Monday, September 8, 2014

Mixed Plate: One Crazy (lazy) Summer

...And we'll have fun, fun, fun till the winter takes the sunshine awaaaaaaay... That's what the anthem should be for summers in the Pacific Northwest. For all the rainy, gray days we have, when summer's in full gear, it's perfection and everyone takes advantage of it. This week's post isn't about a particular dish or restaurant, it's just about savoring the flavor of summer. 

Daaaaaamn, Pacific NW, you so fine! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

One of the best ways to take in the season is to visit farmers markets. There's a couple that are year-round, but given the seasonal nature of fresh produce, it's really spring/summer/early fall that are market-friendly. For many years, we regularly visit the Redmond Farmers Market, since it's outdoors, dog-friendly, and on Saturdays, so we can all go together. I always wind up with odd combinations of purchases -- for two years in a row, I inevitably wind up with wild mushrooms and Bing cherries. They're two things I'm equally excited about -- cultivated mushrooms by a local farmer, and summer cherries, which I eat like there's no tomorrow. But even when there's not mushrooms and cherries to be had, our Redmond Farmers Market routine is typically to get coffee from one of the local vendors, browse the stands, and get tamales for breakfast, also available at the market -- it's a great way to start the weekend!

Mushrooms and cherries - Miyazaki Dust Spirit-approved - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Something else I love about summer is the appreciation of all the seasonal produce. Of course warmer months are when stuff grows well, but when you get into the habit of buying all your food from a grocery store, where you can get almost anything year-round, you lose sight of what it means to eat seasonally. It's like buying food in an isolation bubble. Sure, you can get blueberries in the dearth of winter, but they're not going to taste nearly as good (or cost nearly as less) as the box-loads of berries available in the summer. While it's more of a spring item, I loved getting artichokes in our CSA. What a wonderfully strange vegetable. Just admiring its shape makes me wonder how the heck someone decided this crazy thing was edible.

The beauty of artichokes - Photo by Wasabi Prime
When something's in season, it's all about the simplicity of its enjoyment. I just steam artichokes after cutting them down, shaving off some of the outer leaves, and snipping the tips. It's not unusual for me to steam these gems, make up a quick dipping sauce of mayonnaise,. some lemon juice and maybe a little Dijon, and snack on the leaves for dinner.

Admiring the spiny artichoke - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Appreciating summer's bounty doesn't have to be just eating, it's as much about taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the season. I visited the Kirkland Farmers Market recently, which is every Wednesday afternoon, on the picturesque waterfront. Colorful produce, gorgeous flowers, and handcrafted goods -- it's a great excuse to take the afternoon off and wander their stands on a sunny day. 

Gulls be like "You lookin' at ME?!" - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Have someone else cook and grab a slice from Veraci Pizza, who sets up their portable wood fire oven on one end of the Kirkland Farmers Market.

Pizza on a hot day? You bet - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Explore the produce and try something new! Did you know cucumbers come in round, lemon-shaped spheres? Not surprisingly, they're called lemon (or apple) cucumbers. 

Eat your greens! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers. The colors are incredible on all the bouquets being sold at the stands.

Gorgeous blooms - get a bouquet for a sweetie, or yourself! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The produce sells itself -- just look at these colors! It makes you wonder how anyone would need to be convinced to eat their fruits and veggies.

Eat summer by the basket-ful - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The photos really speak for themselves and I hope you have your own day of farmers market-gawking. There's always the convenience of grocery store shopping when the weather turns cold, but during the summer, do your shopping al fresco, and truly take in the season!

Have a berry good summer, y'all - Photo by Wasabi Prime

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