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Archive for February, 2012

Through Thick and Thin

Some say marriage is all about compromise and there is perhaps no place this is more evident than on the plate (or in the bowl, as the case may be).  You see, my husband is Polish, Jewish and Brooklyn all over, which means he was raised on a steady diet of hearty, starchy, mostly beige foods such as pasta, bagels, pierogies, blintzes and the like.  When I met him, the only vegetable (thanks, Congress!)  he consumed on a regular basis was pizza and ‘salad’ involved either macaroni or potatoes and a whole lotta mayo.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love me some beige food too, but my half-Chinese/half-Hippie upbringing plays into my food ethos as well.  I’m all about eating the rainbow.  Farmers markets are my happy place.  Salad—the green kind—is something to be craved, not simply tolerated.  In fact, I’ve never met a vegetable I don’t like…well, maybe one (I’m looking at you, steamed broccoli florets).

The way we eat and the foods we crave are deeply rooted in our personal histories and sensory memories.  This is especially true when it comes to our go-to comfort foods.  While for some that may conjure images of meatloaf, mashed potatoes or chicken pot pie, for me, nothing comforts more than soup.  Whether in sickness or in health, the soups I crave are most often light, brothy affairs—bowls of restorative goodness brimming with vegetables and vitality.  Although my husband likes soup too, as you might have guessed he favors thick, substantial varieties like split pea, chili and cream-of-anything.  You know, the kind a spoon can stand up in.

Food compromises are not always easily arrived at.  I’m always looking for dishes that can satisfy the starch monster that lives inside my husband, yet slowly introduce him to the joys of vegetable consumption.  After twelve years, my master plan is finally working.  The other day, he dropped the ultimate dude compliment on me.  He said, “Babe, you make vegetables taste good.”

Below is a recipe for one way to make vegetables taste good.  Both brothy and beige, starchy and soothing, matzo ball soup is the perfect compromise.

Matzo Ball Soup

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking (new version)

4 large eggs
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp snipped fresh dill
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp soda water
1 cup matzo meal
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 leek, quartered, chopped and well-rinsed
1 carrot, peeled, quartered and chopped
2 stalks of celery or bulb of fennel, chopped
6 cups rich chicken or vegetable stock
Additional freshly snipped dill, for garnish

Beat eggs and salt together for 1 minute.  Stir in pepper, dill and soda water.  Fold in matzo meal until fully blended.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

With wet hands, form the matzo into walnut sized balls then drop into a large pot of boiling salted water.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the matzo balls are cooking, heat olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté leeks, carrot and celery or fennel over medium heat until softened but not browned, 5-10 minutes.  Add stock and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

With a slotted spoon, transfer cooked matzo balls to the pot with the stock and vegetables.  Top with additional dill and serve.

NOTE: Although I don’t understand you, I know there are some of you that don’t appreciate the joys of dill.  If this describes you, simply substitute parsley, chives or a combination of both for the dill.

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Last Call for Winter Market

Starting a new Market in the dark days of winter has some peril, fortunately the weather cooperated. Sure, we’ve experienced rain, snow and high winds since the beginning of the year, but the worst of the season left Saturdays between 10-2 alone. Either because the weather was obliging or because 24,000 of you are crazy about fresh, local foods and the people who grow them, our inaugural Winter Market has had a great run.

It says Beligan, but it's actually local

PFM Director Trudy Toliver has been pleasantly surprised by the launch of our newest market, “We had a feeling this market would be a success and it sure was – full of shoppers every week! We couldn’t have done it without the support of our downtown neighbors or the cultural organizations surrounding the Market.”

Senior Market Manager Jaret Foster was particularly struck by the creativity of our farmers, “”I was most impressed by the strong amount of fresh greens and produce that our growers were still able to provide. Much of this was due to the mild winter but it speaks to their genius growing methods and season extension techniques. Just last week Springhill Farm showed up with Belgian Endive, two seasons in the making and beautiful!”

Joining the Springhill Gang this week will be Jim Dixon and his Real Good Food (I just some of his farro as part of a Chicken dinner last night and chewy, delicious, hearty, tasty goodness), Two-Tarts, Dancing Chicken has farm fresh eggs that rival the price of ‘free range’ grocery eggs, only taste better. Osmogaia, Gathering Together, cheese from Rouge and Jabobs Creamery plus another three dozen food growers and makers who’ll convince you, winter is about so much more than chard.

Speaking of Chard, our season at PSU begins on March 17th. Woo-hoo, until then, get down to the Park blocks between Main & Salmon, this weekend, it will be your last chance until PSU opens.

