It’s National Rainier Cherry Day!

A trip to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the world-famous Pike Place Market, but I’ll tell you a controversial secret: Pike Place really isn’t my favorite spot to take visitors. Blasphemy! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a mecca of beautiful, fresh food. BUT it is so damn crowded that I get claustrophobic. I hate walking the whole market — I like to get in, buy what I need, and get out! My #1 market recommendation: Sweet, perfectly delicious, Washington-grown Rainier cherries.

And it just so happens that it’s National Rainier Cherry Day! These suckers are only available for a short window of time every summer, so get thee to your local grocer and see if they’re carrying them. I promise they will be the most delicious cherries you’ve ever eaten… the closer you live to the Northwest, the fresher and tastier they’ll be.

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This Week at the Farmers Market: June Strawberry Salad

I spent Father’s Day weekend with dad at my parent’s country house near the Adirondacks, mowing, weeding, trimming overly eager tree branches, sweeping out the cobwebs, vacuuming the pool, and generally sprucing the place up in anticipation of summer. After our hard work we treated ourselves to a some fresh produce from the neighboring farms… not sure if you’ve heard but strawberry season is in full swing and THANK GOD, because strawberries are one of those fruits, like melons and blueberries (coming soon!!), that are basically bland and tough in the off-season. But holy mother, in June there’s nothing better.

Of course, juicy strawberries are superb on their own, topping off ice cream, boiled down for homemade jam, or baked into a pie. This weekend it was effing hot and I didn’t feel like turning on the oven, plus I wanted to try something a bit more savory to go with our dinner of grilled salmon. The farm stand down the road also sells local cheeses, meats and greens, so we picked up a bag of big, leafy spinach, and a small wheel of goat cheese, wonderfully named “Purple Haze,” and this salad was born.

June Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, Fresh Spinach, and Lemon Vinaigrette

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This Week at the Farmers Market: Savory Citrus Roasted Asparagus with Tofu

This tender spring veggie is celebrated in festivals across the country this time of year, but even if you can’t attend one of the many super exciting events honoring these green stalks, you can buy some really fresh right now at most farmers markets and have your own party. Asparagus is made up of vitamins E, A, and C, folate for a healthy heart and cell regeneration, and potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Plus, fresh and locally grown asparagus just tastes way better than store-bought, although with the price of sand. Smart Tip: Genius neo-chef and farmer Dan Barber warns that you should blanch your farmers market asparagus before using to get it fully clean.

Just so happened my mom was having a vegan dinner party this weekend, so I offered up this dish — my tribute to the asparagus gods — and it was a hit.

Savory Citrus Roasted Asparagus with Tofu

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Cider Revolution

I get really mad at the farmers market in winter. I know I’m not supposed to. That’s the whole point of farmers markets — you get whatever is good and in season. But in New York in January, every week seems to bring the same thing: potatoes, apples, sweet potatoes, apple cider. The thrill of stumbling upon zucchini blossoms, ramps or some other new discovery is gone.

So I’m always impressed by a winter market that can pack a surprise. Wandering around London’s Borough Market on a cold day in early January, I saw loads of booths offering hot apple cider and mulled wine (god I love that drinking outdoors and drinking in the AM are both acceptable in Europe). Then I saw one booth offering something different: mulled pear cider.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen any cider other than apple. Why is this? The pear cider was rich, warming, and just a little bit thick, like a sweet, steamy soup — the perfect thing to warm your bones on a chilly winter morning. Personally, I think it could have done with a splash of bourbon, but that’s another story.

This is just to say…why do apples get to hog all the cider glory? I’d love to see more pear cider at the markets here. Peach cider? Plum cider? Zucchini blossom cider? Bring it on.

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Why This Isn’t the Best Cheese and Why That’s Important

Pepper jack lets me be lazy. I can slide this in between tortillas for instant heat and cheese. I don’t have to find a pepper or some cayenne for extra flavor. It’s all there in one slice. (This is not a cheat, but Goober PB&J totally is.)

I thought I found a similar twofer in Hillside Pastures‘ Garlic and Herb. I grabbed this raw milk cheese at the farmers market and immediately tried some once I got home. The cheese smacked of raw garlic. It was a bit sour. While the cheese maintained a soft consistency, the flavors came on strong. Melted though, the garlic flavor mellowed and the herbal flavor evened. It enlivened my fried egg and cheese with toast.

I mention this cheese not because it was the most awesome item in the world, but because it wasn’t. It reminded me that making cheese must be pretty fucking hard. I know what I’m getting every time I pick up a commercial pepper jack at the grocery store. But I bet even the next time I try Hillside’s Garlic and Herb it will taste different. The small batch will be tweaked. With every change in temperature and every variety of grass eaten by the cow, the cheese will turn into something new. And although it might not be perfect, I’m in it for the adventure.


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Where’s the Toothpick? Lessons in Sustainability at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

I saw cheese. I wanted to try. I couldn’t figure out how. Where were the toothpicks?!?!

While in San Francisco last month, my guide Justin took me to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Browsing the strange, west coast juxtaposition of (summer) tomatoes—which are grown without water and is apparently a thing out there—and (winter) squashes and (tropical) avocados, brought this Northeasterner much pleasure and jealousy. But I found my curiosity pointed to a particular paper product.

I saw a stack of thin paperboard (pictured above) where a cup of toothpicks should have been. We got to the market late. My stomach growled. I needed samples to carry on, but my cross-country journey left me with little brain capacity.

How. To. Eat. Cheese. Where. Toothpick. Caveman thoughts bounced around in my head.

What. Is. Paper. Thing.

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