Friday, August 26, 2011

Summers Bounty, continued....

We love going to open air markets in the summer and have done so much more this year than any other.

G likes to look at all the people and listen to the buskers. We love looking at all the fresh flowers and fruits and vegetables. And eating crepes and cupcakes and other yummies.

What always surprises me (though I don’t really know why I find it surprising) are the other food vendors, particularly the folks selling eggs and meat.

At the Edmonds Market we have seen people selling pork, beef and lamb, chicken eggs, duck eggs, butter and cheese. While we have yet to be brave enough to buy meat from one of them, we have gotten eggs before. Nothing tastes quite like fresh eggs. I never thought there was a difference until I had one. It just tasted more ‘eggy’. More flavorful.

And then there’s the butter. A local dairy called Golden Glen Creamery makes delicious butter. We had discovered their plain salted butter a couple of years ago. There is another product where you can really taste the freshness. I could have eaten the butter straight out of the tub.

Then they came out with flavored butters. I’d seen them at Metropolitan Market, but had never tried them. And the last time we went to the Edmonds Market, they were there with their cheeses and their butters. Garlic and sea salt butter, Cinnamon Spice butter, dill butter…I think they even have a butter that has orange and chocolate in it. That, my friends, is true decadence.

Speaking of decadence, we recently picked up some product from Pasteria Lucchese. They sell fresh pastas and sauces as well as some desserts, all of which are made the day before market. They get up early in the morning and work until late at night making their delightful wares.

We couldn’t resist the Wild Boar Plin, a kind of ravioli-like pasta filled with a mixture of meat, tomato herbs and spices. We also couldn’t resist a sauce they make…I think it’s called norcina. It’s a cream sauce whose major flavor components are pork sausage, mushrooms and black truffle salt.

I took a whiff of that sauce and my eyes rolled back into my head. It smelled so GOOD. It was the earthy scent of truffle that won me over. I had to have it. Along with some spinach tagliatelle to eat it on.

That sauce still makes me a little teary thinking about it. The freshness of the cream, the delicate seasoning in the pork, the amazing dark richness of the mushroom and truffle.

The real beauty of it all was that from freezer to plate it took only about 8 minutes. Three minutes to boil the pasta and the other five to toss it in the warm sauce, plate it and pour the wine.

So, Seattle area foodies, if you go to Edmonds or Ballard Farmers’ Market, look for Pasteria Lucchese. Heck, look for them at other markets, too. Those are the two I know for sure where they sell.

Too bad the outdoor markets are only in the summer, huh?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Bounty of Summer - The Elusive Apricot

Today was a beautiful summer day. The chilly marine layer of the morning burned off and revealed a hot, sunny afternoon. I passed a thermometer on the way home that said it was 82 degrees. In a car with no air conditioning, that’s hot. :o)

I had a little time, so I stopped at the Juanita Friday Market, one of the many outdoor farmers’ markets in the area. It’s small compared to the Edmonds Market or even the Lake Forest Park Market, but, thankfully, I was still able to find what I was looking for. Something I had been chasing for weeks.

Summer has always been and will always be synonymous with jam in my world. Summers growing up were filled with steaming jars, soup pots full of bubbling fruit and sugar and pectin, the distinctive POP of the tops sealing over the jewel-toned containers of jelly and jam.

A couple of years ago when I first attempted making jam myself, I made strawberry, apricot and raspberry. I decided at the time not to do blackberry because I was to lazy to deal with the seeds and most people get annoyed with jam that is full of seeds.

That year, my favorite was the apricot. It had turned out so good. Perfect balance of tart and sweet. Just delicious. It was, of course, the first thing we ran out of. Besides, it was my mother-in-law’s favorite. So I wanted to make sure I made some again this year.

But I seemed to be just missing the apricots. The first week we went to the Edmonds market, there were some there, but I knew I only had time for one fruit that weekend and it was the end of strawberry season.

The last time we went, there were no apricots. There were plenty of peaches which were not quite ready for jam making. But I thought maybe I was make peach instead of apricot. I’d go back in two weeks, when the vendor said the peaches would be right for jam.

I thought I had somehow missed the apricots this year. The growing seasons are so screwy because of our very cool spring and our lagging summer. So I resigned myself to go without apricot jam.

Then I went to the Kirkland Market this past Wednesday and saw them. Only one of the vendors had apricots, but she had them. With my dumb luck, however, I couldn’t actually buy them because they weren’t scheduled to open for another 45 minutes and I had to get back to work!

