Kenny Lee and the Sundowners at the Portland Saturday Market
Santa Monica has the best one I’ve been to. Used to be part of the workday at City Restaurant: an early morning trip to the Farmers Market for Japanese greens, Puget Sound Oysters, soft fruit from the Sacramento valley, and (most important) a steamed pork bun from the Chinese food stand. But then, what about the King of them all, Seattle’s Pike Place Market? Certainly, that’s on the top of my list.
Then there’s the Des Moines Farmers Market, where I ate my first (and best) Pupusa.
Surely we can’t forget the Eugene Saturday Market, where time stands still, the smell of weed hangs in the air, and you can buy a tie-dyed anything. The smoked pork chops at Olympia’s permanent market make it one of my favorites.
Knoxville residents would insist on including the one at Market Square. I’ll bet there isn’t a populated area in the country that doesn’t have at least a few pickups that park at the bowling alley every Saturday and sell vegetables.
Not to be a moaner, but my delight with local markets has faded somewhat. Unless they have tightened the rules, the downtown Tacoma market sneaks in summer tomatoes out of a Safeway box, cantaloupe that refuse to ripen, and stringy green beans that have no snap. Then there are the Winnebago-sized strollers and contentious youngsters. I’m sure this will cement my reputation as a curmudgeon, but if one more over-sized buggy rides up the back of my heels or if I have to sit next to one more red-faced, tantrum-throwing tiny tot at the music pavilion…
Anyways, farmers markets are a part of today’s food-obsessed culture and we must applaud the effort to buy the vegetables at a premium price, lug them home, pile them up in the sink, and spend the next hour getting them ready to cook. Puts a rosy glow on Birds Eye, doesn’t it?
Grilled vegetable pasta
- 1 small zucchini, cut lengthwise
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and halved
- 1/2 eggplant, cut lengthwise into thick slices
- 1/2 red onion, cut crosswise into thick slices
- Fresh artichokes are great, if you have the patience
- Olive oil for brushing
- 2 Tbs. olive oil for sautéing
- 1 Tbs. minced garlic
- 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
- 1 jarred anchovy, minced
- 2 peeled, chopped Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 lb. pasta
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup cubed feta cheese, fresh mozzarella, or goat cheese
- As long as it’s summer, fresh basil wouldn’t hurt
- Reserve 1 cup pasta water
Prepare a hot fire in a grill.
Arrange the zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant slices, and onion in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay the vegetables on the grill, cover the grill and cook, turning once, until tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side.
Remove skin from red pepper, cut zucchini half and eggplant slices into large pieces. Chop onion slices into large pieces. Peel and chop Romas.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot oof salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well and cook about 11 minutes, then drain. Reserve 1 cup pasta water
Sauté 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes over medium heat in 2 tablespoons olive oil until garlic sizzles and lightens. Season to taste with salt. Add peeled, chopped Roma’s and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water. Simmer on medium on medium high until liquid has reduced by half. Add grilled vegetables, anchovy, olives, cheese of your choice, and drained pasta. Drape in extra pasta water if you want a juicier dish. Serve with Parmesan cheese.