Rockridge Orchards

Drought Report and Fig Jam

By now you've heard that the City of Bellevue has asked residents to conserve water voluntarily by 10%, and they offer these tips:

Ways to save water:
  • Cut back unnecessary watering -- consider letting your lawn go dormant.
  • Water plants deeply, but infrequently, early in the day or late at night. Mulching planting beds also helps with reducing watering.
  • Visit the Waterwise Garden at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, where residents can learn how they can save water in their own gardens.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry in washing machines or dishes in dishwashers.
  • Turn the water off. Avoid letting the faucet run when shaving, brushing teeth, and washing.
  • Take shorter showers -- even cutting your shower by 2-3 minutes adds up.
  • Wash your car infrequently, and when you do take it to a commercial wash where the water is recycled.
  • Fix leaks.
  • Order and install free water-saving items, including low-flow shower heads and leak detection kits, from Bellevue's water provider -- Cascade Water Alliance.
Handy graphic--did we skip over Advisory, or did I miss it?
Sadly, the only item on that list that my family isn't already doing is the "Take shorter showers" bullet point. And, apart from my husband in the morning, most of us are pretty brief going about our showering business.

But things aren't too bad in Bellevue yet! I was just visiting my family in California this past week, where they're very much in the MANDATORY wedge of the graph, and neighbors are turning like jackals on each other when someone is caught watering on one of the Do-Not-Water days. Being California, though, backyard crops still flourish under concentrated watering conditions. Consider these Asian pears from my sister's Davis backyard:

Sweet and crisp, rather like the yummy ones the Market used to enjoy from Rockridge Orchards. In addition to Asian pears, my sister and her hub planted a branch of the neighbor's fig tree and now reap the benefits.

Figs are an ideal fruit, and every time I fork out $8 for a jar of fig jam, I wish they grew more abundantly in Washington. After all, what other fruit can be chopped up coarsely, mixed with sugar, pectin, and lemon juice, left to stew for an hour, and then become easy freezer jam? No peeling, so seeding, no nothing. I entreated my sister to make a batch of fig freezer jam with her bumper crop, but with that California take-it-for-grantedness she only said, "Maybe next year."

Luscious, figgy innerds
Next year? Next year the drought may have reached beyond epic proportions, or whatever you would call a drought that's already designated as the worst in at least 150 years. This horrible drought doesn't even begin to approach what scientists call "Megadroughts," which last decades.

So the figs might not be there next year or ten years from now, which makes me glad I enjoyed them now.

Living for the moment
Washington might (should?) have longer, but we may all want to be looking toward snapping up real estate along a river in Northern British Columbia as the globe warms. In the meantime, enjoy those figs.

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)

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
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.


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.)


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.

Feed Your Cravings for Fresh

SugarTime, and the living's easy

Whew. Now that we got that 4th of July holiday out of the way, we can get back to our Thursday/Saturday Bellevue Farmers Market pattern, and everything's just peachy. Speaking of which, with the holiday last week and Collins not being able to take credit cards on Saturday, I've had to go peach-free. It has been a true first-world problem, and one I plan to remedy this week. I'd be interested if anyone has ever tried those recipes you see every summer for grilled peaches? We haven't yet, but I bet it'd be good with this:

Yes, sir--raspberry syrup, for which the only ingredients on the label are "raspberry puree" and "sugar." Just try finding that in the store! I had to get some while I was picking up my half-flat of strawberries because, a few summers ago, in the cafe of the Orsay Museum in Paris, I had a "raspberry juice" that was basically sweetened puree. Oh my goodness. It rivaled anything hanging on the walls of the museum for pure wonderfulness. I have high, high hopes that this syrup will take me back. So if you see me sucking it down straight from the bottle, you'll understand.

The strawberries weren't bad either. Forgive me if I can't remember if I bought Hayton or Youngquist on Saturday--I've bought from both before, and I want to announce that SUGAR BOMB SEASON HAS OFFICIALLY OPENED. You know what I mean. The season of tiny strawberries that just explode in your mouth with sweetness and flavor. Get 'em while they last.

After you've had your fill of fruits, it's time to hit the vegetables. I've spotted snow peas now--perfect for stir fries:

You can even throw in some bamboo shoots from Rockridge (ask Wade how to prepare them):

Feed your inner panda

Those cucumbers on the right would make a great Asian Marinated Cucumber Salad to go on the side on a hot day. My mom slices them thin and drizzles them with a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and sugar. Delicious.

