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I was enjoying the hushed, little boy murmerings between two 4-year-old buddies on the neighbor side of my back fence as I tended my tomatoes. But it didn’t take long for so much uncharacteristic silence to trigger Trish’s maternal radar. “Nigel? Are you and Ben in the strawberry patch again? They aren’t ripe yet honey. Please leave them alone.”
NIGEL (his mouth full of under-ripe berries): Okay!
BEN: You’ll find us in the blueberries!
Which is where they headed, still chatting heatedly about the wonders of gardening.
“Have you ever heard of cherry tomatoes?” pondered Ben.
“Of course!” scoffed Nigel.
And so it went. This would be a wonderful summer of discovery for two little boys lucky enough to live in a community where it’s so easy to understand the connection between where food begins and where it ends up. With all of the delicious and curious interactions along the way, from the fun of tending to growing things, to the rewards and delight of harvesting, cooking, and, of course, eating what you grow.
Even trips to the farmers’ markets - which both boys are treated to on a weekly basis - are a wonderful adventure. Indeed, we live in a horticultural paradise. One of the many joys of living here is the anticipation of local seasonal foods that Nigel and Ben have become aware of and are now chronicling so diligently. The first asparagus, rhubarb, and peas of spring are followed by the fabulous Oregon strawberry in early June. Summer brings more berries - elegant raspberries, a jumble of blueberries (more varieties than you would ever imagine!), Marionberries, and loganberries, sweet cherries, peaches, apricots, melons, juicy new-crop garlic, sweet corn, onions, and two months of non-stop heirloom tomatoes.
As we head into the high season for summer bounty, the only mistake you can make in the kitchen is to underutilize or over-cook what nature has so generously provided. A favorite niece came to town for a short visit and our best meal was the most impromptu; made from an armload of produce we’d picked up at Gathering Together Farm on our way in from a picnic on top of Mary’s Peak with Steve, my mother and my father. We quartered the new potatoes and Walla Walla Sweets, and scattered them onto a large baking pan, along with some trimmed young green beans and some fresh heads of garlic that I halved horizontally. We gave the whole affair a light drizzle of olive oil along with a bit of salt and pepper before popping it in the oven.
Meredith sliced an heirloom tomato and added rich droplets of balsamic vinegar while Mom sliced the Big River Pugliese bread. Once the vegggies were almost done - which only took about 30 minutes, steaks went on the grill and the Tyee Estate Barrel Select Pinot was opened and poured.
That’s all it takes this time of year to wow a crowd - or a couple of 4-year-olds like Nigel and Ben. The only thing that would have made it better? A big pot of freshly-cooked corn, and a Marionberry cobbler chaser.
Green Bean and Sweet Onions in Vinaigrette With Blue Cheese and Roasted Hazelnuts
A great make-ahead salad for summer barbeques.
Makes servings for 4 to 6 1 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup diced Walla Walla Sweet onion
1/2 cup sliced black olives
Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup chopped roasted and skinned hazelnuts
1-1/2 cups of local cherry tomatoes, halvedFresh basil leaves for garnish
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans uncovered until tender-crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain immediately and plunge into cold running water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Drain well, then place the beans in a medium bowl, along with the onion and the vinaigrette. Toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. (Note: the beans will not retain their bright green color, but the flavor from the marinade certainly compensates!)
To serve: Drain off the marinade from the bean mixture and place the beans on a lovely serving platter (Be sure and reserve the drained dressing for another use.). Sprinkle with the blue cheese and nuts, then arrange the tomatoes around the perimeter of the platter. Add a few basil leaves for garnish.
Makes about 3/4 cup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, basil, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil.
Recipe adapted from “The Big Book of Potluck,” by Maryana Vollstedt.
Makes 4 servings
2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
Sugar to taste
2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
6 tablespoons orange-flavored liquor (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
1 cup heavy cream, whippedWhole berries for garnish
Gently smash the berries with a potato masher or back of spoon, leaving about one-third of the berries whole. Sprinkle with granulated sugar to taste. Place the ice cream in a large bowl, then stir to soften and smooth it out. Reserve one cup of the berries and stir the rest into the softened ice cream, along with the liqueur. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Quickly divide the reserved cup of berries among 4 dessert glasses (clear glass is the most elegant because you will be able to see the layers). Spoon the cream mixture into the glasses, top each serving with one or more whole berries and serve.
