I pulled my receipt out of the parking meter and glanced at the expiration time, “10:16 am.” I couldn’t believe it. Considering that I had just paid for an hour’s worth of parking meant I had arrived at the market only 45 minutes after it opened. This was a first for me. I usually arrive much, much later. At the height of the crowds. Just when many of the vendors start selling out of their produce for the day. But no. Today was different. The sun was shining for the first time in weeks and by golly, I was going to make the most of the next 24 hours before the rain returned the next day…or so “they” were predicting. (You know, the almighty “they.”)
Going around to the back of the car, I pulled my new farmer’s market cart out of the trunk. A little contraption I had researched on line called the “Hook N’ Go.” I was hoping that it might be able to give my lower back and arms a reprieve during this weekly jaunt. I unfolded it and then, grabbed my bags and “hung” them on the rungs. “Huh…,” I mumbled as I sized-up my new contraption and considered that the bags hooked on the “Hook N’ Go” seemed to drag on the ground once they were hooked. “Nevermind that….I’m sure it will be fine once they are filled with food,” I said to myself. Then, waving off someone gesturing for my parking spot, I grabbed the “Hook N’ Go” and took off with a determined and confident gait.
As I walked under the familiar canopy of trees and approached the market, I noticed that it was teeming with people. I couldn’t believe it. “It’s only 9:15. Where did all of these people come from? I’m supposed to have the market to myself.” A flash of disappointment and anxiety rippled through my body. I mentally went through my list. A 1/2 flat of strawberries was at the top. The one type of produce that always sells out. “But I have to do the circle,” I lamented to myself. Like our canine companions, I always have to circle the market once before I buy anything. Checking out deals. Inspecting the produce for the best quality. As I dove into the crowd, I could sense that this was not a day for leisurely shopping. No circling. Just “grab n’ go.” The vibe here was frenetic. All of Portland had been trapped in a car wash for the past month and we were out and we were hungry and we were frantic to pack as much into this one day of sun as possible. As for the “Hook n’ Go”….I may as well have been trying to push a “wide load” double stroller through a crowd of black crows with all the squawking and the cranky looks going around.
Hungry, I saddled up to the Tart Lady and bought a blue cheese, asparagus, mushroom tartelette. Beautiful, to be sure but….cold. “Oh well….” While I was pulled over to the side trying to eat a few bites a “lovely” couple noticed my “Hook n’ Go.” “Well, that’s an interesting cart. What’s it called darlin’?” I rattled off the name and explained that it was new. Turning to his wife, he says, “Honey, we’ll have to check that out online.” and they were off. Back into the crowd I started buying up a few items…a baguette, some sugar snap peas, a bit of basil goat cheese, some fillets of pacific rock fish, a bottle of wine from Twist. I plopped these into bag number one and all was well.
Rounding the corner, I spied a huge pile of zucchini. Not expecting this until later in the season, I delightedly grabbed a few with visions of grilling them up with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. After my purchase, I pulled over to the side to get them into bag number two. Clearly, the handles were too long. It would, in fact, drag once it was “hooked.” While I was concentrating on tying a knot to shorten the handles, another “lovely” couple walked up to take a look at the “Hook N’ Go.” “Well, look at that. What kind of contraption is that?” “It’s a Hook N’ Go. I’m just trying it out for the first time today.” “Those bags are going to drag.” “Yeah, well, I haven’t worked out all the kinks. This is the first time I’ve taken her out for a spin.” “Hmmpf, shoddy design,” he mutters under his breath as he walks away shaking his head with his wife following right behind. I wanted to take the zucchini back out of the bag that was not dragging and whack him on the head but the knot I had to tie to shorten the length prevented me from reaching back into the bag. In the distance I could hear, “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” being sung by the band of the day. “What?! This is not appropriate market music. Where’s the bluegrass?” But no, “Don’t know when I’ll be back again….” just kept being sung over and over. “What is going on here?” My normal, calming, zen experience at the market had been anything but. I just wanted to go home. With my 1/2 flat of strawberries hooked on my arm and my bags hooked on the….”Hook n’ Go”…I headed back to my car.
Once home, there was the rush to unload the car and then, to give the lawn some attention. To pull some weeds. To fix lunch. To finally, plant my vegetable garden. To clean myself up and then, to put to use the purchases I had made earlier. Around 7 pm, I laid out buffet style the corn tortillas, the grilled fish, my “special sauce”, some chopped up cilantro, mango and napa cabbage and then, rang the cow bell called everyone for dinner. Once everyone was seated, I took a deep breath and could finally feel myself relax. I watched as my family thoroughly enjoyed their fish tacos and chatted about this and that. My sweetie remarked to me, “These might be the best fish tacos I’ve ever had.” The sun was definitely starting to disappear in preparation for the next day’s rain but as I sat there with my family I didn’t mind so much. At the end of a long and productive sunny day, I was finally having my “zen moment” surrounded by my sweetie and my curiously calm chickens….and the wine I purchased earlier probably helped too…I’m just saying.
Fabulous Fish Tacos
I don’t know about you, but my “main squeeze” and I are always on the hunt for the best fish tacos whether we’re buying them or making them. So the recipe that follows is a conglomeration of many of the fish tacos I’ve had, keeping in mind that I like to keep it simple and three children, as well as a main squeeze with a discriminating palate, need to like them as well. Also, for these particular fish tacos I made them using Pacific Rock Fish which was highly recommended to me by Linda Brand Crab at the Portland Farmer’s Market and let me tell you…she was wasn’t just trying to sell fish when she said they’d be perfect for fish tacos. Yum! This recipe is so simple yet feels “rawther special” and I find it could easily be made on a weeknight or on the weekend for guests. Cheers….
This sauce can easily be cut in half.
1 cup mayonnaise (Best Food, of course. What else is there??)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2-4 tomatoes cored and chopped-approx 1-2 cups. (Amount depends on your love for the round, red orbs.)
pinch of salt
1/2 head fresh napa cabbage, shredded
1-2 fresh mangoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Some extra slices of lime
2 lbs pacific rockfish or other firm, fleshy white fish
1 package white corn tortillas
Optional: sriracha or chili sauce laid out on the table for those who like a bit of heat
Prepare your sauce by mixing the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl. Then, set aside to allow the flavors to mingle.
Prepare the napa cabbage, mangoes and cilantro. And then, set aside, each on their own separate plate.
Lightly season your fish with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil. Grill over medium heat until just flaky in the middle. The rockfish took about 6-8 minutes total (3-4 minutes per side.)
While your fish is grilling, heat your tortillas. A trick I learned is to wrap the desired amount of tortillas in a barely damp paper towel and then, pop them in the microwave for 45 seconds or so. They come out heated through without being dried out. Now, you could get fancy and heat each one in a cast iron skillet but why?
Then, lay your fixin’s out on the counter, pull your fish off the grill and call the troops to dinner. Or don’t bother calling them, just ring your cow bell over and over and over until the incessant annoying noise causes them to finally abandon their…legos, fort in the woods, gmail chat…and arrive promptly at the table exasperated and saying things like, “Okaaaay Mawwwwwm. You can stop now.” Explain to them to take a tortilla (or two), put some fish on it, drizzle on some sauce, sprinkle on their desired amount of cilantro, mangoes and cabbage, a squeeze of lime perhaps and then, after preparing yourself a plate, sit down with your family (or your cat, perhaps) and enjoy.
Yield: Enough for 2 adults and 3 children and a bit leftover
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010