Farmers Markets – Mixed Greens Blog Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 It’s Back at the Market: Asparagus Tue, 07 Apr 2015 13:50:10 +0000 Asparagus

To every thing there is a season and asparagus says Spring in the Northwest like no other vegetable. The highly anticipated arrival of local asparagus at the University District Farmers Market signals the floodgates are opening and from here on out, there will be new and exciting produce arriving every week. Those of us who frequent the farmers market regardless of the weather have been waiting all winter for this moment.


Just in case you’re new to asparagus prep, this post will help you out. First-of-the-season asparagus needs almost no embellishment, maybe some butter, salt & pepper, a squirt of lemon. I’ll keep it simple for the first few weeks before I start adding sauces just to savor the unique taste I’ve been craving. Once I’ve gotten my fill of unadorned asparagus, I have a few new tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share with you. But, if I’m being completely honest, this miso butter is so good I’m already eating it on everything in sight, asparagus included. My inspiration for the following recipes came from a beautiful vegetarian cookbook called Feast by Sarah Copeland.

Asparagus with Miso Butter

 Miso Butter Recipe

Ingredients: 2T unsalted butter at room temperature/ 1 T miso – I used white, her recipe calls for yellow/ 1/4 t sriracha, to taste.

Directions: Mix butter and miso together with a sturdy spoon in a small bowl until fully incorporated. Add hot sauce, if you wish.

Seriously, I had a hard time not eating this by the spoonful so I slathered it on a cracker and somehow that made me feel less decadent. Go figure.

Asparagus with Miso Butter

If you’re more in the mood for a spring asparagus salad, try this ranch dressing – a great way to use fresh chives from the garden and green garlic from the farmers market. Charlie loved it, but then again, he didn’t get to try the miso butter. It mysteriously disappeared….

Ranch Dressing

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Recipe

Ingredients: 1/2 cup plain Greek or any full fat yogurt/ 1/3 cup mayonnaise/ 1/3 cup buttermilk/ 1 clove garlic, minced (if you happen to have some green garlic, use it instead)/ 1T fresh lemon juice/ huge bunch of fresh chives/Salt & pepper/ 1/4 t sriracha or your favorite hot sauce, to taste, optional.

Directions: Whisk everything together in a medium bowl/ Adjust salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste/ Store in a jar in the fridge until ready to use.

Asparagus with Fried Tofu

I used a recipe from the above mentioned cookbook, Feast ,for cornmeal fried tofu on asparagus but the ranch dressing would work with any asparagus salad, or any salad for that matter.

If you can’t stand the thought of throwing away at least a quarter of these lovely stalks, Sally has a recipe for a lovely broth, using all of your asparagus, um, butts.


Julia’s French Onion Soup With a PNW Accent Tue, 13 Jan 2015 10:21:39 +0000 We love Julia Child because she relishes making hoity-toity French food, but brings it down to earth. Pun intended. When she drops a chicken on the floor or licks her fingers we know she’s one of us. Fr Onion soup 19

I’ve made her French onion soup for years and while she’s specific about process, ingredients are straightforward. As she said, “Onion soup is simply a large quantity of sliced onions slowly cooked and browned in butter, then simmered in beef bouillon.”

Not a refined soup, it’s meant to be full of oniony character, chunky and rustic, kind of like Julia herself. Caramelized, softened onion imbued with the subtle flavors of bay, sage and thyme, toasted bread and melted cheese on top – comfort food in a bowl.  This soup is of winter’s landscape. Onions, lots of them, a stock of your choice, beef, chicken or vegetable, and but of course a smidge of wine. Use onions from nearby, a locally/regionally produced cheese, and make your own stock if possible.  Another mostly local meal.Fr Onion soup 29

Plus, French Onion Soup is a great way to have a party meal, any meal, that’s easy on the pocketbook. The cheese topping is potentially pricey, though you need very little, and onions and elbow grease for chopping come pretty cheap.  After that just time is required to let it all simmer into a pièce de résistance.

Onions, Aliums, are full of anti-oxidants. *Check out links and info at end of this piece for more about the Allium’s nutritive benefits.

I use Julia Child’s recipe from The French Chef Cookbook (a rumpled little paperback I’ve had forever) and I feel free to adjust it as needed. It calls for a cup of red or white wine. I’ve often used red which ‘colors’ the soup. For that reason I use white wine if I have it. Taste is great either way.

The work for this soup comes at the very beginning when, with tissues nearby, you roll up your sleeves and peel and chop a big pile of onions, a mountain of onions when you’ve finished chopping five or six of them. They diminish in volume significantly during cooking. This recipe makes 4 – 6 servings.

I’m always grateful to have fresh herbs in the garden, especially mid-winter. Bay and rosemary are thriving in spite of recent cold snap, thyme and sage are sad looking, but new growth is coming even now and I foraged enough for this soup. More about Herbs and Herb gardens coming soon.

