The world is a scary place these days. Even our food can’t be trusted. Bio-engineering and questionable pest repellents used to “protect” the crops have long since made our modern grocery shopping a place of possible hidden dangers. More and more it is necessary for us to pay attention to what we are feeding our families and to search for the highest nutritional content. This has made locavorism a hot topic for a number of years now.
The general guideline for eating locally is to buy food grown within roughly 100 miles of home. Those of us lucky enough to live near an agriculture belt have it easier than others who live in less hospitable areas. Portland, being situated in the Willamette Valley, is positioned right where plentiful precipitation gives way to verdant agriculture, not to mention well-known and beloved viticulture. We have farmers markets, roadside ma-and-pa fruit stands, CSA (community-supported agriculture) providers, and neighborhood urban farmers selling honey, eggs, and vegetables from their front yards. These are marvelous things and I appreciate the sense of community this sort of shopping offers. (I feel like I should make an urban farming true-confession here. I once found a flock of chickens roaming around a residential street. There was a nearby home with a fenced yard where I thought I’d seen chickens before. No one answered my knock, so I helpfully herded the chickens into the yard and left. I have since been by that house many times, and I’ve never seen any chickens there. So, neighbor, if you are reading this, my apologies for having left random chickens in your yard.)
When you visit the local Portland farmers markets (seven markets in Portland, and more than 40 other markets in the metro area), it can feel as if they are the lifeblood of the community. The colors, the fragrances, and the food sampling can make a heady mixture for the crowds rubbing elbows. Normally I dislike this sort of crowding, but at a farmers market setting, it doesn’t really feel like strangers getting in your way — it’s more like people with a common purpose. Running into a friend by accident at the farmers market is a joy. What better excuse to buy a bag of mini doughnuts to share? Another favorite thing to do is to discover unusual fruit and vegetables. With the farmers right there to offer cooking advice, it’s easy to give your skill sets a challenge. I’ll never forget my first sight of garlic scapes at a farmers market! How had I lived so long without ever having known about these tender shoots? I bought enough to share with friends, and we were all amazed to find something new and garlicky under the sun. When guests come to town, we make an early stop at a farmers market to enjoy a touch of organic Portland, then stock up on trail snacks to take to Forest Park, a 5,000-acre wooded municipal park right in the middle of Portland. (And, of course, no trip to Portland is complete without a venture to Powell’s City of Books.)
The farmers markets are part of the pride and joy we have in our city. So given our great love for farmers markets, it won’t be a surprise that we’ve been looking forward to the release of the Portland Farmers Market Cookbook
for some time. The recipes are from the vendors and farmers that work the market, and from the chefs and cooks that shop there. The recipe for Tartine of Shaved Baby Artichokes comes with advice on storing and preparing artichokes. The Bing Cherry Clafouti has an awesome hack for pitting cherries. Too bad I hadn’t read this hack last week when I made a berry and cherry jam. (It involves a wine cork and a paper clip.) Speaking of jam: Cantaloupe-Cucumber Jam! At first glance it’s perhaps an odd combination, but apparently, botanically speaking, they aren’t genetically very far apart.
We were thrilled to have some contributors and staff from the Portland Farmers Market join us for our Spring potluck. And, lucky us, Trudy Toliver and Kelly Merrick from the office of Portland Farmers Market, photographer Alan Weiner, and contributor Liz Crain (Food Lovers Guide to Portland
, Toro Bravo
) all brought welcome dishes to share.
Ashleigh made: Chocolate Apricot Habanero Truffles
"I messed up this recipe in several distinct ways (too much coconut milk, inadequate kitchen implements, not enough cooling time), but the truffles still came out great. They were also much easier to make than I anticipated, and everyone was impressed by how they looked. I’d recommend these if you don’t have much time or experience, but still want to make something eye-catching for a party."
Trudy made: Green Bean Salad with Blackberries and Creamy Sweet Onions
"The sweet onion dressing is so good I used the leftovers on salads and braised greens."
Kelly made: Fava Bean and Gem Lettuce Salad
"Fava beans are pretty labor intensive, but this recipe is absolutely worth the effort. To split up the work and make it seem more manageable, I like to remove the beans from the pods the day before I blanch and peel them."
Liz made: Miso-Lemon Deviled Eggs
"I really like to add something nutty and crunchy like a dusting of toasted sesame seeds, white or black or a combination (in addition to the shichimi togarashi, which contains sesame) or a whole salty roasted almond stuck right into the miso yolk so that it's jutting out a bit."
(Liz is currently working on two forthcoming books — The Tasty Cookbook
due out from Sasquatch Books in fall 2017 and a yet-to-be-announced title from Tin House Books due out in spring 2017.)
Alan made: Parsnip Pear Bread
"You can substitute apples and walnuts for pears and hazelnuts. Also, make sure you oil the pan well."
(Alan’s photography will be featured in the August release of Run Fast. Eat Slow.