Summer is here at last in the Northwest, which means the Renton Farmer's Market is in full swing at the Piazza, celebrating an impressive eleven years. The market rang its opening bell this year on June 5, and takes place every Tuesday from 3-7 p.m., rain or shine. You have until September 25th to enjoy plates of ethnically diverse specialties and the bounty that Washington farmers bring to the table from the earth.
This week fruit was the real highlight. Boxes of ripe strawberries beckoned, cherries shined, and tables of peaches exuded an enticing summer perfume. We still have to hold our breath for bushels of tomatoes and corn, but berries are here in spades.
Market goers were greated with 70-something degree heat and glorious sunshine this week. I made a bee-line for some Hawaiian Shaved Ice from Oak Hill Farms, the oldest vendor at the market. While unusual flavors such as Tiger's Blood and Gazelle's Blood caught my eye, a couple of rainbow striped ice bowls ordered by the kids in front of me gave way to my curiosity. I ordered a small rainbow (which comes in a surprisingly tall plastic cup), sat down and people-watched in the Piazza.
Pure summer happiness for $3 a pop.
I was there to shop for dinner ingredients, but there's plenty of prepared foods to eat right at the market. Deano's Bistro serves Greek gyros, and the saucy Hot Dog Girl pleases the crowd with her banter. "Are you taking a picture of my dog?" she teased while working the grill after I snapped a shot of her decadently porky bacon-topped hot dog. "Why yes, ma'am I am..."
Seattle-based Los Chilangos roasts succulent Al Pastor, marinated pork with pineapples, on a spit for their tacos and huaraches. Both are traditional and delicious. Maria's Empa-Naughtys has "Famous Fiesta Lemonade," serves nachos and tamales with a salsa bar, and their crisp dessert namesake. Vegetarians can eat just about everything on the menu at Patty PanGrill with their veggie-based quesadillas and tamales. I love to cool off with their refreshing seasonal Ginger Mint Iced Tea.
There's Panda Catering and Delicious Asia if you have a hankering for a spring roll, barbecued meat skewers, Pad Thai, and dim sum dumplings. Have an Asian bite or maybe some roasted corn and a strawberry lemonade while you stroll the market, for a true taste of summer. I had a specific recipe in mind, and put some juicy Yakima peaches in my market bag.
I stopped off at Uwajimaya for some pork rib chops to complete the dish, and picked some sage from my back yard herb garden. I adapted this recipe from August's Food & Wine magazine, and there was no way I was going to cook these chops on the stove with this beautiful weather.
First step: quick-pickle the peaches by steeping them in boiling white wine vinegar, water, sugar, mustard seeds, bay leaf and peppercorns for an hour, then chill. Next make a marinade for your bone-in pork rib chops with olive oil, chopped sage, ground pepper and salt. Rub the mixture over the chops and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Get your gas grill going. Cook your chops for approximately 15 to 20 minutes — this will depend on the thickness of your chops — ours were thin. In the meantime, fry your whole sage leaves over moderate heat until crisp. Top each juicy grilled chop with pickled peaches and fried sage leaves. We served this with an Israeli couscous salad with minced fresh mint, chives, lemon juice, jalapeno, chopped tomato and cucumber from the market.
To top off our summer meal, we each savored a chocolate chip polvorone from Sweet Coconut Bakery. Friendly owner and baker Hazel is behind the table selling her Filipino sweet treats, only $5 for a melt in your mouth cellophane bag.
If you go:
The t runs June - September 2012 from 3 to 7 p.m. through the end of September at the Piazza in Downtown Renton on the north side of Third Avenue between Burnett Avenue and Logan Avenue.
The Farmers Market at Valley Medical Center runs every Sunday frm noon to 4 p.m. through Sept. 16 and is located off Talbot Road in the parking lot adjacent to the Professional Center at 4011 Talbot Road South.