Collins Family Orchard

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.

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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!

Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie

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Who's not ready, holler 'Aye!' photo-20

I never thought about that old schoolyard chant being an indicator of fall, but, sure enough, fall is when we can find apples and peaches and (soon) pumpkins all at hand.

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It's just that the seasons are getting a little weird at the Bellevue Farmers Market. Over the last couple weeks I've noticed the first appearances of apples and pears at Martin Family Orchards and Collins Family Orchards (alongside peaches), even while strawberries linger at multiple stands. Strawberries. In September! Our clever farmers have certainly figured out that, if you plant the earlier-and-earlier and later-and-later varieties, we will eat them all.

The nectarines are done for the year, but I found raspberries in the backyard this week(!), and tomatoes continue strong. (Sorry if this reads like a stock report.)

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And what would the turn of the seasons be without some praise of vegetables? If you're tired of salads, how about serving up a crudité platter of raw and steamed vegetables, along with the Green Goddess Dressing below?

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For the dressing I turn once again to my favorite cookbook, Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone:


Green Goddess Dressing

1/2 cup mayo

1/2 cup sour cream

1 Tbsp vinegar

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 Tbsp chopped chives or scallion

1.5 Tbsp chopped tarragon, or 1 tsp dried

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

1/4 tsp salt

Combine all in a food processor and blend until pale green. This is also yummy on a spinach salad and on tomatoes!

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I've been reading a fabulous book (more on that next week), and it's re-inspired me to avoid processed foods with their heavy reliance on nut and seed oils. Green Goddess Dressings fits right in with that plan, and what a pleasant break from vinaigrette!

4th of July Barbecue Fixings

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I know we're still a ways out, but The Weather Channel forecasts 75F and partly cloudy for our 4th of July this year--positively sweltering by Northwest standards. Surely I'm not alone in having 4th of July memories of shivering under a pool umbrella, trying to keep my paper plate of baked beans from getting drenched in the rain..?2016-06-29 It's gonna be a party, people! No need to barbecue under the shelter of the eaves; no need to hand out fleeces and sweatshirts to your guests. Even if you have no elaborate plans and might not even watch fireworks on TV, you can't let the day pass without celebratory food.

The Market has your pastured ground beef for burgers. While there are all kinds of fancy burger recipes out there, in our house we just take a pound of meat and divide it into patties. Done. But I have gone out of my way to caramelize onions as a topping, just slicing some sweet onions thinly and sauteeing them in bacon fat or olive oil until brown and soft. Tomatoes? Lettuce? Cheese? The Market has it.

For you non-burger eaters, I've seen plenty of sausages on offer by our farmers. And I've seen beans, if you insist on making a veggie burger.

As for sides, have you seen the sugar snap peas?

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And salad greens...

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If you lean more toward potato salad, the Market has potatoes!

Say you've been invited to someone else's celebration, and you don't just want to bring your hosts a six-pack of the same old beer. The Market has artisan beers. Have you sampled Geaux Brewing's offerings? Take, for example,

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And lastly we come to dessert. You know the Market carries ice cream, but I'll be there this week wanting a half-flat of blueberries. Because it's blueberry pie time. And what dessert could be more American? (Except apple pie, but it's not apple season, folks. Which is why we eat that at Thanksgiving. I have still seen some apples at Collins Orchard, and they're still crisp and tasty, but that's another story.)

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Wishing you all happy 4th of July feasts and safe travels.

Do You Believe in the Power of Produce?

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You may have heard the statistic that kids are more likely to try eating produce they have grown themselves. I certainly had, and I believed it, but I was stuck at the starting line: how do you get kids to garden? Although my husband, the grandson of two farmers, is an avid mini farmer every summer, it seems my own gardening-loathing genes were enough to dilute this characteristic out of three successive children. If you've experienced this same obstacle in getting your kids or grandkids to love fruits or vegetables, there's fortunately a second (anecdotal) statistic about kids and produce: that if you let them choose which fruit or vegetable to buy, they're also more likely to eat it! I'm guessing it's because your child would find displays such as these tempting...