Fr Onion soup 22

Julia Child’s French Onion Soup Recipe

Repost from January, 2009. I made this soup yesterday, 1/12/15, and with homemade stock it took a chunk of time. Using stock made ahead or store-bought this would come together fairly quickly. And I must say, it’s a soup worth the effort. !!!

Ingredients & Directions:

Melt 3 T butter with 1 T olive oil in 4-quart pot/ Add sliced onions and stir to coat/ Cover pan and cook slowly for 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent/ Remove lid, turn the heat up to medium and stir in 1 t salt and ½ t sugar/ Stir together and sauté another 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Onions will gradually turn golden brown/ Lower heat, add 3 T flour and a bit more butter if needed/ Cook together for two minutes/ Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of hot beef, chicken or vegetable stock along with 1 C red or white wine, 1 bay leaf, ½ t sage, salt & pepper to taste/ Stir with a whisk to blend everything and then add remaining 7 cups of stock (which could be diluted with water)/ Simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

That’s it. OK to make it a day ahead of time. Like many soups it gets better after sitting a few hours or a day.

To serve: Ladle into a bowl and enjoy as is, or give it a French accent: nearly fill oven-proof soup bowls with the hot soup, place a toasted slice or two of bread, preferably French, on top of each and top that with a handful of grated cheese. Gruyere is traditional perfection. Place bowls on a cookie or baking sheet under a broiler for two or three minutes. Watch carefully while cheese melts. Remove from oven and serve with more bread, a green salad or fruit and a sip of wine.

The cheese topping is the opportunity for a Pacific Northwest touch (or skip the cheese entirely).  Julia suggests Parmesan and/or Gruyere which are local if you live in France. If there’s a locally made cheese that you like, try it. I used Mt. Townsend’s Trailhead with a little parm mixed in; Beecher’s jack or cheddar would be good; Sea Breeze’s Vache de Vashon or their Alpine goat cheese; Port Madison’s Goat Farm & Dairy is a source of excellent local cheese available at Farmers Markets most weekends. Goat cheese would be something to try.  Goat Cheese and onios are delicious together in a tart – it ought to translate to this soup as well.  If anyone out there tries it, let me know.

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Alliums’ Health Benefits:

Onion a day keeps doctor away?

*Many onions are chock full of anti-cancer chemicals. However, certain varieties are particularly high in these compounds as well as more effective in inhibiting liver and colon cancer cell growth.         According to a new study by Cornell University food scientists, led by Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of food science, shallots, Western Yellow, pungent yellow and Northern Red onions are higher in anti-cancer chemicals than other varieties tested. Furthermore, Liu found that shallots and Western Yellow and pungent yellow onion varieties are particularly effective against liver cancer cells, while pungent yellow and Western Yellow varieties have the greatest effect on colon cancer cells.

“Our study of 10 onion varieties and shallots clearly shows that onions and shallots have potent antioxidant and antiproliferation activities and that the more total phenolic and flavonoid content an onion has, the stronger its antioxidant activity and protective effect,” says Liu.

Onions are Beneficial to Health, Vegetarianism & Vegetarian Nutrition

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Get Started: Plant Some Greens Mon, 31 Mar 2014 00:00:42 +0000 Vegetable Seedlings

Vegetable starts, I love you. For years, I was under the illusion that since planting seeds takes longer, I should garden the slow way. Now I know better. Don’t get me wrong, planting seeds is a great option, especially if you want a particular variety or if you plan to do successive planting. For my style of quick and dirty gardening, getting something in the ground is key to my ability to stick with it. When the weather is unpredictable, as our Northwest spring can often be, waiting for seeds to emerge and then going back and filling in the gaps, can be very discouraging. If you want a garden jump start, head over to the farmers market or your local nursery, buy some starts and voila, instant garden and gratification.

This time of year — actually, all year at our house — we’re all about the greens. Can’t get enough of them. Last weekend at the University Farmers Market, River Farm had beautiful, organic vegetable 6 pak starts, 3 for $8. They assured me that these plants were hardened off and I was sold. I bought arugula, romaine, spinach, chard, kale and mustard and could have easily spent the same $16 on seed packets that I may or may not end using completely. Oh, and by the way, each pack had way more than 6 plants, most had between 12 – 15, so they were a great value too.

But, first things first. Amend your soil. There again, it’s not cheating to buy some bags of compost if you don’t make your own.

Wheelbarrow with Compost

We have a compost “pit” that came with our house, along with my treasured wheelbarrow. We aren’t very scientific when is comes to compost. Just keep a container under the sink for vegetable scraps and dig it deep into the pile when the container gets full. Easy, peasy. For our large container garden, I used about 2 loads of compost to get raise the level and amend the soil. Last year in my vegetable garden I put down what I thought were straw bales as mulch. It turns out, it was hay instead and many of the grass seeds sprouted. Luckily, the roots are very shallow and are easily pulled out. This mulch cover has been composting down over the winter and so I just pulled it aside and added additional compost where I wanted to plant my new rows.

