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.

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