Summer is the season of fresh, so put down the can of cream of mushroom soup or Trader Joe's curry sauce. Get out of the drive-thru line and treat your family to some real, fresh food.

Six Reasons Not to Move Someplace Sunnier

Last night, as the kids' swim meet was lightninged-and-rained out for the first time in living memory, following last week's meet where everyone huddled beneath umbrellas and blankets, shivering and drenched, it was tough to remember why exactly anyone chose to live in the Pacific Northwest.

Ah, late-Spring/early-"Summer" in the Pacific Northwest, why the heck do we love you? Let us count the ways...

1. Drought? What drought? We laugh at you, Drought!

Wanna see this bigger? Go to the original site.

That's right. Washington State is largely drought-free, apart from the corner where my in-laws live (and the family grows wheat). There, drought might be "developing." The next time the rain pours down on us--likely in the next few minutes--think about the glories and blessings of water.

2. It's cherry season!

How bad can it get, if we can bundle up before a roaring, indoor gas fireplace, and pop pounds of these suckers? We have several more weeks of cherries still to go, so gorge yourself. I grew up on Bings, but this particular variety might be my favorite.

3. If we can't grill the salmon, we can buy it smoked or jerked!
Something about rain showers puts the literal damper on grilling outside, but this past week my family has been enjoying smoked salmon from Loki. Just take it out of the package and warm it a little in foil in the oven, which you probably already have going because you were trying to warm up the house. Delish. We liked the jerked salmon, too. Great, protein-rich snack for rained-out swim meets.

4. Oysters love the Pacific Northwest, so it can't be all bad.

Fresh shellfish, Thursdays and Saturdays

A & K Shellfish of Dabob Bay has clams and Crassostrea gigas, also known as the Pacific Oyster, Japanese Oyster, or Miyagi Oyster (something to do with The Karate Kid, I'm betting--this oyster's flavor will knock your block off).

5. We don't have to drown our sorrows with bad liquor. As the ads for cheap beer and other mass-produced alcoholic beverages advise us, "Please drink responsibly." But if you do imbibe occasionally, why not try the local, artisanal alternative? On Thursdays we have Rockridge Orchards' many varieties of soft and hard apple cider, including the "Bit O Bite" - apple with a dash of rhubarb!

And on Saturdays the Market welcomes Finnriver, an organic family farm and artisan cidery near Port Townsend. These lovely folks are making wine and cider with everything from apples to blueberries to pears to currants.

If you don't drink, the bottles are still beautiful to look at.

The bubbly stuff

And, for those of you who have begun looking at housing prices in Southern California,

6. July 4 is around the corner, which means the sun'll come out tomorrow!

An unretouched photo -- it HAS been sunny here!

So dry out those socks and take comfort, and don't let a "little" rain stop you from coming out to our Market.

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

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!

10 Reasons to Enjoy Late Summer at the Market

Plenty of delightful finds at our Market in late summer, and this week I share a random smattering with you.

1. Still plenty of berries. Buy and freeze now, or forever hold your peace. Although we've already put up blueberry and peach pies in the freezer, I still bought a half-flat of blueberries for quick snacking and this tasty coffee cake.

2. Blessed are the beermakers because Rockridge Orchards has hops. I'd never even seen a hop. Wouldn't know one if it hit me in the face. But Wade has 'em, and by this picture shall you recognize them:

3. Skagit River Ranch is talking turkey. Yep, it's time to reserve your Thanksgiving turkey. Come by and leave your info and downpayment. I can vouch for the deliciousness of these turkeys, and if you've followed this blog, you'll know that I made 13 meals out of last year's bird! More on that this year, but I hope you'll join me in the Lucky Thirteen Thanksgiving Challenge.

4. Apples, Pears, and Asian Pears are in! Fresh, crisp and luscious.

The Asian pears, in particular, are the perfect size for the lunchbox.

5. I spotted new varieties of familiar favorites, including these gorgeous tomatoes from Billy's:

They look like oversized Rainier cherries, and just picture the interesting pico de gallo they'll make!

6. And bet these striped zucchini don't grow in your garden like they do at Hedlin Farms:

Zucchini is tasty on the grill with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Or do lengthwise slices in the oven, sprinkled with olive oil and parmesan cheese.

7. You might have realized by now that sampling things at the Market can be hazardous to your waistline and wallet. We were lured in by fellow Marketgoers to Golden Glen Creamery's booth to try the Dill and Garlic Curds. The rest is history. Don't say I didn't warn you.

