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A&E >  Food

No recipe required at farmers market

David Blaine made it up as he went along.

Armed with a stainless steel bowl but no shopping list, the Spokane chef stopped at nearly a dozen booths, picking up one or two items at each.

A zephyr squash and fennel root from Full Bushel Farm. Honey from Wild and Rich. Lavender spice chevre from Chattaroy Cheese Co.

“Going to the farmers market with a recipe is ridiculous,” said Blaine, ambling from one stall to the next. “The farmers market is the perfect place for inspiration.”

Blaine put his farmers market philosophy to the test on a recent afternoon at the Thursday Market in the South Perry District, cooking dinner for four and getting all of the ingredients – save for a few pantry staples like seasoning and olive oil – at the market that day.

Customers stopped and watched and asked questions. Blaine, the chef and owner of Central Food, talked as he cooked, starting with charring a handful of tomatoes for vinaigrette and ending with grilling peaches with honey and cardamom in pockets of folded parchment.

The technique on this 90-plus-degree day was grilling. “All we did was kind of char everything up,” he said.

Ingredients were local.

Peaches and heirloom tomatoes from Twin Spring Farm. Sweet Italian sausages from JJ Goats. Purple striped garlic and cipollini onions from Project Hope Spokane.

Cherry tomatoes and lemon cucumbers from Elithorp Farm. A couple of loaves from Bouzies Bakery. Greens and mint from CasaCano Farms. A bunch of basil and more greens from Urban Eden Farm.

While Blaine didn’t have a recipe, he did have an idea – which he dubbed “How to Cook Everything at the Farmers Market without Going Inside.”

On hot days like this one, “Nobody’s going to cook indoors,” he said. “How do we have a full meal that doesn’t feel like we’re having only burgers?”

Vegetables abound at farmers markets during high summer. Blaine’s plan: throw some on the grill with locally made sausages and shards of bread.

“In Europe, they make bread every day,” Blaine said. “There’s a whole class of recipes of what to do with day-old bread,” including panzanella, a popular summer salad of bread and tomatoes that originated in Italy.

Blaine was inspired to make a version using fennel, zephyr squash, onions, lemon cucumbers and pieces of fresh bread, ripped by hand into bite-size chunks.

“Tearing is satisfying,” said Blaine. “We’re going to grill it a little so it dries out a bit,” almost imitating that day-old texture.

He also wanted all of the steps to be relatively quick and easy – “The less work you have to do on a hot day the better” – with room for creativity. He encouraged tinkering and tasting.

“I’m making it up as I go along because that’s how it should be at the farmers market,” Blaine said. “You shouldn’t go to the farmers market with a recipe. You should go see what looks good and then throw it in a big bowl.”

Grilled Vegetable Bread Salad with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette

By Chef David Blaine of Central Food

1 loaf thick crusty artisanal bread, torn into 1-inch pieces

Olive oil, for brushing

1 zephyr squash, sliced

1 fennel root, sliced then grilled and diced

4 or 5 cipollini onions

2 or 3 lemon cucumbers, sliced

6 to 8 leaves basil, cut in a chiffonade

Charred Tomato Vinaigrette (See recipe below)

Greens (like arugula, mizuna or baby spinach)

Sweet Italian goat meat sausages (optional)

Preheat grill, about 10 minutes.

Grill bread chunks until pieces are warm, golden, dry and toasty, about 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Brush vegetables with a light coating of olive oil. Sear them over high heat, then move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking, turning with tongs, about 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the density of the vegetables and heat of the grill. Transfer to a work surface. When cool enough to handle, dice grilled vegetables then add them to the bread mixture. Add basil chiffonade. Mix.

Grill sausages, if using, until internal temperatures reaches at least 140 degrees. (The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 140 to 170 degrees for lamb or goat meat.)

Pour dressing, to taste, into bread and vegetable mixture. (You will likely have some left over.) Toss. Serve bread salad over a bed of greens with grilled sausages on the side.

Charred Tomato Vinaigrette

By Chef David Blaine of Central Food

For this dressing, “We’re not getting too picky about de-seeding (the tomatoes),” Chef David Blaine said. “This is a weeknight kind of thing. Nobody’s coming to dinner. We’re just trying to get fed.”

Instead of tasting the dressing with a spoon, Blaine advised, “Always taste your dressing with lettuce” – or other greens. “If you don’t taste it with the greens and you only taste it with a spoon, it’ll always seem stronger than what it will be in the salad.”

Another tip: “Some people like to tear their basil. I like to chiffonade because it spreads it out. It evenly distributes.”

Four or five medium tomatoes (Blaine used Amish Paste tomatoes)

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3 to 4 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 to 8 leaves basil, cut in a chiffonade

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat grill, about 10 minutes.

Grill tomatoes, turning once, until thoroughly cooked and char lines appear, about 5 or 6 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a large mixing bowl and smash them with a fork. Grill garlic until soft, about 10 minutes, then smash and mince. Add garlic to tomato mixture while “it’s still warm enough that it blooms the garlic.” Whisk in equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Stir in basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cardamom-Honey Peach Pockets

By Chef David Blaine of Central Food

4 sheets parchment paper, cut into large heart shapes

4 peaches, pitted and sliced

Honey, for drizzling

Pinch cardamom

Aluminum foil

8-ounce round lavender spice chevre

4 mint sprigs, for garnish

Place slices of one peach in the center of the rounded portion of one of the parchment paper hearts. Drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with cardamom. Fold edges of the rounded portion of the parchment heart, then twist the long thin end or tail. Place parchment pocket on sheet of foil and wrap foil entirely around the parchment pocket. Repeat for each peach. Grill pouches 6 to 8 minutes, turning half way through. Unfold foil and rip open the top part of the parchment pocket to reveal the peaches. Top each with 2 ounces of chevre and mint sprig, then serve immediately inside the parchment pocket.

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