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Pi on TV

Last fall, a TV crew spent a morning at the Market hanging out at Divine Pie. The segment is now (finally) running on the Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets. And the results have been positive. Not only are people landing on our blog after googling Divine Pie, we got this nice email from Alissa…

Since the first night’s premier of the episode, we’ve been receiving loads of positive responses from people who are exited to try these unique desserts, and we’re hoping this amazing exposure helps our local business to grow and thrive. It’s truly an honor and a gift to be so well represented and to get such incredible national recognition on the Cooking Channel. We are thrilled to be providing a delicious gluten and dairy free dessert to our customers, as we strive to be pioneers on the healthy food front.

The Farmer’s market has been the perfect venue for us as a start-up food company, and we’d love to let other market shoppers and vendors know about our special feature on the Cooking Channel.  The show airs 3 more times this month.

2/25 @ 5:30pm EST

2/27 @ 10:30pm EST

2/27 @ 2:30am EST

You can read the whole article about all the pie vendors who joined the Market in aught eleven here, or just keep scrolling down to read the divine excerpt. Congratulations to Alissa and company – We’re excited to welcome Divine Pie back for the aught twelve season.

The Raw: Divine Pie

By Nicolette Smith

Meet Alissa and her raw food creation, Divine Pie. Alissa originally began creating her famous raw pies for a food cart she cleverly called, A Streetcar Named Inspire. While the food cart business was good for Alissa, she gradually realized she needed to break out on her own and focus on her unique, raw pies full time.

Divine Pies are all made with love and filled with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. With flavors like Key Lime, Chocolate Hazelnut (featuring our own Freddy Guy’s hazelnuts), and Marionberry Cheesecake, Alissa’s pies will trump any pre-conceived notions that raw food is too bland or too earthy. She even has a growing cult following to prove it. This may be the first year for Alissa at the market, but over the past few weeks, she’s been selling out like a true veteran.

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Winter Salad Beets the Blues (plus a little running)

By Jamie Reckers, Portland Farmers Market

Greens Galore - Photo by Allison Jones

This time of year, when the rain inspires most of us to pursue quiet inside activities that keep us warm and dry, I find myself with the goal of accomplishing a half-marathon in 2012.  Yes, folks, that’s 13.1 miles of non-stop motion in the great out-of-doors.  This requires a commitment beyond a day or a week, so four times a week I tuck my feet into my sneakers and will myself to move through this Portland winter.

Okay, this isn’t entirely true; as much of my running has been inside a climate controlled gym, but on occasion I do step outside, where I freeze for at least the first five minutes before my internal temperature acclimates.  With all this running I have found it even more necessary to keep a well-stocked kitchen, to fuel my body for longer distances and faster pacing.  Thank goodness for the Winter Market and the terrific vendor line-up, to keep me nourished with vitamin-and-mineral-rich produce.

Portland Farmers Market has traditionally hibernated for the months of January and February.  Last year, I remember coming back to the market after a two month break.  I filled my bags with more than what is necessary for one person’s week of groceries and spent the next two days in a fresh-food-induced coma.  I can recall feeling nourished in a way that my body hadn’t experienced for far too many meals.  My eyes had greater clarity and my body felt refreshed and re-energized.  Fortunately, this year, this break in routine has been unnecessary since our new Winter Market is able to provide me with so many options!

Winter Market abundanceI was unsure of what to expect from a Winter Market.  At best, I envisioned some hearty collards and at worst 20 varieties of potatoes.  I have been wonderfully surprised by the selection and quantities available from all of the produce vendors.  Such tasty treats as Brussels sprouts, broccoli raab, duck eggs, chicories, kale, arugula, leeks, and cilantro have provided a bounty that could surely rival any summer day.  I am grateful for the opportunity to consume great food plucked from the ground mere hours ago rather than days, or worse, weeks.

While most Portlanders might spend these winter months crafting their bread making skills to dip into rich and warm soups and stews made with their market purchases, I have been exploring variations on salad.  I don’t get it either—why would I miss the chance to steam up the windows and warm my tiny apartment with the sought-after heat from turning on my stove?  Why would I not want to cozy up my home with the scent of sweating onions and warm my body with a nicely roasted cut of meat?

Quite simply I have been craving the raw crunch of vegetables.  And with so many options available to me I have been wildly at play.  By my own admission I have been careless with combinations, throwing caution to the wind and taking on an ‘anything goes’ mentality.  I have been a bit daring in my purchases, exploring new green foods that normally go unnoticed and testing out different additions to dress up an otherwise simple meal.

