Monday, June 24, 2013

Apricot Vinaigrette

Maybe cherries are the first stone fruits but apricots aren't far behind.   I got another bag of rivals (I think) from Pipetone farms, and when I put them in a bowl, I thought about all the things I could make with them.  Sure you can eat them as is, the original fast food, but it's fun to get creative with them while the season lasts.  And, remember if you like them dried, there's nothing better than enjoying treasures from the market dried, in the middle of winter.

I've mostly found Rival and Tilton apricots at the markets.  Tilton are one of the best varieties canning and drying varieties for West of the Cascades.  

Last week I discovered they were perfect with berries.  Why not cherries?  Or why not black cherry cider vinegar?  I've made this dressing before, and it's different every time.  

Last time I used dried garlic from Rent's Due Ranch.  I don't think they offer it anymore, but last winter River Farm had a small quantity of dried garlic.

I also used more apricots and less vinegar, this time I wanted black cherry vinegar.  I loved that sweet black cherry soda when I was young.  This vinegar brings back memories (but not the sugary sweetness).  It's a seasonal treasure at Rockridge Orchards.  I got the last bottle Wade Bennett was selling on Saturday, but don't worry--Wade said his berry ciders vinegar are just a few weeks away.  

Don't let the calm of this picture fool you, my Cooking Assistant was alert and waiting a few inches away. 

Finn is a big fan of all the summer fruit.   He especially loves it when neglected summer fruit outside calls his name.   On a walk recently, he discovered someone had planted these rather neglected berries outside their fence.  Maybe they did plant them for birds and squirrels, but I bet they never expected to see a basset hound, up on the rock ledge picking and eating as fast as he could.

These Tilton apricots from R& R Farms will be at the U-District market soon.  They only come to the market to sell apricots from their wild-crafted orchards.  These are just about as wild as you can get for apricots.

Here's the new version of salad dressing.   What do apricots inspire you to create?  Jam?  Sorbet?  Soup?  Muffins?  Tell me your favorite.  I think I'm up for apricot cobbler next week!

Apricot Vinaigrette
(Makes about 3/4 cup)

2 or 3 apricots
1/2 cup berry or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1teaspoon agave nectar or honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt or to taste

Wash and pit apricots.   Puree with vinegar, Dijon mustard and agave nectar or honey.  (An immersion blender works well for this.)   Blend in olive oil, chile powder and sea salt.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Berry Apricot Salad

It's fruit season and the market gets crowed so I arrive early.  The only problem is so does the Parking Troll.   It didn't used to be like this with meter trolls fishing for freee parking violators, but the city needs money so why not target the farmers' market shoppers in those one hour spaces? 

I met my friends and we waited in my car, watching the Parking Troll mark tires until she pulled up next to us.  She gave us the stink eye as she marked the tires and then drove on.

I wonder how it feels to go home from a job like that?  Who is that person outside her job.  Is she only working for the "benefits," like many workers these days?  Maybe the city makes more money from handing out parking tickets than it does for metered parking.  And maybe, just maybe Seattle, like Chicago sold the rights to parking meters and writing tickets is another revenue stream for the city.

Whatever the reason, complaints to the city are pointless, this is the new economy.  The market manager said the mayor rides to 4 farmers markets on his bike.  But what about older people who have health issues?  Sure it's greener but not everyone owns or can ride a bike.

So, I was in a rush to buy my weekly produce and get out, but I got some fabulous strawberries and as I walked out, I found luscious apricots at Pipetone Farms.   I knew I'd pair them with fresh berries.

And we have berries in our garden at home, but I needed more because my Cooking Assistant has already helped himself to too many.   

He's up for apricots, too.  Poor boy--he's overwhelmed with the scents of the season. 

I tell him to wait and mostly he's good, but sometimes he can't help himself.
Blueberries aren't available locally yet, but I thought they'd add to this amazing fruit salad.

Berry-Apricot Fruit Salad
(Serves 4)

1 cup strawberries
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup pomegranate or orange juice 
1/2 cup citrus sorbet (tangerine, lemon, orange)
1 tablespoon almond butter
2 cups diced fresh apricots
2 cups mixed berries

2 tablespoons grated coconut, optional

Blend strawberries, banana, pomegranate juice, sorbet and almond butter in a blender.  

Place berries and apricots in serving bowls and pour the sauce over them. Gently blend.  Top with coconut, if desired. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Black Bean-Quinoa Salad and Grilled Zucchini

Sometimes my food blog posts are dictated by hunger.  This is one of those times.  

Last week, I'd gotten two great books-- Grilling Vegan Style by John Schlimm  from the library; and The Spectrum by Dean Ornish, MD, a gift from a friend.  I'd wanted to get started reading both books, but I was already reading this book, which I'll write more about in a future post.  

Anyway, Saturday morning arrived, and I still hadn't spent much time with either of these books.  With few plans for buying, I tossed my market bags in the car and went to the farmers' market.  I was thinking about grilling, so I got some zucchini, figuring the book had to have a grilled squash recipe. 