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I've got to say, we were out of town last week, and my mother bought the kids a clamshell of those giant California strawberries which have zero flavor and are weirdly hard, like so much supermarket fruit. They ate them, of course (though sprinkled with sugar). But when I brought home Shuksans from the Market, even the boy remarked, "These are way better than the ones Grandma bought!"  Uh huh. You haven't experienced the Power of Produce until you've had a straight-up taste test between conventional and local/fresh/meant-to-be-eaten-immediately.

(Side note: I asked the lovely vendor at Skagit Sun if they'd planted newer varieties this year, to give us strawberries in May, rather than June. She said nope, it was just how warm the spring was. I told you global warming was going to be awesome in the short-term...)

Or maybe your kids prefer cherries, also putting in an early showing:

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In any case, if you're trying to get your kids or grandkids to venture into the wide wide world of produce, has the Market got a program for you!

Introducing the Power of Produce---

POP flyer

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • It starts next Thursday, June 9, and runs through August 25.
  • Kids aged 5-12 can join the club. You'll be jealous because they get their own reusable POP shopping bag, a "Passport to Health" with which to collect stamps, and $2 in Market tokens to spend on any fruits or vegetables!
  • Each week there will be fun activities to promote love and knowledge of healthy food and healthy lives.

And remember that plot I took a pic of the first week?

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Maybe kids might like to plant and tend, harvest and eat crops when they're presented so manageably and they can see their progress from week to week.

HERE'S WHERE YOU COME IN:

  • Bring your kids and grandkids to the Market and sign them up!
  • If you don't happen to have your hands full with produce-popping kids, consider volunteering in the program. Market Director Natalie is looking for volunteers in roles like manning the POP booth (check kids in, stamp passports, hand out $2 tokens, chat with parents); running the weekly activity; and planning and preparing weekly activities. (That last role might be great if you can't commit to a couple hours in the booth!) If these jobs are calling out to you, stop by the Welcome Booth and let Natalie know.

Every book I've read about helping kids (and adults) learn to love different flavors advises them to try, try, and try again. We really can learn to like a greater variety of foods, so why not make those foods that actually build our bodies and community?

Sign up to volunteer this week, and let's launch the Power of Produce with a bang on June 9!

Do You See What I See?

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Wow! What a great start to our new Bellevue Farmers Market season! Hope you all signed up for the Frequent Shopper Program mentioned here. One down, seventeen to go. I've heard they're making a movie version of Where's Waldo? because--er--well, I actually have no idea why someone thought this would be a good idea. But, if we're to get in the spirit of spotting things, how many of these goodies did you spot last week on Opening Day?

(Note: if the danged pictures appear sideways on your screen, I want you to know I've tried everything in draft format --where they look perfect, of course-- and the tech gods have it out for me today.)

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I saw thin asparagus, I saw fat asparagus. I debated with another Marketgoer over whether thin or fat was to be preferred. We agreed to differ, but the main point is that asparagus is here! (As a bonus "Do You See What I See?" point, did you notice Samantha has migrated from Collins Family Orchard to Alvarez? That shirt with her name embroidered on it proved too hard to resist, I guess!)

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I saw the beginnings of a garden! After reading an interesting book on produce grown in public spaces, I'm all for trying it out in ye old parking lot.

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It seems the little garden is the "Pop Plot." Further investigation is required... But before I could get cracking, I got distracted by the refrigerator of raw milk at Sea Breeze Farm. I've had a few ventures into raw milk and learned two things: (1) you want to know and trust your farmer, and (2) it's delicious.

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If raw dairy isn't your style, maybe you'd be more interested in Firefly Kitchen's tonics. These beverages are the leftover brine from fermenting their products, and they promise a probiotic shot in the arm with each sip. Not that you'll be sipping necessarily--you may want to ease into it by using it in a cocktail or salad dressing.

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I'm going to chat up the Firefly Kitchen folks at some point and report back...

Meanwhile, on with our search.

DSCN2284Welcome to Skylight Farms! These ladies had fresh artichokes, among other items. Or, I should say, they had "artichoke," since they were down to their last one pretty quickly. If you're a fan of steamed artichokes, better get there early.

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If only beans stayed as beautiful after you cooked them. Growing Washington had these beauties, along with the first strawberries of the season!

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I'll round off this post with a long-distance picture of the new smoothie vendor PureJoy Juicing. Clearly they should have printed everything in a bigger font, if the crowd was going to keep passersby at such a distance. I hope to get a closer look next week--that is, this Thursday!