Spinach Vegetable Seedlings

Now comes the fun part. Make sure your starts are well watered and if not, soak them before planting. Put on your reading glasses and take off your gardening gloves because you’re going to be doing some delicate surgery. As I mentioned, each of the 6 sections of the pak may have several seedlings, usually growing together. I enjoy untangling these Siamese twins and planting them as separate little plants. It takes a gentle touch and you have to move quickly so that the roots aren’t exposed to air for long. Then, make sure they come in direct contact with soil and pat them in well. Finally, get your watering can and give them a very thorough shower. I planted my seedlings late on a warm sunny day with rain and mild temperatures predicted for the rest of the week. If this whole separation process doesn’t sound like fun to you, you can always go ahead and plant the intertwined seedlings as one and thin them out later once they get established.

Fenced Vegetable Starts

Once you’ve got your babies in the ground, you’ll need to give them a little added protection while they get established. Even though they aren’t quite as vulnerable as seeds, a whole row of starts can be quickly destroyed by a neighboring cat or even a raccoon looking for a convenient litter box. Charlie put up some temporary fencing using scraps from previous projects. The containers are more likely to be burial grounds for squirrel bounty or feed for birds — crows can be especially destructive. You can’t exactly blame them when you see all the big juicy worms in the soft compost.

Wire Fencing over Vegetable Starts

A roll of chicken wire over the top of the container held in place with bricks should do the trick to keep the squirrels and birds away. And then there are the ever present slugs to contend with. Slug patrol anyone??

I Yam A Sweet Potato Mon, 22 Oct 2012 01:59:01 +0000 At least I think I yam.

If you’re confused about what’s a sweet potato and what’s a yam you’re not alone. When I poked around to *clarify their identities I thought I had it, and then went to the grocery store. Their labels contradicted my research.

I think, I’m pretty sure, this photo correctly labels sweet potatoes and yams. But then, there are sweet potatoes with white skins and yams with red. Their identities will probably remain shrouded in some mystery. Somebody should do a documentary.

A Red Garnet sweet potato, a yam in the middle, and a Jewel sweet potato in the background.

While tomatoes are on the way out, sweet potatoes are in. Concurrently, some farmer’s markets have had local sweet potatoes the past few weeks along with a few (hothouse?) tomatoes. Sweet potatoes can be stored for weeks in a dark, cool place so if you find them locally buy a bunch. Or, sweet potatoes from elsewhere are here year round.

Nutritionally speaking, sweet potatoes are the deal. High in fiber, vitamins A and C, and with a low glycemic index which make them a healthy choice for diabetics. For the record, the creamy flesh of a freshly baked sweet potato is rich in texture and flavor as is. Try just that if you want something super healthy and tasty, unembellished with butter, cream, maple syrup, a little heat . . . or go there with me and don’t look back.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Here’s a link to Bobby Flay’s version, which was the inspiration. I changed it up with less syrup, butter, cream, and used jalapeno instead of chipotle. Rich enough for me, especially since I’ll probably want some ice cream later on.

Ingredients for two servings: 2 sweet potatoes, baked/ 1/4 – 1/3 C cream or whole milk (add a little more if needed)/ 1 T sour cream/ 1 jalapeno halved and seeded/ 2 T maple syrup/ 1 – 2 T butter/ salt & pepper to taste.

Directions: Bake potatoes at 375 degrees for 40 – 50 minutes or until fork tender/ While potatoes are baking, slice the jalapeno in half lengthwise, remove seeds and place in a pan along with the milk or cream/ Bring to a bare simmer, turn off and let sit/ Remove cooked potato from the oven and slice in half lengthwise/ Let cool for a few minutes and then carefully remove the potato from its skin and place in a bowl/ Save skins/ Remove jalapeno from the milk/ Starting with a quarter cup, add the milk or cream, maple syrup, sour cream, salt and pepper to sweet potato. Mash or stir until smooth, add the additional milk if needed/ Curry powder, chipotle or cumin could be added at this point/ Depending on taste, finely slice the softened jalapeno and add to the mixture, or reserve some for a light garnish.

Divide evenly and spoon mixture back into potato skins. (If skins have torn a little, as some of mine did, no matter. They will adhere to soft mixture once its back in the skin.) Place potatoes on a baking sheet and return to a 375 degree oven until potatoes are browned, about 10 minutes, or place under a medium broil for 5 minutes (or less). Either way, keep an eye on them.

Remove from the oven, garnish with butter and a dab of sour cream (both optional), a sprinkle of cumin, curry or chipotle and a few of the sliced jalapenos. Num. Just decadent enough, still healthy. With fresh greens, a grilled portobello or a piece of chicken, this is dinner.

Sweet Potato Fries Recipe

I wanted to say that these are crisper than before due to the light coating of corn starch in the recipe. Aaah, but I forgot the cornstarch! Delicious either way, but I still don’t know if the cornstarch matters much. I’ll try again in a day or two and will report back about the crispness factor. In the meantime cornstarch stays in the recipe because I’ve heard it works.

