strawberries

Now You Can Get Lazy and Forgetful

Because the Saturday Bellevue Farmers Market opens this weekend! Go ahead and run out of strawberries and cherries after two days--you can always get more on Saturday.

More where these came from

As in past years, the Saturday Market will be held in Compass Plaza, just south of Barnes & Noble, and they will graciously provide free parking with Market validation.

Sounds like Opening Day will be a lovely one, so why not come down for your fresh, just-picked goodies and one-of-a-kind prepared foods, and then grab a beach read from Barnes & Noble before you head for the pool? I've put out my list of 2015's Beach Read Choices here.

And, lest I forget, you might want to run by the Thursday Market as well, to grab some luscious sparkling cider to complete that perfect afternoon.

Some of the ciders

Remember Finn River from Saturday Markets past? I spotted them last Thursday, with their dazzling array of sparkling ciders and wines and brandies, all made with their own fruit.

Dessert wines!

The Full Monty

And hasn't life gotten better, now that we can sample the goods (if we're over 21)?

You can even make it a Finn River weekend because every Sunday at the farm and cidery they offer tastings AND a free slice of woodfired pizza, garnished with "fresh, organic, farm-grown toppings." This is meant to be a family affair with live music from 12-6pm. Show up on bicycles and you get a free cup!

Our friends are located south of Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. Directions here.

Don't forget that Saturdays are dog-friendly, as well--a big highlight for my almost 12YO daughter, who loves to see your dogs, since her cruel mother won't get her one. (This is her birthday weekend, so I'm putting out a special plea to all Corgi and West Highland Terrier owners to turn out!)

Got one of these? She's welcome on Saturdays!
Walk your Westie on down!

Do we have a deal? See you all Thursday and Saturday.

Strawberries, Asparagus, and Garlic Scapes

Of course you saw the strawberries last week, right? I bought two pints just to eat out of hand, and they lasted precisely two hours, with one child responsible for polishing off one pint all by herself. This week I clearly need more: three pints to eat out of hand, another couple to be there the following day, and still another couple to be frozen or made into a dessert.

My oldest has to prepare a fruit dessert as part of her Home Ec class (or whatever they call it now) in high school. I suggested an apple crisp a week ago, but now that the berries are here, I think I'll put this recipe under her nose:

Lemon Shortcakes with Strawberries
BISCUITS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk (or scant cup whole milk w/1 Tbsp lemon juice)
1/2 stick melted butter, cooled

TOPPING:
3 12-oz baskets strawberries, hulled
1/4 c torn fresh mint leaves, optional
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

FOR BISCUITS: Preheat oven to 400F. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients in a second bowl. Add to flour mixture and stir just until moist dough forms. Drop in 8 dough mounds on a cooking sheet and, with floured hands, pat into a biscuit shape. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

FOR TOPPING: Slice 2 baskets strawberries and transfer to a large bowl. Puree remaining basket of strawberries in the food processor to make a "sauce." Mix with sliced strawberries, sugar, mint, and lemon juice.

Halve warm biscuits and put lots of topping on. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

[This recipe was torn from a magazine years ago. Bon Appétit?]

That's dessert. And for dinner she's planned Two If By Seafoods baked salmon alongside asparagus.


Alvarez Organic Farms was plugging its garlic scapes and onions last week, and I saw a friend with an armful that she planned to sauté. Epicurious suggests this Garlic Scape Pesto recipe. 

In fact, how about the salmon, roasted asparagus, crostini with garlic scape pesto, and a spinach salad? Beautiful colors, all rounded off with the shortcakes. Mmmm. Hooray for Market season!


Strawberry Fields for a Few Weeks

Ah, bliss.

By now most of you have had your first real strawberries of the season from our wonderful farmers. If you've been buying them by the half-flat, as I have, you've not only been eating them out of hand, but you've even started to "waste" them in recipes.

To wit:

On the plate: Tuna salad sandwiches made from Fishing Vessel St. Jude (Market) tuna, topped with sunflower sprouts from Growing Washington, with a side of strawberries and a glass of homemade strawberry lemonade.

Followed by homemade strawberry birthday cake, thus:

Exactly three drops of food coloring went into this

I have so many things to write about the Market (and have not yet even gotten to visit the Saturday Market), but they will have to wait a week because we all know how quickly the window for each of our Washington soft fruits opens and closes.

Speaking of soft fruits, did you see these guys last week?

 But I digress...

Get these three recipes into your mouth before any more time elapses. Everyone will praise you to the heavens, the instant they can stop oohing and mmmming.

Tuna Salad Sandwiches
1 can Fishing Vessel St. Jude tuna of your choice
1/4 cup chopped pickles (I used my neighbor's homemade) or relish
a big squeeze of your favorite mustard
enough mayonnaise to moisten 
a handful of Growing Washington sunflower sprouts

Mix and spread on slices of your favorite bread. Top with sprouts.