8. Speaking of Golden Glen, they've added new varieties of their butters, including "Northwest Mushroom Trio" and "Cilantro-Lime," along with tried-and-true flavors like "Cinnamon Spice" and "Honey." If you love store-bought garlic bread, try GG's garlic butter spread over a Market baguette. You may never go back again!

9. There's been fuss over the recent Stanford study which found organic food wasn't appreciably "healthier" than non-organic, but, as everyone was quick to point out, nutrient level varies wildly from fruit to fruit and vegetable to vegetable, depending on the soil conditions, time-to-market, weather, and farming method. One wonderful thing about the Market is that you can meet your farmer, ask about his or her soil and farming philosophy. Talk pesticides, conventional and organic. Food doesn't have to be a mystery at the Market.

And, 10. We've got new prepared foods! Have you tried the hot dogs at Saturday's Hot Dog Girl stand? Or the original juice blends at the Juice Box? I love how our prepared food vendors, from Crepes to jam-makers, take advantage of what's in season to whip up special offerings. Don't miss out this week, and come hungry!

Beat the Heat at the Bellevue Farmers Market

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

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

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

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

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

Parfait is parfait--perfect for a summer day

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

The unslushy version ain't bad either

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

John, serving samples

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

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

Stay cool, fellow food lovers.

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!

Food of Champions: Olympic Edition

#4 on Unpleasant Things to See: Frenchmen triumphing over you (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

So, like many Americans, I've been glued to the couch, subjected to whatever NBC chooses to show me of the 2012 Summer Olympics, whether that be interviews with John McEnroe (huh?) or Ryan Seacrest (seriously--what???), gymnastics at 10:30 p.m., or a replay of the swim final I already watched hours before on the live stream. By the time they aired the Men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay, I had begun to hope that maybe I only dreamed the crushing livestream version, where France's anchor ate Ryan Lochte for lunch. Alas.

France's Olympics aren't going too shabbily. As of this morning, they have 9 total medals to the U.S.'s 18, and a greater proportion of theirs (44.4%) are Gold, to our 33%. Their secret? I mean, besides hard, hard work and carefully-cultivated natural talent? Lately I'm thinking it's the food. I recently finished a fascinating read by Karen Le Billon, French Kids Eat Everything. The title says it all, really, and when I had finished her account of her family's year in France, where they were all indoctrinated into the French culture of food, I was convinced. Dang it! Why did my kids turn up their noses at odd vegetables--all right, at even many common vegetables--beg for snacks all afternoon, and make faces when I presented something new at the table? No more. I was going to introduce more variety in our diet, limit the snacking, and, when the inevitable chorus of "What is that? Ewww!" went up, I was going to go with the French response: "Try it. If you don't like it this time, you will after you've had it a few times." I might even throw in a "you don't wanna swim like Ryan Lochte, do you? You wanna swim like Yannick Agnel. To swim like Yannick Agnel, you must eat everything, like Agnel does."

Take this recent salad, I made, 100% with Market ingredients:

Spinach, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, onions, Tieton goat cheese feta. And then I dressed it with

because Wade at Rockridge had urged me to try it out and give feedback. He's told me twice what "shiso" is, and I've remembered it zero times. Some kind of Japanese herb. In any case, the dressing tastes cucumber-y and very, very fresh. Our houseguests took seconds, if not my children.

At the same meal we served grilled Market vegetables alongside: bell peppers, sweet onions, and teeny tiny baby potatoes I got at Alvarez. The main dish: Two If By Seafoods salmon glazed with olive oil and honey.

Recently the Huffington Post ran a slideshow on some Olympian diets. Beach volleyball champ Misty May-Treanor likes Greek yogurt with honey, for instance. On Saturdays you can find Samish Bay's luscious Greek yogurt. Swirl in a spoonful of Cascade Natural Honey and a handful of granola or almonds, and you're set. Just about all the athletes ate a variety of vegetables and steered clear of processed foods. For those who needed to carb load before a big event, sandwiches hit the spot. And you know you can put whatever you want in the middle--it's the bread that makes the sandwich, and we have such tasty ones both Thursdays and Saturdays. The athletes would love our Market.

One final reason to hit the Market this week: some theorize all those fruits and veggies and whole grains relieve depression. The jury may still be out, but it certainly might impact minor bummed-out feelings, like seeing your relay get trounced or looking at all those Olympian bods and trying to calculate how many calories you've (not) burned, prone, on the couch.

