Alvarez Organic Farms

Okay, I Guess It's Fall

Summer departed abruptly, probably from having burnt itself out with those hot, smoky days, one after another. The house sits at 67F, but we refuse to turn on the heat until October 1 because — well, because you just have to stick to your principles. No heater till October 1, no flannel sheets, no fires in the fireplace. No matter if the lows are already dipping into the high 40s.

Although we might shiver in the house, I have waved the white flag in the kitchen. No more barbecue — it’s time for the the slow cooker and fall fruit. This upside-down pear-apple-almond cake, to begin with:

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Martin Family Orchard had some lovely, ripe Bartlett pears and Gala apples, and the two of them made a tasty combination in Deborah Madison’s recipe. The recipe only calls for two pears, but since I only had 1.5 pears left, I substituted a half an apple. Perfect. Also a perfect excuse for everyone to try “a sliver” of each flavor.

I’m not the only one thinking fall…Check out these Halloween-themed cupcakes at La Panaderia:

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How cute are they? Eyeballs, ghosts, tombstones,…something pink? Talk about being done with summer—they’re even through with September and most of October. Since we only have a few Market days left, you may need to skip ahead as well! And if you haven’t had their tamales yet, don’t let another week go by. I got two beef tamales last week, to supplement the light dinner I’d prepared, and you should have seen the mournful eyes when everyone finished their half a tamale and wanted to know why on earth I hadn’t bought more!

Aspens [pic by my friend Alice]

Aspens [pic by my friend Alice]

Despite all the fall-ness and making the best of it, I still have my fingers crossed for a few last gasps of summer. The Louisiana Sweet watermelon I got at Alvarez last week was one of the best of the season, ranked right up there with the darker, more spherical Sugar Baby I bought midsummer.

There’s still time for a last half-flat of berries to freeze and a few pounds of peaches and nectarines. It may be fall-ish here on Thursday, but it’s still summer somewhere in Washington!

A Tale of Two Recipes

I know, I know. Real cooks don't need recipes. But I think people who are able just to whip something up with ingredients on hand have never been a dime a dozen, and I'm betting the skill has become rarer than ever now, given how few people actually cook.

The only things I wing nowadays are smoothies and salads, and while the smoothies are mostly fine (n.b.: adding avocado means your smoothie will turn an unappealing gray if it sits for any length of time), the salads are never as good as ones I've made with a recipe.

Banana, spinach, avocado, fig, berry, watermelon, yogurt, flax seed, milk

Banana, spinach, avocado, fig, berry, watermelon, yogurt, flax seed, milk

Anyhow, we had two delicious things this week that you probably wouldn't just whip up on your own, even if you had that talent, and since 'tis the season for the ingredients, I didn't want you to miss out.

Corn-Tomato Salsa (from the New York Times)

1/2 small red or white onion, diced
kernels from one cooked ear of corn (please don't use canned or frozen)
1 lb ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice

The original recipe called for it to be served with cooked chicken in soft tacos, which is how we ate it, but it made so much salsa that I had it the next day on scrambled eggs, and my husband just packed the rest for lunch and ate it as is. It's that delicious! 

And then last night we had a modified version of one of Deborah Madison's pizza recipes:

Kind-of Deborah Madison's Provencal Potato Pizza

1/4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil and reconstituted in boiling water
2 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb small potatoes, thinly sliced (I used a Yukon Gold from Alvarez)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Favorite pizza dough recipe for one crust
1-1/2 c thinly sliced red or white onion
1-1/2 c shredded mozzarella or half of a fresh mozzarella ball, sliced
1/4 c grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 ripe tomato, sliced

Toss the potato slices in the oil and garlic and salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake 350F for 10 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

Roll out your pizza dough (I also use her recipe, but pick your favorite) and spread with the remaining oil/garlic mixture. Arrange onion slices over dough and sun-dried tomatoes. Top with potato slices and cheeses. On the very top, put your sliced fresh tomato. I baked this on a pizza stone in the oven at 425F for about 15 minutes until the top was golden brown. SO good!

If you wanted, you could even skip the sun-dried tomatoes and go with fresh. She also recommends a sprinkling of fresh sage, but I didn't have any.

