Tag Archives: farmers market

The beauty of an unplanned meal

I am a planner. I like to organize things and catalog them and plot them out on a timeline if they will let me. I am a librarian, after all. At work I have a master To Do list on my computer that is then broken up into sub-lists, including To Do This Week, To Do This Term, To Do This Summer, you get the idea. I also have a Projects list on a whiteboard in my office, just in case my other lists distract me from what’s really important.

This extends to my personal life as well, and definitely to my kitchen. I have a list of my goals for the year next to my bed, so that I can read them every night and stay motivated. I never (well, hardly ever) go to the grocery store before planning out the week’s meals and making a list. When I first started cooking, I always, always followed a recipe. It didn’t even occur to me, in fact, that there was any other way. And I liked how following a recipe gave me a consistent, predictable result.

Thankfully, I have learned by now that so much of cooking is unplanned. It’s about tasting and adjusting and customizing. Especially since we’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest where there is so much fresh, local produce, I have embraced seasonal cooking, which means you have to be ready to do what you can with what you’ve got at any given time of year. I encountered a perfect example of this one weekend recently when David and I went to our first farmers’ market of the spring.

spring vegetables

It is still indoors, in a warehouse-like building on the fairgrounds. The outdoor market won’t return until later this month, but spring was definitely making its presence known. The booths had more life, the whole place was humming, there were spring onions. Spring onions! They even have the word ‘spring’ in their name. So, of course, we bought some. We also gathered a hodge-podge of other vegetables, whatever spoke to us, as well as a dozen pullet eggs, which are the petite eggs of a hen under 1-year-old.

ingredients

I didn’t know what I was going to do with our random purchases and I started to feel a little Type-A panic about it. But when we got home and unpacked everything it became clear: a spring quiche was in order. It was the best kind of unplanned meal – fresh ingredients combining with a well-stocked pantry to create something delightful.

finished quiche

Hearty Farmers’ Market Quiche

Crust adapted from Joy the Baker, filling modeled on Two Peas and Their Pod
Makes one 9-inch quiche

In the spirit of spontaneity, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this recipe can be endlessly adapted and tinkered with. In fact, that’s what a quiche is for, in my opinion. Especially when it comes to what vegetables and cheese you use. You can use almost anything you can imagine. Just keep the proportions of vegetables and cheese to eggs and milk about what they are in this recipe and you will be sitting pretty.

Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks and chilled or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk, chilled (I used 1%)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch (about 4 cups) Russian kale, ribs removed and then chopped
  • 4 spring onions (white and green parts divided), chopped
  • 5 large eggs (or equivalent in pullet eggs)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%, use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

First, prepare and prebake the crust:

In a medium bowl whisk together flours, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Add the butter pieces and cream cheese and work into dry mixture, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, until most butter and cream cheese bits are pea-sized.

Whisk together the milk and oil, and then add all at once to the flour and butter mixture. Combine wet and dry ingredients with a fork until the liquid is just incorporated. Do not overwork – the dough will not totally come together, it will stay sort of shaggy.

Dump the dough into a clean 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Try to get it as even as possible, but don’t worry about it too much – no one will ever see it!

Put the crust in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.

Once your crust is frozen, line it with foil and fill it with beans or some other pie weight. Bake for 8 minutes. Then remove pie weights and foil and bake for another 4-6 minutes until it starts to brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add kale and the white parts of the spring onions. Cook until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spring onion green parts, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, then stir in the feta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

When the crust is done prebaking and the filling is prepared, raise the oven temperature to 375°. Spread vegetable mixture over the bottom of the crust, and then pour in egg mixture.

Bake the quiche for 45 minutes or until quiche is set and the top is golden brown. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast, Food, Lunch, Main Course

A surfeit of strawberries

We recently found ourselves in possession of a half-flat of strawberries over here. How does one come to possess a half-flat of strawberries you might ask? Welllll, we might have been over-excited to finally see these little red jewels make their blushing debut at the farmers market, and we might have over-bought. I am not afraid of a challenge though, especially not one as delicious as using up six pints of strawberries in as many days.

half flat of strawberries

The first thing I did with the delicate, sweet berries, beside pop of few of them into my mouth, is mix them with some rhubarb, sugar, and cornstarch. I then put that mixture into some cute little ramekins and buried it under a buttery, slightly salty crumb topping. Into the oven they went where they baked into a jammy, stewy, deliciously unctuous crumble.

