The Box

2015 Opening Day Shopping List

Woo hoo! It's finally upon us--Opening Day of the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market. And just in time because I ran out of meat yesterday, I ran out of honey the last time I made granola, and I'm pretty tired of cabbage and carrots and mushy apples and no-longer-very-tasty Satsumas.

What's on your fresh and local shopping list? Here's mine:

1. Asparagus! Picked-in-the-last-24-hours asparagus is flavorful and almost nutty. I roast it with some olive oil or throw it on the grill. (Or see this Crawford Farms article for other recipe ideas.)

Crawford Farms pic

2. Spring Salad Fixings! Yes, it's time for a break from coleslaw and winter salads based on grated carrots and cucumbers. Grab whatever greens you find and dress them simply--fresh doesn't require a lot. The Food Network offers this suggestion. Great add-ons would be a tomato or some cubes of fresh cheese.

Food Network pic--it practically dresses itself!

3. Apples and Pears that have been properly cold-stored. There's a reason the grocery-store offerings are mushy now (or from Argentina).

4. Honey. Since I make my own granola, we go through a lot of honey. Time to re-stock. My daughter still remembers the chunk of honeycomb Cary Therriault of Cascade Natural Honey gave her when we visited him and his bees at work.

She even licked the cardboard

5. Meat. As in ground beef, ground pork, bacon, beef stir-fry, pork stir-fry, beef stew meat, sausage, and chicken. We are unabashed carnivores in our house, but we do like to think of our animals as happily fed and strolling about until Death comes for them.

6. Salmon. Brushed with a little teriyaki sauce and thrown on the grill alongside the asparagus.

7. Tuna jerky. A favorite family snack, and we're entering summer swim season, when I always need a little cooler full of snacks. Fishing Vessel St. Jude isn't at the Market every Thursday, but they're scheduled for Opening Day! See the website for other dates. And don't forget their volume discount, if you need to stock up on the world's best canned tuna!

Little Maggie knows what she's doing

8. Eggs. If I'd been thinking, I would have put this higher up the list. Because our family eats eggs like they're going out of style. And the eggs at the Market have the lovely, cohesive whites and bright yolks that signal more nourishment.

9. An impulse snack. Hmmm.... after such a long hiatus, will it be a soft pretzel? A piece of pizza? A hum bao from The Box? A cookie or pie-let? Ice cream or a pop? I can't say, because then it wouldn't be an impulse buy...

10. Dinner itself? This Thursday is already packed with kids' practices and a swim team meeting, so I'm not sure how cooking dinner will even happen. What better excuse to wave the white flag of surrender and just grab something at the Market? We could do soup and bread. Or a whole pizza. Or karagi chicken. Or a new discovery. And then we'd just plot right down at a picnic table, with the Haggis Brothers providing toe-tapping mood music, before we rush off to the next place we have to be.

So grab your own list, and we'll see you at the Bellevue Presbyterian Church parking lot from 3-7 pm this Thursday, May 14!

Last Thursday Market of the Season!

Let the weeping and gnashing of teeth begin! Not only are the mornings dark and the evenings dark, and not only have we started to consider an overcast day "good weather," and not only have we sighed to see summer's soft-fruit bounty giving way to the apples and pears of fall, but the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market is in its last week.

This is the time to take a look at the "Thursday-only" farmers and vendors on the website, so you can either stock up or sign up or cut special deals with them when you visit the Market for their curtain call. Are you signed up for Skagit River Ranch's Buyers Club? Do you have enough Soulever Chocolates and Melt mac and cheese and House of the Sun kale chips to hold you? How's your salmon supply? Your hazelnuts? Your toffee? Your hum bao reserves? Got Soup?

Some folks might make the move to Saturday, but it's best to ask. And we have until the Saturday before Thanksgiving to get our fill of fresh and local before it's all gone gone gone. (See picture at top of post.)

As a Thursday swan song, I have two awesomely delicious recipes to help you capitalize on what you'll find this week (fingers crossed): End-of-the-Season Kitchen-Sink Sauté and Yu Choi with Oyster Sauce.

End-of-the-Season Kitchen-Sink Sauté

2 ears of corn*, boiled for two minutes
2 medium tomatoes*, cut in eighths
couple handfuls of spinach or chard, de-stemmed, rinsed and cut in big pieces
2 slices bacon*

Cut corn off cobs and set aside.

Fry bacon on low or med-low heat until to desired doneness. Remove and drain on paper towels, than crumble. Leaving the bacon fat in the pan, turn the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, throw in the greens (as much as you like, really), and stir-fry till almost wilted. Throw in the tomato slices and cook until the greens are dark and soft. Remove from heat.

Stir in corn, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

This second recipe came to mind because, at my favorite dim sum place in the Bay Area, we always order these greens alongside the other goodies, as a sop to the nutrition gods. When I found yu choy at Blia's stand, I immediate drooled to think of recreating this at home. Usually the greens and stems are stir-fried, and then drizzled with oyster sauce, but Blia's helper guy remarked that his mom usually just boiled them. Done.

[Pic from because I forgot to take one!]

Boiled Yu Choy with Oyster Sauce

1 bunch yu choi*, rinsed and cut in 4-inch sections
some bottled oyster sauce

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and put in ALL the yu choy. There's a lot, so you probably have to keep at it for a while. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the stalks are tender.

Drain and drizzle with oyster sauce.

Kids who like broccoli usually like this dish, and doesn't broccoli get old after a while?

So come one and all and see you this Thursday. I'll be the one weeping silently into her reusable canvas shopping bags...

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.

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.

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!