The time is now, people. The food is now. Get out there and eat like fall is coming!

 

Hot Days, Cool Kitchen

If you're anything like me--that is, air-conditioner-less--the meals you've been planning lately do not involve the oven and limit the stovetop.

This may be Bellevue in 50 years: Somerset, looking toward Clyde Hill. [Photo by  Sander Wehkamp  on  Unsplash

This may be Bellevue in 50 years: Somerset, looking toward Clyde Hill. [Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash

We've been doing lots of grilling and slow-cooking and salad-ing, and fortunately the Market has just the right supplies for the heat wave.

  • Meat and fish. You don't need fancy marinades. Some olive oil, salt and pepper and you're good to go. Although today I have a flank steak marinating in teriyaki sauce, olive oil, mustard, hot sauce, onions, and powdered ginger.
     
  • Beans. Our summer swim team just had its swim banquet, and I realized that was the first time this summer I made homemade baked beans. Homemade baked beans are exactly one hundred times better than canned baked beans. Pick up your favorite bean variety at Alvarez Organic FarmsI've tried lots of recipes, and they're all basically tomato sauce, brown sugar, molasses, bacon, and onion. (Wherever a recipe calls for ketchup, ignore it. There's already plenty of sweetness from the brown sugar and molasses. Just use tomato sauce.)
     
Okay, our Market doesn't have a playground, but this was a good shot of the beans.

Okay, our Market doesn't have a playground, but this was a good shot of the beans.

  • And, of course, glorious fruits and vegetables. The combination hardly matters. I love greens with berries or chopped nectarine. There's corn and green beans. Fresh radishes. Tomatoes galore! If you don't eat them raw, the produce is usually grillable, laid straight on or in foil packets with olive oil, salt and pepper. A friend prepared onions and thinly-sliced potatoes that way, and it was delish.
[Photo by  Hari Nandakumar  on  Unsplash

Thursday's forecasted high is 88F. Don't forget your hat and sunscreen when you come by the Market. And, if the thought of any sort of cooking is just too much, there are always our lovely food trucks and pizza and tamales and ice cream and slushies!

Stay cool, Bellevue.

Strawberry FOMO and Market Consolations

Did you arrive at the Market last week to this sign?

 

Yeah, me too. I knew 4:15 p.m. was going to be too late to catch the very first local strawberries of the season, but it was still a blow. This week I plan to get there at opening. And won't it be nice when we reach the part of the season (approaching rapidly) when there are multiple berry farmers with different varieties and we don't have to view our fellow marketgoers as adversaries?

Of course there were consolations for missing the first strawberries. For one thing, Alvarez Organic Farms had the sweetest, crunchiest sugar snap peas, which we've been eating raw in salad or steamed all week. Just try them with a little homemade Green Goddess Dressing!

Green Goddess Dressing

(from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp tarragon or cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp chopped chives or scallion
1-1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (or 3/4 tsp dried)
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/4 tsp salt
Mix everything in a blender until smooth and pale green. You can add a couple tablespoons of water to thin, or leave it thicker and "dip-like."

Other consolations? Well, Martin Family Orchard brought a new batch of Fuji apples and Anjou pears out of cold storage, and they are the best we've had since last fall! I bought a bag of each, but I think I'm going to need another two bags this week to tide us over because it's all downhill on apples and pears until the next crop this fall.

And then, given the heat last week and the line at Seattle Pops (where we bought our treat the week before), we opted for a Shave Ice from new vendor La Panaderia.

La Panaderia by CakeBoxCo.com

La Panaderia by CakeBoxCo.com

I'd put the ice consistence as in between shaved ice and a snow cone

I'd put the ice consistence as in between shaved ice and a snow cone

The proof is in the punch--or the genuine fruit puree and juice, I should say

The proof is in the punch--or the genuine fruit puree and juice, I should say

Not only was the Mango shave ice luscious and refreshing, but La Panaderia also offers giant lemon, cinnamon and orange cookies and tamales. Wowza. They hope to earn money to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle, possibly near the Olympic Sculpture Park, so I hope we'll all take one for the team and sample the goods this season.

Don't miss out this week on strawberries or other goodies! Hit the Market this week early and often.

