Jess Thomson, culinary Pike Place guide.

“I think that one of the problems that Seattleites have is that you just go to the market with friends from out of town, and you don’t think about, Okay, how am I going to take this home for dinner?

That’s Jess Thomson, the quietly prolific local food writer (and Seattle Met contributor) who has provided us with a remedy for this problem in her upcoming cookbook, Pike Place Market Recipes: 130 Delicious Ways to Bring Home Seattle’s Famous Market.

Another problem with the market, says Thomson: “It can be so overwhelming.”

Agreed. I know I’ve gone in for snap peas and emerged with shiny purple plums, bright green romanesco broccoli, a salty hunk of smoked salmon, some gigantic peonies…and no peas. Pike Place Recipes solves this problem too, providing a more structured way to approach the market and emerge with the components of what will become a lovely meal.

Take the time to chat with vendors, says Thomson, and shoppers will find most of them are full of advice. “It’s a more complete shopping experience.” Her book, due out May 15 from local publisher Sasquatch, is a handy distillation of all this advice, sorting it out into recipes and ingredients. The cookbook has a good balance of simple recipes (including some particularly drool-worthy sopaipillas, fresh tortillas fried and topped with chipotle, cinnamon, and cumin) and more complex, fancy dinner party recipes (like a clam, mussel, and white bean paella).

In the book, the vendors’ hints are successfully combined with Thomson’s food wisdom. A culinary school grad who spent 2007 writing a recipe a day for her blog, Hogwash, she’s been creating and testing recipes for years. About half of the recipes in the book come directly from restaurants or vendors (ahem, Le Pichet’s Salade Verte) and the other half are market-inspired, Thomson-created (such as a cake with MarketSpice tea glaze). The book is divided into sections by ingredient source: the Sound, the slopes, the garden, the shops, the butcher, the oven, the cellar, and the pantry. Each section begins with an essay—more of a love poem, really—on the vendors’ dedication to their wares, whether that be precious morel mushrooms, smoky bacon, or fresh baguettes.

With Pike Place Recipes, Thomson invites readers into the market as more than overwhelmed tourists or jaded locals—instead we arrive as excited home chefs and members of an ever-growing food community. As she notes, the market was created as a place where people could meet their farmers. And though admittedly, it’s usually not the apple farmer hawking the apples anymore, the market has retained that sense of connection, that local, community feeling. Most Seattle folk feel some sort of connection to the market—whether it be a warm love for its presence or an annoyance with the summertime tourist hordes—but Pike Place Recipes gives us a brand new approach to the market. Armed with a more in-depth knowledge of the vendors and their wares, a shopping list, and a plan, we can actually use the market as a market.

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