Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Fruit Bonanza, Freezing Berries and Book Events

Blueberries from Rent's Due Ranch in Stanwood, mulberries (front left), red currants (front right)and a big bowl of North Star Cherries from Grouse Mountain Farm in Chelan were all on my market shopping list last week. The mulberries were already in the freezer when I decided to snap this photo so they look a little frosty. Soon the blueberries and currants will join them in the freezer.

If you're wondering about my freezing method--no wash, no laying carefully on a cookie sheet, just stick the entire box in the freezer--I picked up this tip from Carol and Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon. I'm a big fan of shortcuts in the kitchen and when I asked the Bourtards about washing the berries they pointed out that a food handler or chef must wash their hands with soap under hot water. (Food handlers are told only this removes all germs and bacteria.) We rise berries briefly under cold water. Do we really remove enough germs this way? And as far as pesticide removal, the pesticides are usually sticky and resist washing off with plain water. So, organic is the way to go with berries. And it's best to know where your berries were grown. Knowing who grows them is another bonus. Better yet, visit the farm and see for yourself or grow your own pesticide-free berries. Once the berries are frozen, dump them into a plastic ziplock bag. That's it--no fuss.

But cherries are a different story. I freeze and dehydrate a lot of pie cherries, and since they are soft, you don't need a special tool to pit them. Just pull the seeds from the fruit over a glass container to catch the juice that oozes out. Cover, label, and freeze. But be careful and cover up while you work because as you can see the cherry juice spurts all over. It seems to wash off fairly easily.

Finn loves to steal cherries when one falls to the floor. He races away with his treasure, and his eagerness reminds me of Mitzi, our family beagle, when I was young. I was in high school when we moved to Northern California and we had a cherry tree in our backyard. When the cherries ripened and began to fall from the tree, Mitzi got obsessed with the cherries, eagerly eating them as fast as she could, pits and all. And if Mitzi was inside the house, looking out our sliding glass door and saw our tortoise, Bad News, outside walking towards the cherries, Mitzi was beside herself, growling and barking at a silly tortoise whose only aim was to get across the yard. Hound dogs don't like the idea of sharing the feast, even if it's growing in their own backyard.

As for the cherries, I always save enough to make one or two smoothies. I wrote a recipe for a Pie Cherry Smoothie last summer, so check it out. You'll never find this unique smoothie offered at Jamba Juice. This time, I used almond butter from Massa Organics, but you could use yogurt for non-vegan version. Here it is with a mint sprig. I didn't add lavender to it this time, but I bet it would be incredible--just ask my lavender expert friend Kathy Gehrt. And check out her book Discover Cooking with Lavender while you're at it.
This weekend I'm excited to be at the Edmonds Bookshop on Saturday at 11am. (This means, I must gather all my essential food finds at the U-District Market pronto, drop the treasures off at home and head to Edmonds Bookshop where I'll talk about local food and farmers and share a treat or two from my book. This is a great community bookstore that has many unique items you can't find at the big chain bookstores.

Afterwards, I'll tour the Edmonds farmers' market. The market is large and has lots of crafts, produce, hot food, plants and flowers--something for everyone. If you haven't been there, you simply must see it, and while you're there get some of the amazing summer fruit--the season never lasts long enough.

On Sunday from 1 to 2:30pm, I'll be at East West Bookshop in the Roosevelt District. This is a free seminar and it features a few more treats from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook and I'll talk about trends in Northwest crops, farming challenges and how to move towards a more sustainable plant-based diet--for the planet and your health. I've been a vegetarian healthy local food geek for years and it's fun to share tips and delicious recipe ideas that encourage people to eat more local fruits and vegetables. I'm looking forward to connecting with other local food lovers and curious onlookers at this event.

This is the last weekend for my big Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook giveaway, so stop by either event and write your name, address and phone number down, drop it in the box and look for your name listed early next week. An unbiased party (my neighbor) draws the winning name. Last weeks winner was Ed Haskins from the U-District.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What's Cooking at the Market

This Saturday morning I'm making some of my favorite easy recipes at the University District farmers' market. The cooking demo starts at 10:00am. Last week the demo tent shifted from the front of the market (near University) to the side (along 50th). This cooking demo shift happened because Rockridge Orchards is now where Rama Farm was for the last few summers. (The lines for Rama peaches are so long it was hard to get to other vendors near them.) So now Rama Farm is now where the information booth used to be. The information booth is where the demo tent--right across from Rama.

I'm looking forward to whipping up a cherry vinaigrette, a creamy Northwest greens soup and an amazing fruit and hazelnut dressing served over berries and apricots. Who doesn't love all this great Northwest produce?