River Farm had large sized summer squash,which are a lot less expensive than baby varieties. (You can pay up to $6.00 a pound for those when they first come to the market.)  But because the large ones have been allowed to mature, they taste much better on the grill. 

Zucchini may not be a nutritional powerhouse, it does contain vitamin A, and it's so easy to get in the summer, even if you don't grow it.  It's worth it to cultivate a taste for summer squash.  One or two plants in the garden is practically all you need for the summer, and River Farm has amazing produce deals on seconds and large squash.

Grilling Vegan Style offers 6 recipes, every one sounded delicious.  But I didn't get basil or chervil for the recipe I'd had in mind, and even though I was hot to make these recipes, when I got home from the market, I was hungry.  So, I made a quinoa salad and figured I'd make the grilled zucchini later, maybe even add it to the salad.

Here is what I ended up doing with the zucchini:

Easy Grilled Zucchini
(Serves 4) 

2 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup Italian dressing

Brush each slice of zucchini with dressing.   Grill for about 5 minutes or until the zucchini begins to brown.  Remove from grill and serve.  These make excellent additions to sandwiches and roll-ups.

But while I was still musing about the possibilities for summer squash I quickly came up with a quinoa salad recipe to tame my hunger.  I'd add black beans and  make an easy dressing.

I keep a good supply of Rockridge Orchards cider vinegar, and since we're cutting back on oil these days, I used just a couple tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to the mix.  I figured if we had some leftover, we could brush the zucchini slices with it.

You can also  make your own berry vinegar when berries are in season.  I used a recipe similar to this one, minus the sugar.   I'm not a big fan of adding sugar to everything. 

Corn, black beans and quinoa scream salsa, so I added that to the mix as well.  And since I'm a big fan of color, I got parsley from our garden to add for eye candy.

I love parsley.  It grows like a weed in my garden. 

One can never have too many whole-grain and bean salad recipes.  Here is my newest creation:

Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad
(Serves 4)

1 3/4 cup water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
Pinch of sea salt
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup berry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons salsa
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 cup finely chopped curly parsley

1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.   Add quinoa, corn and sea salt.  Cover and bring to a second boil.  Reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to  rest for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.   Stir in black beans. 

2. Combine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, cayenne, agave nectar, and salsa in a small bowl.  Stir into quinoa and bean mixture.  Stir in olives and parsley.   Serve with grilled tofu and vegetables. 

I topped it with a few spears of pickled asparagus just for show.  My Cooking Assistant seems impressed.   I think both of these recipes together would make an amazing tortilla roll-up.

These whole grain-bean salads make a quick hunger fix any time.   Enjoy each bite.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sugar Snap Pea Salad


First peas at the market are sno peas and sugar snap peas.  These are a good deal for the price because you only remove the tough end.  When English or shelling peas come to the market, they cost about twice the price because the pods are tough and recipes for them are so few. 

If the price puts you off, you're a little late, but you still have time to get plant starts and grow your own. 

I got half a pound, but I lost one or two during the photo session when my Cooking Assistant decided to sample the goods.

It's still early for tomatoes at the markets and those I've found are still a bit tart because they come from greenhouses and haven't developed the sweet flavor that comes from hot sunny days.  But I get so excited about tomatoes I got some anyway.

The scent of fresh tomatoes on a hot summer day . . .

Oregon tomatoes ripen before Washington tomatoes.  Oregon prices were a bit more consumer friendly there last year.  I'm not sure why--the ag laws?  More farms?  Here, selling at markets with all the city fees involved can kick up the cost of foods local farmers sell.

Organic and pesticide-free is a good thing, but the best is picking it from your own yard.  If you're new to gardening, Stupice is a good tomato type to cultivate west of the Cascades in the Northwest.  I got a great stupice plant start from River Farm a few weeks ago.

I bring a cooler with me to the market, that way greens can stay cool.  My assistant is always eager to survey the produce bounty.  I think he's looking for carrots. . . 

Or the berries . . .   

He's actually hovering here, but very close.  These peas are about to be blanched.  I looked and looked for a good sugar snap pea salad recipe and when I came up with little inspiration, I made my own.  I think strawberries would also be a great pairing with sugar snap peas . . .   Maybe next week.

Here's the recipe.  I'd serve it with marinated tofu or a rice pilaf or both.

Sugar Snap Pea Salad
(Serves 4)

1/2 pound sugar snap peas
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 large avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian vinaigrette

Remove tough ends from sugar snap peas.  Compost ends.  

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch peas for 30 seconds.  Remove and plunge into cold water.

Combine vegetables and toss with vinaigrette.

I love the variety of colors in this festive salad.  I think my Cooking Assistant is more interested in the overwhelming food scents. For just one day, I'd like to detect scents like a dog.

He would eat everything on the plate if he could.