A-Tisket, A-Tasket

Fill that wooden basket

 COOKING WITH THE FARMERS DAUGHTER • Story by Suzanne Martinson • Photo by Bob Martinson

Let’s get one thing perfectly straight: filling your wedding basket of the farmers market is one thing. Emptying it is quite another. On these first days of summer, it’s almost impossible not to grab more than we can gobble.

Northwest strawberries arrived early this year. “We usually have Memorial Day off,” said Erin Thoeny, carefully picking out the best berries for buyers. Thoeny Farms in Woodland is a longtime fixture at the Cowlitz Community Farmers Market. My first market day at the fairgrounds a dynamic duo sang the late George Jones’ country hit, “I Will Always Love You” — surely all about my passion for local strawberries. A bright red accent atop spring greens.

A farmers market is satisfying in so many ways. Once the sun elbows its way out of the clouds, dogs bark, shopping bags rustle, and personal testimonials flow.

“Try the little Walla Walla Sweets,” advised CRR travel writer Shirley Smith. The small onions were thinned from the rows so their sisters could grow larger.

A farmers market never fails to surprise. This time it’s “new potatoes” making their debut many weeks ahead of schedule. Were they held over from last year? No, these red and white spuds were planted in Eastern Oregon in January. “If we planted them here, they’d rot,” said seller Yvonne Krause of Jo’s Country Market in Clatskanie.

We may think, “Potatoes are potatoes,” but once we’ve tasted a baby spud fresh out of the ground, we know different. Shake them in olive oil in a zippered plastic bag, drop them onto a baking pan, sprinkle with kosher salt, and roast in a 400-degree oven. They’re done when you can easily prick them with a fork.

The rest of new potato can be dropped into a frustrating salad, worried and out of hand, giving only meaning to “hang onto life, like a potato.”

My go-to staples for dried cranberries and nuts (toast walnuts or pecans on a baking tray in a moderate oven for 5 to 10 minutes). Don’t wander off to catch a glimpse of HGTV’s “Love It or List It” because scorched nuts are not tasty.

Onions: mixed signals
An exemplary green salad cries out for onions, too. But on our family farm in Michigan, onions sent mixed signals. Not for us a big slab of onion on our burger. Mom banned onions. “Onions make your breath smell,” she said. Her delicious scalloped potatoes went to the table sans onions, until her four sisters-in-law insisted, “Scalloped potatoes needs onion.”

At the next family dinner, Mom’s potatoes had an onion. She didn’t cut it up, just put the whole onion 

among the potato slices in the center of the casserole dish. “Easier to pick it out,” she explained.

So imagine my surprise on a recent trip to Michigan. When we went out to eat, I was shocked to see Mom order French onion soup. Twice. An onion conversion?

“Oh, I pick out the onions,” said Mom. “If you eat onions, you’ll never get a kiss.”

I would make an exception for my microwave recipe for scalloped potatoes, which give onions their good name — and kisses, too.

I’ve always wondered what Ella Fitzgerald was really singing about when she wrote the lyrics for her 1938 song about the children’s game that featured “a green and yellow basket.”
In short: A tisket is the basket part. A tasket is the handle part.
Sometimes, the rules for the rhyming, circle game required kissing.
— Suzanne Martinson

Shining star
Many — maybe most — processed salad dressings aren’t worth their high cost, though my husband, Ace, has taken a singular shine to Brianna’s Home Style Poppy Seed Dressing. A simple homemade vinaigrette (3 parts olive oil plus 1 part vinegar, adding your favorite herbs) is even better.

As a youngster, I seldom saw a cranberry outside of Thanksgiving, when they’d appear, jiggling, in an altered state, straight out of the can, to escort the turkey to dinner. A tip of the hat to the person or persons who popularized dried cranberries and, we hope, increased sales by the Washington Coast cranberry- bog boys and girls.

Food reader alert (I am not a doctor, so you may skip this testimonial for a home remedy): Cranberry juice is tart so it’s usually mixed with other juices, but straight, unadulterated 100 percent cranberry juice is my antidote to the first murmurings of bladder troubles, which is why one chilly night in New York City, Ace and I went saloon to saloon around Times Square, finally scoring a bottle in a seedy convenience store. I drank it all, thus salvaging our big night on the town.

From Fallingwater
When I want to go first class tossing a salad for entertaining, I pull out co- author Jane Citron’s recipe for lemon vinaigrette in The Fallingwater Cookbook. Jane added this advice: “The best walnut oil comes from France. The taste is excellent, and it is well worth seeking out the genuine product. Nut oils have a long shelf life if kept under refrigeration. On the other hand, olive oil should be kept at room temperature in a dry, cool place.” Read: not over the range.

Lemon Vinaigrette
1 Tbl. minced shallots

1 tsp.Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 Tbl. sherry wine vinegar
1/2-tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbl. walnut oil
2 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbl. light vegetable oil
Touch of heavy cream (optional) Combine the shallots, mustard, salt, pepper, and lemon rind in a small bowl. Whisk in the oils and vinegars, blending well. If desired, the dressing may be finished with a splash of heavy cream.

Microwave Scalloped Potatoes
5–6 medium potatoes, sliced about one- eighth inch thick (4-1/2 cups)
1 med. Walla Walla Sweet onion, sliced 4-1/2 Tbl. flour
1-1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 C. milk, scalded 3 Tbl. butter

Arrange half of sliced potatoes in an 8-inch glass baking dish. Cover with one- half of the onion slices. Combine flour with salt and sprinkle on potato layer. Repeat with other half of ingredients. Pour scalded milk over potatoes. Dot with butter and sprinkle generously with paprika. Cook, uncovered, in microwave 20 minutes, or until potatoes are barely tender when pricked with a fork.

Makes 6 servings.

To scald milk: In 2-cup glass measuring cup, microwave milk until bubbles form along the edges of the glass cup. Cool.

Adapted from Amana Radarange “New Microwave Oven Cooking Guide. 


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Food writer Suzanne Martinson grew up in Michigan. Farmers markets were in short supply then, because most farm families had a garden.She is the author of The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson’s Recipes and Memories. Contact her at acesmartinson@comcast.net.