The Unexpected Gifts of a Washed Out Saturday
So Marge. A few of you have asked how things are going. I love that. Thank you. Things are plugging along. I’m adding another farmer’s market onto the weekend docket in a month or so and testing some new pie recipes. It’s good. It’s all good. But I have to say: when it’s 38 degrees, rainy, and “ski week” for the kids in school (don’t ask–it’s a California thing) the market is pretty darn slow. That was the case last weekend. And I don’t blame people. If I wasn’t working, you couldn’t have paid me to get off the couch in that weather. It was a pretty surreal experience though: baking a lot of pie and having very few customers come through the market. I gave some slices away to local businesses, telling them all about Marge. They were thrilled. Pie makes people very happy. I made some last minute pie deals at the end of the day. And then I got smart.
I started to trade like all the other vendors do. The sausage guy traded a pie for some bratwurst. I got a few slats of micro greens, some pesto, stinging nettle ravioli and a bunch of chard, lemons, and fennel. Could be worse. I made simple meals with the greens, lemons, and bratwurst. But I’ve been sitting here staring at the fennel in the fridge for days now. What to do, what to do? I consulted the incredible, new-ish Essential New York Times Cookbook for ideas and found just the thing: a bright, wintry salad cloaked in a citrus dressing of fresh orange juice and walnut oil and topped with toasted walnuts.
This salad will, I promise, brighten up even the darkest and chilliest of afternoons. It will make you forget about the fact that you gave away a lot of pie on a particularly slow day at the market.
Watercress, Orange and Fennel Salad
- Yield: 3-4 side servings
- Total time: 10 mins
The recipe, as written, is absolutely lovely. I opted to swap out the extra virgin olive oil for a toasty walnut oil that I think works really well with the brightness of the orange juice in the dressing. If you don’t have walnut oil on hand, olive oil will work just fine. And a note on fennel: when the recipe discusses the fronds, those are the delicate, almost frilly leaves connected to the stalks. As the directions indicate, you’ll reserve them to lay atop the salad.
Slightly adapted from: The Essential New York Times Cookbook
Wash the watercress and cut off the stems. Place leaves in your favorite salad bowl.
Cut the fronds off the fennel stalks and reserve. Discard the stalks. Mince the fronds and set aside. Cut a slice off of the bottom of the bulb, then cut it lengthwise in half. Slice the halves crosswise into thin slices and lay in with the watercress.
Remove the orange peel by slicing off the top and bottom of the orange. Cut around the orange with a serrated knife, using a sawing motion to cut off the white pith as well as the peel. Slice the oranges into thin rounds and add to the salad.
Juice one orange for the dressing. Mix the walnut oil and 1/3 cup fresh orange juice together and season with salt and pepper. Mix with the salt, and sprinkle with the minced fennel leaves and toasted walnuts.
Healthy Comfort Food
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
Denise | Chez Danisse
Who knew this trading went on behind the scenes? Seems kind of fun, although I'm sure you'd rather just sell the pies. It's a pretty nice fallback option. Your salad looks beautiful.
Glad you were able to make the best of the situation! In my experience one of the great things about going to markets is building relationships with the other vendors as well as customers. I hope the weather gets better and lots of people show up hungry for pie (and all of your other delicious treats)!
I always hate to see the farmer's market so empty on a dreary day, but man, this whole trading deal sounds pretty awesome. Such a good idea! When you've got lemons, you've gotta make lemonade. And I bet you make a damn good one, Megan!
The perfect thing to do; love that you swapped out dinner with a few pies.
Watercress is one of my favorite greens. We use to pick it as kids; it grew wild in the creek beds. Tossed together with a zippy basque garlic dressing, it was perfect.
I so look forward to reading your posts, Megan. Keep baking, the market will pick up soon!
Yummmm, the salad looks perfect. Just read about citrus fennel salad in today's Chron. Alas no recipe, and here is a perfect recipe from you. I love cooking with what I have on hand. That's what you did with all your trades. Best of luck with Marge. Suz
I'm jealous. I've always wanted to trade goods at a market. Soak it up!
Fennel tastes like licorice--but I was very excited to see another post so soon after the last! MORE BLOGGING LESS BAKING! ...maybe not
Bit of a bummer about the slow market day! But everything is ebbs and flows. At least you faced the fear of a slow market day and came out with a tasty salad!
Last December a friend and I had a house party for jewelry and cookies, aside from friends & fam, very few people came by because it was below freezing and the roads were slippery. We ended up trading stuff, and our friends got discounted gifts, too. Love that. Well, of course, selling would have been better, but we just had to make the best of it. Here's to a better weekend, Megan!
I'm not a big salad person, but I would gladly dive into a plate of yours! Never had fennel bulb for salad...I should try it one of these days.
A Canadian Foodie
What a brilliant idea!
Why is your Marge logo so small on your site. Beef it up. I have been wondering how you are doing as my business just started in January and is doing much better than I exepcted (Taste Tripping: Culinary Tours Travel and Cooking Classes).
I started with the cooking classes and they have been going great guns. I don't think you have been around lately to see my site, have you? I have actually been thinking and wondering how your new venture was going... and trading with other vendors on a rainy day is BRILLIANT. Kudos to you - and what a wonderful salad!
Hi Valerie! I know...I'm desperately behind in my food blog reading! Are you talking about the actual website or the blog (re: the logo?) We put the words "Marge" big big big on the site but didn't think we needed to integrate the whole logo. Happy to hear your thoughts though! I'm so happy to hear thatyour classes are going well--especially in this economy: that's huge! Thanks for your sweet comment. xo.
Um, YUM. One of my favorite salads at a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs (Honey) uses fennel and it's soooo good. Reminds me of anise.
I've been wanting to buy walnut oil...you have me convinced I need to put my coat on and go to the store now. Also...I'm kind of obsessed with this combo. I had it at Danielle's house (champagne party!) and have been hooked on it ever since! You shoulda been there!
Would've LOVED to be there. So bummed to have missed it :(
The salad looks great. I'm glad to hear you were able to make some swaps for this delicious salad. Hang in there. It's CA after all-- the weather has to improve ;>)
Oh, I know El. You East Coasters would laugh at the way our weather people talk about potential snow. People make a beeline to Costco and cancel work obligations. So silly.
Great news about adding another market - go Marge! One of Donna Hay's first mags had a fennel-pasta recipe and I became a fennel convert. Will try yours this weekend. Good luck @ the market today - if I were in Marin snow (the millimeter that was) wouldn't even keep me away from some pops + pies.
Thanks, Mary! Yep there are some things in the works. How silly was that "snow"?! Geesh.
You know I would have bought up all that pie if I had been there. I'm glad that you are settled and I can totally relate to your abhorrence of moving. It is my least favorite thing to do and only gets harder as you get older and acquire more stuff. I hope to visit the Bay area sometime in the next few months and would love to see you in action!