In Portland, farmers markets are about as easy to come by as an SUV in the Pearl District. Wandering elbow-to-elbow with other hungry locals and gazing at the beautiful produce-and earnest faces of the folks who grew such healthy gorgeousness-is a dangerous game. Before you know it they've seduced you, and now you're loaded down with armloads of fresh, regionally grown fruits and veggies. The problem? Secretly, lots of us have no clue what we're going to do with all our bunches of chard, barrels of berries and baskets of tomatoes once we get 'em home. We have good intentions, really we do. But lots of it ends up dying an ignoble, messy death in our refrigerator crisper for lack of direction.
We at WW feel your "what the hell do we do with this stuff now?" culinary pain. So we called some of our favorite local kitchen pros to play a round of Iron Chef: Farmers Market. We ask them what they would do if they went on an outdoor produce binge and ended up knee-deep in just two of the most ubiquitous late-summer ingredients: heirloom tomatoes and zucchini (and no fair just makin' a classic ratatouille).
Here's what the pros propose:
Tomato + zucchini + frikeh + goat cheese =
"I would do a hot appetizer with a little-known grain called frikeh you can get from Ayers Creek Farm," says Scott Dolich, the chef-owner of Park Kitchen. (Psst, Dolich let us know that frikeh is wheat harvested in its immature state before the, ahem, "endosperm" is completely formed. Find Ayers Creek's stand Sundays at the Hillsdale Farmers Market, www.hillsdalefarmersmarket.com.) "I'd make a risotto with frikeh instead of classic Arborio rice, add chopped heirloom tomatoes and thin slices of zucchini marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and sorrel added at the end. Maybe a little fresh goat cheese stirred in, too. Sounds esoteric, but it's quite simple."
Tomato + zucchini + poppy seeds + cumin =
"I would make heirloom tomatoes and zucchini cooked with poppy seeds, cumin and turmeric," muses Leena Ezekiel of A Taste of India Catering. "Just heat a little vegetable oil and add some mustard seeds and a dried chili pepper, then add the diced tomatoes and zucchini. Grind half a cup of poppy seeds and add enough water to make a thin paste. Stir it into the pan along with a bit of cumin and turmeric powder; cook until the dish is thickened. This recipe really sends me back to my childhood in India when my mother would cook this dish using tomatoes and ridge gourd."
Tomato + zucchini + salmon =
Krista Anderson, the executive chef at New Seasons Market, cooks big-picture style. She proposed an easy grill menu, wild grilled salmon topped with chunky tomato vinaigrette with a hint of garlic served alongside a warm grilled-corn salad full of cherry tomatoes, zucchini and tarragon. As for favorite growers? " I will eat absolutely anything grown by Sheldon [Marcuvitz] and Carol [Laity], especially their tomatoes and their precious corn!" Anderson says of Your Kitchen Garden (8962 S Heinz Road, Canby, 651-3020). "Their veggies are so good you barely have to season them at all."
Tomato + zucchini + Dungeness crab =
"I would stuff the tomatoes. I like to stuff medium-size tomatoes like Stupice. So I'd take some zucchini, dice it-not too small-and sauté it in some olive oil with corn kernels, shallots and a chiffonade of fresh basil," says Carafe chef-owner Pascal Sauton. "I'd add Dungeness crab and stuff it in the tomato. I'd bake it immediately, so the stuffing stays hot. You don't have to bake the tomato too long...just until it 'gives up,' then drizzle it with some aged balsamic. Man, makes me hungry!"
Park Kitchen 422 NW 8th Ave., 223-7275.
A Taste of India Catering 284-7796.
Carafe 200 SW Market St., 248-0004.
New Seasons 1954 SE Division St., 445-2888. See newseasonsmarket.com for more locations.
Portland Farmers Market 8:30 am-2 pm Saturdays on the South Park Blocks at Portland State University between Montgomery and Harrison streets; 10 am-2 pm Wednesdays on the South Park Blocks between Salmon and Main streets; 4-8 pm Thursdays in the Ecotrust parking lot, Northwest 10th Avenue between Irving and Johnson streets; portlandfarmersmarket.org.
To learn more about how local farmers and farmers markets are changing the way Portland eats turn to page 14.