Ingredients: 1 medium sweet potato per person, sliced lengthwise into quarters and then halved or quartered again depending on size/ 1/2 t cornstarch, 1/2 t salt, 1/8 t chipotle powder, cumin, or curry per potato, pepper to taste/2 T olive oil per potato

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees/ In a large bowl or on the parchment-lined baking sheet, toss potatoes thoroughly with oil and dry ingredients, fresh ground pepper to taste/Bake for 15 minutes, then turn with a spatula and cook about 10 more minutes/ Remove from oven/ Add more salt if you like/ Eat as is, or make a quick dip of equal parts mayo and sour cream, chipotle, cumin or curry powder to taste, a squeeze of lemon juice.

Sweet Potato Biscuits. I made these sweet potato biscuits a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving and expect they’ll be on the holiday table for many years to come.

*Sweet Potato or Yam?

Why the confusion? “In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.”

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Get Thee to the Farmers Market Mon, 28 May 2012 03:26:42 +0000

Four years and nearly 600 posts later, Mixed Greens blog is still going strong. Sally and I continue to encourage everyone to eat locally and live sustainably. My commitment to the local food movement began with a weekly trip to the farmers market.  Every Saturday morning, now year-round, Charlie and I do much of our weekly grocery shopping at the farmers market. We’ve been going to the University Farmers Market for as long as it’s been open — at least 15 years — have met some of our best friends there, know the vendors by name and it’s no surprise to me that it was named one of the top 10 Farmers Markets in the US by the Huffington Post. Many of our out-of-town guests have been dragged out of bed on Saturday morning to accompany us and most are delighted with the friendly atmosphere and incredible array of local food and flowers.

Seattle has at least 13 markets throughout the city. Seven of those markets are part of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance and are food and farmer-only markets, meaning no crafts, flea markets, non-food businesses or wholesalers. Two are open year-round, University District on Saturday and West Seattle on Sunday. Broadway opened in April, Columbia City in May and three more will open in June — Phinney, Magnolia and Lake City.

But wait. There’s an entirely different organization,, with 4 more markets to choose from. The Fremont Market (year-round on Sunday) has more of a European street market feel with food, crafts, collectibles, imports, antiques, clothes and plenty of excellent people-watching. The Ballard Market is a traditional farmers market and is also open Sundays, year-round. I can’t wait for the Wallingford market to open next Wednesday. When our favorite tomato/strawberry vendor, Billy’s Organic, left the University market, we were devastated and could hardly imagine a summer without his tomatoes. It turns out that he switched organizations and now we can still get his wonderful produce at Wallingford, Madrona or Queen Anne (which, by the way,  seems to be the only independent market not affiliated with any organization). Whew! Have I missed anyone? I haven’t even begun to list the markets on the Eastside.

These days you can find me most Saturdays at the Orcas Island Farmers Market, often chatting with my old friend Brenda Harlow of Blackdog Farm.  There’s a great variety of small farms represented there — Maple Rock Farm is another favorite. You can also find locally made crafts and local food and drink vendors.

If you want to do just one thing to improve not only your own health but the health of our beautiful planet, start by shopping at your local farmers market. You’ll find a community that will greet you with open arms. If you come home with food that you can’t figure out how to prepare, search that ingredient on our blog and I’m certain somewhere in our 600 posts, we’ll have some good suggestions for you.

I must have passed on my love for the farmers markets to my grand-daughter, Lily. Here she is, dressed in pink, of course, selling rosemary lemonade last weekend at the Lopez Island Farmers Market. How cute is that?


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Farm to Vase: Local Flowers Sun, 29 Apr 2012 19:03:16 +0000

I’ve always considered myself lucky to have a “flower name” because I adore flowers but then, who doesn’t? Making a bouquet for the kitchen table is a habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember. It can be practically anything from the yard — flowers, grasses, fruits, herbs, branches, even vegetables gone to seed.  Scissors in hand, I just roam around the garden or down the alley and there’s always something to bring in and admire.

A few weeks ago, inspired by the transformation of my garden from winter to early spring, I gathered a bouquet to photograph. As luck would have it, the very next day I was looking at Valerie Easton’s blog, Plant Talk, and lo and behold, she was sponsoring a spring bouquet contest. So, I entered and not to brag about it but… I won! One of the prizes is her lovely new book, Petal & Twig: Seasonal Bouquets with Blossoms, Branches and Grasses. Valerie is one of my favorite local garden writers and I’m sure you’ve seen some of her excellent writing in the Seattle Times or maybe one of her many books. Petal & Twig is a guide to living seasonally by bringing bits and pieces of nature indoors to renew our connection with the beauty that surrounds us.


