A warm, late spring evening in Avignon. François Mitterand is President of France, while Robert Parker, Jr. and Microsoft have only just begun their campaigns to digitize wine and the whole damned world, respectively. Bathed in an indescribable, inimitable, rosy glow, light that could launch a crusade or inspire a man to cut off his ear, a group of scruffy, itinerant musicians are having an impromptu soirée atop the ancient walls that surround the city. The second or third of many bottles of modest Côtes du Rhône is circulating, passed from hand to hand among the motley but merry crew, fueling a crescendo of Bacchanalian abandon. A Babel of conversations rises into the dusk in four languages, ranging from the ether of high-minded, wine-inspired philosophy to the ribald argot of besotted, blue-collar baseness.
Among the revelers, a punk-ass but wide-eyed, twenty-something, French-hipster-intellectual-wannabe American piano player pauses between drags on an unfiltered Gauloise, takes the bottle from a copain, raises it to his mouth, drinks, thinks, drinks again…and after some thought, passes the bottle on, takes another drag on his cigarette, still tasting, savoring, searching the back closets of his brain for a means to explain just why the hell that sh** was so damned good...
It wasn’t exactly a Marcel Proust moment. No remembrance of things past, no resonant chord struck, no wellspring of distant memory tapped. Call it a whole new groove in the gray matter. And every bit the catalyst for sentences of epic complexity. The wine? Not extraordinary, not epic. Not self-conscious, either. Modest, in fact. Down to earth…
It was real. It tasted like nature – not in a Hallmark card sort of way, but like it was grown in dirt. Good, clean dirt. Dirt with a certain character, surrounded by various growing things of a certain type and nourished by sun, plenty of sun, sunshine you could literally taste. It wasn’t upwardly mobile, didn’t put on airs, try to be something it wasn’t nor everything to everyone. It wasn’t polished or buffed up, or made for any particular demographic. It was what it was. Just wine. Wine made by ordinary people, for ordinary people to drink, every day. And it was good, as Hemingway once said.
That was me, a long time ago. And it was no big deal, really. Just another bottle of wine on just another evening hangin’ with a bunch of fellow slackers. But that bottle (in whose mysterious deep…) sang a song that stuck in my head, an aria (no, take that back, it wasn’t an aria, it was just a freakin’ song) of dirt, fruit and sun, sung without accompaniment or artifice in the voice of ancient, head-pruned grenache. A little melody of flavor, a nudge of an nth of a degree that changed my course just enough to color the way I’ve tasted just about everything since—especially wine. My first job in the wine business was still a couple footloose years down the road, but once I got there, that aha! moment, that little gift, in all its directness and no-bullshit sincerity kept right on giving.
So here I am, and, with any luck, so are you. I could go on, of course. In fact, you can bet that I will. There’s more to the story, and plenty more stories to tell. But enough for Act I, Scene I.
Thanks for tuning in. À bientôt.
To quote Ciscoe, "Ooh, la la!"
The recipe for Peach-Raspberry Popsicles caught my eye. Lacking peaches or raspberries, however, I subbed in equivalent ratios of what I had on hand: local organic strawberries, ripe bananas, nonfat Greek yogurt and honey.
If you lack a proper blender, an immersion blender works just fine!
Making this recipe also meant the chance to bust out my new BPA-free popsicle molds! I received these as a gift; but you'll find some good options at your local PCC. In a pinch, you also can sub in shot glasses. Just cover them with wax paper secured with a rubber band and slit the paper to insert a popsicle stick or small spoon to serve as a handle.
Pretty stars, ready for the freezer!
It took about five hours for mine to set.
Here's what I learned.
- As with most things culinary, using fresh, ripe fruit produces the best results. The flavor of these local strawberries was intense and jammy, a true taste of summer.
- Next time, I would use reegular yogurt over Greek yogurt -- it seemed almost too thick when frozen.
- I also would refrain from testing the handles before the popsicles had spent their full time in the freezer (can you blame me? I wanted a taste!). Testing them too soon meant I yanked the handles out before they set, so I had to eat the results out of the mold with a grapefruit spoon. Thankfully, I limited my curiosity. The ones I left alone set just fine.
- Let them defrost for a minute or two before you attempt to release them from their molds, or run warm water over the molds to get them a bit loose.This will help the pop maintain the pretty shape of the mold.
A friend made the Watermelon-Pineapple Popsicles recently and noted that the honey settles at the bottom of the molds during freezing. That first bite is sweeet! To avoid this, Eli suggests blending the honey with the watermelon first, so that the honey gets dissolved in the juice.
Have you made any of these recipes? Post your photos to our Facebook page! facebook.com/pccnaturalmarkets.
You don't have to wait for the return of local organic pear season to bake a fragrant loaf of PCC Chef Lynne Vea's famous Warm Pear and Hazelnut Tea Bread.
Says Lynne: "This bread can be made with juicy seasonal fruits like plums or nectarines. Don't even bother to peel the fruit, just chop it and substitute in the same amount for the pears."
