Monday, July 4, 2016

Simple. Fresh. Local. No Compromises.

Recently a friend remarked that he had enjoyed reading my post on chicken and dumplings, and then followed with . . . the recipes on your blog sure are complicated.
 In a world saturated with television shows, cook books, and internet sites dedicated to sidestepping the art and craft (and, I would argue, great pleasure) of cooking in favor of slapdashery, my hope is to inspire you to find joy in spending an occasional weekend afternoon creating something spectacular for your family and friends.
Now don't get me wrong.  On a summer weeknight when Phil and I don't walk in the door from work until 7:30pm, we've got to get dinner on the table.  But that doesn't mean compromising by opening cans or packages. After our weekly visit to Farmers' Market, we have the building blocks of simple meals on hand in the best local, seasonal produce, and we treat it with care.

For a super fast dinner I'll chop up a bowl of fresh heirloom tomatoes and sprinkle them liberally with awesome Jacobsen Kosher salt while Phil mixes a cocktail.  The tomatoes sit and give up their juice while I bring a pot of salted water to a boil and throw in the fresh pasta from Providore we always have in the freezer.  While the pasta cooks and we both sip our drinks, I peel a clove of garlic and run it through a press into the bowl with the tomatoes, chop two big handfuls of arugula and basil, add a hearty glug of olive oil, and stir.  Sauce done.  Reserve 1 cup of water from cooking the pasta, then drain the rest in a colander.  Return pasta to pot, with the reserved cooking water, toss with tomato sauce and thick shavings of Parmesan.  Serve pasta in warm bowls, topped with torn fresh mozzarella or burrata.  Dinner on the table in 15 minutes. 
Fava Beans, Shelled and Blanched, Ready to Peel
Right now fava beans and arugula are available at Farmers' Market, so we're also making a simple fava bean puree with arugula, mint (from planters on my deck), and Parmesan.  It's vibrantly green, healthy, and satisfying.  Spread it on garlic toast or water crackers.  Add a half clove of minced garlic to the recipe and thin it out a bit more with olive oil and you've got a great sauce for rigatoni, or to dollop on grilled salmon or chicken.  Yes, you have to peel the favas, blanch them and peel them again, but you'll get into a pleasant rhythm.  After that the rest of the recipe whirls together in a snap. 

Recipe Adapted from Gourmet Magazine | May 2009 
2 pounds fresh fava beans in the pod
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
2 cups arugula divided
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Manchego
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon 
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup mint leaves slivered

Optional (1 garlic clove, peeled) 
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Snap the top off the fava bean pod and pull down on the "strings" to open a seam.  Slide your finger inside the pod to fully open it and remove the beans.  Cook fava beans in boiling water, uncovered, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain and transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking.  Pinch off a very tiny bit of the bottom of the fava beans and gently squeeze to remove the soft inner bean. Discard shells and pods.  
Pulse fava beans in a food processor until very coarsely chopped, then transfer half of mixture to a large bowl. Add olive oil, 1 cup arugula, cheese, lemon zest and juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to favas in processor and purée until smooth. Add to bowl with favas. Coarsely chop remaining cup arugula and gently fold into fava bean mixture.

 Spoon fava bean mixture onto serving plate, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle on mint. 


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Farmers' Market is Open And Better Than Ever

The sound you heard Saturday morning was me shouting with glee at the sound of the opening bell at Farmers' Market.  I've been dreaming of this day for weeks.  Patiently waiting for greens, greens, and more greens.  Food with flavor and color.  Food that makes me feel alive and so grateful to our local farmers.  

Although still early in the season, there is an abundance of glorious just-picked vegetables to choose from.  Or don't choose, just buy them all as I do.  
Market produce simply tastes better.  Tonight we'll have grilled leeks and sprouted broccoli aside fresh halibut with a sauce of lemon juice, butter, salted capers, parsley and chives.  Tomorrow I'm roasting beef bones and braising 100% grass-fed beef neck roast in soy, mirin, and garlic.  To balance out the richness we'll serve it over a pile of wilted Chinese mustard greens.  Monday night is pizza night with a tangle of fresh arugula slicked with olive oil.  Oh, so much goodness. 

Here's a quick tour of some of the highlights you can expect when you make your own trip to the market this Saturday. Farm has so much great stuff, I elbow my way in and start loading up.  Farmer Rebecca Slattery and her interns are ready for you with sorrel, rhubarb, leeks, nettles, beets, arugula, pea shoots, sproutini, potatoes,
  and my personal favorite . . . 

 Sprouting Broccoli!  Who doesn't love purple food!  These young, tender stalks are mild, and a welcome hit of color after our wet, gray winter.  It needs little embellishment.  I happily eat it raw out of hand, but it is also great grilled, lightly steamed, or chopped on sandwiches.