Fall's Apples and Pears

It's officially fall. Which means I can now serve chili and soup without apologies, even if it hits 70F outside. And, while we have to bid a tearful farewell to peaches and nectarines, the apples and pears are in, and boy are they yummy!

We tried this new variety at Collins Family Orchards called "Candy Time," a marketing brainstorm if I ever heard of one. Who could resist?

This apple gets high marks for its size and lovely coloring, and if you're one of those families which grew up on Red Delicious and other not-tart apples, this could be one to try. Personally I'm not a Red Delicious fan, and I love apples to be sweet-tart, but Candy Time would work well for caramel apples and apples that get dipped.

At a kids' swim team potluck the other day, a family brought a wonderful apple tart featuring apples they'd picked themselves, and the baker gave credit to Ina Garten for the recipe, which I'm betting was this one. It reminded me very much of the recipe it's based on, the French Tarte Tatin, for which I've always used this recipe I got long ago in a cooking class:

Tarte Tatin (from the HomeChef Cooking School)

1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp butter
6 small, tart apples, cored, peeled, and cut into eighths
dough for single-crust pie

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan and cook over high heat until the sugar turns to a golden caramel. Immediately pour the caramel into the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, tilting the pan so that the caramel coats the bottom.

Lay the apple slices over the caramel in spokes like a wheel. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and dot with the butter.

Roll out the pastry until about 1/4" thick and 2 inches larger than the cake pan. Lay it over the top of the apples, tucking it in around the edges. Poke 4-5 air holes in the pastry with a fork.

Bake about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least thirty minutes, then turn it out onto a serving platter, so that the crust forms the base. Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

Unlike the Barefoot Contessa's recipe, there's no jam required and a lot less butter!

Don't miss the Bartlett pears appearing, either. I'm always tearing out pear recipes, too, except I never can bear to cook pears because I love them so much raw. If I can resist, however, I want to try this one that appeared in my latest Penzey's catalog. They call it "Pear Mad Almond Tart," which made no sense to me because of its (lack of) punctuation. I think they meant "Pear-Mad Almond Tart." It calls for a tube of almond paste, which is crazy-expensive, and seven pears, so I probably will never make it. If you do happen to try it, please let me know, and I'll be right over to taste-test!

Thanks for the pic and the recipe, Penzey's!

We have four more weeks of our Thursday Market, so be sure to come out and collect your goodies, including these tomatillos, which make great salsa!


Not to Be Overlooked

I once wrote a book in which a younger sister, lovely in her own right, was frequently overlooked because of her older sister's raging beauty. It wasn't the main plot, but it was a factor.

That story came to mind last Thursday because I got to the Market by 3:40, ready to buy my first Rainier cherries of the season. You know Rainiers: those blushing beauties with their sweet flavor and extra-dollar-per-pound premium. (They're the gorgeous, high-maintenance girlfriend of the cherry world.) What did I discover, but that some of you other Market customers had the exact same idea about picking up some Rainier cherries, and one family in particular came in right after the Market opened and cleaned out the inventory. Bought every...last...one! It was no use whatsoever to rain down curses. The Rainiers were gone. Leaving "only" the Chelans.

Always a bridesmaid?

In the absence of Rainier cherries, however, Chelans would get their due. With their rich glow and delightful sweet-with-a-hint-of-tart flavor, they're pure awesomeness in cherry form. Only no one notices when the darned Rainiers are around. See what I mean? It's that more beautiful, older sister thing. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Let this be your advisory: learn to appreciate and love all cherries because, while the season started earlier, supplies may be shorter. Sam at Collins Family Orchard reports that a giant hailstorm took out a lot of cherries and apricots in their area. They didn't lose as many, but their neighbors lost plenty.
The Rainiers were back for the Saturday Market, but again, they were going fast.
The more beautiful sister - but what'd I say about the price tag?
While I'm on the subject of overlookedness, did you see we had raw milk at the Thursday Market? You might have dashed right past it, but if you've ever wanted to try it, look for this fridge:

Raw milk proponents say the awesome bacteria present (that usually gets killed off by the pasteurization process) can boost gut function and the immune system. Raw milk opponents say you take your chances and might get a lovely case of GI unhappiness. Having had both raw milk and raw milk cheese, I've not yet had a bad experience, but ask our friends at Sea Breeze Farm if you want to learn more.