This robust bread is great to serve at brunch, take along to someone else's brunch, freezes well for future use and is great toasted and slathered with your favorite butter. If you don't often keep kamut, barley or hazelnuts on hand, visit the bulk section of your local PCC and head home with just the amount you need for this recipe.
Find even more baking ideas in our PCC Recipe Database.
Here's what we know from the month of May:
- Issaquah shoppers buy the most cake (data remain unclear whether they also EAT the most cake).
- Redmond shoppers buy the most granola.
- Greenlake shoppers buy the most cupcakes.
- West Seattle shoppers buy the most bars and brownies (Seward Park was a close second).
- View Ridge shoppers buy the most muffins and scones.
- Fremont shoppers buy the most cookies (with Kirkland a close second).
- Edmonds shoppers buy the most baked goods, period.
What's your favorite freshly baked treat from the PCC Bakery? As a Fremont PCC shopper, I have to agree that for me, I can't visit a PCC without snagging at least one cookie, especially a Chocolate Crinkle.
I first encountered galia melon last summer, while shooting this video on melon selection tips with our Redmond PCC produce manager, P.J. Cawley.
It resembled a cantaloupe. But crack it open, and you discover this:
Looks an awful lot like honeydew, right?
One whiff of its sticky-sweet fragrance transported me instantly to childhood and the neon green "melon" flavor syrup Mom poured over the shave ice she'd grind for us in the summertime: happiness. This galia was perfectly ripe, true to P.J.'s melon selection tips. It turns out it's a hybrid, an ideal solution for those who can't choose between honeydew or cantaloupe, its parent melons (isn't it fun to say "parent melons?").
Do you love adding melon to just about anything? Check out these melon recipes from our database. Come with me to Inaba Farms in Wapato, Wash. to see where PCC gets its organic watermelon later in the summer. And follow this handy how-to video for a quick, easy method to slice it without cutting yourself.
What are some of your favorite melon varieties? How do you like to eat it?
Those of you at Tuesday night's Annual Meeting heard it first: PCC is opening its 10th location!
This new store, slated to open in 2013 just east of Green Lake in Seattle, will fill the (literal) giant gaping hole where the Vitamilk Dairy once stood, across from the Little Red Hen and a stone's throw from Rosita's and many a sporting goods store.
PCC will be part of a mixed-use project (PCC, apartments, public space, other retail) dubbed Green Lake Village located between N.E. 72nd St. and N.E. 71st St. along Woodlawn Ave. N.E. and 5th Ave. N.E.
Says our CEO, Tracy Wolpert: "PCC is thrilled to be part of this exciting project in such a vibrant neighborhood." Read the entire press release here.
Fans of the current Greenlake store on the west side: Don't worry. That store is staying put.
(And for those of you who note the discrepancy between Green Lake (the neighborhood and body of water) and Greenlake (the PCC store), it's a quirky PCC thing, not my misspelling :)
The same team that built our latest stores in Edmonds (2008), Redmond (2006) and Fremont (2003) will bring this one to life, with environmentally friendly features galore. Redmond and Edmonds are LEED gold and platinum winners, respectively.
Just think: you could live upstairs from a PCC! Emerald City Salad whenever your heart desires.
See you at the grand opening in 2013!
No, your eyes do not deceive you. Barbee Orchards in Washington's sunny Yakima Valley has released its first commercial crop of locally grown, certified organic, raw almonds. Find them in 1-pound bags bearing the PCC label (while supplies last!) at your local PCC.
Almonds still in their husks in the Yakima grove.
These Butte variety almonds are a new foray for the Barbee family, which established its orchards in the 1920s for cherries, pears and apples. This limited harvest is the first from almond trees planted several years ago.
As most commercial almonds are grown in California (and, required to be pasteurized there), PCC is thrilled to offer a locally grown, raw option. Better snag a bag while you can: when they're gone, they're gone!
Earlier this month, I walked into a PCC Deli fan's wonderland: an event the Deli staff dubbed The Hot Bar Throwdown.
Wall to wall food in the Issaquah PCC classroom. There's even more out of view in the back of the room.
Turns out, PCC Deli leaders convene throughout the year to tweak old recipes and brainstorm new ones that could be well-recieved at all stores. Last year, a meeting just like this one resulted in the delicious and creative new sandwiches we hear you've been enjoying.
This time around, they sought to add new items to the rotating selection at each hot bar, taste-testing more than 40 dishes, including: Quinoa Vegetable Stew (View Ridge Deli), Dijon Potato and Sausage Stew (Edmonds Deli), Chipotle Salmon Cakes (Fremont Deli), Roasted Mango Date Chicken (Kirkland Deli), Red Pepper Sweet Potato Pudding (Seward Park Deli), Thai Curry Pepper Pot (West Seattle Deli), Beef in Tomatillo Sauce (Issaquah Deli) and Chicken Hominy Stew (Greenlake Deli).
Let me tell you: the results were smashing.
21st Century Stir-fry, packed with flavorful sprouted mung beans, germinated brown rice, veggies and seaweed. Wonderful. Made by Leon, the Deli Merchandiser. "I find the texture irresistable," he said. "I've been eating mung beans for two days straight!"