I'm also selling The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook at a discount. (The retail price is $19.95 and the books will sell at the market for $18.00.) For those who are interested, I'm offering a chance to win a free copy of my cookbook. All you have to do is enter the drawing--name address and phone number--and the winning entry will be drawn on Sunday July 25th. I'll call the number and post your name if you win. (But you must confirm my phone message in 48 hours or I'll draw a new name.) Last week's winner was Brett Lukens from Port Angeles.

The University District market is the perfect place for a demo to celebrate my book. I've shopped at this great community market for years. I've met some of my best friends here, and 9 farmers and 1 beekeeper at this market are featured in the profiles of my book. Read about how Nash Huber of Nash's Produce was instrumental in starting PCC Farmland Trust, or how Bob Meyer of Stoney Plains was instrumental in starting the University District Market--the bell that starts sales at this market, rings for Bob. You'll also discover the challenges of tree fruit growers like Mair-Farm Taki and Grouse Mountain Farm. I wish I could have included all the farmers' stories, but Timber Press voted for an equal number of Oregon farms--which all makes for delicious reading. I'll write more about Oregon farms in the upcoming weeks when I visit the markets and farmers there.

See you at the market!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sneak Previews and Garden Treasures

I laid awake at night thinking about a year-round fruit vinaigrette recipe-- where you use the same basic ingredients (oil and vinegar) and just change the fruit as the seasons rotate.

The whole idea started with a recipe I picked up at a market. I don't remember where I got it but it featured greens with sliced strawberries and rhubarb dressing. The rhubarb dressing (cooked rhubarb and sugar, pureed into a vinaigrette sparked a cascade of vinaigrette possibilities--raspberry (been done), blueberry (ditto), apricot, pie cherry . . .

I got obsessed with this idea and one morning created pie cherry vinaigrette. I sampled as I made it to tweak the flavors and then I had it over greens. (Yes, for breakfast). Today, I made this vinaigrette with apricots and immediately wondered how it might taste with ginger--maybe sesame, ginger, apricot dressing. With different fruits, the sweetener or honey needs tweaking, and you'd probably have to cook hard fruit like apples before blending. It's a good year-round recipe. Finn give it four paws up.

Here is the recipe:

Cherry Vinaigrette Over Greens with Berries

(Makes about 1 cup or about 10 servings)

This recipe is a sample of our Northwest summer produce all in one salad. Try this vinaigrette with peaches, nectarines or plums and see how much you might alter the other ingredients.

1/2 cup pitted tart cherries (Montmorency or North Star)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

4 teaspoons honey

Pinch of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

10 to 12 cups salad greens

1 pint berries (use blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries)

1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts (optional)

Blend cherries, olive oil, vinegar, honey, cayenne and salt in a blender until smooth and creamy. Place greens on a serving plate. Drizzle vinaigrette over the greens; then top each serving with berries and hazelnuts.

I'll be making this with North Star cherries at my upcoming cooking demo at the University District Market on Saturday July 24).

At the Saturday demo, I'm also making an Easy Creamy Northwest Greens Soup and a fruit salad called Ambrosia, with a hazelnut-berry dressing. I submitted the soup recipe to Culinate where they'll feature it soon. The soup is called Easy Creamy Turnip Greens Soup in my book.

Also, this weekend I'm hosting another contest to win a signed copy of my book. If you miss me at the U-District Market, catch me at any of my other events. I'll also be selling signed copies of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook at all my book events.
On the garden front, Tom harvested the two cabbages that he'd placed way too close to our blueberry bushes. "Who does that?" I wondered every time I'd walked by them, then I'd feel sorry for them having to share such a small space. We had too many plants to put in our small garden this past spring. As the cabbage plants got bigger, I noticed the blueberry plants were stressed.

Hopefully our blueberry plants can recover from our overcrowded garden space this spring. The cabbage and these sugar snap peas will definitely be part of our salad tonight.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Tiniest Carrot, Garden Treasures, and a Cool Farm Sign Contest

I discovered this tiny carrot tucked into the bunch of carrots I got from Willie Green's Organic Farm at the market last weekend. When I mentioned that I just had to take a picture of my market find, my kitchen assistant snapped awake from what looked like a deep sleep. And as always, he was a little too eager to be part of the scene and check out my market treasures.

Finn finished off this tiny gem in half a bite. I didn't even see him chew. Then, it didn't take him long to find our raspberries in the garden.

