Finale

This is it, folks. This may be my very last post on this blog.

I finished what is potentially my final meal for this project. For those of you confused right now, go read “About”.

As finales go, it was a little underwhelming.

I started off with a Blueberry Nectarine Crosata by Bakers Royale through Yummly.

As the picture shows, it bears a suspicious resemblance to the galette I made earlier. Be not afeared! There is a reason for that. A galette is actually a French term that refers to flat, round cakes usually made with a pastry dough. This can be everything from some crepes to cookies. A crosata is an Italian term that refers to open faced tarts. These two run together so much that the terms have come to be used interchangeably (mostly in the US) in cases such as rustic pies.

Mainly here the difference is in the crust. The galette used pastry crust, the crosata was more of a pie dough.

Anyway. The dough was really the hard part. Now that I know what pie dough looks like (see meal one) I was able to do this without too much panicking. The panicking came when I was trying to fold the crust up over the filling. I actually ended up using less filling than it showed just to keep my dough from falling apart. As it was I escaped with a few cracks and a part that just fell over. I also forgot the egg wash and the sugar, but it didn’t seem to matter too much.

The side fell over and burned a little. Oops!

The side fell over and burned a little. Oops!

In future, I might just buy the pastry dough. Or bake it without a crust, which is what I did with the excess filling.

Admittedly, I did run out of unsalted butter, so I had to use half salted and half unsalted. I was a little worried, even though I cut down on the salt some. It tasted just fine, though.

I then started on the beans. I used those cattle beans I had bought at the market (see Ballard post). They were absolutely gorgeous as I was shelling them. They are much like cranberry beans, but the pods are white with a yellow tinge and the beans are not speckled, they’re splashed red. The more mature the bean, the deeper the red, leaving some with a gorgeous maroon and some a light pink.

Before Cooking

Before Cooking

I didn’t know how to shell beans, so I just fooled around until I figured it out. It wasn’t all that hard, surprisingly enough.

The woman at the stall told me to simmer them for twenty minutes then saute them with onions, peppers, and whatever else I felt like. I did just that, adding garlic, thyme and a bell pepper that was almost the same color as the bean shells.

Unfortunately the beans turned a purplish color by the end of the cooking, which was pretty (and looked like my other bell pepper), but not quite the same.

After Cooking

After Cooking

I stuck some corn on the cob in boiling water. Nothing fancy here.

The big hurrah was the eggplant. I’ve had my eye on Fine Cooking’s Grilled Eggplant with Garlic-Cumin Vinaigrette, Feta & Herbs for some time now. It was harder than I expected. The vinaigrette were the hardest part, merely because I wasn’t sure if letting it sit for more than ten minutes was OK. The question became moot when I realized there was no way to avoid it as I was too busy to bother.

The eggplant grilled nicely, with beautiful grill marks on either side. It was tender and had a flavor that was surprisingly delicate. It was also my last chance to grill this summer (I did so in between rain bursts). It came out beautifully.

I arranged them on a large platter, drizzled the vinaigrette “artfully” on top and crumbled on feta and mint (I could not find any cilantro, but it was fine without it).

It was a little salty, but that is easily fixed. Otherwise they were quite good, the best eggplant I’ve ever had, although that’s not saying all that much. I even managed to get them to the table warm.

All in all, not a bad sendoff.

I may get back to this if I find time during the school year. It will probably be infrequent, however, so for all of you who have watched as I’ve come from not knowing to dry berries before putting them in a pie to something resembling kitchen literacy, bon appetit!

Ballard

Well, I made the trip, just as promised. After half an hour of looking for parking (I ended up getting lucky), I finally got to see the Ballard Farmers Market.

It wasn’t all that different. Many of the same vendors were there as at the University District market. The sizes were similar. Ballard was much more crowded, which didn’t bother me much, but which might be annoying for someone in a rush. Almost every stall had a long line. There were also a lot more buskers, which was kind of neat, if a little noisy at times.

All in all, fun, but not mind blowing. I’ll probably stick to UD. It’s easier to get to and I can still find what I need.

I bought some cattle beans which should be fun and hopefully colorful.

Cattle Beans (left) and Cranberry Beans (right)

Cattle Beans (left) and Cranberry Beans (right)

I also got some mint, nectarines which were actually ripe, probably the last of the blueberries, and a pastry.

I also found boxes of squash blossoms, unfortunately I won’t be able to prepare them. I simply don’t have the time.

I was finally able to get ahold of that eggplant, though. It was tucked in the back of a stall almost under a table. It was pure luck that I spotted it.

For those of you interested in going, the market has a fantastic blog which highlights produce available at the time. Go here.

Picnic Take Two

Some friends and I decided to go to a Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I figured this was a good opportunity to try picnicking again.

