Asian pears

Five Reasons to Hit the Market Before It's Over for the Season

Only two Markets left for the 2016 season, and they'll be held, rain or shine. In fact, the only time I can remember the Market being cancelled was that one Saturday Market with the huge gusty winds which blew canopies away, turning them into projectile missiles... As the sun and pleasant temperatures give way to that monoseason which lasts from October to July, I thought you might need a little motivating to get out there two more times:

ONE: The apple pie contest was moved to this week, October 20! It's not too late to turn out and have your mouth water while you look on.

apple_pie

TWO: It's time to stock up. Last year I experimented with "cold storage" for apples. I put a cooler outside and put a couple bags in and then just ate them at a regular rate. Worked just fine. This frees up refrigerator space for the bags of pears and Asian pears! Potatoes also keep fine in the fridge, and we let squash go all winter just sitting on the floor in the pantry.

THREE: Disaster preparedness! In our home I've been assigned gathering canned/boxed food in case of The Big One. Clearly last Saturday's storm was not The Big One, which means it's still out there. If this nameless disaster were to hit today, based on the current pantry ingredients, my family would be thrown back on lots of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, tuna, a can of coconut milk, and some strange parsley sauce that was on clearance at QFC. Our Market offers tuna, of course, in more flavors and varieties than the grocery store, as well as pickled foods in jars, beef and tuna jerky, jams and honey, and beverages. Because if the power is going to be out or you've been pinned under a fallen bookcase, you might as well live a little.

preparedness

FOUR and FIVE and FIVE-POINT-FIVE: Because walking and vegetables and wine will improve your health. Read a great book this week, which I'll write more about later, but the author's main point was that "healthy habits matter more than weight." And, according to author Sandra Aamodt, "four health habits predict much of the risk of dying over the next fourteen years, regardless of weight." These silver bullets are: (1) not smoking; (2) exercising at least twelve times a month; (3) eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day; and (4) light to moderate drinking. The Market can't help you with your smoking habit, but walking the stalls can be part of your exercising, and there are fruits, vegetables, and wine bottles galore. (FYI, "light to moderate drinking" was defined as a glass of wine per day for women and two glasses for men.)

So you see, I've turned the last couple weeks of the Market into a life-or-death situation for you. So please--choose life!

Five Reasons to Hit the Saturday Market This Week

At book club last night, a friend mentioned dropping by Trader Joe's and finding that just about everything seemed to be Pumpkin Spice. There were the snack bars, the coffee (blergh!), the chai, the pumpkin spice cakes and pies and frozen things. There was actual Pumpkin Pie Spice. Pumpkin dog biscuits.

Because dogs like food trends, too

Pumpkins are hot. And if you like pumpkins, this would be the year to take advantage of their trendiness, because in a year or two pumpkins will probably go the way of sun-dried tomatoes and chia seeds. (Chia seeds, at least, are just over the trend crest, so there are still plenty of the little fellas to be found, gracing random food products.)

But Trader Joe's isn't the only one riding the pumpkin wave. Our Market farmers are as well. Have you noticed all the pumpkins we've got?

1. PUMPKINS

These would be Burpee Sugar Pie Pumpkins

Think of these sweet, smooth darlings as the high-maintenance cousins of butternut squash. But the same principles apply: hack the thing in two, scoop out the seeds, and roast it in the oven. Then just dish out the tender flesh. Years ago, the Seattle Times ran this article on sugar pie pumpkins, with handling and recipe ideas. You, too, can experiment with pumpkin-flavored everything in your house!

Because our book club was reading Out of the Dust, a young-adult prose-poetry tale of the Dust Bowl during the Depression, our themed food included a homemade apple pie, which really can't be beat as a fall favorite. The Market has several varieties of...

2. APPLES

Sweet ones, sweet-tart ones, you name it. Just ask your farmer which variety you should try for eating out of hand or making into applesauce or slicing into pie filling. They're at their crisp and delicious best.

3. ASIAN PEARS


I bet I'm not the only one who has missed Rockridge Orchards and all the scads of Asian pear varieties Wade(?) used to bring. But I've noticed we still have a couple types at Collins Family Orchard. Sam recommends you let them sit out until most of the greeniness is gone, replaced by golden dots. She also says these are fabulous dehydrated like apple chips!

4. POKE TO THE MAX


My daughter and I have grabbed plenty of Saturday lunches at this truck. I go for the Loco Moco bowl, while she prefers a Shaka Sandwich Wrap. Whatever you choose, it's sure to be fresh and flavorful. Plus it's always delightful to hear someone speak to you with a Hawaiian accent...

5. FRESH-BAKED BREAD


Those of you who haunt the Woodinville warehouse district might already know Proven Bread, where Alexis Carson provides rambling winetasters with picnic fixings like sandwiches and charcuterie and fresh-baked goodies. Well, we at the Saturday Market also get to enjoy her James-Beard-Award-Nominee baked offerings. What better to pair with a hearty fall soup, or some Tieton Farms cheese and a salad?

Okay--this is not a post to write before breakfast. I'm off for now, but hope to see you all this Saturday.

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!