)

2. And I read Susan Brackney's PLAN BEE: EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE HARDEST-WORKING CREATURES ON THE PLANET. Very fun and educational book. Given all the buzz (forgive me) about the honeybee's demise, I must say I was heartened by a few things I learned here. For one, honeybees aren't native to the Americas. So if they completely disappear here, it'll be us going native. For another, "killer" bees also help with pollination and make honey! Brackney reports that apiarists can also cultivate this hardier species, at a certain increased risk to themselves. And for finally, they may not make honey, but butterflies, birds, and bats also help with pollination. If only the bats were just a tiny bit cuter...

3. More good news for saturated fat lovers! Scientific American confirms what other studies and Nina Planck already pointed out: natural, saturated fats found in things like butter and bacon were not the killer after all. The food and diet industry hastened to replace saturated fats with such "improved" ingredients like transfats and soybean oil and carbs, carbs, carbs, only to find this move didn't help a bit with heart disease, diabetes and such. Butter and bacon fat are back on the menu! And--bonus--they taste way better.

4. And, lastly, if your house is overrun by mice, you may want to consider putting out some soda pop and processed food. Science Daily reports that the phosphates in such items have been shown to reduce the little squeakers' lifespans. Extrapolated to humans, researchers conclude that "high levels of phosphates accelerate signs of aging...[and] may also increase the prevalence and severity of age-related complications, such as chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular calcification, and can also induce severe muscle and skin atrophy." Whoa, there--we may not care one bit about chronic kidney disease or cardiovascular whatchamacallit, but premature aging??? Soda, we are through!

For some happier reading, if you haven't already checked it out, peruse my article on the BFM for Bellevue.com. Ever wonder how many people come to our Market? Check out the interesting statistics Lori provided.