Note the fridge location

And finally, those of us who don't know much about wine may have breezed past Wilridge Winery at the Saturday Market.

They've got whites, reds, and even dessert offerings, and you can even buy a refillable(!) "growler." As Wilridge points out on their site,

60% of the carbon footprint for a wine comes from the bottle...It takes only 5% of the energy necessary to melt a bottle for recycling as it does to wash a bottle for refilling.

You can even bring back the cork!

Growler on left
And on right

Wine is big business in Washington, and with the drought spreading, it promises to get even bigger in future years, per this New York Times article. I do wonder if table grapes are similarly drought-friendly because I sure would love to find those at the Market. I've seen some Concord grapes in Eastern Washington farmers markets, but none over here.

I've got more finds for you--the Market is bursting with them--but they'll have to wait for later posts. Go enjoy that sunshine!

New Market Discoveries

The sunshine and good times continue!

I hope you had a chance to get out to Opening Day of the 2015 Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market, but if not I have a first look at some of this season's discoveries.

Drumroll...please welcome Buffy Catering! No vampires here--just Middle Eastern food based on family recipes.

There's hummus, baba ghanoush, salad, turnover-looking things with cheese or sesame...

even a dessert/breadie item that doesn't look like the rugelach I'm familiar with but one-ups it by adding chocolate:

I do have to say, prepared food prices at the Market have been creeping up, just as they have at the grocery store and at restaurants! Fortunately we have a whole season in which to work our way through the various offerings.

Even if you don't want a biscuit, don't you kind of want the tricked-out van?

My daughter/Sherpa chose to get her weekly snack wages from new vendor The Biscuit Box. Their menu boasts savory and sweet offerings, of which the ham-and-cheese and the strawberry-jam are the respective bestsellers.

The Bao Biscuit and the Summer Sidhu Strawberry Jam

The verdict on the strawberry jam? "It tastes like Grandma's." A high compliment, considering my mother-in-law whips up her famous batches of freezer jam with Klicker strawberries from Walla Walla.

(And, speaking of strawberries, Sam of Collins Family Orchard says the spring has been so warm that THE FIRST STRAWBERRIES will likely make their appearance this week!!! Global warming does have its temporary upsides.)

While we're on a sweet note, you might have noticed our new Dolcetta Artisan Sweets. Creator Andrea used to be a pastry chef, and she's now turned her talents toward beautiful and beautifully packaged little artisan chocolates. A perfect hostess gift or reward for behaving yourself the rest of the week.

On my to-do list--the dark chocolate pretzel bar.

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And, my final tidbit for the week, did you notice Britt's Pickles joined us on Thursdays? Not only that, but look closely and you might see Rome Doherty on board, retired from Camp Robber Jams.

Did you know most pickles (storebought AND homemade) use vinegar and cooking to achieve their flavor and shelf-stability?

This causes the cucumbers to lose most of their Vitamin C and enzymes and kills off the healthy bacteria which aid digestion, fight disease and provide amazing flavor.

Who knew, right? But Britt's pickles are raw, live culture foods, fermented in oak barrels.

The unique process of fermenting vegetables using lactic acid bacteria, which has been used for thousands of years, allows Britt’s Pickles to retain the rich rewards of the natural enzymes and vitamins in vegetables, even in the middle of winter. Natural fermentation interacts with the sugars in the cucumbers, garlic, and spices, transforming them into lactic acid & CO2. 

I'd read something about this, so I was excited to see this:

Uh-huh. A home fermentation kit with which you can take advantage of summer's approaching bounty. Pickles, green beans, carrots, asparagus. You name it, you pickle it. In a way that keeps the nutrients and probiotics you into wonderfulness!

I want

Naturally fermented foods have been around forever (think kimchi and sauerkraut), and their health benefits are only now getting press. I'm thinking everyone might get a jar of homemade pickled goodness this year, instead of the knitwear I've turned out to be really slow at!

Check in with the blog for more discoveries this season, or find them for yourself this Thursday, from 3-7 in the Bellevue Presbyterian Church parking lot.

Which Just Goes to Show People Can Freak Out Over Anything

I knew it! I knew it!