We got these raspberry bushes from our friends Molly and Bill when they were thinning their berry crop one year. The berry canes were once part of an old raspberry truck farm whose owners grew berries and carted them to Pike Place Market every week. (So sad to think Seattle's suburbs once supported vibrant farms.)

Our berries are smaller than the popular giant Tulameens that so many berry growers sell at the market. But don't let the size fool you, these half-size fragile berries have exceptional flavor. And the scent is heavenly.

I'm a berry fanatic and I can't help buying some kind of berries from each market I visit.

Last week at the Lake Forest Park farmers' market as I was reaching for a box of raspberries at McPhail's berry booth, I saw this great sign. I love creative signs at farmers' markets and it suddenly gave me an idea for a contest.

Send me your best farm photo and win a signed copy of my book The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. For example, I snapped this photo of a sign from Rent's Due Ranch. So next time you're at the market, check out the signs and send me a cool one. Deadline for this contest is July 31.

In the meantime, I'll be enjoying berries and looking for more cool farmer signs. Stop by my table at the Lake Forest Park farmers' market this Sunday and say hello. I'll be telling farmer stories, answering produce questions and signing copies of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. And if you feel lucky, I have an ongoing weekly contest for a book giveaway and you can enter the drawing at the market. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Events and Book Giveaways

See Finn's tail wagging? He'd rather have biscotti than a free book. I baked this lemon-hazelnut biscotti ( a recipe from my book); then I got ready for upcoming book events.

Every weekend this month I'm busy with fun cooking demos, book signings and farm and food talks. Check my July venue below and join me. At each event, you can enter a drawing to win a signed free copy of my new book--The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

I draw a winner's name each Sunday from July 11th through August 1st. (Who knows maybe I'll continue through August.) The first winner on July 11th was Teresa Salak who entered the drawing at Magnolia's Bookstore on July 10th. You can check this blog to find out who won for the week.
On July 11th I was at Marlene's Market and Deli where I made two salad dressings, a cool fruit soup and my favorite smoothie recipe--all from my book. On Marlene's Web site, check out my new column called "Take 5" in the July issue of Marlene's monthly newspaper The Sound Outlook.
These are the remaining July events (plus August 1st). I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and sharing food, farm and gardening stories.

July 17 -- 12-3pm
I'll be at Mrs. Cooks in University Village making some great seasonal recipes to share while I talk about favorite local farms and food. I'll answer all your burning produce questions.

July 18 -- 11-1pm
I'll be at Lake Forest Park farmer's market for a book signing. This is a great fairly new community farmers' market and after you've finished shopping here, you can browse Third Place Books. How cool is that? Come listen to stories about local farmers, get produce information, discover new ways to serve summer produce and just chat about gardens, markets and local foods.

Here is a cool sign from one of the farmers at the Lake Forest Park farmers' market.
July 24 -- 10-11am
Look for me at the U-District Farmers' Market doing a cooking demo instead of my usual shopping and socializing with friends. I created a new recipe especially for this demo--a pie cherry vinaigrette that I'd been thinking about for days. I'll also make one of my favorite soups and an easy fruit salad with a hazelnut butter dressing.

This is a photo of the U-District market before it opens and fills with summer crowds.
July 24 -- 3 to 5:30pm
After the market, I'll head south to the Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference at the Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center where a number of my writers' group friends and I will present a panel discussion about successful writers' groups.

July 25 -- 1 to 3pm
I'm happy to announce some Northwest CostCo stores will be carrying my books and I'll be at the Everett CostCo for a book signing event. I'd love to answer produce questions or just chat about local food and farms. Be sure to stop to help encourage big stores like CostCo hop on the local food bandwagon.

July 31-- 11 to 1pm
I'll be at the Edmonds Bookshop (in Edmonds, of course). It's about 1/2 block from the Edmonds Summer farmers' market, so come chat with me about farms, fruits and vegetables, then head to the market and buy some great local produce and of course don't leave the market without some beautiful flowers.

August 1 -- 1 to 2:30 pm
Join me at East-West Bookshop for a discussion about Northwest produce, the challenges of local farmers, sustainable diets and local food trends at the markets, in gardens and in restaurants.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Let the fruit parade begin: strawberries, raspberries and cherries

Even though it barely felt like July this past weekend, I spotted strawberries, cherries and raspberries at the market. Okay maybe strawberries have been at markets for a few weeks, but as soon as cherries arrived, for me, the fruit procession had begun. Even Finn is thrilled to see all the strawberries I brought home this week.

At the market, I was filling a bag with English peas when my friend Patty told me this was the last week for strawberries at Rent's Due Ranch. I had to add a half flat of strawberries to my produce order because I love Rent's Due strawberries. I'd freeze these seasonal gems for smoothies later.

