Pike Place Market Memories

June 6, 2012

Have you visited Seattle? Then you have probably visited the Pike Place Market. I know it is always first on my list as a stop for visitors. There is something very unique about that special place. It is a market filled with tourists, especially on a sunny August Saturday, but it is also a place that the locals flock to. Everyone has their favorite produce stand, favorite fish market, favorite place to buy flowers, favorite cup of coffee, favorite place to grab a quick bite.

My family moved to Seattle in the summer of 1975. I know this because I remember having my 5th birthday party on the back porch of our house with a bunch of kids from the neighborhood who I didn’t know. We had a tree growing in our backyard that the builders did not want to cut down, so there was a perfect hole cut in our deck for the tree to grow through. That oddity and a birthday cake was enough of a draw for the neighborhood kids to celebrate with someone they didn’t know.

My parents are both from New York and in some ways, Seattle was a tough move, especially in 1975. They fell deeply in love with the beauty, the access to nature, the (then) low housing prices, and the quality of the air. They missed the culture, food, and community that they left on the East coast. Seattle did not have the bakeries they were used to, decent Italian food, or any good bread; but it did have great coffee, seafood, Chinese food, and the Pike Place Market. I have so many memories of visiting the Market (as the locals call it) all the way from being a very young child to just last week.

The floor of the Market is lined with tiles, each bearing names of families. We have one of those somewhere in the maze of corridors. I remember trudging down to the original Starbucks to buy bags of coffee to bring back to the friends who stored my boxes of clothes and books in the college town 3,000 miles away from what was then, the only Starbucks in the country. I remember buying pounds and pounds of English peas and eating them, straight from the pod, as we jostled through the crowds. Every year through high school, I gave my mom the gift of flowers once a week for a month for Mother’s Day, and I delighted in the huge bouquets that my babysitting money could buy at the Market.

Now I love to take the boys with me on my Market forays. It is just busy enough there that they stay close to me, a tiny bit timid in the crowds. We have to stop for donuts at the little place where they can watch them come out of the fryer, and we have to avoid the fish-throwing guys because the boys are terrified that they might get hit with a fish. They stand (mostly) patiently waiting at my favorite produce stand, hoping they will get a taste of grapefruit or plum, or whatever is on offer that day. And they negotiate with me about how many honey sticks we can buy.

It is a special place to be sure. Recently, a new Pike Place Market cookbook came out, called Pike Place Market Recipes. My friend Jess Thomson wrote the book and she did a fantastic job of telling the Market’s story. She profiles purveyors, stands, and the building itself. It is the true kind of cookbook that you can take to bed with you and read as a novel. But the best part, truly, is the recipes. Jess is a terrific cook, a terrific recipe writer, and her food is amazingly delicious.  This book truly does her talents justice as it features sweet and savory, meat and vegetarian.  My experience with Jess’ recipes is that they are tested to perfection.  This is a cook you can trust.

One Year Ago:  Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad, Puff Pastry Squares with Pea and Tarragon Purée
Two Years Ago:  Rhubarb Bette, Asparagus with Grilled Shiitake and Soy Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago:  Oven-Fried Rice Balls with Gruyère, Mexican Pizza with Corn, Tomatillos, and Chipotle

Roasted Pickled Cauliflower Salad
Adapted from Pike Place Market Recipes
Serves 4

The only changes I made to this glorious recipe is reducing the amount of onion (raw onion is too abrasive for me – even it is a sweet one), and adding a bit of avocado.  I used a mandoline to slice the fennel and the onion – thin is key.  Roasting the cauliflower before pickling it is genius.  Softer texture, mellower flavor.  Finally, Jess suggests making the cauliflower a day ahead but I found it was perfect after just a few hours.

 For the roasted cauliflower:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite size florets
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pickling brine:
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine vinegar
½ cup fennel fronds

For the dressing:
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
½ small sweet onion, very thinly sliced
½ ripe avocado, cut into bite size pieces
3 cups mixed salad greens
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat, and set aside.

Place the cauliflower in a large bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir the cauliflower to each floret well, then transfer to the prepared sheet.  Roast the cauliflower until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.  Transfer cauliflower to a bowl and allow to cool completely.

While the cauliflower cools, make the pickling brine:  Stir the water, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic together in a large pickling jar (or a similar container that can hold all the florets) until the sugar and salt dissolve.  Add the white wine vinegar and the fennel fronds.

When the cauliflower has cooled to room temperature, add it to the pickling brine.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Make the dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, garlic, orange juice, and vinegar.  While whisking, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream whisking until emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve the salad, mix together about a cup of the pickled cauliflower (drained) with the hazelnuts, fennel, onion, avocado, and salad greens.  Add dressing to taste and serve immediately, garnished with pepper.

1 Comment »

  1. I cannot believe I just met you and you’re leaving…how utterly unfair! So glad we crossed paths at dinner tonight, and hope to do so again soon!

    Comment by Shut Up & Cook — June 8, 2012 @ 6:05 am

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