For your own adventures in winter salad making, here is my offering to you.  Select any combination from the following categories and see what happens!

Greens

  • Chicory mix (Springhill Farm)
  • Chickweed (Gee Creek or Persephone)
  • Arugula (Groundwork Organics)
  • Kale (Osmogaia)
  • Salad mix (Gathering Together Farm)
  • Cabbage, red or green (Rick Steffen Farm)
  • Asian salad mix (Springhill Farm)

Fun Additions

  • Red or gold beets, grated or roasted (DeNoble’s)
  • Roasted potatoes (Gathering Together Farm)
  • Sautéed leeks (Springhill Farm) and mushrooms (Springwater Farm)
  • Romanesco (Winters Farm)
  • Fennel (Groundwork)
  • Pears (Packer Orchards)
  • Apples (Kiyokawa Orchards)
  • Dried Cherries (Cherry Country)

Proteins

  • Hazelnuts (LaMancha at the Persephone Farm booth)
  • Walnuts (Raymond Kuenzi Farm)
  • Blue cheese (Rogue Creamery) or goat cheese (Alsea Acre)
  • Greek Yogurt (Jacob’s Creamery)
  • Bacon (Sweet Briar Farms)
  • Salami (Olympic Provisions)
  • Hard-boiled duck or chicken eggs (Dancing Chicken Farm)
  • Dungeness crab (Linda Brand)

Dressing

  • Flavored vinegar (Blossom Vinegars)
  • Honey (Boyco)
  • Olive oil (Real Good Food)
  • Cilantro (DeNoble’s)

Non-market additions

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Dulse
  • Salt and pepper
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds

Of course, this only represents a fraction of the amazing variety of potential salad stars you can find at the Winter Market.  I encourage you to wander the nearly 40 vendor stalls and see what looks freshest and best to you!

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Let Us Eat Cake (For Breakfast)

Normally, we’re loathe to comment on the calorie wars. Because we aren’t dieticians, nutritionists, or doctors. And because it’s easier to find two economists who agree on anything than it is to find two public health experts who agree on how best to lose weight. So we tend to default to our standard view that everyone should have access to an affordable, well-balanced diet.

But the story that researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that people who indulge in sweets before noon have a better chance of reducing pounds, was a little too much to let pass. Researchers found,

In the study, obese participants who ate a breakfast high in protein and carbohydrates that included a dessert were better able to stick to their diet and keep the pounds off longer than participants who ate a low-carb, low-calorie breakfast that did not include sweets.

Seemingly, these conclusions seem to be the antithesis of everything we stand for at the Market, where proteins and leafy greens are strategically placed just far enough apart to give Marketeers a chance to walk around and mingle with neighbors. Or maybe we were just ahead of the curve. I know this makes TV’s Ron Swanson shake his head in sadness, but my favorite breakfast food is bread pudding, the neologism carbtacular doesn’t do it justice. Bread pudding and a cup of coffee, well enough said. And I’m not the only one who enjoys a little non-traditional breakfast, out friend Aaron Gilbreath, the hardest working man in Arts & Letters, fuels his work with the best kind of pie, the breakfast pie.

As long as we have you attention – 2 more episodes of our Winter Market, a few weeks off and then the 2012 season kicks off at PSU on March 17th.


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Seasonal Recipe: Miso Mushroom Soup

Recipe, story and photo by Chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans.  At the Winter Market, follow the mouthwatering aromas to the Springwater Farm booth, where you will find Kathryn doing delicious things with Springwater’s  farmed and foraged offerings. You can read about her adventures in local, seasonal eating and cooking at her blog, The Farmer’s Feast.

Mmmmushroom miso

This soup may just be the perfect antidote to winter’s chill.  It’s very soothing, nutritious, and easily digestible.  In fact, I once received the best food compliment I’ve ever been offered about this soup.  A market shopper who was a regular customer at Springwater Farm’s “Farmstand of the Future” (combination farmstand and ready-to-eat venue) last year would purchase miso mushroom soup weekly to eat for lunch, and take home an additional quart.

I think this soup is saving my life,” she told me.  She was undergoing chemotherapy treatments and said that my soup was not only the sole food that settled her stomach, but that she could feel it nourishing and restoring her body.

Shiitake are one of the most easily digestible mushrooms, so if you’d like, make the soup with just those.  Nameko is the mushroom traditionally used for miso soup in Japan – in fact, they are Japan’s second most popular mushroom (preceded by shiitake).  This soup is wonderful with some or all nameko in place of the shiitake and maitake that I’ve used in the recipe below.