***********************

Fresh Strawberry Cake (adapted from here)with residual Strawberry Lemonade
18 ozs fresh strawberries
1-2 tsp sugar, depending on how sweet the berries are
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 sticks butter, softened

Hull strawberries and cut in large chunks. Put in saucepan and add sugar. Let sit an hour until they release some juice. Then add 1/4 cup water and simmer 15-20 minutes, until berries are soft.

Puree in blender. You will need 1/2 cup puree. Set aside the remainder for the strawberry lemonade.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans.

Combine puree, milk, eggs, and vanilla and mix until well blended.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until pale yellow and smooth. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to butter. Beat until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add wet ingredients and beat at medium until smooth and evenly combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. (Add a few drops of red, if your batter isn't pink enough for you.)

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth out.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes rest in pan for 10 minutes and then turn them out to cool completely on racks. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

For the lemonade, there's no exact recipe. I took the leftover puree and added lemon juice, cold water, and sugar alternately, to taste. It depends on whether you want your beverage to taste more like lemonade or more like strawberries. I wanted it right down the middle. If I'd had some mint, that would have made a nice garnish in the glass. Or maybe it would have been another place to use those delightful sprouts:

I might have to try growing some of these, as I have lentil sprouts, because they are crisp and sweet and tasty on sandwiches and salads. Which reminds me of one last Market salad to leave you with:

Spring Salad à la Bellevue Farmers Market
Fresh Market spinach
Cucumber
Sunflower sprouts
Strawberries
Balsamic vinaigrette or Green Goddess dressing with Market mint and parsley

The 411 on Local Strawberries

Seascape Strawberries at Willie Green's

For a brief, bountiful moment, we are swimming in strawberries. Real strawberries. Meaning, ones with sweetness and flavor that require no added sugar when sliced over ice cream. I treated myself to these Seascape Berries at Willie Green's because I personally subscribe to the smaller-is-better philosophy when it comes to strawberries and blueberries, and the Seascapes were tiny. I was not disappointed. "Sugar bombs," we call them at our house. So ripe we are obligated to eat them the day of.

As I mentioned last week, I've been reading a book about the horrors of commercially-grown tomatoes, which I'll eventually cover in a detailed review, but in the meantime, author Barry Estabrook argues that the "focus on making the [commercially-bred] tomato bigger and firmer" has come at the cost of flavor. "They've essentially taken the package and added water. Strawberries are the same story, but tomatoes are probably the worst example" (p. 149). The strawberry mention caught my eye because I couldn't agree more. Several years ago, when the Washington State strawberry crop was hit hard, I was horrified to find California commercial strawberries being served up at the Bellevue Strawberry Festival. Over-sized, hard, flavorless, and tart, conventionally-grown California strawberries are not a reason to celebrate. Especially when you consider those unappealing Frankenberries consistently make the "Dirty Dozen" list of pesticide-laden produce. To my nine-year-old's dismay, our family goes without fresh strawberries until we can have the real thing, locally and seasonally. Ask our farmers about varieties and whether their berries are grown spray-free!

Besides being delicious, our local Market strawberries are also geographically educational. I asked Kai at Hedlin Family Farms why Shuksan strawberries were called Shuksan strawberries.

Kai: Because of Mount Shuksan. [Manages not to say, "duh!"]

Oh, *that* Mt. Shuksan. Not exactly Mt. Baker.

UFJ: What?

Kai: Mount Shuksan in Skagit County. You know, like Hood, Rainier...

UFJ: I never heard of it! I think one of these is not like the other.

Kai: Have you ever climbed it?

UFJ: Maybe it's because I'm from California.

Other Customer: I've never heard of Mount Shuksan either.

Sure enough, when I asked Market Director Lori Taylor if she'd ever heard of Mt. Shuksan, she looked at me like I'd asked her if she ever heard of Issaquah. "Of course I know Mt. Shuksan! You Californians!" In my defense, my husband, born and raised a Washingtonian, went totally blank over this supposedly-famous, strawberry-inspiring mountain: "Hood, Rainier, and Shuksan? It's not exactly Mt. Baker!" I guess "Baker Strawberries" didn't have quite the same ring. And Not-Exactly-Mt-Baker Strawberries also got the big Veto somewhere along the line.

In any case, we can all agree the variety is delicious and worth grabbing over the next couple weeks, along with the fleeting Rainier and Titan cherries.

A quick review on freezing berries:

  1. Wash gently.
  2. Hull (or just cut off the stem)
  3. Set them individually (not touching) on a cookie sheet in the freezer.
  4. When frozen, pick them off and put them in a freezer bag. Ready for use, the rest of the year 'round.

See you this Thursday and Saturday, rain or shine. And grab those half-flats while you can!