The Wall Street Journal ran an article today about the latest diagnosable disorder: orthorexia nervosa. "Orthorexia" is not, as you might imagine, some sort of spelling disease, but rather an unhealthily obsessive attitude toward healthy eating. Imagine those folks who bore and proselytize you with their stringent diets, diets undertaken not from genuine food allergies but from a desire to be "healthier." Next thing you know, that urge to control what gets ingested takes over the person's life, driving not just their friends and families crazy, but themselves as well.

Among the proposed criteria: an obsession with the quality and composition of meals to the extent that people may spend excessive amounts of time, say three or more hours a day, reading about and preparing specific types of food; and having feelings of guilt after eating unhealthy food. The preoccupation with such eating would have to either lead to nutritional imbalances or interfere with daily functional living to be considered orthorexia.

That is, if your healthy-food obsession leads only to driving people nuts, but you're still getting proper nutrition and able to function in other areas of your life, you don't have orthorexia--you're just tiresome. But if your chosen diet is ironically impairing your mental and physical health, it's time to see a counselor.

Whew. Got that out there. Because good food should be a source of joy, not anxiety!

Consider these dehydrated apple chips Samantha at Collins Family Orchards created:

The awesome thing--not just how they look and taste, but the fact that they were made with just apples, lemon juice, water, and lots of time in the dehydrator. Sam did say it takes a ton of space and time and doesn't make much, but she might have said that because my mouth was watering and she could tell I was about to ask if I could have the rest of the jar and any more she might be hiding in the back.

But the purity of Sam's apple chips does bring me to some bad news (orthorexia nervosa sufferers, please skip this next bit). The Environmental Working Group has put out its first "Dirty Dozen" list for Food Additives. While there are 10,000 legal food additives, of which only a fraction have been tested for safety, the following dozen are "known or possible carcinogens and some can have reproductive and developmental effects":

  1. Nitrates and nitrites (preservatives in cured meats)
  2. Potassium bromate (a flour "improver")
  3. Propyl paraben (endocrine disruptor)
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  6. Propyl gallate
  7. Theobromine
  8. Secret flavor ingredients
  9. Artificial colors
  10. Diacetyl
  11. Phosphates
  12. Aluminum additives
Looking at this list, I do buy deli ham regularly (uh oh) and hot dogs occasionally (not worried about this), but my bacon and sausage come from the Market, and our folks don't use those preservatives--hence everything being refrigerated or frozen.
Basically, avoiding highly processed foods will protect you from this Dirty Dozen, so largely do-able, unlike avoiding air pollution, for instance.
Two Saturday Markets left! And with Thanksgiving looming, it's time to plan ahead. Get your cranberries and make your sauce now (it'll keep).
Lovely berries [pic from our own Bloom Creek Cranberry Farm]
Load up on apples and squash. Pies can be frozen, as can those sugar-topped casseroles and the soups.
Make rolls or buy them from one of our capable bakers.
Sausage for stuffing!
If you've been invited somewhere, grab that bottle of wine or cider as a hostess gift. Or some toffee. Or a pie. Believe me--a little money, wisely spent at the Market, and you'll secure invitations for years to come. Eat happy and healthy and relaxed, my friends.

September Market Must-Haves

Something about September and back-to-school got my eleven-year-old Market Sherpa daughter asking, "Is the Market ending soon?" Not on your life! It's still officially summer by the calendar, and we have weeks and weeks more fresh, local goodness ahead. Heck, there have still even been strawberries on Thursdays, and they're delicious.

But this time of year does bring the first apples:

Comfort me with apples at Collins

I stupidly only bought two of these new Honeycrisp apples last week, and the second my son tasted them, they were gone. Seriously, there is a difference between the first of the season and the ones which have been held in cold storage from last year. I'll be buying many more this week because I only got one stinking slice.

Fortunately, there were compensations for the apple shortage. I hope you all have been gorging on the peaches and nectarines and berries. The green pluots in the picture above were also a hit in my house.

And please tell me you're eating some tomatoes. I loved this stars-and-stripes style display on Saturday.