For those of us who are passionate about eating local food, using local flowers to adorn our homes makes perfect sense. The local flower movement is gaining momentum at a fast pace even though 80 percent of all cut flowers sold in the US are still imported. Washington state is leading the trend in cut flower sales, second only to California. Our local flower growers, many from the Skagit Valley, have organized themselves, along with some growers from Alaska and Oregon and opened a cooperative in a warehouse Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood called the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. As the name implies, this is open for wholesale only but some of the same growers sell at our local farmers markets. One of my favorites is Choice Bulb Farms for their eclectic selection. You can find them Saturdays at the University Farmers Market.

A beautiful bouquet is always a welcome hostess gift. The next time you’re tempted to run into the grocery store and pick up some of the cellophane wrapped flowers, think instead about going to the farmers market and supporting our local flower growers.

   Walking through the market stalls during tulip season can be overwhelming. The colors are gorgeous and the potential combinations are endless. You’ll find that most vendors have pre-made bouquets but are also open to incorporating your choices if you can bear to choose. These people are pros and the flowers are much fresher than what you’ll find that’s been shipped from South America. You can always ask each grower about their use of fertilizers and pesticides and usually they’re happy to discuss their practices with you. If you want to go straight to the source, The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full swing now until the end of April.

Don’t worry if you don’t make it to the tulip festival now. Later in the summer there will be zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers, just to name a few. If you have an event coming up or if you just want to bring some beauty into your home, think about using local flowers.

To learn more about seasonal, local and sustainable flowers in our region, check out The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing. It’s loaded with information about the growing field of “slow flowers”.


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Big Corn, Little Corn Mon, 05 Sep 2011 00:00:49 +0000

If you haven’t eaten any sweet corn this summer, now’s the time. I’m not asking you to go out and buy high-fructose-genetically-modified corn — the stuff grown from seed from large companies like Monsanto. I’m talking farmers market, small producer heirloom corn. I doubt many of us west of the Cascades were able to grow any corn this year but one or two of the market vendors from further east can give us our long-awaited summer corn hit. After all, what would summer be without fresh sweet corn and juicy ripe tomatoes?

Paging through Yotam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous vegetarian cookbook, Plenty , I came upon a delicious-looking fresh corn polenta with an eggplant tomato sauce. Straight home from the Wallingford Farmers Market, and ready in time for dinner. By the way, if any of you went into a panic over losing Billy’s tomatoes at the University Farmers Market, you can find them at Wallingford — even his #2’s, which I have a hard time distinguishing from the #1’s, except in price. Sorry, University, wherever Billy goes, I will follow. It turns out that I love the Wallingford market. The setting is lovely, the mood is mellow. I usually go when it opens, around 3:30 and I’ve yet to stand in line for anything. I only wish someone sold fresh eggs there.

Fresh Sweet Corn Polenta


4 ears of corn —  husk and silk removed, cut off the cob — the easiest way to do this is break or cut the cob into two pieces. Use the flat surface of each piece to stand the cob upright and cut down each side with a sharp knife.

1 3/4 cup water

3 T butter

3 oz. feta cheese

Salt & pepper


Place kernels in saucepan and cover with the water. Cook on low simmer for 12 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the kernels from water into a food processor or blender, reserving the liquid. Process several times, breaking as much of the kernel case as possible.

Return corn paste to pan with reserved cooking liquid and cook, stirring on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture thickens to consistency of mashed potatoes.  Fold in butter, feta cheese, salt & pepper and cook for a few more minutes. Serve right away with extra butter melted on top for a side dish or with an eggplant – tomato sauce for something more substantial.

The sweet corn tasted so summery and good, last week I went back for more. I know you can roast corn on the grill but in a pinch, roasting in a hot oven — about 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes works well too. I cut mine off the cob and put in on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray for easy clean-up.

Slathered with butter, salt & pepper, it’s sweet and slightly caramelized. If you have any left over, toss it into a salad. I used some with quinoa, tomatoes, a bit of jalapeno pepper and fresh basil dressed with lemon juice and olive oil — so bright and fresh-tasting.

As summer draws to a close, don’t let the corn season pass by.  As with all your food, it’s always good to find out where it’s grown. Corn, as it turns out, can be politically tricky so getting it from your local farmers market is your best bet.

If you have a favorite way to eat corn or if you have an opinion about whether it’s okay to eat corn, even from small farms, please let us know. We’re all ears.

Sweet On Sweet Potatoes, Finally Mon, 08 Nov 2010 02:07:02 +0000 When I was a kid sweet potatoes were never the apple of my eye and neither were baking powder biscuits, but here they are together in a recipe. My grandmother deftly made thousands of biscuits through the years and they were everyone else’s favorite. I understood that her biscuits were deeply appreciated even though I wasn’t on the bandwagon. I got by with a few bites drizzled with honey and no one noticed my reticence. The thing is I loved her sour dough and yeast biscuits and nothing else came close to that in my eight-year-old opinion.