Red raspberries also arrived at the market, along with pie cherries. I found myself wondering how these two fruits might taste together. I bought a half flat of raspberries from Willie Green's Organic Farm in Monroe--the tiny half pints were pricey at $4 each, so you have to really want raspberries, and I did. The pie cherries were also costly, but the 2nds at Mair Farm-Taki were smaller and they were marked down to $7. a pound.

Finn was pleased when I set the two bowls in front of him. He clearly favored the raspberries, but my thought was why not pair the cherries and raspberries together in a dessert? So that's what I did.
(By the way, this is $30 worth of local organic fruit--and worth every penny!)

I decided on a Lavender Scented Raspberry-Cherry Crisp, because I love the crispy topping. And the lavender--well you just have to try it and see. I used my "Northwest Berry Crisp Recipe," in my book as a pattern for my crisp. It's got a decadent-tasting, almost oatmeal cookie-like crust. I've found the best way to get a crispy top is to add maple syrup to the topping. The maple syrup holds the topping together and it looks so pretty and caramelized when it's finished cooking. I also used Nash's Soft Whole Wheat Flour for the topping.

In this recipe I blended 3 cups raspberries with 2 cups pitted pie cherries, and a handful of black raspberries. I flavored the fruit with about a half teaspoon crushed lavender buds, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/2 cup sugar. I used the same basic recipe to make a Cherry Crisp a few months ago. I don't know why people need new recipes all the time. (And by the way, how many cooking shows with endless recipes do we need?)

When you've got a basic crisp recipe winner, why not stick with it?

I love to top warm fruit crisp with coconut sorbet. And Tom and I often take turns leaving the last smallest portion of dessert for each other. I could easily lose that game.

So could Finn. Since I'm watching his waistline, all he scored this time was the last few licks from an empty bowl.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Northwest Seasonal Produce Chart

This is helpful seasonal produce chart can be found in The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook: 200 Recipes that Celebrate the Flavors of Oregon and Washington by Debra Daniels-Zeller (2010, Timber Press)

Seasons for Local Fruits and Vegetables
In the Northwest, the seasons for vegetables and fruits vary slightly from region to region and from year to year. For example, strawberries show up in the Willamette Valley weeks earlier than those in the Skagit Valley, north of Seattle. And each year the weather is a little different so some crops come late and others show up a little early. Michaele Blakely of Growing Things Farm in Carnation, Wade Bennett of Rockridge Orchards in Enumclaw, and Liz Eggers of Grouse Mountain Farm in Chelan, Washington, helped me compile the following dates for seasonal produce availability.

Apples late July – October

Apricots June – August

Artichokes April – July

Asian pears August – November

Asparagus May – June

Bamboo shoots April – July

Beans, green July – October

Beans, shell (dried) August – October

Beets May – November

Blackberries August – September

Blueberries June – September

Bok choy year-round

Boysenberries July – August

Broccoli year-round

Brussels sprouts November – February

Cabbage year-round

Cardoons April – June

Carrots May – February

Cauliflower year-round

Celeriac September – October

Celery August – November

Chard year-round

Cherries June – July

Collards year-round

Corn July – October

Cranberries October – November

Cucumbers July – September

Currants August

Dandelion greens March – April

Eggplant July – August

Fava beans throughout harvest season

Fennel July – October

Figs Late June – July and September – October

Garlic June – October

Grapes August – October

Greens, specialty year-round

Greens, wild March – June

Herbs June – September

Huckleberries, blue August – October

Huckleberries, red July

Jerusalem artichokes fall through winter

Kale year-round

Kiwis September – October

Kohlrabi year-round

Leeks year-round

Lettuce year-round

Melons August – November

Mulberries July – August

Mushrooms, wild June – November

Nectarines July – August

Nettles early spring

Okra July – September

Onions June – November

Parsley May – September

Parsley root October

Parsnips October – early spring

Pawpaws October

Peaches July – August

Pears August – October

Peas June – fall

Peppers June – fall

Persimmons October – November

Plums August – September

Potatoes July – November (winter storage)

October – November

Purslane June – September

Quince October – November

Radishes year-round

Raspberries June – October

Rhubarb May – September

Romanesco cauliflower late August – November

Rutabaga October – throughout winter

Shallots August – September

Soybeans, green July – October

Spinach year-round

Squash, summer June – frost

Squash, winter September – November (storage)

Strawberries June – October

Sweet potatoes November – December

Tomatillos July – September

Tomatoes July – September

Turnips year-round