View Ridge PCC brought a new pizza combo that's been a hit with their shoppers: spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola. Yum!
Steve from the Redmond PCC Deli sautees onions to which he added arugula, spinach and Bragg's liquid aminos for a tasty greens dish.
The result: fresh, healthy and good.
Golden quinoa topped with spicy stewed vegetables (right) made a delightful vegan dish (from Diana, then of View Ridge PCC Deli, now of Issaquah).
From the Edmonds PCC Deli: Vegetable Pipian Enchiladas, vegetarian with yams and beans. Sooo good.
From the Greenlake PCC Deli: Sweet & Sour Pork and Beef Stroganoff (rich and hearty).
So many flavors prompted lots of discussion: How'd you get this sauce? Which spice did you use? Which cut of salmon worked best?
This smelled amazing. From the Redmond PCC Deli.
These new recipes will gradually appear in each PCC Deli in the coming months. Lucky us!
Did you know? Many of our PCC Deli recipes are available to you in our Recipe Database. Check them out and get cooking!
"Karen! I was just given a heap-load of kale by a slow food group I was photographing yesterday," my friend Jenny announced via Facebook.
"What the heck do I do with it?"
An especially gorgeous bunch of chard.
This was not the first time I've been asked this question, and I'm positive it won't be the last. For such unassuming produce, kale, chard, collards and other leafy greens sure do intimidate and mystify people, including, for many years, me. Now that's I've found so much inspiration, I can't get enough of them.
Here's the list of ideas my friends and I sent Jenny, who has since become a kale fiend in her own right:
- My personal favorite Sausage, Lentil and Greens Soup by PCC Cooks instructor Marie Donadio.
- Ina Garten's Ribollita.
- Simple kale with garlic and bacon.
- One friend chops up kale, adds it to onion that's been sauteed until soft, then seasons with salt, pepper, hot sauce and whatever vinegar is on hand. He also mixes it with lumpy mashed potatoes for an incredibly tasty side dish his family has dubbed Kale n' Taters.
- Former PCC Cooks instructor Becky Boutch offers a similarly delicious take.
- Another friend makes kale chips by tossing large pieces of kale with olive or peanut oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, then baking at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping the leaves halfway.
- Via one of my favorite vegan home cooks: I generally saute it with lots of garlic, usually in olive oil. Then I might add red pepper flakes (or nanami togarashi for extra deliciousness), tamari and balsamic or rice vinegar; salt and red wine vinegar; or salt and a splash or two of beer. Or I'll chop it up and add to a white-bean soup or stew. Or steam it, add just a bit of salt, and then layer mashed potatoes, greens, and a bunch of mushroom gravy. Or use it in a tofu frittata or strata.
- At the urging of friends on Twitter, I gave a kale-and-frozen-pineapple smoothie a whirl in my blender. While I don't think it's for everyone, it definitely left me energized and feeling bright.
A vibrant, energy-packed kale-and-frozen-pineapple smoothie. I've heard these also are great with frozen mango!
One easy way to get to know greens is to order them when you go out to eat. Pay attention to what the chef does to achieve textures and flavors you enjoy, then look up recipes to try those techniques for yourself at home.
Beyond tasting great, leafy greens are good for you in so many ways. They're chock full of nutrients, including vitamins K, A and C, manganese, folate (listen up, pregnant and soon-to-be pregnant ladies!) and calcium. They marry well with a variety of flavors and can pair with nearly any cuisine. A New Year's resolution I make each year is to enjoy leafy greens every day. So far this year, I've come pretty close.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy leafy greens?
I think each of us has a food we've never tried until adulthood, much to the shock of our friends. Mushrooms and various shellfish come to mind. Sometimes it's a certain dessert, or a type of wine.
For me, it was cottage cheese. I didn't make its acquaintance until into my 30s, when it suddenly occured to me I might be missing out on something great based on the eating habits of friends. Just to make sure of my hunch, I asked the local food community on Twitter how they best enjoy cottage cheese.
The replies came fast and furious.
- Atop papayas with jam on top (@fourchickens)
- Plain with low-sugar jam mixed in (@cooklocal)
- With a ripe pear (@pastrycraft)
- With flax seed and manuka honey (@jenniellingson)
- With cracked black pepper (@rmarcham)
- With chopped green onions, salt and pepper (@nandron)
- With a teaspoon of mayonnaise stirred in (@thesunbreak)
- With pepper or potatoes (@annamharlow)
- With black pepper and Tabasco sauce (@curtwoodward)
- With Chobani nonfat yogurt (@hawkblogger)
- With pineapple and granola (@carbzilla)
What exactly is cottage cheese? My trusty copy of "The Food Lover's Companion" calls it a fresh cheese made from whole, part-skimmed or skimmed pasteruized cow's milk, with a moist texture and mild flavor. I found it to be a creamier version of the cheese curds I enjoy from the farmer's market. At PCC, we carry cottage cheese from Organic Valley and Nancy's. Store it in the coldest part of your fridge for up to 10 days past the stamped date.
I'm still happy eating it plain, though it's clear there's no shortage of options. How do you most enjoy it?