Sweet potato’s warm russet color, which I now find appealing, is what made me suspicious of them as a child. Wrong color for a potato so no thank you. I know. I was like that, I’ve gotten over it. So when I saw Sweet Potato Biscuits in Bon Appétit I was curious about two childhood nemeses together in once recipe. Somebody had to do the research, right? Moments ago I finished licking my fingers and I have to say the research went well and we’ll have some for supper tonight. It’ll be a treat. I’m not a biscuit maker, but wanted to test them out before Thanksgiving. These will be on our table. After that it was an easy slide to maple roasted sweet potatoes, also on the table tonight. I thought I might make it to sweet potato pie, but enough already, though there could be one on the horizon.

Sweet potatoes are in season, available at farmer’s markets and are a super healthy food even if we do dandy them up in November. These recipes highlight their deliciousness and each are exemplary participants for the Thanksgiving feast as well as for humbler meals following or preceding.

Sweet Potato Biscuit Recipe

from Bon Appétit, November 2010

Ingredients: 1 C cooked sweet potato (no skin)/ 1 1/3 C gluten-free flour plus additional for flouring board – I used regular flour/ 2/3 C yellow cornmeal/ 1 T baking powder/ 3/4 t salt/ 1/2 C (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes/ 1/2 C buttermilk (or, 1/2 C milk with a teaspoon of vinegar)/ 1/4 C maple syrup/ 1/2 C pecans, toasted & chopped. I left the nuts out.

Directions: Preheat oven to 425º/ Line baking sheet with parchment/ Peel and cook sweet potato, measure 1 C and allow to cool/ Blend flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in food processor or mixer/ Add butter and mix until ingredients become a coarse meal/ Add cooled sweet potato, buttermilk and syrup/ Process just until blended/ Add nuts, or not, and mix.

Place dough, which will be sticky, on a lightly floured board/ Pat into an 8 1/2 ” square and cut into 16 biscuits/ Or make an 8 1/2″ round circle, as I did and use your grandmother’s biscuit cutter for cutting out round biscuits/ If using a biscuit cutter, after cutting the first few, gently pat remaining dough into another circle and cut out several more/ Repeat until all dough has been used. This recipe yielded 11 1/2 biscuits for me, more if you cut them smaller.

Transfer to baking pan, brush the top of each with melted butter if you like, and bake for 18-22 minutes, until tester toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Consume biscuits while they’re warm if you can, or they can be gently reheated later. And honey in the middle of a biscuit? Still a good idea.

I may not have eaten many of my grandmother’s BP biscuits, but I was fascinated with her hands during the making and observed carefully. I remember a few things: she mixed the dough by hand in a big bowl and minimally – as soon as it came together she stopped fiddling with it and proceeded to forming biscuits; her dough was very soft; she had melted butter in her biscuit baking pan and doused each side of each biscuit as she laid them on the pan; and when the biscuits were done they were served piping hot out of the oven.

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Probably enough for 6 or 8

Ingredients: 4 or 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered/ 1/4 – 1/2 C maple syrup/ 2 T butter, melted/ salt & pepper/ 1/3 C finely chopped candied nuts, walnuts or filberts, optional for sprinkling on potatoes before serving/ Use the smaller amount of maple syrup if you want to decrease the sweetness factor but keep the flavor.

Directions: Place potatoes in a shallow baking dish, lightly oiled or buttered/ Mix melted butter and syrup together and drizzle evenly over potatoes, or use a pastry brush and brush each potato with the mixture/ Then sprinkle with salt & pepper/ Bake covered at 375º for 30 minutes/ Remove cover and continue to cook, basting occasionally with juices, until gold brown and tender, another 30 – 40 minutes/ Sprinkle with candied nuts if you like/ Serve immediately, or place in a clean, ovenproof dish and reheat later.

Oh the pan juices. A luscious thickened sauce is created in the roasting pan, a combination of the butter, syrup and sweet potatoes. Baste potatoes with this sauce during the final 15 minutes or so of roasting, and use it again before serving. Sweet potatoes are coated with caramelized butter and maple syrup, no marshmallows involved, but just the right amount of decadence. Cut down on amounts of butter and syrup if you prefer, and if you want to go there with the marshmallows be my guest.

Perfectly Hard-Boiled Thu, 01 Apr 2010 00:54:35 +0000 Until you’ve eaten a couple of hard-boiled eggs tough enough to bounce off the pavement and tinged with grayish green, you might think that boiling an egg is no big deal.

There seem to be a variety of approaches to the perfectly hard-boiled egg, one that isn’t overdone and has none of that greenish aura around its perimeter, one that is cooked through, but still bright yellow and tender. For me, hard-boiled eggs at Easter also have to be colorfully dyed, then hidden, found, and eventually eaten in some delicious way. Like for example, potato, egg, or spinach salad.

