Alm Hill

2013 Thanksgiving Holiday Market

You wouldn't know it from the decorations up in the stores or the songs on the radio, but the Forgotten Holiday is almost upon us. Take a seat, Santa--it's time to talk Turkey.

This Saturday will be the final Bellevue Farmers Market of the Season (chorus of waaaaaahs!), and it's chock-full of goodies for your holiday and beyond. Never mind the Twelve Days of Christmas--tell your true love you've got some Thanksgiving Market Must-Haves.

1. Vegetables. Thanksgiving has the most wonderful variety of vegetable side dishes, and we've got the fresh, local vegetables to make them happen. Potatoes. Carrots. Squash. Onions. Brussels sprouts.

2. Apples and Pears.

An impressionistic view from Collins' website

Both Martin Family Orchards and Collins Family Orchard have got the apples for your homemade pies, this season. Talk to the farmers about which varieties they recommend. Some people like their apple slices intact with a little crunch, even after baking. My family prefers no crunch at all. And just for eating out of hand, try the Packham pears at Collins. I am not kidding--don't let these get away. We ate them with groans of utter delight.

3. Cranberries! For your sauce or to throw in your pies or to frost with sugar syrup and serve as a beautiful holiday appetizer.

Ask nicely at Bloom Creek, and they'll give you a handout of tasty, easy recipes.

4. Don't feel like making your own cranberry sauce? Camp Robber Jams has plenty of alternative jams and spreads. Rome Doherty has whipped up Cranberry-Jalapeno Jam, Cranberry-Apple Butter and Cranberry Chutney to accompany turkey, all made with Bloom Creek berries. Or, for the less traditional barbecued turkey, he suggests Smoked Apple Butter with Chili!

5. Speaking of things you might not feel brave enough to undertake, remember the Market has handmade pies and tarts and pastries.


Yippie-Pie-Yay's pumpkin offering

6. Or first-course soups made from perfect ingredients! According to Got Soup?'s website, this week Jerry will be carrying a mouth-watering Potato and Kale with Smoked Gouda, among other offerings.

7. Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without any bread. Bread to accompany soup. Rolls to go with turkey (my kids especially love this). Bread for stuffing.


Tall Grass pics

8. And finally, to wash all that goodness down, Ciders and Wines.
Finnriver Farm & Cidery will be sampling special, small-batch cider varieties at the BFM this weekend:

In Finnriver's own words, "The Apple Blueberry is made with Finnriver's own estate organic blueberries and antique Hewe's Crab apples, for a sparkling, ruby-colored blend of sweet berry field and earthy orchard.  The Golden Russet release features the 'champagne' of cider apples for a bright, bubbly, off-dry, charismatic cider that will complement a holiday feast with its hearty taste and tribute to tradition." Oh my word.

And for those who prefer wine and no bubbles, Wilridge Winery suggests their Estate Nebbiolo as the perfect complement to our Thanksgiving meal. According to their website, "The 2010 Naches Heights Estate Nebbiolo is the second from Wilridge Vineyard.  2010 was a challenging year for many Washington vineyards.  However, some late warm weather in the fall favored those who were not afraid to leave the grapes hanging as long as possible.  Nebbiolo loves a long cool growing season like 2010 where it has time to gain ripeness but also maintain acidity from cool nights.  The result is a delightful wine that will gain complexity for many years to come."

Since it's the Thanksgiving Holiday Market will be our last gathering of 2013, don't forget to put some goodies by as gifts and personal stockpiles. It's a long, long way to May.


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!

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.

Season of Mellow Fruitfulness

Check out these beautiful pears I got at the Bellevue Farmers Market on Saturday--the baby ones from Johnson Orchards were too adorable to pass up, and  we almost can't bear to eat them because they're too cute. Apparently there are some folks out there who buy the itty bitty ones and use them in handmade wreaths, but since I can hardly use a glue stick without adhering every stray piece of paper and lint in arm's reach to my "artwork," these pears are in no danger of being merely decorative.

Ah, yes, all that pear and apple abundance at the Market means fall is upon us. Which means the Thursday market has only two more weeks to go. If you've been a Thursday goer, remember that several of our farmers offer CSAs in the off-season (Tiny's and Alm Hill come to mind) and Skagit River Ranch runs a Bellevue Buyers Club for monthly delivery November through April. And, of course, the Saturday market continues through November 20 in its location by Top Pot Donuts.

Speaking of sweets, let me put in a plug for Little Prague Bakery's pinwheel-shaped danishes. I don't actually remember what they were called, but I picked up blueberry-custard and apricot-custard ones before my son's soccer game, and my youngest daughter and I wolfed them both down on the sidelines, while he ran around like a madman and received only a couple orange slices. Good teaching moment about how life is not fair.

While Little Prague danishes and Jonboy caramels might not always be on the menu, our farmers have plenty of nature's guilt-free sweets available. Try the gorgeous and amazing yellow watermelon at Billy's--this variety still has seeds, and I had to explain to my children what to do with them, for Pete's sake. And there were even still raspberries at Canales Produce. Not to mention all those apples, pears, Asian pears, and pluots coming into their own.

Hope to see you these last couple Thursdays!

P.S. For you literary types, the post title is from Keats' "To Autumn." Not my favoritest poet, but I did get a chance to hang out in the house where he died this June, and that kind of thing creates a lasting bond.