Monday, July 18, 2011

Berries, Berries, and Cherries!

Kevin and I picked sixty-six pounds of blueberries in less than two hours last Friday at Haven Farms.  I gave some to my parents and packaged forty-eight pounds of them in 2-pound bags for the freezer.  The rest are still in the frig and we're eating them fresh.

This morning I went out to The Berry Patch (in the rain) and picked eleven pounds of raspberries.  It was wet and muddy, but there are still plenty of nice berries and more to ripen over the next week.  I just finished making a batch of raspberry freezer jam and I started a quart jar of raspberry vinegar.  I froze two 2 lb. bags of raspberries to make a couple batches of cooked jam this winter.  Still deciding what to do with the remaining berries--they must be dealt with today as they are dead ripe.  I don't have time to make a batch of cooked jam right now and there aren't enough left to juice.  I do need to pick more this week to make enough raspberry juice for raspberry lemonade during the coming year.  The Berry Patch has boysenberries and Marionberries right now too, so I'm hoping I'll have time to stock up on those as well.

We are on our second 12-lb. box of bing cherries from Shady Lane Orchards.  We bought them picked; I don't like to get on ladders if I don't have to.  We just keep eating them fresh until we're tired of them because their season is so short.  I'm going to pick up 80 pounds of pitted bings at Hentze's in Junction City this Thursday for dehydrating.

And I still need to go pick more blueberries out at Big Bend Berries.  I figure we go through about two pounds of frozen berries per week, in smoothies or on our cereal, so I don't have nearly enough in the freezer yet.  Hmmm....and I might need to start a batch of blueberry-lemon vinegar.  I'm imagining a variation of my favorite salad with dried blueberries, Rogue Creamery bleu cheese, and a blueberry vinaigrette.  Oh, and I still want to try making lavender-blueberry jam, but I can always do that later with some of the frozen berries.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Haven Farm Blueberry Picking Starts Tomorrow

Quick note:  Tomorrow, Friday, will be opening day for blueberry-picking at Haven Farm near Tyee.  Picking starts at 8:00 am but you will want to get there by 7:30 am or so to get in line.  Their Duke berries all ripen at once, which makes it easy to pick lots of berries very quickly, but it also means they will be gone in just a few days.  Check the website for picking dates for their other varieties.

Big Bend Berries (673-8767) is also open for blueberry-picking now.  I'll be out there next week to get some Patriots and Berkeleys, as I prefer their flavor for fresh eating.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Carpinteria Farmers Market

I'm in Southern California this week visiting family.  I didn't make it to my hometown farmers market, but I spent the day at the beach in Carpinteria on Thursday and when I'd had enough sun and sand and salt water, I walked down Lindon Street with my signature yellow canvas "Eat Local Produce" shopping bag to the afternoon farmers market.  I pumped forty-two dollars into their local economy with my purchases and then struggled to haul everything back to my car without squashing any of the deliciously ripe fruit or breaking the stems of the flowers.

As always, I made one trip through the market from end to end to survey the offerings and compare prices.  Such abundance; so many possibilities.  The second time through I began formulating a menu.  My brother, Dave, and I like to cook together, so I knew we'd have fun "playing" with whatever ingredients I brought home and they would not go to waste.

First off, I bought a half flat of incredibly sweet, deep red strawberries.  These are not the huge, crunchy, flavorless "California strawberries" we Oregonians scorn.  These are perfect.  (On a whim, I threw a packet of Ball Instant Fruit Pectin into the snack bag I was packing for our road trip and later today I will make a batch of low sugar freezer jam for my brother's family.)

Next, I bought a few luscious, juicy, ready-to-eat peaches.  Everything ripens earlier here; I don't think we'll have peaches at home for several weeks. I was so excited to get a head start on peach season!  As I type, I am eating a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with peaches and strawberries and just a touch of honey.  A perfect warm weather lunch--loads of antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, and eighteen grams of protein.

Okay, so I'm walking around trying to shop without bruising the fruit.  It was too far to take it to the car and I was afraid the best berries would be gone if I waited until the end to buy them.  I got the last four peaches as it was.  And I couldn't put any of it in my market bag or it would certainly be mush by the time I was through.  The plastic bag handles were cutting off the circulation in my fingers, but I struggled along to pick out some vegetables. many choices.  Red beets, orange beets, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, bright yellow butterstick squash.  I was very tempted by the basket of ten baby zucchini with blossoms still attached.  The vendor suggested stuffing the flowers with goat cheese, twisting them closed, brushing the flowers and squash with olive oil and baking for about ten minutes.  Sounds wonderful, but I know I will be able to get zucchini at home and the lovely, pencil-thin asparagus next door was really calling my name, as our local asparagus is done for the year. I bought three bunches. We'll roast them for dinner tonight along with the boneless leg of lamb Dave just walked in the door with.

I bought two heads of hydroponic butterhead lettuce.  "No dirt, no bugs" the sign said and they were a bargain at two for $3.

I picked out a few vine-ripened, just-picked Roma tomatoes and a bunch of fresh basil.  With a store-bought baguette (too hot for baking!) we'll make bruschetta for our appetizer.

I chose a gorgeous bouquet of two-toned gerbera daisies for my sister-in-law.  Four bucks for ten exquisite peaches and cream flowers.

I tasted some fresh green garbanzo beans still in their pods and bought a scoop just for the novelty of it.  They taste much like fresh peas and make a refreshing snack.  I've never had edamame, but I'm wondering if it's similar.

I bought four very hard avocados to take home with me.  I don't want them to ripen for at least a week.