At that point I was determined. There were still apricots to be had and I was going to get them.

On the way to pick up G-man from daycare in the evenings, I would pass Juanita Beach Park. On Friday nights I would see the tents of the Juanita Friday Market. So today I decided to make a quick stop in to see if anyone happened to have apricots.

Lo and behold! One fruit vendor had apricots!!! And because it’s the end of the season, he was pretty desperate to get rid of them. After just missing the yummy little darlings for weeks, now I could get them for a dollar a pound if I wanted to buy a 22 pound box!

Let me tell you, it was tempting. But that’s like 9 or 10 batches of jam. There’s no way I have the time or the energy to make all that jam. So I settled for what was still a pretty good deal on six pounds and left it at that.

They tried to elude me, but I was triumphant!!

So I have enough ‘cots to make a couple of batches of jam and I got a flat of blackberries to boot! So it’s more jam making for me this weekend!

I can’t wait!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer, I love summer, give me that summertime!

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since I posted last. In that time, I must have cooked a ton, right?

Well, no. Schedules have been incredibly weird and there have been lots of out-of-town visitors, so it’s been hard to get some quality keyboard time.

That’s not to say we didn’t get some good cooking done. Just not the regular stuff.

We did have a crock pot adventure last week. Pulled pork. Which is really not new. We’d tried a pulled pork recipe a while back that was really pretty underwhelming. But we recently purchased Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen, the folks who bring you Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

I have really enjoyed reading this cookbook, mostly because at the beginning of every recipe is a paragraph called “Why this recipe works.”

The folks at the test kitchen did a major electrical overhaul so they could have racks upon racks of slow cookers so they could test and perfect meals for that appliance that is the savior of most suburban families. Bottom line: I trust them. And I also find them entertaining.

I won’t print the recipe here because it’s a new book and I don’t want to wake up and find a cease and desist in my inbox. But I will share some of their pointers.

First: you need a dry rub so you can start your flavor layering. Before you rub your pork shoulder, cut the roast into four sections and then put the dry rub on all sides of all four pieces, letting them sit a minimum of 8 but up to 24 hours.

Then all you have to do is put it in your slow cooker with a cup of your favorite barbecue sauce and cook it for 9-11 hours on low.

When the time is up, shred the pork, skim the fat off the sauce, combine the shredded meat with the pot sauce, adjust for seasonings (salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar). If I ever do this for a party, I'm making it a day or two ahead of time so I can put the sauce in the fridge and let the fat solidify on top. I hate skimming. I get impatient.

Et voila! Some pretty kick-ass pulled pork.

The dry rub is in the recipe. We used a rub that was made by our local market to make it easy. I discovered that I like my bbq on the tart side, adding more apple cider vinegar than I thought I would.

That’s what I loved most about this recipe. Once their part of it was done, they instructed the cook to adjust the flavors to their own preference.

Barbecue is a very personal, very regional thing. Some like it with more vinegar, some with more sugar, some with tomato, some with smoke. They didn’t mention liquid smoke, but if you like your barbecue smoky, you could certainly use a hickory or mesquite sauce or just put a drop or two of liquid smoke in there.

I love that they had the respect and knowledge to understand the personal nature of barbecue and put the reins in the hands of the cooks to finish the dish as they wished.

In other news, we’ve visited the Edmonds Farmer’s Market a couple of times in the last few weeks. One week we met friends and we bought a half flat of strawberries, which I promptly turned in to freezer jam, 16 half-pints worth.

Last weekend, we went again and spent a little more time just poking around and shopping. We got two bunches of gorgeous basil, which I turned into pesto. That also went into the freezer, 4 half-cup containers. Then we ate two this week. Half our efforts gone in the blink of an eye.

If we want pesto this winter, I think we’re going to have to get more basil. And I think we’re going to have to put it in the deep freeze in the basement so it’s not so easy to get to. Right now, it’s just too tempting.

We’re also thinking about going back to veggie bin delivery. G is getting more interested in veggies. And, frankly, we would eat more of them if they were delivered to us. So there may be a host of chard and kale recipes in our future, dear readers.

Thanks for stopping by. And thanks to everyone who's let me know they're reading. It's great to know you're there! Extra points for anyone who can identify the source of this week's title. (Hint: they're song lyrics)

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next Friday!