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After four hours of clambering up slippery granite and crumbly talus slopes, my hiking partner and I had made it to the top of a 12,000 foot peak overlooking one of Yosemite’s many high-Sierra lakes. The view would have been reward enough, but as I looked on in amazement my friend pulled two crystal goblets and a bottle of Champagne from his pack. Next, he removed a plastic carton containing eight fresh strawberries.
While I held the berry-filled crystal, he uncorked the bottle with a resounding "pop" that echoed across the canyon below. As Champagne bubbled and frothed around the berries, we toasted the sunset. Naturally, I thought that my life as a strawberry lover was complete.
But that was many (many!) summers ago. Three years later I had moved to Oregon, and THAT was when I discovered what strawberry life in the fast lane is all about. Oregonians take their strawberries seriously. VERY seriously. For good reason: They're WON-derful. So wonderful that dedicated souls disdain all imports, waiting not-so-patiently for the real thing to ripen on local bushes. Then, trusty cartons in tow, they tromp out to their favorite strawberry patch or vendor and pick a peck of strawberry heaven.
In an established strawberry field, it’s 30 to 40 days from bloom to berry. This year, that process began earlier than usual. About three weeks earlier, thanks to an unusually warm and dry spring. So don’t delay. If your inner strawberry clock was set for the first week in June as the time when you would begin thinking about jams and shortcake and daiquiris, you’re going to miss out. Here it is early June and we’re already mid-way through the season.
Almost all of Oregon’s strawberries are grown west of the Cascades in the Willamette Valley. Marion County has the most strawberry acreage in the state (about 47 percent), followed by Washington County (22 percent). Other Willamette Valley counties producing significant amounts of strawberries include Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Lane, Linn, Multnomah, Polk, and Yamhill. Of course, there’s also some acreage in the north central and southwestern parts of the state.
If you’ve been living in this state long enough, then you’ve noticed a significant drop in the numbers of strawberry fields. The Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service reports that back in 1955, the state boasted a whopping 17,500 acres of strawberries. By the time I arrived in 1980, acreage was down to 5,200 acres. Last year 2,600 acres were harvest.
Even with this rapid drop in acreage, Oregon still ranks third in the United States in strawberry production. But it’s a distant third, behind California and Florida, and represents only 2 percent of the nation’s strawberries. The main reasons for the decline of Oregon’s strawberry industry is three-fold: an increased cost of production; a decline in the number of local strawberry processing plants; and huge competition from the Florida and California markets, which have significantly longer growing seasons, cheaper labor and production costs, and a cheaper end-product.
Of course, nowhere in this analysis have I stated a decline in quality. No sir. Oregon strawberries still rank at the top in this department, which makes them all the more dear.
There are many varieties to enjoy, and a thousand different opinions as to which is "the best". And since such judgements are subjective, when it gets right down to it you'll just have to try them all and decide for yourself.
The good news is you won't have to climb to 12,000 feet to do it. Unless you really want to impress a hiking partner.
(NOTE: below the following recipes, I’ve included some step-by-step guidelines for making jam)
Jan’s Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri Mix
Makes about 1 quart frozen strawberry puree
There are no special canning skills required to make up batches of this fresh strawberry puree. Just plenty of fresh local strawberries and a little bit of freezer space. This simple puree makes for heavenly rum-laden daiquiri drinks or alcohol-free strawberry-flavored treats all year long.
2 cups granulated or superfine sugar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (approximately 2 medium limes)
1/4 cup water
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
Combine the sugar, lime juice and water. Stir to mix, and then let stand until sugar is almost completely dissolved, about 15 minutes (mixture will be thick).
In blender jar or food processor, combine the sugar mixture with the berries. Blend until smooth. Pour into half-pint, pint- , or quart-size freezer containers. Alternatively, pour the mixture into ice cube trans and freeze until firm, unmold and pack into zip-lock freezer bags.
The mixture will become solid, but will have the consistency of a very firm sherbet, so you’ll be able to scoop portions from the main batch, then re-seal the mixture and store back in the freezer.
