TASTING SEATTLE

My daughters and I flew out to the Seattle area last week to spend a few days with my sister and her family. They’ve had a busy couple months, welcoming a beautiful baby girl (their second) and moving into a new house with an amazing view of The Narrows of Puget Sound, so we waited for them to settle in a little bit before descending on them with our chaos. A 2-year-old and a 9-month-old add plenty of laughs, hugs and baby kisses, but also a lot of noise and commotion, especially when combined with a 6-year-old and a new baby!

We didn’t make grand plans for the trip, mostly just wanted to spend time with everyone. We walked down to the shore a couple mornings, flipping over rocks to find tiny crabs, and made a few other small outings. It was quite unusually hot for the area. Since air conditioning is not common in Seattle houses, hopping in the car for a little ride let us cool off and relax a bit from chasing kids.  We hit Manchester Beach one afternoon. I was surprised to be faced with a view of downtown Seattle in one direction and Mount Rainier in another – clearly I got very turned around directionally!

I’ve already mentioned how I like to spend time at farmers markets, so, on the Saturday we were there, we went to two. The Puyallup Farmers Market is BIG and BUSY. Lots of fruit and vegetables (we walked away with local apricots, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and a slice of marionberry pie – YUM!), but also a lot of craft/artisan vendors. The older girls had a grand time in the bounce house – we owed them some energy-release time after dragging them around the busy market. It was fun to see, but too busy for me to visit every week.

Realizing it was already nearly 1:00, we headed out to try to make it to the Proctor Farmers Market. This was more my speed and I loved it! It’s just one street of small vendors, mostly selling food or beverage.

We sampled a little wine, some cheese and perused the stands until we noticed a lavender stand at the end of the street – Fox Island Lavender – and high-tailed it over there before they closed. We were piling up our purchases on the table when my sister noticed the name of the woman, Jill, and suddenly commented that she looked a lot like our Aunt Robin and Jill commented she has a sister named Robin. Hmm, we were a little slow! I knew Jill lived out there and had a lavender farm – doh! Once we put it together, we shared lots of hugs and got a couple of pictures together. What a small world indeed! Laden with beautiful, fragrant bouquets of lavender and a fun story to share with the family, we headed back up the other side of the street.

We sampled and then cleaned out the potato kale sausage soup from Alina at Alina’s Soups. Lunch!

This is also where we found River Valley Cheese. Samples? Um, you need not ask. I kick myself now for not confirming, but I’m quite certain it was Julie, the cheesemaker herself, that helped us. Their specialty of the day was a hooch cheese (yes, it had whiskey in it) and it was wonderful! We left with some Valley Blue (used in the salad recipe below), boursin, and a couple slices of JuJu’s Cheesecake. That cheesecake was delicious (sorry, Mom, we still love yours, too!). It had a sweetened sour cream topping, a light vanilla wafer crust and was made with Julie’s own cream cheese. Fantastic!

As we were stuffing the cheesecake samples in our mouths and trying to pry the girls away from them, the trucks rolled in to start packing up the market – boo, sigh.  We got one last stop in and tried some caramels and walked away with one final purchase – Honey Goat Cheese Truffles from Tease Chocolates, a bean to bar chocolatier in Tacoma – oh.my.goodness. You have no idea what you have missed if you’ve been there and have not tried them. Go back now!!

One final comment and then a super simple recipe – why mess too much with great local, fresh ingredients?? The vendors were all so wonderful and personable, especially at the Proctor Farmers Market. I’m sad I can’t go back every week.  We’re saving another recipe using fresh fruit for next week’s post.

– Anna, 16 July 2015

SPINACH SALAD WITH GRILLED STONE FRUIT, VALLEY BLUE CHEESE, & BALSAMIC REDUCTIONbalsamic salad 2
This is a super simple, fresh salad to highlight the beautiful fruit and cheese from the farmers market last weekend. Apricots, berries and cherries are in season in Washington right now so there were lots of options!

SALAD INGREDIENTS

· several cups of fresh spinach
· chopped or crumbled blue cheese (we used River Valley Cheese’s Valley Blue from the Proctor Farmers Market)
· apricots or other stone fruit
· coconut oil (preferred, but you can use grapeseed oil or olive oil)
· balsamic reduction (you can buy this or make it yourself if you have balsamic vinegar, see below for how – it’s just one ingredient)

Cut the fruit in half and remove pits. Brush on oil and place flesh side down on the grill for 1-2 minutes (may need longer depending on how hard the fruit is). Allow to cool and then slice the fruit.

VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS

· high-quality olive oil
· red wine vinegar
· local honey (my sister had local raspberry honey on hand)
· sea salt (I prefer sea salt over table salt and believe it to be better for you, but use what you have. We used Pink Himalayan Sea Salt.)
· fresh ground pepper
· crushed herbes de Provence

Mix together to taste. Shake vigorously to combine.

Place spinach on plate or in bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Once on a plate, top with fruit, blue cheese, and drizzle balsamic reduction over it.

Toasted nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or pistachios would make a great addition to this salad!

BALSAMIC REDUCTION HOW-TO

What’s this balsamic reduction and how do you make it? It’s a wonderful sweet syrup and it’s quite simple to make, you just have to watch it closely.

1. Pour 1-2 cups of balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pan.

2. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the vinegar is reduced by at least half.
a. If you want a thicker syrup, you can simmer longer, but be careful not to let it go too long – it will thicken as it cools.
b. DO NOT be tempted to simmer on medium or high heat, you’ll end up with a hard, sticky mess to break your teeth on!

4. Allow to cool and use as you wish.

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