Well, We Still Have Our Farmers Market

Already missing the honey and berries (Photo: AP)

Okay, time to stop sniffling into my Bing cherries while I watch Ichiro videos, and get down to business. I wish our dear Seattle icon all the best (including--gulp--a World Series appearance), but he's only got two more days in our lovely, temperate corner of the country, so I hope he can send someone down to the nearest farmers market to grab these goodies before he goes:

Local honey. Imagine my thrilledness when I hit the Market last Thursday and found both Rockridge Orchard's Orchard Blossom Honey and Cascade Natural Honey's Blueberry Honey! I got a jar of each. Wade of Rockridge claims he can taste just a touch of the Broad Leaf Maple in his Apple-Pear Blossom Honey, and I've already posted about the luscious delights of CNH's Blueberry variety.

Wild Alaskan Salmon. Hit up Two If By Seafood (Thursday) or Loki Fish (Saturday) for the tastiest salmon this side of Seastar. We basted our last filet in olive oil and Market honey, seasoned with salt and pepper, and threw it on the grill. It was devoured.

Northwest Cherries. The season is brief, so load up. I've bought some of every variety so far and thrown in a jar of Camp Robber Jams' (Saturday) Cherry Jam with Kirsch for good measure. My visiting mom was inspired to buy a cherry pitter in the hopes of making a pie...

Northwest Berries. The first two blueberry pies are in the freezer, and I have orders to bring back another half-flat. The raspberries didn't even make it till dinner time. Clearly I didn't buy enough.

Pastries from Little Prague Bakery. Did I mention my mother was visiting? Every time we left the house, she seemed to come back with bakery boxes, and the visit to the Market was no exception. We had some beautiful berry cake-looking bar (my nephew called dibs), a melt-in-your-mouth apple cinnamon creation, and an apricot one that disappeared by the second time I looked in the box. These, in addition to granitas from Rockridge, scoops from Molly Moon's and a box of Dark Chocolate toffee from Pete's Perfect Butter Toffee. Yikes. That exploding sound is just my family blowing up after so many sweets.

Compile your own list of Can't-Miss Items at this week's Markets! Maybe we could send Ichiro a care package. He'll need it, with those Yankees fans.

Give Visiting Friends a Taste of Bellevue

"Quarry Stone" on the far right

We had friends in town the past several days, and while my part-time job chauffeuring my three children hither and yon prevented me going into full-time tour guide mode, I did manage to get them to the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market. Big, big hit.

Big, and perfect for slicing!

Doug and Kim had already sampled Rockridge Orchards' luscious Quarry Stone Hard Apple Cider at our house the night before, so we bought another bottle of it, along with some of the Skipping Stone Berry Cider and Tayberry Wine. Haven't opened the Tayberry yet, but the two hard ciders went over well, with Quarry Stone still my favorite. I've already promised to bring it to a 4th of July barbecue. Seriously, you have to try it. Just be sure to leave me a bottle. Tastewise I'm not a beer fan, so the Quarry Stone leans to the fruity, rather than the dry ale side. It was absolutely perfect with the Skagit River Ranch burgers we grilled up on Saturday, topped with Market lettuce and a Kittitas Valley Greenhouse tomato. For those who prefer drier hard ciders, Wade Bennett has those as well.

I fully intended to try something new at The Box, but my kids demanded another Kahlua Pork Hom Bao and made such loud mm-mm sounds eating it that Doug got one, too. Thank you, Chef Reis. The branching-out will have to happen next week (or when I don't have the kids). Please keep that mini bagel burger around another week!

Our friends' youngest daughter was recently diagnosed with a gluten allergy, so Kim eyed the gluten-free offerings at Manini's with interest. Scientific American  reported this week that children who grow up in urban settings are more likely to develop food allergies than those raised in rural areas(!). Since nowadays our kids largely eat the same Big-Ag food, whether they're country mice or city mice, researchers are still theorizing as to cause. Do rural kids have better immune systems because they're around more dirt? Are city kids exposed to more pollutants? The jury's still out, but--hey--if your suburban kids need a gluten-free muffin, Manini's can set them up.

Gluten-Free bread mixes, if you go for semi-homemade

And finally, while a swim meet prevented me from making the Saturday Market last week, I do have a tidbit on it from the week before. Please welcome Millingwood of Lake Stevens! Dave Mills has a flock of 335 chickens, roaming freely on five acres and producing 130 dozen of the tastiest eggs per week. Such natural, organic egg goodness went into my daughter's homemade Red Velvet birthday cake, and I like to think those two eggs offset the whole bottle of chemical food coloring I dumped in next. Yikes.

