Friday, October 3, 2008

King County Harvest Celebration Tour at Full Circle Farm

Last Saturday was the annual King County Harvest Celebration Tour. This year I was paired with Full Circle Farm in Carnation and I was asked to prepare samples of the farm’s seasonal produce. I treated this cooking demo much like I would treat my farmers market cooking demos – I arrived with knives and cutting boards in tote, but would allow the availability of produce determine what I’d be preparing for the Tour’s participants. (Full disclosure – I was emailed the produce availability list earlier in the week and I came prepared with a couple of recipes I could use as a guide.)

The very first local farm to get in touch with me when I returned to Seattle in 2005 was Full Circle Farm. A certified organic farm with restaurant and farmers market sales as well as one of the countries largest CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs, the farm stood out amongst the small farms of Carnation. When I finally met the farm’s owner, Andrew Stout, I understood why we were draw together – Andrew’s belief and passion about producing high quality foods for the local market and my desire and obligation to transform this produce to delicious menu items was a natural fit. I was immediately impressed right away not only about the diversity, variety and quality of their produce, but also the level of service provided by sales manager Lance McCune.

Three years later, some faces at Full Circle have changed, but the attitude has not. Maggie Hoback and Emily Thompson, guided by the inspiration of Andrew, are continuing to emphasize the role of the small farm in community and they are looking to the coming years as making the farm a model of sustainable farming and center of community and educational activities. I look forward to the opportunities that will be presented to me and other Seattle chefs in helping to forge their visions.

So, more details about the dishes I demoed for the visitors to the farm. I absolutely LOVE Full Circle’s selection of herbs, and so I wanted to make a dish featuring an herb salad as a garnish. I hand-picked several bunches of tarragon, sweet cicely, bronze fennel, spearmint, chives, and salad burnett. I had hoped for lovage as well, but the harvest was unavailable for me. The fragrant collection of herbs were tossed with a little raspberry wine vinaigrette and served over a sauté of just-pulled yellow and orange baby carrots, and Savoy cabbage, which Maggie indicated had been harvested by her only an hour earlier.

On my table display I had several large lobster mushrooms. Throughout the day, people asked what they were which is no surprise – the Pacific Northwest is one of the only places this beautiful mushroom grows in the wild. I’ve loved cooking with them because the earthy flavor and toothful texture yields to an aroma that complements many styles of cooking. For this demonstration, I wanted to provide more fragrance from freshly sliced fennel bulbs and the sweet juiciness of cherry tomatoes. I added a little sage and thyme to some tomatoes that I had blistered in a pan. The fennel was wilted slightly and the mushrooms were seared in a skillet. Everything was brought together to simmer in the tomato juice for a few minutes and the result was a versatile side dish that could accompany salmon, halibut, lamb or even pasta noodles.

Thanks go out to Full Circle Farm for providing me with the delicious ingredients for the cooking demo, to Maggie and Emily for helping to organize the day’s activities at the farm, to King County for continuing to promote the region’s seasonal bounties, and, of course, to everyone who came by the demo to grab a recipe, watch the cooking, and tour Full Circle Farm. Hope to see everyone at the farm next year!

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