Hard boiled egg

Hard boiled eggs

There was a time when I paid little attention to hard boiling an egg. Just boil them a while, rinse and carry on. Eventually, I must have eaten a tenderly hard-boiled egg which provided context and a kick in the butt. After that I became a little more careful with my methodology. A little. I looked at the eggs and mentally calculated their size/cooking time, placed them in cold water and slowly brought them to a boil, let them cook for several minutes – for sure I’d also be doing something else while the eggs were boiling and my culinary sixth sense told me when enough time had passed. I took them off the heat and let the eggs steam for a few or many minutes, depending, rinsed with cold water and crossed my fingers. Sometimes I got lucky, sometimes not. Actually, my process wasn’t bad, but the cavalier sixth-sense timing, not so good.

Eventually, I looked around for something a little more solid in the way of specific directions and it was really kind of funny. Of the six recipes I checked each one was different and each proclaimed superiority over other methods. Alton Brown suggests steaming them in an actual steamer for 12 minutes, another method suggests that you bring them to a boil for exactly 1 minute, remove from the heat and let steam for exactly 17 minutes; another said to boil eggs for exactly 2 minutes, steam for exactly 12 minutes; boil eggs for 3 minutes, steam for exactly 8. And so on. Words like exactly, repeated often enough, will bring self-importance to almost anything. The truth is, there was a collective hard-boiled message, which is to start eggs in cold water, boil them only briefly, then steam them between 8 and 17 minutes. As with many things in life, it’s all about timing.

And they all agreed that the plunge into ice water when finished was important, to stop cooking and facilitate easier peeling. Alice Waters was the lone advocate for gently placing room temperature eggs into barely simmering water for exactly 9 minutes before proceeding to the ice water bath. Definitely worth trying.

Colored Easter Eggs Easter Eggs

After eggs are cooked and cooled, decorate them in whatever ways you like and then go for color. The eggs of my childhood and then my daughter’s were decorated in the simplest way with waxy crayon and then dyed. I’ve done string around the egg, leaves and a few other fancy embellishments, but truthfully, just a waxy crayon does it for me, and whatever ‘dye’ I can find in the kitchen cupboard. Onion skins, beets if I have them, turmeric and food coloring. That’s about it.

‘Recipe’ for Hard Boiling an Egg

I found my own happy medium, guided by others’ good advice. Start with eggs in cool water, bring them to a soft boil and cook small – medium eggs for 1 1/2 minutes, large/extra large 2 – 3 minutes, turn heat off, put a lid on the pan, set a timer and let them steam for 6 – 7 minutes depending on size of eggs. Drain and submerge eggs in ice water. Results are delicious, easy to peel hard-boiled eggs.  This approach, tweaked here and there as needed, should make hard boiling an egg almost as easy as boiling water – but just wait, someone will find a way to make that complicated too.

Speaking of complicated, the definition of hard-boiled varies; the yolk can be barely set, or firm, so adjust timing one way or the other according to preference in that regard.  A 1 -minute boil and a 9-minute steam might be about right for a softer hard-boiled egg, depending on its size. So maybe it is rocket science after all. Finding your way to perfectly hard boiled requires a certain touch.

Local farmers get it that we prefer their fresh eggs if we can get them. It’s much easier to get a dozen or two at local Farmer’s Markets than it was just a couple of years ago. So start there if you can. The thing is to take this misunderstood culinary task a little more seriously. Watch the clock and proceed with an exact number of minutes in mind. The difference between a nicely or badly cooked egg – in whatever manner -is the difference between sublime and possibly inedible. So it’s worth the attention. Easter eggs are pretty to look at, but eventually they get eaten. Potato salad is one way to go, and the one I grew up with, my aunties’ version, is, of course, my favorite.

Spinach Salad

Spinach salad

Spinach Salad Recipe

Not exactly a recipe, but an outline for making spinach salad after dyed eggs have had their Easter fling. We have spinach starts in the garden from Rents Due Ranch, but they’re a few weeks away from harvest (plus, the potato bugs are having a spinach party!). In the meantime, Farmer’s Markets have young, tender spinach – or arugula – in their prime and perfect for salad. Classic spinach salad has hard-boiled egg, bacon, thinly sliced red onion, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and lots of spinach. I always thought slivered almonds were part of the deal, but so far I haven’t found any reference to them so maybe I’m making that up. With a nice dressing and a piece of bread, for some of us this is a meal. Or, add a bowl of soup.

Soak thinly sliced red onion in dressing for a few minutes to soften their bite. Thinly sliced red onion

I made dressing with Rockridge Orchards’ Apple Cider Vinegar. Perfecto with this salad. 2:1 (or 3:1) olive oil & cider vinegar/ 1 – 2 t finely chopped shallot/ 1/2 – 1 t mustard/ optional: 1/2 t honey, or to taste. Shake it vigorously and pour over salad.

The fuss about the perfectly hard-boiled egg might seem a little mundane, like a lesson on boiling water or trimming your fingernails. Some couldn’t care less and that’s probably sensible, for others it’s a big load off – no more middle-of-the-night worries about hard boiling eggs. Hail spring.