I halved this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble recipe from 101cookbooks and split the goods into four personal-sized portions. Top with ice cream or whipped cream, of course.

strawberries!

After dessert, I was satiated enough to start thinking about other, non-dessert ways to use my cache of berries. And my thoughts went straight to breakfast. My go-to breakfast the past few months has been a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with defrosted frozen mixed berries. It’s healthy and just a little sweet. I could (and did), of course, add fresh strawberries to my yogurt, but I wanted something slightly more daring (I lead an exciting life).

First, I turned to this Rhubarb Compote from Cucina Nicolina. I’ve been making this compote on a weekly basis ever since rhubarb showed up in the market a month or two ago. This time, I substituted one stalk of the rhubarb for a half pint of strawberries and made a dreamy Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote that is just perfect swirled into my favorite yogurt.

compote

I wasn’t done with breakfast though. I also tucked some strawberries and my remaining rhubarb snugly into a parchment paper pouch, following this recipe from a recent Bon Appetit, and roasted them in a hot oven. They softened into a lightly sweetened slump that settles over a mound of morning yogurt like a thick, delicious blanket…the only blanket I might like better is the down comforter on my bed that I have to leave to eat said yogurt in the morning.

Almost halfway through the half-flat, I was gaining steam. Another issue of Bon Appetit (I was a couple behind) revealed a quick and easy Strawberry Jam recipe that did not require actual canning – no water bath, no pectin, no fuss. A shredded Granny Smith apple provides the thickening agent and the jam keeps in the fridge for two weeks – far longer than you will manage to keep it around, I assure you.

fixins

On the day I found myself with less than two pints left, I looked out my window to find another gray, wet, chilly Seattle day. Juneuary, the seasoned locals apparently call it. But not me. Me and my strawberries were going to make it feel like summer, come hell or high water (or incessant rain). To accomplish this feat of suspended disbelief, I turned to my friend Eve Fox and her recipe for childhood summers spent in the sun: Strawberry Mint Lemonade. I made a double batch.

strawberry lemonade

Less than a pint of strawberries left, and I had saved the best for last. You see, David has a weakness for biscuits. And I have a weakness for whipped cream (I will seriously just eat a bowl of it on its own if someone doesn’t hold me back). Strawberries + biscuits + whipped cream? That equals strawberry shortcake.

Not just any strawberry shortcake though. Weeks previously I had bookmarked the recipe for James Beard’s Strawberry Shortcake that Food52 was generous enough to share with the world. It has a secret ingredient. I always love the idea of a secret ingredient – an unexpected twist that makes a recipe unique and is passed down from generation to generation. My imagination of a secret ingredient and the story behind it rarely is satisfied by reality though. There are tons of recipes that say they have a secret ingredient, but it is something common sense that isn’t actually a secret at all. This is not one of those recipes. This secret ingredient is everything I want a secret ingredient to be – weird, unexpected, from a mom who discovered it years and years ago. And, most importantly, it totally makes a difference in the recipe!

strawberry shortcake!

These shortcakes are truly the best I’ve ever had. They are very rich, while at the same time being impossibly light. They have an extremely delicate crumb, while still holding together enough to be the vehicle you need to shovel strawberries and whipped cream into your face. See? The best. You will have to make them yourself to find out what the secret ingredient is…or just click on this link, but I promise you will want to make them yourself.

And thus ended my journey down a road paved with strawberries. I had used them all up. Sad! I think I will buy another half-flat this weekend…

strawberry mom and baby

Strawberry Recipes

If you find yourself in a similar position of overabundance this summer – or in the more rational position of having a pint or two of berries – you won’t be disappointed if you give one of these recipes a spin. What’s your favorite strawberry recipe?

