15 May 2011

The Farmers Market Dinner

Article & Photos by Elizabeth Miller

On an unusually sunny spring day, armed with nothing more than a small amount of cash and a camera, I set out to buy dinner at the farmers market.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of any farmers market is the almost immediate inspiration the offerings can trigger. At the Shemasnki Park Market, baskets of plump crimson rhubarb made me want to fill my arms with the beginnings of a delicious cobbler.  The Pearl Bakery stand offered piles of shatteringly fresh breads, and when I discovered brown bags filled to the brim with wild mushrooms at the Springwater Farm stand, I began to imagine a wonderful crostini topped with a creamy mushroom caviar. Sensing a wave of cooking impulsiveness coming over me, I made a tactical decision to stroll around the market and investigate every vendor before making any rash purchasing decisions.

At Gathering Together Farm I found a crisp bunch of delicate pea shoots nestled among the bins of colorful lettuces.  Having never previously cooked with them, I nearly passed them up, but when I got caught up in a tasting of fresh chevre from Dee Creek Farms, I very suddenly knew that I needed to backtrack and buy those pea shoots.


Pea Shoot and Roasted Beet Salad with Sauteed Beet Greens and Breaded Chevre
I bunch of petite beets
1 bunch of pea shoots, thoroughly washed
4 ounces goat cheese
¼ cup panko, or other fine bread crumbs
2 large cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2 people as a meal or 4 people as an appetizer.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove greens from ends of beets and set aside.  Scrub beets to remove any dirt.  Tightly wrap beets in a large sheet of aluminum foil, then roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until beets are crisp tender.  Carefully open the aluminum foil wrapping and allow beets to cool slightly.  Lightly rub the beets with their foil package to gently remove the skins.  Slice beets into coins and set aside.

Thoroughly wash reserved beet greens, then roughly chop, removing any large or tough stems that run along the rib of each leaf.  (There should be very few tough stem pieces, as petite beets tend to come along with very tender greens.)  Slice garlic cloves as thinly as possible.  In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  When oil begins to shimmer slightly, add in chopped beet greens.  Saute beet greens for one minute, stirring constantly.  Add sliced garlic, and continue to stir the greens and garlic as they sauté.  When the garlic has turned lightly golden, remove the greens and garlic from the heat and set aside.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small pan, dry toast panko or breadcrumbs over medium-low heat, watching carefully.  When the breadcrumbs turn a dark golden brown, remove from heat and pour onto a small plate to cool.

Slice goat cheese into 2 or 4 slices, depending on how many people your salads will be serving.  With wet hands, form the slices into flat discs.  Dip each cheese disc in the cooled breadcrumbs, using hands to adhere crumbs to all areas of the cheese.

In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.  Slowly drizzle in 4 tablespoons of olive oil, constantly whisking the vinegar as your pour, allowing the dressing to emulsify.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine washed pea shoots with ¾ of dressing and toss to combine.  If you feel the salad needs more dressing, add in the remaining ¼ a continue to lightly toss.

Divide the dressed pea shoots among the appropriate number of plates.  Scatter roasted beets on top of each salad portion.  Divide the sautéed beet greens among the servings, then top each pile of beet greens with a disc of breaded chevre.  Add more freshly ground pepper, if desired.

Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Sustainable Industries Journal, the Denver Quarterly, J&L Illustrated, and Mcsweeney’s.  A 15-year resident of Portland, she feels she has earned her stripes as a true Portlander by working as an advocate for skateboarding (Skaters for Portland Skateparks), a freelance project manager for a community outreach and recycled building materials nonprofit (The ReBuilding Center), and marketing and events specialist at Portland’s most storied local business (Powell’s Books). Elizabeth currently runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website, and she is a regular contributor to indiefixx.com, where she writes a food and cooking column called Melting Pot .