I love rhubarb. I discovered this when I first made a strawberry rhubarb pie. I also love cherries, which are just on their way out now. So when I stumbled across the cherry rhubarb crisp by Jen from My Kitchen Addiction I was thrilled.

My first problem was pitting the cherries. I do not own a cherry pitter. That is not quite true. I own a cherry pitter somewhere, I’ve just no idea where and haven’t known for several years now, so I needed another way to pit cherries efficiently. That was when I discovered the paper clip trick. For those of you who don’t know the paper clip trick, you simple unbend a paper clip to form an S, stick one side into the top of the cherry and pry out the pit. It is surprisingly simple and doesn’t damage the cherries too much. You can see a video of it here.

The cherries pitted, I began chopping rhubarb. I had bought two sticks of rhubarb, figuring that ought to be my three cups worth. It was about a cup and a quarter. I ran back to the farmer’s market and bought two more large sticks. Fun fact, rhubarb leaves are poisonous. It is also a fruit, as decided in 1947 by a court in New York for regulation and duties purposes. Otherwise it is a vegetable.

The rest of this recipe was fairly simple. And absolutely delicious. My friends didn’t particularly like it, they didn’t think it was sweet enough, but I thought the rhubarb was quite good and was very glad I didn’t add any more sugar. Vanilla ice cream would have been a nice addition but I didn’t want to bring a cooler.

Next was pasta with grilled vegetables and goat cheese from Yummly, originally from Cooking Light. This was only my second foray with the grill, but quite different from the foil wrapped salmon I had tried earlier. I learned a lot with this recipe, I also made a few changes.

Trick one, add lots of salt to the pasta water. I mean, lots of salt. It may not be all that healthy, but it is well worth it.

I was also unable to find radicchio, so I just left it out. It’s pasta, right?

I bought quartered artichoke hearts accidentally, which definitely would have fallen through the grate on the grill. So I just left them as they were and didn’t grill them.

The rest of it went well. I learned how to oil a grill, how to put things on the grill and take them off without dropping them. I also learned that grills are hot. No, I didn’t burn myself, thank you for asking.

I decided to serve this as a pasta salad, so I waited for the vegetables to cool before chopping them up and dumping them in. I also used a lot more than four cups of pasta. Maybe about six. I topped it off with some olive oil and vinegar.

I also substituted feta for goat cheese. I love feta. A grilled feta sandwich is one of my favorite lunches. I think feta goes with everything and we always have some in the fridge. I will often substitute feta for goat cheese, even if it doesn’t taste at all the same. I don’t care, I like feta.

All in all, it went over well. I wasn’t too impressed, but I did think this was a much more sensible way of serving zucchini than my last method (peeling into paper thin strips, which takes forever and tastes just the same as chopped).

The last part of this meal (a friend was also bringing a dish, so I limited myself to three) was a sandwich. Yes, rather anticlimactic. At this point I didn’t care. While you, dear reader, may do all of this in an hour or two, I had already spent all day shopping and cooking and really wasn’t interested in another three hours of work.

So I made caprese sandwiches. I used rosemary rolls from the local store and put pesto on some and butter on others to accommodate different tastes. The tomatoes were gorgeous and it almost seemed a shame to put them with anything rather than just eating them as they were. But I did it. That’s about all there is to this one.

Except for the thunder storm coming our way the picnic went over well. The play was fun. A day well spent.

New York City

Before you ask, no I’m not in New York. So, why is this post called New York City? Because I’ve just visited the University District farmers market for the first time. If my usual Phinney is Seattle, then UD is NYC. Wow!

The variety of goods is astounding. I got there early and bought a berry empanada (didn’t know those even existed) for breakfast. It was good except for the burning my hands part. But they also had Indian food (thought it was a little early for that), pupusas (look it up), at least four bakeries, soup, quesadillas, Mediterranean, you name it. And then there was the produce. Tomatillos and cherry plums and shiitake, oh my!

It was perhaps fortunate I had a list; I might have come home with too many things. On the other hand, I’m tempted to try a meal made solely of what I can find at the farmers market. The only problem? It can take me three or four hours to come up with a meal plan as is, with restrictions it could take me even longer.

Here’s the one sad thing. I found squash blossoms, boxes and boxes of squash blossoms. This was one of my goals for my first meal, but I couldn’t find any and I was told it was too late in the season. Ha! I may yet get my chance to fry squash blossoms.

The best part? I hear Ballard’s farmers market is even better yet. I think I’ve found some weekend entertainment.

An assortment of small plums, about the size of a quarter

An assortment of small plums I found, about the size of a quarter, but much sweeter

A Change of Pace

I am not in Seattle. I know this blog is all about Seattle, but I am currently in central Michigan. I am staying in a little town and this little town has a farmers market. So I had to check it out.