Here's a pointillist version.
One of my favorite cookbooks (Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) offers a "Farmer's Market Salad," which is essentially whatever's in season, chopped up in similar-sized chunks, tossed with some cubes of favorite cheese, fresh herbs, and a little olive oil and lemon juice. I've made it with tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, and even leftover cooked veggies like potatoes and beans.
Speaking of beans, I found two ladies talking excitedly over this bin of cranberry beans, which I've never had. I asked them how they liked to prepare them, and I was advised to shell them and steam or boil them just like green beans. Sounds like a great addition to the Farmer's Market Salad!
Slice courtesy of Veraci
Making my own fresh food with seasonal ingredients certainly doesn't preclude eating fresh food made by others with seasonal ingredients while we shop. I'm surprised there haven't been any parking lot muggings over Veraci Pizza--or am I the only one tempted when I see someone walking out with a box?
Not to be outdone, do take a look at a grilled pizza we made at home:
Yup. Apart from the dough, this can all be made with Market ingredients: tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella from Samish Bay. I used my husband's tomatoes, including putting some through a food mill and simmering them into sauce.
The trick with grilled pizza is to have all the toppings at the ready. Roll out the dough, slap it on the grill and close the lid for a few minutes. It'll puff up like crazy, but just flip it over, puncture it, if necessary, and top. A few more minutes and it's done! Slide onto a waiting pizza pan and listen to everyone groan with pleasure over the crisp, smoky crust.
So get on out to the Market this week and (to mix metaphors) find music for your tastebuds.

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Wishing all our faithful Marketgoers a Happy Thanksgiving! I already have Should-Have-Bought-More Remorse from the last Market of the season because I bought my first bottle of Finnriver's Blueberry Wine after sampling it, thinking I'd give it as a gift. Well, I didn't hold out, and busted into the bottle the next night.

Man, oh man. Buy this next year! Rich and delicious, straight from the bottle, or so very good poured over vanilla ice cream. Since we didn't save it for my in-laws, whose house we're going to for Thanksgiving, we at least managed not to drink the whole bottle, so they could still try some! What I'm not sharing, however, is the bottle of hard pear cider I picked up the same day. All mine.

I also wish I bought more honey, especially after I made this cake for a potluck. If your family doesn't do pies, or if you do pumpkin and someone still has a craving for apple:

Honeyed Apple Torte (adapted from Cooking Light magazine)

  1/3 cup Market honey (do not use the nasty stuff that comes in a plastic bear)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 apples, peeled and cut in 8-10 wedges each (I used a mix of apples from Collins Family Orchard)
3/4 cup (scant) sugar
6 Tbsp softened butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

[Cooking Light pic]

1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
another dash of lemon juice
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Topping:
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. (A 9-inch cake pan would also work, but you won't be able to serve it looking as pretty.)

In a skillet, combine the honey and lemon juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the apples and cook 14 minutes or until almost tender, stirring from time to time. Set aside.

Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla with mixer until well-blended. Add eggs and lemon juice and beat well.

Mix dry ingredients and add gradually to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Spread batter in pan.

Remove apples from skillet with slotted spoon and arrange in a spoke-like patter in batter. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over.

Bake for one hour until cake is browned and springs back lightly to touch. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut in wedges using a serrated knife.

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I made the cake a day ahead and refrigerated, letting it come to room temperature again before I served it. No one complained. No one, that is, except my kids, who weren't allowed to have a piece.

I'll keep this post brief, since I hope you'll all be off cooking. So discouraging to be in Trader Joe's yesterday (buying breakfast cereal, the expensive, processed-food bane of my existence) and to see everyone in line with their packaged, pre-fab Thanksgiving foods. Come on, everyone! This is the ONE real food holiday of the year, the time to make it from scratch, if ever. Put down the assembly-line pies and stuffing mixes and gravy boxes, the vegetables washed and chopped in their non-recyclable plastic bags. Try one recipe this year. You won't regret it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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.


How to Do the Saturday Market

Summer = houseguests.

At least for us. With family in town these past several days (of whom three of the visitors were kids 15 and under), we were looking for activities that provided (1) fresh air, (2) some exercise, and (3) food. Hooray for the Bellevue Farmers Market!

If you're expecting guests or just want to do the Saturday Market up right, I've got two steps for you.

