This Saturday was the last Kid's Cook class at the Portland Farmers' Market, and it was a blast. I'm going to miss these kids and their enthusiasm for making something tasty with fresh, local, ingredients. For a lot of them, the Saturday class wasn't just a chance to get away from their parents and have an excuse to eat far too much sugar at 9 in the morning. Some of these guys really had a passion for ingredients, loved getting their hands messy, and had real pride in the things they made - from crepes to ice cream to nachos. I loved getting to know who hated cilantro and who bakes at home with dad, who goes to three farmers' markets a week and who is trying to convince their parents to eat vegetarian meals a few times a week. I hope I'll see some of my kids at the market on Saturdays, getting excited about some new ingredient picked early that morning.
Ok, enough rhapsodizing about the lost days of youth and summer. The sun's still out and I've got some great photos of the kids making a Rainbow Fiesta. This weekend featured the expertise of Heidi Boyce, former owner of Peanut Butter & Ellie’s, a tremendously popular family and kid friendly restaurant in PDX. She brought a great idea to the Kid's Cook class - using every color of the rainbow to make a healthified kid-approved nacho buffet - featuring blue and red corn chips, fresh guacamole, a few types of local cheese, local fresh salsas, lettuce, and a special taco beef blend with a secret ingredient - zucchini!
We first paraded around the market with our gaggle of 15 kids, gathering everything from three types of onions (to see which color would make us cry), big beefsteak tomatoes, cilantro, a few zucchini, red leaf lettuce, mozzarella, jack, and cheddar cheeses, red and green salsa, and fresh ground beef from Deck Family Farms.
Back at the workstation, the kids had fun mashing avocados, dicing tomatoes (with quite interesting knife techniques - one kid called his the "karate chop of tomato death"), picking apart cilantro leaves, chopping onions using the snazzy ChopMaster 3000 (the purple ones made us cry the most), grating cheese, and mixing grated zucchini with ground beef, enchilada sauce, and seasonings to make a delicious beef mixture that everyone ate up quickly - even the picky eaters who had frowned at the idea of squash in the mix.
At the end of the class, we spread out all of the goodies and made big bowls of nachos, starting with blue corn and red chips colored with beets, then piling high all of our fresh toppings. We had enough of everything for the parents to dig in, and the event turned out to be quite a fiesta, indeed. I don't think we give kids enough credit - some of them are bound to be fantastic cooks, they just need someone to let them use a knife, or to show them the best way to keep guacamole from browning (throw the pits into the mush - and add some lime juice!). I think that's what I loved most about the class this summer. We were able to let the kids take the reins, experiment, make mistakes in a safe environment surrounded by the freshest ingredients and the people who grew them. Truly an unforgettable experience.
The rest of the morning was spent wandering the booths. I had only brought a tiny bit of cash (because I had stocked up at the Eastbank market on Thursday night) but I got a bag of sweet fingerling potatoes and a delicious coconut banana Popsicle from Sol Pops (the market's very own Seasonal, Organic, and Local Popsicle purveyor) that I enjoyed while walking the loop of vendors. The peaches this week were amazing. It seemed like ever vendor could top the last in the quality of juicy, golden samples. I'm really going to miss peach season. Better stock up and freeze some soon.
All in all, another great market day. The sun was out, the harvest was plentiful, and the market was full of smiling faces. The weather may be getting a little cooler, and the breeze is carrying whispers of fall, but it's still very much summer in my kitchen and at the market, and the rainbow fiesta was a great way to end a wonderful series of classes. Speaking of rainbows, check out these gorgeous artichoke flowers! They smelled like fresh corn tortillas.
Eat well, soak up the sun, and I'll see you at the market soon!
Heidi's Special Taco Topping
1 pound local, grass-feed ground beef
1 medium zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
1 can enchilada sauce
1/4 cup taco seasoning (find it in the bulk section of the natural foods market, and it won't have the additives of the kind in the packet, or experiment with your own blend!)
Brown the beef in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add zucchini, sauce, and seasonings, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Enjoy over nachos or in tacos.