Nothing says picnic and summer like a salad. Check out these tiny wild orange currants I found at Mair Farm Taki at the market yesterday.
"Sample them," Katsumi said, holding out an open box. I popped one into my mouth and as I squashed it against the roof of my mouth, it actually had hints of orange flavor. I thought it was a trick, just my imagination but as I encouraged other people to taste one, they also agreed it had an orange flavor. I've eaten pink, red and black currants, but never orange. Katsumi said they grow wild. I had to get them to add to our salad.
I love the cucumbers he sells, as well. It's a Japanese variety and comes in early and stays around longer than other cucumbers. But it, too is pricey. They were on special. When a farmers sets samples out, how can you resist?
Don't think about the price, at least once in awhile.
I'm thinking salad because it was hot (over 70F is hot here), but that was yesterday and today it's raining. I mean really, the 4th of July and the only tomatoes are greenhouse grown from eastern Washington.
If Billy's Gardens was still at the market, we might have field tomatoes. (But his farm is east of the mountains, too.) I hear lots of complaints that he isn't at the market, and he's at Ballard, so market politics must play some role in the departure, but I did notice on his website that he's sending produce to Alaska this year. Could be an indication that local is changing.
At Rent's Due Ranch JoanE said there wasn't much of a strawberry crop this year either. That wet spring. . . Get your organic strawberries while you can.
Somebody else likes strawberries too, in fact he escaped and picked a neighbor's strawberries last week. Thinking of renaming him Marley when he does things like that. Not always the cool model he pretends to be.
I also got the first baby beets of the season. Homestead Farm in Quincy, Washington had these lovely bundles of organic baby beets. They taste sweet like candy when you steam them and then marinate them in balsamic vinegar. People who don't like beets seriously need to try baby beets. They turn you into a beet lover.
Here's the salad dressing I created for our salad. The only trick is, you have to eat it within a few days because it's made of strawberries. But that's not very hard to do, is it?
(Makes 3/4 cup)
6 strawberries, washed, stem removed
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar (also from Rent's Due Ranch)
1/4 cup Holmquist hazelnut or extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Blend strawberries, vinegar and olive oil together in a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This dressing is not quite a vinaigrette; the fruit makes it too thick. But it tastes as good as it looks, the only thing is you need the flavor of local berries. I suspect you could use frozen, defrosted berries as well.
FYI: Grow your own, know your farmer or get organic with strawberries since strawberries are number three on the Environmental Working Group's list for most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables.
After I tossed the dressing into the greens, I remembered the Spring Cheese I bought from Port Madison Farm. I don't eat much cheese, but I'm weak for Port Madison goat cheese.
If you want to know the secret of good goat cheese, it's all in the milk, says farmer Steve Phillips at Port Madison. "Goats are sensitive, they're more like deer than cows," he told me. Steve goes to a lot of trouble to find the perfect food for his goats He pampers his goats and hasn't taken a personal vacation for years. He told me that when milk is sold in a co-operative, there isn't any incentive for farmers to pamper their goats and feed the best food. Some farmers just won't be as diligent as another if the taste is off in one milk, it taints the whole batch. That's why a lot of goat cheese just tastes like "the barn" to me.
And FYI to all cheese makers--it's pointless to make goat cheese out of goat milk at sold at the grocery store because your cheese will never be any better tasting than the milk.
I love everything about summer in the Northwest. Well, maybe I wouldn't miss rainy cold days, but the parade of summer produce makes every day a vacation.
My Cooking Assistant takes his "prewash" job seriously.