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Filed under Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Odds & Ends

The best kind of tourist: Seattle Staycation (part 2)

Well, the glorious spring break I told you about last time has come to an end, and the impending wave of homework can be seen once again, cresting on the horizon, threatening to drown me. (just kidding…sort of)

The last week of my Seattle Staycation was so much fun though, I am grateful I get to re-live it by telling you about it here.

space needle view

The day after I left off my last post, I headed downtown to be a tourist and that theme continued throughout the week. Now, I love going to new places and seeing new cities, but when I’m a tourist I always find myself overwhelmed with how much there is to do and how little time I have to do it all. This is often compounded by the fact that I tend to get lost – a lot – thus leaving me with even less time to experience everything the place has to offer. And at the end of a long day of walking and tourist-ing around, no matter how nice the hotel is that I’m staying in, I always just wish I could sleep in my own bed.

Well, this time I got to be the best kind of tourist: one that wasn’t pressured to see every single thing in one day (since the sights and I will both still be here next time.) One that didn’t get lost (well, I did still get lost a couple times…but I was able to get back on track faster!) And one that, at the end of a long, fun day was able to go back to my own home and sleep in my own bed.

top pot doughnut

So, getting back to my adventures…that up there is a Top Pot doughnut. Yum. Unsurprisingly, much of my activity during this week of hometown touristing was focused on food. In addition to doughnuts, I ate some lovely homemade pasta at a tucked away place called Il Corvo while I was downtown. But! I also did other things. Fun, intellectually stimulating, culture-y things.

Olympic sculpture park

I went to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is right on the waterfront in downtown Seattle (read: beautiful). Even better, the day that I went happened to be gorgeously sunny – one of a few sunny days that we had here that week. I like to think the gods knew I was on spring break.

Elliot Bay

I also went on an entertaining and education tour called Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, during which I learned lots of fascinating things about the history of Seattle and what it was like to live here in olden times.

One of these factoids that stuck with me was about how in the late 19th and early 20th century, most of the roads in downtown Seattle were built about 20 feet above the sidewalks because the city ran out of money to raise the sidewalks above sea level after they had already raised the roads. This meant that people literally had to climb huge ladders in order to cross the street, and that most businesses had both a lower door (level with the sidewalk) and an upper door (level with the road). When the city finally did build up the sidewalks, they made them hollow so that people could still use the lower level sidewalks and entryways. In order to let light into this underground area, they built skylights that are still there today, though the old glass has turned purple.

underground skylight from below underground skylight from above

Having sated my appetite for history with that tour, I then headed up to the observation deck of the tallest building in Seattle, called Columbia Center, to get the ol’ adrenaline going (man did it, this sucker is TALL) and saw some breathtaking views.

view from columbia center

On another equally lovely, sunny day David and I rode a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride alone, and stunning views it afforded us, was almost enough to warrant the trip. While there we ate an amazing lunch at Cafe Nola and spent a couple of hours wandering around The Bloedel Reserve, a beautiful nature reserve and garden open to the public.

bloedel reserve reflecting pool

Those were the highlights, and though there is more I am going to have to end my gushing here. Suffice it to say that my Spring Break Seattle Staycation was a total success. By the end of it I felt relaxed and refreshed and, best of all, I had increased my knowledge of, and love for, my new city by leaps and bounds.

view of downtown from the ferry

On the last day of my respite we visited the Ballard Farmers Market where I bought a bunch of the first broccoli rabe of the season. As much as I have embraced and enjoyed the winter offerings of the farmers market, I was giddy at the sight of some spring veggies.

broccoli rabe

I used the broccoli rabe right away in a simple pasta dish in which it is blanched and then lightly sautéed along with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes. It is a perfect quick dinner to welcome spring.

Since I pretty much followed the recipe for this dish from Simply Recipes to the letter, I will just point you there: Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Happy spring!

finished pasta dish

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Filed under Food, Main Course, Pacific Northwest

The summer farmers market bounty

Another wonderful thing about Seattle: the summer farmers market. It’s not that there weren’t farmers markets in DC, there were, and good ones. I was especially loyal to the one in downtown Falls Church, close to the last place I lived in the DC area. But the farmers markets I’ve been to in Seattle just seem so much more robust (ew, I hate that word)…buzzing…alive…bountiful. Not just in that there are seemingly more of them, but also each one is brimming with so many different types of produce, so many different farmers to choose from, each booth with something tastier than the last.