See you all Thursday! Don't be surprised if I stop you and ask how you plan to cook some of the goodies in your shopping bags.

Out-of-the-Box Eating

Source of Bite-Size to Meal-Size Yumminess

If you were at the Market last week, you noticed the appearance of a new prepared-food vendor, The Box: Asian Fusion Cuisine. Owner and chef Reis Llaneza has garnered press in Kirkland, where he tootles around various locations, serving up his delicious takes on street food. The Bellevue Farmers Market is fortunate enough to be The Box's only farmers market stop! Consider the Pork Belly Hum Bao and Kahlua Pork Hum Bao the kids and I sampled--perfectly cooked and seasoned tender meat nestled in a steamed white bao (familiar to all Chinese food "Peking Duck" and char siu bao lovers), garnished with the crunch of diced and shredded vegetables. My children literally fought over them (for the sake of peace, I did not get the entire one-third of each hum bao I was legally entitled to) and devoured them, vegetable garnish and all. If you knew my son, you would know that a snack tasty enough to make him overlook the presence of vegetables is a tasty snack indeed.

Reis prices the hum baos like sliders--cheap enough to have a couple. He also offers a Chop Chop Salad I found several people at the Market eating, and the day's vegan option was a Guajillo Pepper Chili. For those non-vegetarians in search of a meal-size offering, Reis recommended the Chicken Karaage Plate, designed like a bento box with "tender pieces of fried chicken served with a house sauce, steamed rice, and side of Chop Chop Salad."

We didn't make it far from The Box--about ten steps to the Molly Moon truck, in fact--before I ran into Leslie, a fellow mom from my children's elementary school, who was carrying a box of tomato starts, all sorts I'd never heard of that she'd found at Hedlin Farms. Following her lead, I swung by and picked up a variety called "Stump of the World," which, according to the gals at Hedlin, yields a "bushy plant with Brandywine pink fruit as big as your head." In other words, stake this puppy well.

After the eight-year-old licked her ice cream scoop right off the cone onto the pavement (I applied the ten-second rule and a napkin from Reis), we ventured down to Rockridge Orchards to buy the absent twelve-year-old some fresh cider as a guilt offering. There, the display of rhubarb caught my eye:

My husband is not the World's Biggest Rhubarb Fan, having eaten too much of it in every way, shape and form, growing up in Eastern Washington, but the stalks were so very beautiful that I couldn't resist buying a Whole Lot of Them. A whole, whole lot.

Since strawberries aren't in season yet, Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie was out, but I did find this recipe for the admittedly-nasty sounding "Stewed Rhubarb." Because it contains strawberry jam, you get some of the same flavor as the pie, and I (at least) found it luscious over vanilla ice cream, as did some friends we had dinner with. Better yet, instead of the recipe being "easy as pie," it was way easier. Give it a try.

Stewed Rhubarb (adapted from The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook)

1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c strawberry jam (I used my mother-in-law's homemade jam)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t salt

Combine all ingredients in a two-quart saucepan over medium heat. When it boils (there is hardly any liquid to speak of, at first, so I waited till the jam bubbled), turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer 10-20 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender. (I cooked it till it broke apart because I didn't really want chunks on my ice cream.)

Serve warm or refrigerate. Spoon over vanilla ice cream. Or split a biscuit, pour over, and top with whipped or ice cream for a Rhubarb Shortcake!

What will you discover this week at the Market? And don't forget--if you miss Thursday, the Saturday Market opens this week! 10-3P in the First Congregational Church parking lot, 752 108th Ave NE. Double Markets--yippee!

Top Ten Discoveries at the 2012 Bellevue Farmers Market

(Bonus Discovery for my male readers: women love flowers even after Mother's Day. These ones, for example.)

If you didn't make it to Opening Day last week, don't let this Thursday pass you by! I could easily have titled this post "Top 45 Discoveries at the 2012 Bellevue Farmers Market," because there is lots, lots, lots new and exciting.

