Fruit, Vegetables, Flowers, Oh My!

Yesterday I went to one of my absolute most favorite places in the world.  I am not exaggerating.  Every time I go to the farmer’s market at Portland State University, I am newly delighted at the sights, smells, and sounds there.  I love food.  Particularly, I love fresh, local food from Oregon growers that show up to share their crops with the rest of us.  One of my favorite things is to watch and anticipate the changes throughout the market season as the crops shift and turn over.  Early in the season (as it was today) the market was overflowing with huge heads of lettuce and bunches of kale, bright bundles of asparagus and juicy, ripe strawberries.  I know that as the season progresses, I’ll find blueberries, melons, peppers, and other favorites.  It’s a bit of a culinary adventure to see what the market will have on any given Saturday and how I can put my finds to use.

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One of the things I love about this particular market is that in addition to the produce, there are local craftspeople selling products they have made and packaged for quick eating.  There’s pickled vegetables.  Jams, lemon curd, and preserves.  Kimchi.  Soup.  Pastries and breads galore.  Hard cider and wine.  Hummus.  Salsa.  Pesto.  And, so on!  Of course there are also samples of all these things to taste and try as you stroll through the stalls.  There are also food carts and booths set up, ready to make you breakfast or lunch – though I never try them at the market.  I prefer to get a big, hot cup of black coffee and wonder around, tasting samples as I go.

For those of you who haven’t been, this market is large.  And, it’s a great place for people watching.  Musicians are inevitably set up to give you something to tap your foot to and on a warm, dry day there are plenty of places to lounge in the grass or on a bench.  To me, this market encompasses so much of what I love about the city.  It’s focus on supporting local business owners, appreciation for good food and drink, a place to spend time outside (surrounded by the lovely PSU campus) and a general laid-back, friendly, jovial spirit.

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Given that it encompasses all of the major themes of this blog, I thought it would make a great topic for my first official post.

Delicious food, a little bit of (relaxed) exercise, and so much inspiration for creativity – not a bad way to spend my Saturday morning .

Oh!  In case you were wondering, I used market greens and radishes to whip up this salad from Martha Rose Shulman.  If you haven’t tried any of Shulman’s recipes, by the way, I highly recommend that you do.  She has yet to steer me wrong. This salad is so simple, so fresh, and was absolutely delicious.  I served mine as a first-course to Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas and freshly made guacamole.

Romaine and Radish Salad with Buttermilk Lemon Dressing

From the Recipes for Health NYT Column – Martha Rose Shulman

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For the salad:

2 hearts of romaine

1 cup thinly sliced radishes (if you have one, a mandolin slices these beautifully)

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped chives, or a mixture of chives and tarragon (I used about 2 tablespoons of only chives)

For the buttermilk dressing:

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, puréed (I minced mine)

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

5 tablespoons buttermilk***

Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

1. Combine the romaine, radishes and herbs in a large salad bowl.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, salt, olive oil and buttermilk. Just before serving, toss with the salad mix. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, toss again, and serve.

*** I made my own buttermilk by combining 5 tablespoons of 1% milk with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.  Let sit for 5 minutes, stir.  Lemon juice can also be used in place of the vinegar.

This made just over ½ cup of dressing.  I had a bit left over that I didn’t need on the salad and am saving for another night!

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