I didn't splurge on a bottle of California olive oil, but I did buy a small bar of lavender-scented castille soap from the same booth.

Surprisingly, there were no baked goods at this market.  Nothing to sample or munch on during my hour-long drive back to Valencia.  It's a scenic route through Ventura, Santa Paula, and Fillmore past acres and acres of orange groves.  Normally I wouldn't be able to resist the pull of the roadside fruit stands, but my cash was gone, my skin was still salt-crusted from swimming and I was ready for a shower.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Dinner with a Local Flair

The menu...
Salmon on a plank
Baby zucchini and yellow squash
Steamed fingerling potatoes
Roasted beets
Mixed greens with nasturtiums 
dressed with an orange muscat vinaigrette
Baguette slices with Boursin cheese
Individual Berry Pavlovas

The salmon was a gift from a friend, caught in the North Umpqua river just a few miles from our home.  The squash, potatoes, beets, lettuce, flowers, raspberries, and cherries came from the farmers market.  Even the eggs for the meringue and the whipping cream were local.  Our blueberry harvest hasn't begun yet, so those were from Salinas and, of course, the sugar, vanilla, olive oil, salt and pepper came from far off places, as did the flour and yeast I used for the baguettes.  Still, without being a true locavore, putting together an Umpqua Valley feast during the summer is pretty easy.  

 I sliced the baby squash in half and cooked them quickly on a hot griddle, turning once halfway through.

 The nasturtiums looked lovely in the salad.  My family thought it was strange to be eating flowers, though.
 The salmon was delicious.  I brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled it with freshly ground pepper and some of the Pink Himalayan salt my daughter gave me for Christmas before my husband placed the fillets on cedar planks for grilling.

Dessert was a hit!  Raspberry coulis, meringue, whipped cream, berries, another layer of meringue, more cream, more berries, and a bing cherry on top.  Details here.

A Star-Spangled Dessert

I made individual berry pavlovas for tonight's dessert, in honor of Independence Day.  (My folks are doing the hamburger and hotdog barbecue tomorrow, so this was my chance!)

I used this recipe from the pastry studio blog (oh, what fun I could have working my way through that blog!) and the only change I made was to make five small pavlovas instead of one large pavlova.  I drew five circles about three and a half inches in diameter on each of two sheets of parchment.  Be sure to place the parchment on the pan with the pencil side down or it will transfer to your food.  You need two discs for each pavlova.  This recipe made just the right amount.

The smaller meringue discs will not take quite as long to bake, but you still need to plan on about an hour and a half.  They will lift off the parchment easily without leaving much meringue behind when they are done.

While the meringue discs are baking you can get the cream whipped, the berries rinsed, and the coulis made.  Then, assembling the pavlovas just before serving is a snap.


Saturday, July 2, 2011


Okay, so I went a bit overboard at the farmers market this morning.  I just couldn't help myself.  I started out at The Baklava Lady's booth just a few minutes after 9:00 am.  You have to get there right when the market opens because she sells out fast.

My favorite croissants were on display, the ones with the fabulous Nutella and marshmallow fluff filling, so I bought one of those and three mini spanakopita.  I fully intended to take photos to post, but, sorry, none of that made it home.  I also bought a thick slice of Lime Cake.  I think Judy said there was a full cup of lime juice in the recipe and, no, she didn't feel compelled to dress it up with green food coloring.  I haven't tasted it yet, but I'm sure the flavor speaks for itself.

Right next door is the Cabruca Chocolates booth.  I sampled a traditional Brazilian Honey Cake--the texture is somewhat of a cross between a brownie bite and a mini cupcake.  Juliana said there are no eggs or butter in the batter, but it does have local organic honey and dulce de leche.   I admired her assortment of truffles and bought a chocolate-mint truffle, which I have managed to resist eating so far.

At Dang's Gardens I picked out a bouquet of red, white and purple sweet peas and a bouquet of gorgeous orange nasturtiums.  I'm going to add some of the nasturtiums to our Sunday dinner salad tomorrow and see what kind of reaction I get.  I also bought a bag of arugula.

On to Growing Crazy Farms where we discussed the cherry crop (okay, but not overly abundant this year) and I got a head of lettuce.

At the Riggs Family Farm stand I went for the baby (tiny!) zucchini and yellow summer squash.  I'm thinking I'll halve them lengthwise and grill them to go with dinner tomorrow.

Hayhurst Farms from Yoncalla had a lovely display of vegetables--napa cabbage, broccoli, kale, beets, carrots, snow peas, and garlic.  I bought some beets and a few transplants for my garden--tarragon, rosemary, and cucumbers.

I bought one roma tomato plant and a basket of organic bing cherries but I didn't look at the names of the booths.  The cherries really could have used a few more days on the tree to sweeten up, but for some reason, after chatting with the grower, I bought them anyway.

By this time I had made two trips to the car to unload some of my bounty and get more money out of my purse.  On my last swing through the market I bought a bunch of carrots from Big Lick Farm and picked up the fingerling potatoes and raspberries I had reserved at Linnea Marie Farms.

So tomorrow's menu is shaping up nicely.  My husband is going to do Salmon on a Plank on the grill for the entree.  I'll round it out with a salad, the baby squash, roasted beets, and crusty baguette slices spread with Boursin Garlic and Fine Herb cheese.  I'm thinking of making a berry pavlova for dessert--fluffy white meringue topped with vanilla creme anglaise, blueberries, and raspberries.  How festive is that for (almost) Fourth of July?

Have a great holiday.  I'm off to mix baguette dough, plant my new transplants, clean the house, and head to the gym.