Washington: Home of Food, Farmers, and Logical Speed Limits

Give me land, lotsa land

Give me land, lotsa land

Hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day Weekend. I think many of you kicked it off as I did, by sitting in traffic and cursing your fellow citizens, but eventually the tail lights and bumpers gave way to scenes like the above, snapped off Highway 97 in Central Oregon. Actually, this was snapped on Memorial Day Saturday because we finally gave up on reaching our destination Friday and spent the night at a motel in Madras. (Lesson learned: even if you're pulling up at 10 at night, it pays to make your reservation ahead on your phone because they charge you way more when you walk in the door cold.)

Oregon is a lovely state, and their farmers, too, grow some tasty food, but they don't know a thing about speed limits. In any one-mile stretch of Highway 97, the speed limit varied from 45 to 55 to 65 to 50 to 45 again. Murder on the cruise control. There was also something weird going on with the signage because, when we entered 97 from the Washington/Maryhill side, colorful placards announced the highway multiple times as being a "Journey Through Time." Whoopee! we thought. Bring on the dinosaur dioramas and cavemen stalking the rest areas. After all the sitting in traffic, a detour through the highway equivalent of Disney World would be welcome. No such luck. Apart from a few things being named after WWII training camps and such, we're not quite sure what time (other than the present) they thought we were journeying through. Blah.

But enough about Central Oregon travel woes. The other thing about Memorial Day Weekend, or any holiday weekend, is that it throws off our grasp on days of the week. Meaning, the Bellevue Farmers Market is coming right around again!

 

'Tis the season for plant starts

'Tis the season for plant starts

If you're putting in your tomatoes or other produce, Skylight Farms of Snohomish has plant starts for you, besides pastured eggs and fresh asparagus and greens.

And, speaking of fresh-picked, nutty asparagus, I also spotted it at Alvarez Organic Farms:

 

Along with fresh garlic and all kinds of dried chiles. And there was the asparagus at Amador Farms, as well:

 

One fun thing about passing all those farms in Central Oregon was deciding where we'd most like to be a cow. Who had the most access to endless green pasture or shade or even a water feature?

Well, in Washington State, Windy N Ranch invites all comers to their place out in Ellensburg, where their cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens enjoy roam certified organic fields.

 

Come for a tour--seriously.

Come for a tour--seriously.

As the Newhalls put it on their website, "Organize your group or family and come on out to see how clean, nutritional food can be produced in an environmentally sustainable ranching operation with the welfare of the animals as a top priority."

Having driven through Ellensburg regularly on my way to the Tri-Cities and, again, to speed-limit-challenged Oregon, I can attest to "Windy" being an apt word to include in any Ellensburg name. On the other hand, as you drive there, you'll appreciate how Washingtonians know a thing or two about managing speed limits. 70 all the way, baby!

See everyone tomorrow!

The Market is Off and Running!

Ah, glorious almost-summer! And what a joy to know that, for the next five months, we have tasty, fresh, local food on our doorstep every Thursday afternoon.

 

I was excited to see old favorites returning, like Alvarez Organic Farms and Collins and Martin Family Orchards...

 

Sam at Alvarez!

Sam at Alvarez!

And I loved to see new farmers and vendors joining us. There are plenty to be mentioned over the coming weeks, but for starters I hit up Amador Farms from Yakima, lured by their just-picked-that-day asparagus.

 

I also picked up delicious little Honeycrisp apples there, two kinds of potatoes, a red onion, and some tasty pears. All, as advertised, grown with "NO PESTICIDES."

Some of Carl's handiwork [pic from his website]

Some of Carl's handiwork [pic from his website]

Then we needed something to serve with our asparagus, so I hit up Carl's Cutting Board, a new vendor of charcuterie, like sausages and bacon. Carl himself recommended a delicious, "kid-friendly" sausage spiked with a few nuts(!) that was a big hit. Some of us ate it on a bun and others just sliced with sweet-hot mustard.

Check out our resulting meal:

Apart from the pilaf recipe that I got off the internet (too salty), this was a meal worth repeating. Can't wait to see what we put together this week! Even more farmers and vendors will be appearing, so hitting them all over the course of the season will be a great challenge to have.