So, my Ten Discoveries Made on Opening Day. I give you, in no particular order:

  1.  More eggs. Not only do both Growing Things Farms and Skagit River Ranch offer the precious little orbs on Thursdays, but Skagit has increased the size of its flock. Which means no more 100-yard dash necessary from the opening bell, and no more elbowing and heated words required when supplies run low. (Eastsiders may look like relaxed suburbanites, but not if you come between them and their eggs.)
  2. Out-of-this-World Asparagus. Like most asparagus lovers, I've been "cheating" with Mexican- and California-grown varieties since about February, but last week I laid hands on my first Washington asparagus of the season from Crawford Farms in Prosser. Set the oven to 450F, drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a handful of Hedlin Farms cherry tomatoes, roast about 20 minutes. Oh. My. Land. Hands-down the best asparagus I've had in who knows how long. The husband corroborated my opinion. Seriously--get your hands on some.
  3. Pie! By the slice or by the whole, courtesy of the Snohomish Pie Company. Jenny and Angela claim Apple-(Marion)berry Crumb is the top seller, but you may have to try every kind before you settle on a family favorite.
  4. Gluten-free treats. If the luscious offerings of our bakers send your body to unhappy places, please join me in welcoming Manini's. This certified gluten-free (and rice-free) bakery features muffins, cookies, bars, and bread mixes made from "ancient grains" like millet, quinoa and amaranth.

5. Crisp, crisp apples. Uh-huh. You may think apples are mushy and halfway to applesauce this time of year, but Martin Family Orchards brought some Fujis out of cold storage that you've got to bite into to believe.

6. Natural food coloring? Nestled among the many plant starts I found Amethyst Basil at River Farms (better known as our melon purveyors later in the season). Liz tells me that if you put the leaves in vinegar, it will color it purple! If coloring things purple isn't your thing, I found just about every other variety of basil as well...

7. Vegan "bacon." While we're on the topic of oxymorons, Wade Bennett at the returning Rockridge Orchards offers, among his many, many other tasty products, Applewood Smoked Salt. When added to foods, Wade declares, it gives that vegan something the unmistakeable je ne sais quoi of bacon, that soupçon of what farmer/author Novella Carpenter called the "gateway meat" that lured her back from vegetarianism.

8. Local/Exotic Jams, courtesy of Big Spoon Jam. Bastyr-educated, one-woman-show Tina concocts "unique and sensual" flavors that "stretch the boundaries." This is not your Goober Grape. Try Tea-Smoked Pear or "Forager's Preserves," a mix of wild blueberries and Douglas fir tips. As a bonus, Tina tries to cut down refined sugar with honey.

9. Soap and lip balm. Found the former at Growing Things and the latter at Alm Hill. You don't just eat well at the Market, you smell better and have kissable lips. XO.

And, 10. Frozen blueberries. If you can't wait till the fresh ones of summer, grab a bag of local, frozen from Alm Hill or Crawford Farms. My kids just pop a handful in their lunches, and they hold up pretty well.

This all is just for starters! Make your own discoveries this Thursday and feel free to share in the Comments.

Market Countdown!

Hip hip hooray--the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market opens in just over three weeks! Hope you've already marked your calendar for May 10, 3-7 p.m., in First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue's parking lot (last year's location). Opening Day is certainly on mine--in ink and highlighted.

Some exciting news about this season:

  • Welcome back to Rockridge Orchards! My mouth waters, just thinking about one of their cold apple ciders on a hot summer day. Their web page highlights ciders, vinegars, produce, wine, and honey, so I can't wait to see what they bring. I'll definitely have more on the blog about them when we open.
  • Snohomish Pie Company joins us Thursdays! Not to be confused with the luscious Snohomish Bakery (who, thank heaven, will be returning on Saturdays), the Snohomish Pie Company specializes in--you guessed it--pies. All I can say is, those folks in Snohomish really do know a thing or two about baking.
  • Millingwood Organics of Lake Stevens will bring eggs on Saturdays, to the relief of us marketgoers who arrive too late on Thursdays!
  • If you're a fan of Tieton Farm & Creamery's subtle, tasty goat and sheep's milk cheeses from last year's Saturday Market, be aware that they're moving to Thursdays. Don't be caught out for that weekend cheese tray...

More news to follow, as we get closer!

Last week I visited the in-laws in Richland, Washington, and was thrilled to see this article in their Tri-City Herald about Washington asparagus farmers.The very first Washington asparagus is being harvested as we speak, people! The paper reports about 100 asparagus growers in our state, with 70% of them in Benton and Franklin Counties (where Richland and my in-laws can be found). The article's worth a read. As a non-farmer, I had no idea that asparagus is the most labor-intensive crop to harvest. It must be done by hand, as the worker with a pack strapped on him stoops over to whack each stalk with a knife. (My father-in-law confirmed this, having grown up in Dayton, Washington, which used to be Ground Zero for Green Giant Asparagus.) Not only is the work hard, but the same field can be cut up to 65 times in a season! Bring it on, I say. Love the stuff.

Happy 2nd half of April to you all.