Beautiful carrots at the farmers market

I’ve also noticed that many, most really, of the booths are selling organic fruits and veggies. People ’round these parts are committed to their organic, local, seasonal produce – even many of the grocery stores are great for that. It’s quite impressive. I know it’s a trend that’s sweeping the nation, but I can tell it’s not a recent thing in the Pacific Northwest and I am reaping the benefits.

Abundance of heirloom tomatoes

I am also dazzled by the number and variety of other wares I find at the farmers market – things like local, handmade cheese, homegrown grains (I used wheat berries from Bluebird Grain Farms in the recipe below), fresh-caught seafood, and I’m only just beginning to explore everything it has to offer.

Homemade cheese at the farmers market

With all this enthusiasm, I’m sure it’s not a surprise to hear that I’ve gone a bit overboard the last couple times we’ve visited our local farmers market.  The closest one to where we live is the one in the U District, which is huge – much to my delight, but adding to my overindulgence.

U District Farmers Market

Oh my. When I go there I find myself in a state that is somewhere between heaven and the old game show Supermarket Sweep. If I actually got everything for free, like the players on Supermarket Sweep did, then it would be pure heaven!  But alas…

Berries!

It’s all just so hard to resist. I want to buy everything and I rationalize it by reminding myself that summer in Seattle doesn’t last long (at least that’s what long-time residents keep telling me) and that I need to take advantage. As a result, last week I was looking for recipes that would use as much of my farmers market haul as possible.

I had bookmarked a recipe from The Kitchn almost a year ago for a barley salad with golden beets, chard and feta, and it fit the bill perfectly. I know, it sounds a little wintry. But beets and chard are in season now, so why give them the cold shoulder until November? Nearly everything I used to make my adapted version of this recipe came from the U District Farmers Market.

Golden beets from the farmers market

The flavors and textures in this dish burst when you eat it. The sweet, earthiness of the beets and chard, the chewiness of the grains, the salty tang of the feta cheese. The combination of these ingredients is magical to a veggie-lover like me. Try it out and I’m sure you will agree.  I will be back to corn and stone fruit tomorrow, don’t you worry. For now, it’s all about this warm, satisfying salad.

Finished bowl of yumminess

Golden Beet and Wheat Berry Salad with Rainbow Chard

Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 5 cups

You can really play fast and loose with this recipe, as I did in adapting it to my tastes. For the greens, you can use kale, beet greens, or spinach (though I would cook them for less time if I were to use spinach) if you don’t have chard. For the grains, you can use barley as The Kitchn recipe suggests, but I used wheat berries and I also think that farro would be lovely. For the onion element, I cooked white onion instead of adding raw (though soaked) red onion because I just don’t like raw onion. I also omitted the scallions in the original recipe because I didn’t have any, and – I must admit – used lime juice instead of lemon juice because I didn’t have any lemons. All of this is just to say that this recipe is a prime candidate for experimenting and using what you happen to have in your kitchen – it will taste fabulous no matter what!

  • 1 cup dry hard white wheat berries
  • 3 large golden beets, tops removed
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, washed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or lime juice, if you must), divided
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 450-degrees.

Bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil. Add the wheat berries. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for approximately 45 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain when done and set aside.

Loosely wrap the beets in foil and roast in the oven until they are just fork tender – about 45 minutes. Peel the beets while they are still warm – I find the edge of a fork works brilliantly to just scrape the skin off. Once peeled, dice the beets into 1-inch cubes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chard. Strip off the leaves and tear them into bite-sized pieces. Cut the stems into bite-sized pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chard stems and diced onion until they start to brown a bit around the edges. Add the torn chard leaves, half of the lemon juice (1 1/2 tablespoons), and a big pinch of salt. Cover and cook the chard until it is bright green and has wilted down, stirring occasionally (about 8 minutes).

Once everything is cooked, combine wheat berries, beets, chard and onion mixture, and feta in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the remaining lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and drizzle this vinaigrette over the salad. Stir to evenly coat all the ingredients.

Taste and season with salt as needed, and pepper to taste. You can serve immediately, but if you can wait it’s good to let it sit for 15-20 minutes so that the wheat berries can absorb the liquid. Serve at room temperature.

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Filed under Food, Main Course