It was…different. Small, cute, sparse, small…small. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice place, but it was very different from what I’m used to.

Not only were there fewer vendors they were selling very different things. There were only two or three stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables. But there were also two bread stalls, a jam stall, a plant stall (not flowers, bushes), a popcorn stall, and all sorts of home-manufactured goods. In Seattle, there are many more fruit and vegetable stalls than there are cheese and bread stalls.

There was also an Amish couple selling bread, cheese, and pies. Again, very different.

My favorite thing, however, was a sign that said “Pickles” hung over distinctly non-pickled cucumbers. Now, I may be wrong, but I always considered pickles to be referring to the cucumbers after a long soak in vinegar, salt, garlic, etc. Here it also referred to the cucumbers that were used.

The sad thing is that one of the vendors told me that the market has been shrinking. Farmers have stopped coming partially because of a few bad years and partially because it’s not worth their while. This may have accounted for the balance of stalls that I saw. It would be sad if these local markets died out. I’m glad we have so many in Seattle.

Challenge Round

Picnic! Not only did I have to come up with dishes that were transportable and easily served, I had to shop without help for the first time.

While I wasn’t doing the main dish (another family was taking care of the salmon) I did make a salad, a fruit salad, and a dessert.

The salad was the easy part. I bought a leaf mix, a cucumber, a bell pepper, and some sunburst tomatoes. I also used that raspberry vinegar for the vinaigrette, which I got from Eating Well. Cutting up the bell pepper was the hardest part, I wasn’t really sure how to go about it at first, but it came out in manageable slices.

I picked out what I hoped was a ripe cantaloupe. Luckily, I was right. I also bought some raspberries and blackberries to go with it. I thought about adding mint to it, but decided to play it simple. I had never cut up a cantaloupe before and it took me almost half an hour to figure it out.

For dessert I made a couple of raspberry blueberry galettes by Aimee from Simple Bites. They were simple enough to make since I didn’t have to make the crust, and they were a huge hit. They weren’t too sweet and the crust complemented the berries very well. Everyone was impressed and they were all gone very quickly.

All in all, a meal well done.

Galette

Galette

Experimentation

I tried something ambitious: salmon. Here in Seattle salmon is in season right now, and the local grocery store had fresh sockeye salmon. Yes, grocery store. As much as I would have loved to go to the farmer’s market, there were some things I knew I wouldn’t find there. Such as salmon, raspberry vinegar, and lavender ice cream.

The salmon came out beautifully. Wrapped in foil and grilled it was neither over nor undercooked, which is just pure luck as far as I’m concerned. Seasoning was a mix of Rub with Love salmon rub, which I tried to sprinkle on top. It came out in globs, but luckily it melted into the fish somewhat. I did have a little trouble taking the bones out, though. No recipe here, this is Seattle.

For a salad I tried something I’d never even heard of. I peeled zucchini in a recipe by The Kitchn. Not just peeled the peel off, but used a peeler to cut two zucchini into thin, almost transparent strips. It’s harder than it looks, and I was actually unable to get the last bit of the zucchini sliced. It took me almost an hour just to slice the zucchini.

Peeling Zucchini

Peeling Zucchini

Next I substituted feta for the goat cheese and walnuts for the pine nuts. I also used raspberry vinegar instead of white wine vinegar for the dressing to add a little flavor to it. Unfortunately the red raspberry vinegar turned the beautiful white zucchini slices a dull purplish brown, which rather spoiled the effect of the strips in the first place.

However, it tasted just fine. The vinegar was perhaps a tad too sweet to really suit the feta, but it certainly gave the zucchini a little more flavor. While it was fine as a salad, it was really too much effort for the less than stunning result. Simply cubing the zucchini would have been fine and would not have taken so long.

The dessert did not turn out so well. I tried nectarines poached in lavender-honey syrup by Cooking Light. The first problem was the nectarines, all I could find that was ripe were peaches. Peaches are softer than nectarines, but I hoped they would hold up as well. I also couldn’t find lavender. Instead, I bought lavender ice cream rather than vanilla. The syrup also took longer to cook than I expected, and it remained as thin as water, simply running off the peaches.

The real problem, though, was the sweetness. They were much too sweet. I don’t know if it was the recipe or me, but they were hard to eat. Raw peaches were much better. It didn’t help that I was the only one who like the lavender ice cream. Who knew?

I finished up the meal with some local sourdough bread and a bowl of fresh berries.

All in All

All in All

All in all, I did learn a lot. I can experiment with recipes, but it won’t always work out.

On the other hand, it can work out just fine. And it’s fun.

Sweet isn’t always a good thing.

Luck is involved in cooking.

Reconnaissance is a good idea, if you have the time.

Time is valuable, consider it when deciding on recipes.