I had two goals in mind when I headed to the Bellingham Farmers Market last week. First, the Friends of Island Library was serving tapas at a fundraiser for a library expansion project (see below). Tapas are Spanish appetizers and I had promised to bring some. I went to the market partly to buy tapas ingredients.
My second goal was more amorphous. I needed inspiration for this week's article and recipe!
I found the market had been reconfigured to a smaller format because some vendors have finished their operations for the year. More of the produce vendors are now under the shelter, or very close by, as everyone hunkers down for cooler Saturday weather.
An amazing assortment of food is still available, though. Tomatoes are both larger and smaller than during peak season, and can be found in a plethora of colors. Squash now is vibrant and colorful, too, and several types will store well for several months. Onions, kale, daikon, potatoes, spinach, peppers of all varieties (including Rabbit Fields' wonderful smoked cayennes), turnips, celeriac, romanesco, beets, carrots, Terra Verde's fresh ginger, Brussels sprouts, herbs, meat and poultry - the list of possibilities goes on and on.
I feel such a sense of appreciation for the work that Whatcom farmers do for us, and I feel an equal sense of wonder at the amazing diversity of food our soils and climate support. I think heaven must look a lot like rural Whatcom County.
When I need inspiration, the market never fails to deliver. I can always find at least one unique and interesting food product to get my creative recipe juices flowing. This week, it was the fresh Scarlet Runner and Cannellini beans at the Alm Hill Gardens stall.
Colors and markings on the beans are beautiful and immediately caught my eye (see photo). Both types of beans are large, about the size of my thumbnail. This looked like fall comfort food in the making.
In a grocery store, beans are typically dried or canned. Dried beans have to be soaked and cooked for a long time, and the can linings of canned beans (and most other canned foods) leach BPAs into the food.
BPA, or bisphenol-A, is a synthetic estrogen. Exposure to BPA has been linked, primarily in lab animal studies, to a range of possible health problems, ranging from obesity to infertility. You can avoid at least 60 percent of the average daily exposure to BPAs by eating fresh food instead of canned.
Fresh beans and lower BPAs, are part of the special "perks" you get by shopping direct from farmers at Bellingham Farmers Market. Fresh beans will cook in a half hour or less, depending on the size of the beans. I wasn't sure how I would cook them, but I brought some Scarlet Runners and Cannellini home to work with.
When I got home, I cooked up the tapas, thinking all the while about what I could do with the beans. Large beans can be very astringent, so I knew I'd need a sauce with a big flavor. And there it was in front of me! The spicy dipping sauce I made for roasted potato tapas had a robust smoky flavor, with just a bit of heat from the peppers to give the beans just the taste balance they needed. I hope you enjoy the combination!
2012 HOLIDAY DINNER MENUS
Are you cooking the meal for any of the winter holiday celebrations? If so, I'd like to encourage you to try using local ingredients. To help make that easy, I've created holiday dinner plans (beef, salmon or vegetarian options) that include:
- A five-course menu (appetizer, soup, salad, main course and side, and dessert)
- Complete recipes with full color photos
- A shopping list
- Sources for ingredients
- A suggested meal preparation schedule that will allow you to relax and enjoy being with your family and friends.
In short, I've done most of the planning for you, and the dishes can be made almost entirely with locally grown ingredients. You can download the menu plan of your choice from my website: whatcomlocavore.com. The cost is $4.95, plus tax. Give local foods a try this year - you'll love the results!
* Libraries out in the county are housed in buildings owned and maintained by nonprofit library "friends" organizations.
SPICY BEANS RECIPE
1 pound fresh large beans (Alm Hill Gardens, Everson)
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil (or butter) (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
2 cloves garlic, minced (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
1 tablespoon bread crumbs (homemade, flour from Fairhaven Organic Flour Mills, Burlington)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (home garden, Lummi Island)
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano (home garden, Lummi Island)
1 cup chopped and crushed sauce tomatoes in their juice (Romas from Terra Verde Garden, Everson)
1 cup water (or stock)
1 teaspoon smoked cayenne pepper, minced (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
1. Put beans in a large pot and cover with water a couple of inches deep. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 30 minutes, until beans are soft. Drain and salt to taste.
2. In a saucepan, warm hazelnut oil or butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook a few more minutes, until the tomatoes and their juice thicken to form a sauce.
4. Stir in the bread crumbs, fresh thyme and oregano. Cook a minute or two, until the herbs release their aroma.
5. Add water or stock and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken again. Salt to taste.
6. Combine the beans and sauce. Stir in apple cider vinegar. Reheat at a simmer for about 10 minutes to let the beans absorb flavors.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996; appel-farms.com
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959; artisanwineclub.com
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060; bellinghamfarmers.org
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699; boxxberryfarm.com
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859; cloudmountainfarm.com
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158; communityfood.coop
Everybody's Store, 5465 Potter Road, Deming; 360-592-2297; everybodys.com
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747; ferndalepublicmarket.org
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151; graceharborfarms.com
Green Barn, 8858 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-354-1008
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
Lynden Farmers Market, 514 Liberty St., Lynden, fiveloavesfarm.blogspot.com
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398; facebook.com/pages/Pleasant-Valley-Dairy/161872142667
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190; islandergrocery.com
The Markets LLC, 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway and 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797; themarketsllc.com
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020; terra-organica.com
Reach NANCY GING at 360-758-2529 or email@example.com. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, "like" Whatcom Locavore on Facebook (facebook.com/whatcomlocavore) and "follow" on Twitter, @WhatcomLocavore. For locavore menus, recipes, and more resources, read her blog at at whatcomlocavore.com.