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A Fool for Rhubarb, It’s Hot Pink & Heralds Spring Mon, 22 Mar 2010 08:50:59 +0000 Rhubarb Fool


What can I say? She’s a babe. Eight weeks ago rhubarb lay dormant in her own leafy compost, today with hot pink stalks and abundant crinkly leaves ablaze, she struts her stuff. These first leafings are positively iridescent in their exuberance. (Don’t even think about eating them!) Enough for a small bowl of sauce.

The backyard scene is brimming with adolescent attitude. Lilacs on the brink, daffodils almost done now, and aromatic evergreen Clematis in full array. Small lettuce starts in the back row are growing like weeds, peas planted two weeks ago are just barely peaking out, surrounded optimistically by sturdy poles for their climbing, garlic and the leeks’ green leaves become more robust every day, chives have been around for weeks now, sorrel has come into its own, plenty of dandelions too, and in the far corner by herself, rhubarb.

rhubarb Rhubarb in the garden is a lot like tending the kale plants each year, which is almost not at all. Once established, rhubarb literally takes care of itself and feeds us from March into June. With kale, it’s October through March and then florets take over for a few weeks, a prelude to their final seasonal bow.

I arrived home from a workshop late afternoon Saturday, brain improved perhaps, but frustrated that I’d missed a beauty of a day outside, the Vernal Equinox. First day of spring. Buoyed by scents of green and flowers and buds from the backyard, I slipped through whispers of fragrance on the way to the back door. The balmy day had stirred the earth and warmed the plants into celebration. It was a divine first-day-of-spring moment, frustrations swept away.

I’ll make the first rhubarb pie on Easter weekend as usual, and there will be a few more on the table throughout spring along with rhubarb crisps, rhubarb  sauce, rhubarb chutney. Today it’s Rhubarb Fool, made with a few of the earliest stalks, star anise and served with Greek yogurt. Traditionally you would use whipped cream for a Fool, but I have this delectable yogurt.

You might ask yourself, what is a Fool, dessert-wise? Plenty of ways to play with that name. I’m a fool for wordplay myself, but I’ll try to refrain. I said I’d try.

Fruit Fool is a classic British dessert, dated as early as the 16th century, usually consisting of fruit puree, whipped cream and whipped egg whites. It’s the perfect backdrop for any seasonal fruit.

Rhubarb Fool with yogurt is dessert- or brunch-worthy. To make it fancy (and traditional), substitute whipped cream for the yogurt if you’re so inclined, and make the little rhubarb curls for garnish, crunchy and delicious. It’s all easy and fast, especially if you have rhubarb growing in the backyard or in the neighborhood (ask first). Local rhubarb is available at Farmer’s Markets for the next few weeks too. Rhubarb might be one of those things you have to have grown up eating, which I, fortunately, did. If you haven’t tried rhubarb before give it a shot. Making a small pot of sauce is a deliciously easy start.

First Days of Spring Rhubarb Fool


Place a spoonful of this sauce in the bottom of a glass, then a spoonful of Greek Yogurt or whipped cream, more sauce, more yogurt and so on. Since the sauce is sweetened, this is good with Greek yogurt, plain and unsweetened, or a mix. Top it off with a drizzle of the sauce’s syrupy juice and a sprig of mint if you have it. Your Fool is ready. (It’s tempting, but I’m not going there.)


4 C rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces

2/3  C sugar (let it cook a bit, taste it and add more or less sugar while sauce is still piping hot)

1 Star Anise, and/or 1 T finely chopped candied ginger

1/2 t salt

Bring it all to a gentle simmer in a saucepan, let it boil for 3 or 4 minutes, cover, turn off heat and let sit for another 5 minutes/ Place in a bowl and refrigerate before serving/ You could strain excess juice off the rhubarb, return it to the pan to simmer and reduce by about half/ This makes a nice syrup for drizzling over each serving. Assemble these ahead of time and let them sit in the fridge for a while – something good happens as it sets, can’t explain it. Drizzle with syrup and a crispy curl just before serving.

Candied Rhubarb Curls: A little fussy (not much), these are worth it. A garnish that make this super simple seasonal dessert smashing. Using a vegetable peeler, peel a dozen or so 6-inch strips of rhubarb off the stalk. Dip into sugar syrup, place on parchment so that they’re not touching each other, and bake for 45 minutes at 200º. The moment they’re removed from the oven, briefly wrap each one around the end of a wooden spoon and set aside. A few were too crisp to curl, but still delish. They’re a wonderful crunchy counterpoint to the soft yogurt and rhubarb sauce.

To make sugar syrup: place equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan (I used 1/4 C each) and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.

rhubarb curls

Enjoy your Fool.

rhubarb sauce

Thanks to Epicurious for inspiration for the Fool and crispy curls.

More rhubarb: Rhubarb Coffee Cake, Rhubarb Sauce & Crisp, Rhubarb-Thyme Jam, Rhubarb-Thyme Tonic

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