17 February 2012

Winter Salad Beets the Blues (plus a little running)

By Jamie Reckers, Portland Farmers Market

Greens Galore - Photo by Allison Jones

This time of year, when the rain inspires most of us to pursue quiet inside activities that keep us warm and dry, I find myself with the goal of accomplishing a half-marathon in 2012.  Yes, folks, that’s 13.1 miles of non-stop motion in the great out-of-doors.  This requires a commitment beyond a day or a week, so four times a week I tuck my feet into my sneakers and will myself to move through this Portland winter.

Okay, this isn’t entirely true; as much of my running has been inside a climate controlled gym, but on occasion I do step outside, where I freeze for at least the first five minutes before my internal temperature acclimates.  With all this running I have found it even more necessary to keep a well-stocked kitchen, to fuel my body for longer distances and faster pacing.  Thank goodness for the Winter Market and the terrific vendor line-up, to keep me nourished with vitamin-and-mineral-rich produce.

Portland Farmers Market has traditionally hibernated for the months of January and February.  Last year, I remember coming back to the market after a two month break.  I filled my bags with more than what is necessary for one person’s week of groceries and spent the next two days in a fresh-food-induced coma.  I can recall feeling nourished in a way that my body hadn’t experienced for far too many meals.  My eyes had greater clarity and my body felt refreshed and re-energized.  Fortunately, this year, this break in routine has been unnecessary since our new Winter Market is able to provide me with so many options!

Winter Market abundanceI was unsure of what to expect from a Winter Market.  At best, I envisioned some hearty collards and at worst 20 varieties of potatoes.  I have been wonderfully surprised by the selection and quantities available from all of the produce vendors.  Such tasty treats as Brussels sprouts, broccoli raab, duck eggs, chicories, kale, arugula, leeks, and cilantro have provided a bounty that could surely rival any summer day.  I am grateful for the opportunity to consume great food plucked from the ground mere hours ago rather than days, or worse, weeks.

While most Portlanders might spend these winter months crafting their bread making skills to dip into rich and warm soups and stews made with their market purchases, I have been exploring variations on salad.  I don’t get it either—why would I miss the chance to steam up the windows and warm my tiny apartment with the sought-after heat from turning on my stove?  Why would I not want to cozy up my home with the scent of sweating onions and warm my body with a nicely roasted cut of meat?

Quite simply I have been craving the raw crunch of vegetables.  And with so many options available to me I have been wildly at play.  By my own admission I have been careless with combinations, throwing caution to the wind and taking on an ‘anything goes’ mentality.  I have been a bit daring in my purchases, exploring new green foods that normally go unnoticed and testing out different additions to dress up an otherwise simple meal.

For your own adventures in winter salad making, here is my offering to you.  Select any combination from the following categories and see what happens!

Greens

  • Chicory mix (Springhill Farm)
  • Chickweed (Gee Creek or Persephone)
  • Arugula (Groundwork Organics)
  • Kale (Osmogaia)
  • Salad mix (Gathering Together Farm)
  • Cabbage, red or green (Rick Steffen Farm)
  • Asian salad mix (Springhill Farm)

Fun Additions

  • Red or gold beets, grated or roasted (DeNoble’s)
  • Roasted potatoes (Gathering Together Farm)
  • Sautéed leeks (Springhill Farm) and mushrooms (Springwater Farm)
  • Romanesco (Winters Farm)
  • Fennel (Groundwork)
  • Pears (Packer Orchards)
  • Apples (Kiyokawa Orchards)
  • Dried Cherries (Cherry Country)

Proteins

  • Hazelnuts (LaMancha at the Persephone Farm booth)
  • Walnuts (Raymond Kuenzi Farm)
  • Blue cheese (Rogue Creamery) or goat cheese (Alsea Acre)
  • Greek Yogurt (Jacob’s Creamery)
  • Bacon (Sweet Briar Farms)
  • Salami (Olympic Provisions)
  • Hard-boiled duck or chicken eggs (Dancing Chicken Farm)
  • Dungeness crab (Linda Brand)

Dressing

  • Flavored vinegar (Blossom Vinegars)
  • Honey (Boyco)
  • Olive oil (Real Good Food)
  • Cilantro (DeNoble’s)

Non-market additions

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Dulse
  • Salt and pepper
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds

Of course, this only represents a fraction of the amazing variety of potential salad stars you can find at the Winter Market.  I encourage you to wander the nearly 40 vendor stalls and see what looks freshest and best to you!

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