I would do anything for Leon Taylor. He is the salt of the earth, peppered with plenty of fun.
When Leon asked if I would donate a cooking class to the Willamette West Habitat for Humanity auction, I eagerly agreed.
Our auction package included a guided shopping trip through Beaverton's Farmers Market and a cooking class to create a Fresh from the Farm Dinner featuring the items purchased. Leon and my husband Mark would be my able-bodied assistants. The market donated funds to purchase foods and a private party donated wines. All in all, it was an attractive package.
I previewed the market a week before our class looking for new and unusual products. I wasn't disappointed. My list of items to showcase in the meal included:
n Wandering Angeus hard apple cider, made from Old World apples.
n Alpine Bakery sourdough bread made from 80-year-old starter.
n Three Ring Farms' Rivers Edge Chevre cheeses.
n Sweet Briar Farms all natural pork.
n Little Oak Farm's uniquely flavored honey.
n Rain Forest Mushrooms. They bring several types of wild mushrooms to market.
n Freddy Guys Filberts. Besides hazelnuts they sold wild rice - yes, Oregon-grown wild rice.
n Gathering Together and French Prairie organic fruits and vegetables.
The successful bidders at the auction were Patti and Ken Matheson. They invited their friends Mike and Joan Conners, Mike's sister Trisha Conners who was visiting from Florida, Joli and Jeff Bock and Marilyn Rudin to partake in our culinary adventure.
On the appointed day, we women met at the market early. With a cup of coffee in one hand, my shopping list in the other, I lead my new friends from stall to stall selecting just the right ingredients for our feast.
'It's like trying to keep puppies in a box, isn't it?' said Joan Conners, referring to keeping our group together. It is easy to get mesmerized by the neatly stacked lettuces, peppers and peaches and the vendors' tantalizing samples. We bought the items on my list and I left the ladies to explore the market on their own.
Later that afternoon we gathered in Marilyn Rudin's spaceous Lake Grove kitchen for the cooking portion of our adventure. Our mission: Create a feast from the bounty we brought home from the market.
Our menu included:
n River's Edge Chevre Confetti Moons, perfectly shaped balls of goat cheese marinated in olive oil with herbs and spices.
n Mushroom Hazelnut Pate, served on slices of Alpine Bakery's sourdough baguettes
n Chilled Tomato Thyme Soup - we intended to save some of the bread to make Grilled Garlic Croutons, however our baguettes were devoured with the pate and cheese.
n Barb's Mushroom Galette, One of the best ways to use fresh mushrooms, if I do say so myself.
n Farm Stand Salad, mixed greens and assorted vegetables with a vinaigrette created on the spot.
n Oregon Wild and Brown Rice Pilaf with Hazelnuts, a perfect side for any entrée
n Grilled Pork Roast with a ruby-red Cherry Chutney
n Blackberry Crisp made with freshly picked blackberries from our backyard.
The wines, from the collection of Heidi Yorkshire and Joseph Anthony, included Groth Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2005, Clos du Val Chardonnay Carneros Napa Valley 2004, Montevina Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Amador County 2003 and a Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon Chicken Ranch Vineyard Rutherford Napa Valley 2003.
How did the class do? A+ all around. Presentation was beautiful and the dishes captured the essence of freshness perfectly. We toasted to the success and to the first of many Habitat Farmers' Market dinners.
All left the table in a state of the contentment that can only stem from sharing good food with good people.
'Would you be willing to do this again?' Leon questioned.
I nod my agreement; all he had to do was ask.
Cold Tomato - Thyme
Soup Serves 6
Being a talkative group, we ran short of time, so we chose to serve the soup hot, foregoing the chilling and pureeing steps of the process. The results were marvelous - try it both ways.
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped peeled carrots
2 ½ teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped (about 5 cups)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, homemade or purchased
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried)
Heat four tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, garlic and bay leaf. Cover; cook until carrots are tender, stirring occasionally, about ten minutes. Add tomatoes. Cover; cook until tomatoes release juices, about ten minutes. Uncover; cook until juices evaporate, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add broth and chopped thyme. Partially cover pot and simmer until mixture is reduced to 6 cups, stirring occasionally, about ten minutes.
Cool soup slightly. Discard bay leaf. Puree half of the soup in blender. Stir into soup pot. Season with salt and pepper. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)
Ladle with soup into bowls, garnished with thyme sprigs.