WALK OR PARK. The new downtown location is wonderful! I included a map in my last post, but the easiest way to describe it is on the street between Lincoln Square and CPK, opening into Compass Plaza in front of the Tap House and Rock Bottom. We parked at Bellevue Square, having other business there, and strolled past the Bellevue Arts Museum. So easy, and it felt like the summer street fairs! In fact, here's the map from the Arts Museum website:

COME HUNGRY. The good thing about there being so many of us was that we were able to sample lots of the Saturday offerings.

(Pic stolen from Yelp because I ate my dish before I remembered to photograph it)

The Los Chilangos food truck serves up delicious, fresh Mexican food. I'd seen the truck parked during the week at 1829 130th Avenue in Bellevue, so I was thrilled to give it a try.

Next week we'll have to hit the other truck:

A Marketgoer, preparing to thrive

Thrive offers organic, vegetarian food, including smoothies, salads and bowls.

Then there's Midori Bakery--

 

Baking incognito at Midori Bakery

The picture's lousy (photo credit: yours truly), but the baked goods divine. We ate the perfect soft pretzels and my son had the ham and cheese croissant. All gone. All good.

On the side we enjoyed Collins' Chelan cherries--

Sweeter than the Rainiers I got on Thursday. I think we went through three pounds, lickety-split. (Their Fuji apples are worth getting, too--crunchy and sweet.)

Followed by cleverly-named Yippie-Pie-Yay:

Mid-Yippie!

Hand pies are a wonderful invention. And the perfect size, so you have an excuse to say, "Get your own!" Loved the peach-bourbon and blueberry flavors.

And ending with Hedgehog Toffee. Now, both this toffee and Thursday's Pete's Perfect Toffee are better than any you'll get in the stores, but I especially appreciated Hedgehog's compostable packaging. Being on an anti-plastic kick, I love to see the brown paper!

Finally, the Market wouldn't be the Market without food items you can't find elsewhere. Saturday offers plenty of pastured eggs and even duck and turkey eggs! When I don't have my family with me, I'll get you more details on that...

In the meantime, finish off whatever you have left in the crisper and prepare to re-load at our two Markets!

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.

Off the Beaten Digestive Tract

You hear plenty about the benefits of eating organic, local, sustainable, etc., but not enough is said about how farmers market offerings provide variety from the run-of-the-mill produce at the supermarket. In their efforts to promote biodiversity and keep heirloom varieties in existence, our farmers don't just raise cherries, peaches, blueberries, and so on--they raise particular strains of them. If the variety's name isn't listed on the sign, ask!

This past Saturday, in my determination to branch out from Rainiers and Bings, I bought a pound of Van cherries. Dark red/purple like Bings, but a little sweeter. Nothing may surpass the blushing beauty of Rainiers, but a blind taste test might win Vans new converts.

Speaking of blushing, the array of peaches and apricots is dazzling. When I read David Mas Masumoto's Wisdom of the Last Farmer, I learned that "blushing" varieties of peaches crowded out non-blushing in supermarket demand, simply because they were prettier, not more flavorful. Yes, we are really that shallow. I've noticed both blushing and pale-faced peaches and apricots at the BFM and am determined to try them all. Consider Collins Family Orchard. I bought a couple pounds each of their peaches and apricots, put them in a brown paper bag at home, and enjoyed them a couple days later at the peak of perfection. Mouth-watering. For my fellow peach-pie makers, Collins reports that freestone peaches should be along in a few more weeks. And, if you buy them by the box (as pie-makers will), they'll be $1.20/lb! For a great peach pie recipe, check out the Bellevue Farmers Market Cookbook.

It's not only fruits and vegetables which can be called by name. Salmon lovers have long had their favorite varieties as well, fished in favorite locations. In our house we've been into the fresh sockeye found at Two If By Sea on Thursdays and Loki on Saturdays. I'll leave you with this recipe we enjoyed last night, adapted from Good Housekeeping:

Honey-Grilled Salmon
3 Tbsp Daniel's Honey (Wild Flower variety)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground pepper

Sockeye salmon fillets, up to 24 ozs total

Mix rub ingredients with 1 tsp very hot water to blend. Spread this all over the salmon fillets. Grill over medium heat until salmon turns opaque and flakes easily with a fork, turning salmon once with a wide spatula. (We just grill it on a rack.)

Try one new thing this week at the Market. You'll be glad you did.