In addition to the immune system-boosting properties of the mushrooms, the soup boasts a good amount of garlic (anti-microbial, heart-beneficial, cancer-fighting superfood), miso (an enzyme-rich, detoxifying food that is a complete protein), olive oil (rich in oleic acid), and nori seaweed (rich in protein, iron, and iodine).

And it tastes really good!

Miso Mushroom Soup

makes about 3 quarts

1/4 cup mild olive oil
1/2 pound fresh maitake mushrooms, “petals removed”, or sliced
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. salt (preferably Springwater Farm truffle salt)
2 qt. mushroom, vegetable, or chicken broth
1 cup sliced green onion (the tops of spring onions work splendidly, or you can use scallions or even chives)
1/2 pound silken or soft tofu, diced (I use locally-made organic OTA tofu)
a large pinch of dried nori (dried seaweed), optional
miso paste, to taste (I prefer mellow red miso).

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the maitake mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have attained a golden brown color (about 8 minutes).  Add the Shiitake mushrooms and continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Season the mushrooms with salt.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute.  Stir in the chopped green onion.  Add the broth.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the tofu.

The amount of miso paste you add to the soup will depend on your taste for miso.  You can always adjust with more miso.  Place an amount of miso in a bowl.  Whisk in soup broth until the miso is dissolved, then add the miso back to the pot.  Do not boil.  Adjust with salt, if needed, and serve hot.

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Jury Duty

Last week, a handful of Marketeers sequestered themselves in an undisclosed, top-secret location (Okay, the market office, after hours) for the Market’s annual food jury. The food jury is one of the final steps applicants participate in before being accepted into our markets. Prospective vendors drop off food for the jury panel, they leave and we sit around for hours, eat and talk about food.

Food jury duty is so much cooler than regular jury duty.

Actually, the whole set up is my idea of a dream evening: talking about food made by intelligent, creative people who care deeply about what they are doing. The jury’s conversation isn’t limited to how something tastes: Instead the food serves as a catalyst for a free-ranging discussion. Cheese on a cracker can set off a tangent about, “What is local”? Questions are hurled out:  Is the business family owned, do they raise and milk their own livestock, if not where does it come from? A prepared food will have us asking  if the ingredients in the food are grown locally, or if they can be grown in this region and if potential vendors are committed to purchasing directly from the market’s growers, ranchers, and farmers whenever possible.

Considering nearly 50 area business began at PFM, our conversation will eventually steer away from the esoteric aspects of a food’s umami to salt ratio, (Okay, we’ve never had that discussion – this isn’t kitchen stadium) to more practical matters like how long has a vendor been in business, do they have the resources to scale a Saturday afternoon at PSU in July and/or the fluidity to endure a miserable, rainy afternoon at a neighborhood market early in the season. We want agricultural enterprises and small foodcentric businesses to thrive with us and we need to assess how ready they are for the ups and downs of the market season.

Like any jury, there is the danger of  being distracted by our own needs and biases. Since part of my job is to tell the story of the market and its vendors, I can be too easily swayed by a business’s backstory – like if there was a cheese made from the milk of Sardinian heritage sheep, who graze exclusively on the native grasses that grow under the panels of a solar farm, and they are milked solely by left handed orphans, who use their wages to finance their college fund. Oh, and they’re fair trade  – a scenario like that  is enough to make me vote yes – no matter the quality of the food. Fortunately, Senior Market Manager Jaret Foster, gently reminds me to focus on the food and if a vendor is a good fit for our Markets.

Eventually our deliberations consider the Market’s mission. The best tasting food in the world might not be a good fit for us…we need to work with businesses who reflect our ethos, share our passion for local foods, offer customers high quality items and can contribute to making one of the best farmers markets in the country even better.

It is a complicated algorithm.

So who did we vote off the island? It’s really not like that, the jury is one part of the process – final decisions will be announced as we get closer to the PSU Market launch on March 17th. What I can tell you is that salted goat’s milk caramel goes stupidly well with apples. We saw a steak that was so perfectly marbled, I thought it had been photoshopped – and that wasn’t a picture of the steak, that was a steak in a cyrovac bag – it looked too perfect to be true. That and as usual we got to taste great foods from vendors who work hard to create unique, quality products that reflect their passion for the agricultural bounty of Oregon and SW Washington. I’m already excited about our new vendors this year.

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