By Elyse Kopecky
Every Saturday from June through September at the Portland Farmers Market at PSU, a favorite Portland-area chef demonstrates how to turn seasonal ingredients into simple, delicious dishes. Recently, Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana and Oven & Shaker cooked alongside Portland Monthly’s Allison Jones and Real Good Food’s Jim Dixon.
As the Chef in the Market, Cathy demonstrated three Catalan-inspired dishes and instilled in her audience the importance of starting with the best ingredients. “If you have great ingredients than whatever you make is going to taste delicious,” said Chef Cathy, who for five consecutive years has been nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Northwest. She focused her recipes around the juiciest ingredients currently available at the farmers market, including tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and microgreens.
Another key to maximizing the flavors in simple dishes is using high-quality extra virgin olive oil and unrefined sea salt. Olive-oil connoisseur and PFM market vendor Jim Dixon explained to the audience that the majority of olive oils sold in grocery stores are actually refined blends. The term “extra virgin” is not regulated in the US. Jim’s advice is to look for the COOC Seal of Certification on the back of the bottle. Chef Cathy loves using an unwashed and unrefined sea salt from Sicily that tastes pure and is high in healthy minerals. Marketgoers can pick up unrefined Oregon sea salt at the Jacobsen Salt Co. booth the last Saturday of each month.
To make the most of summer’s glorious vegetables, try Chef Cathy’s take on escalivada, a colorful dish of purple eggplant, charred onions and vibrant red and yellow peppers.
Adapted from Delicioso, The Regional Cooking of Spain, Penelope Casas
1 small eggplant
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 medium onion, peeled
1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste, best quality
freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T minced parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/8 tsp dried wild oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Roast eggplant, bell peppers and onion over indirect heat on the grill or in a 500 degree oven, turning often, until charred and soft. Cool vegetables. Peel peppers, core and remove seeds, and cut into 1 inch strips.
Peel eggplant, scrape out seeds and pull apart into 1 inch strips. Chop onion. Mix in a bowl with remaining ingredients.
Serve at room temperature as a salad or as an appetizer topped with microgreens.
Elyse Kopecky is a social media consultant and whole foods chef based in Portland, OR. After 10 years working for NIKE and EA SPORTS she left her desk job for the chance to study culinary nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. Follow her adventures in the kitchen and on the trail at www.freshabits.com and @freshabits.