Dogspotting is one of my favorite activities at the Farmers' Market.  Bainbridge is a dog-loving community and the market is THE place for doggie meet-and-greets.  Grab a leash and come on down.

Across the aisle from Persephone is Butler Green Farms.  If there are carrots in heaven then they taste like the ones Brian McWhorter grows.  Carrot candy.  Try a bunch and you'll never eat a grocery store carrot again.

 He's also got fat, juicy radishes, salad greens, kale, chard, plant starts, and lots more.

Betsey Wittick of Laughing Crow Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards is back and she's got the wine you want to go with your market dinner.  Organic, 100% island-grown, and the perfect pair for locally grown food.  I enjoyed a glass of her rose on Friday night as I took in the opening of Joel Sackett's photo show in the Bainbridge Performing Arts lobby, "Air, Water, and Soil: Local Farmers on a Changing Environment."

In addition to wine Betsey has lovely potatoes and greens, as well as really great cabbage.  Betsey's cabbage and Brian's radishes and radish tops made a great vinegar-based slaw that we put on top of green chorizo tacos.  Yum. 

No, you can't buy this little guy at the market , but you can buy delicious goat cheese and yogurt from Mystery Bay.  Whir up nettle pesto and smear it on a good cracker with some fresh goat cheese.  Hmm, I'm going to need another bottle of wine.

Newbie to the market is Preserve.  A venture by local chef Kerrie, formerly of Hey Day Farms.  Try and sample and you will go home with little jars of awesome.  I pounced on the onion relish and tomato jam.  I've already eaten it all on toast.  Note to self: next week buy the bigger jars.

Iggy's is back!  Taking fermentation to a whole 'nother level with kraut, kim chee, hot sauce, kombucha made with 100% northwest honey,  and tonics.   The beet kraut is my favorite for both its vibrant color and taste.  Grill up some good sausages, chunk them up and pile them on top of beet kraut for a super simple cocktail snack.

You might also want to try some goat cheese and slivered radishes and radish tops sprinkled with sea salt on some of Judith Weinstock's freshly baked bread.  Her breakfast spot in Indianola, Food Muse, is the region's best-kept secret for a locally sourced breakfast.  We come home with crusty cracked peppercorn and cheese loaf and chewy sun-dried tomato, arugula pesto rye rolls.  Oh, baby.  Next week I'll try the blueberry lemon-honey brioche with a mug of Ometeppe coffee.


I'd be hard pressed to declare my favorite green, but beet greens are in the running.  They hold up well to cooking, keeping both color and structure.  After a winter of greenless beets from the grocery store I'm so excited to see these big beauties at Leap Frog Farm.  They also have beautiful fresh spinach ready for your next salad, omelet, or pizza.  I'm ready to saute a pile of beet greens in olive oil, splash on a little sherry vinegar, and serve them with a fresh local poached egg on top, and a slice of that Weinstock peppercorn cheese toast.

Last year I dedicated a whole post to radishes.  I love radishes and the breakfast variety are my favorite.  They are mild and sweet and the best way to eat them is to drag them through salted butter and pop the whole thing in your mouth.  Young Farmers Ali and Max at Tani Creek have a lot of picture-perfect produce, including the pretty purple and deep green mustard greens I mentioned earlier. 

Another newcomer to the market this year is Jake's Pickup.  Jake Angel's bricks-and-mortar store is in the Texaco station at the corner of High School Road and 305.  This is not your run-of-the-mill gas station fare.  Locally sourced ingredients, cooked fresh.  So much good stuff to eat at the market this year!

As if I needed more reasons to love Coquette Bakeshop . . . they now have savory hand pies, similar to English pasties.  Flaky, buttery, and savory, they are a meal in themselves.  But it's the chocolate croissants that have their hooks in me.  They are worth every calorie and are a once-a-week splurge I look forward to on Saturday morning after a swim.

One last stop at Annie's Farmhouse Organics.  Peter and Annie Webber are master growers of all things vegetable.  For a quick dinner this week I'll saute some onions and poach a couple of chicken breasts in stock.  Pull the chicken out and tear it into shreds, then put it back in the stock with long slivers of kale and beet greens, and toss in some leftover cooked farro.  Dinner done.  Dinner delicious. 

Farm to table.  Back home it's time for my first salad with local produce since the market closed last December.  I grab a bowl big enough to serve a family and dig into my market bag.  Toss my creation with a little olive oil, champagne vinegar, sea salt, and pepper and I'm sated, body and soul.

We are blessed to live in Puget Sound, in a community that values local agriculture and supports locally grown food.  I feel fortunate to know our farmers.  They nourish my family, creating a physical connection to the place we call home. 

Thank you farmers.  It's going to be a great market season.