By Marcia Pilgeram
For the first time in 15 years, my youngest daughter, Casey, and her family showed up this past weekend for no particular reason. There are no weeks of planning for upcoming holidays and special events and plane tickets to Chicago are no longer required to get a grandbabe fix. I still pinch myself — she’s not much more than an hour away in Spokane. Anticipating her arrival and especially her love for homemade soup, I headed to town and took my usual, circuitous route through our Saturday Farmers Market.
It was my last market fix of the year, as I’ll be away from home for the next couple of weeks. I made a point of dawdling at familiar stalls, then weighed myself down with a plethora of produce. The damp air was a call to action, reminding me to stock up on an abundance of vegetables. Then, I’d scoot right home to put some heat on the stove and stir up a couple of pots of savory soup.
As soon as I spotted my friend Jim, the Corn Man, I knew corn chowder and grilled cheese sandwiches were in our immediate future and would hit our sweet spots for lunch. So, armed with fresh corn and a plan, I headed to Red Wheelbarrow for shallots, potatoes, and perfectly round onions.
Next came procurement for dinner provisions. Mountain Cloud Farms grows delightfully tiny vegetables. I chose bright little pattypan squash, sweet and colorful young carrots, tender baby bok choy, and an array of small new potatoes — it was a perfect combination for the batch of spicy green curry that I whipped up for our supper.
Walking past Good Food Farm, I spied the most picture-perfect, red, ripe tomatoes. Even though there was a basket teeming with tomatoes from generous friends in my kitchen, I couldn’t pass those beauties up and brought home four of them.
No stop at the market is complete without visiting friend Robyn’s stall, Flowers From the Heart. But, of course, we rarely talk about flowers; instead, I loiter next to her beautiful bouquets while we exchange travel plans, catch up on local chit chat, and hear about her busy summer, filled with tales of Pinterest-inspired brides.
I skipped the Pack River Farm’s microgreens because the previous evening, I’d joined foodie-friends for quite a dining experience — the tasting menu dinner at the Pack River Store, where blends of microgreens, fresh from their farm, topped a few of the delicious courses.
Chef Alex Jacobson has taken gas station food to a whole new level and prepared a six-course feast of gastronomies that were not only pleasing to the palate but provided a visual feast as well. I can attest that no one left disappointed (or hungry).
The meal was a sublime experience and the service was perfect, too. We all had a favorite course, and mine was the third, with an offering of silky chicken liver pâté, which was exceptional! Dessert was fabulous too, and we lingered over wine and a wine poached pear with zabaione.
If you haven’t experienced one of these tasting menus (or their prime rib dinner, served the last Friday of each month), do me a favor and get yourself a reservation. The team of Alex and his wife Brittany have become a well-oiled machine and, as far as I’m concerned, they serve up some of the most solid food that 7B has to offer.
Speaking of picture-perfect tomatoes, I’m off to Spain, with culinary visions of ripe tomatoes, sliced thick and served on crusty bread, topped with anchovies and drizzled with olive oil. Of course, we have the Spanish to thank for introducing the tomato to Europe, in the 16th century, following their sacking of the Aztec empire.
Whether you grow your own or head down and support our Farmers Market on Saturday, now’s the time to gather a few tomatoes for this week’s recipe. Then, remember to save one to slice up and slather with your favorite toppings. ¡Buen provecho!
• 4 large tomatoes, rinsed and dried
• 2 tbs butter
• 2 tbs olive oil
• 1/2 cup diced onion
• 2 cloves garlic minced
• 1/2 cup finely diced green or red pepper
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1 cup chicken (or veggie) stock
• 1/2 tsp salt
•1/8 tsp black pepper
•1 cup dried orzo
• 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves finely chopped
•1 cup grated fresh mozzarella cheese
• 1 cup crumbled feta
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato and reserve. Use a spoon to scoop out all the pulp (save for another cooking use). The tomatoes should have about a 1/2-inch shell after pulp has been scooped out, lightly salt the inside, then place tomatoes, open side down, on paper towels to drain off excess liquid.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, add olive oil and swirl pan to mix. Add onions, pepper and garlic and sauté approximately 5 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
Pour in the wine, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Stir together and bring to a soft boil. Add the orzo, stirring into the liquids. Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium low and let the orzo simmer for approximately 9 to 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the orzo noodles have softened, stirring the mixture every couple of minutes while simmering (scrape up from the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking).
Remove pan from heat and stir in the fresh chopped basil leaves. Add 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup feta; stir together until combined. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to stuff the tomatoes.
Place the prepared tomato shells in an ungreased baking dish (open side up). Fill each tomato shell with approximately 1/2 cup of the orzo pasta mixture. Sprinkle the tops of each stuffed tomato with the remaining feta and top with remaining mozzarella. Loosely replace tomato top.
Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for approximately 15 minutes until cheese is melted and tomato is heated through.
Remove from oven, remove from baking dish with spatula/server. Garnish with fresh oregano or basil.
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