FOR A 1-SERVING SIZE STRAWBERRY DAIQUIRI: In a blender jar, combine 1-1/2 to 2 ounces rum, 1/4 cup frozen strawberry daiquiri mix (2 average-sized cubes that have been frozen in ice cube trays) and 7 or 8 average sized ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Most blender jars can handle up to 4 servings.
Jan's Exquisite Strawberry Jam
For food preservers with a little bit of canning experience, or adventurous beginners, I’m including my favorite strawberry jam recipe. One that is free of commercial pectin. It’s based on my popular recipe for Peerless Red Raspberry Preserves, which is a fast-cook procedure. The resulting preserves are what I would describe as a "soft" gel. But it’s a luscious preserve, no commercial pectin giving the jam an unnatural firmness, and full of fresh Oregon strawberry flavor. All that and only about 7 minutes of cooking.
Makes 4 half-pints.
The secret to perfection is the brief, fast cooking in small batches (this recipe cannot be doubled). A wide, shallow pan (a 12-inch cast-iron skillet is perfect) is essential.
4 heaping cups washed and hulled strawberries(1 pound, 6 ounces; to ensure a high pectin content, about 1/4 of the berries should be slightly under-ripe)
3-1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon butter
Coarsely chop the berries by placing small batches of them into the workbowl of a food processor and hitting the "pulse" button several times (you can also do this by hand, of course, but it goes pretty slow). You should have 3-1/2 cups of coarsely chopped berries.
In a large bowl, combine the berries with the sugar and lemon juice. Gently stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until the sugar is evenly distributed and the juices have begun to flow; let the mixture stand, stirring gently every 20 minutes or so, for at least 1 hour, but no longer than 2 hours.
Wash 4 half-pint jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.
Scrape the mixture into a 12-inch skillet or saute pan. Add the 1 teaspoon of butter (this controls the production of foam). Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a straight-ended wooden or nylon spatula. Adjust the heat downward to keep it from boiling over, and boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
Remove the skillet from the burner and let the jam settle for about 20 seconds; if any foam remains, skim it off. Ladle hot preserves into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars.
At this point, the jam may be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months or longer without the quality suffering.
For long-term storage at room temperature, you will need to process the jars in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (at 1,000 to 3,000 feet, process for 15 minutes; 3,000 to 6,000 feet, for 20 minutes; above 6,000 feet, for 25 minutes). Using a jar lifter, remove the processed jars from the boiling water and let cool on the counter, undisturbed, overnight.
NOTE ABOUT THE CONSISTENCY OF THE JAM: This is going to be a very "loose" jam - the kind that moves around in the jar slightly as its tilted. So if you don't like such a soft gel, you might as well steer clear of this recipe. There's also a stronger likelihood of fruit wanting to float toward the top of the jar, which creates a clear layer of jam at the bottom of the jar. Here's how I've managed to repair that phenomenon when it appears to be happening: About 3 hours after the jars have been removed from the boiling water canner, if you notice that that clear space at the bottom of the jars hasn't started to fill in with fruit, then you can begin a cycle of turning the jars on their heads for periods of 60 minutes at a time (gently flip the jars for 60 minutes, then gently flip them back onto their bottoms for 60 minutes; repeat several times during the day or night). This really does seem to work.
ALTERNATIVE SUGGESTIONS: it makes a delicious non-alcoholic cooler when blended with a bit of sparkling water or soda and ice. Or for a more creamy "Smoothie," blend in milk, a banana or yogurt or vanilla ice cream.
The Original Grace Center Strawberry Jubilee Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Also known as "Killer-Berries Supreme" around our house. I created these for the very first Strawberry Jubilee, many years ago. They were a huge hit. And rightly so; they’re the ultimate chocolate-covered berry. A little more work than the plain-dipped varieties, but worth it.
1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons almond extract
1-1/2 pints fresh strawberries, with pretty stems intact
In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, shortening and butter over hot, not boiling, water (don't rush the process, it should happen slowly and gently or the chocolate will do funny things).
Meanwhile, cream together the 1/2 cup butter and sugar. Beat in the milk and almond extract. This will form a stiff dough.
Now pinch off small portions of the dough and pat out on hand into a thin round pancake (do this quickly or the dough will begin to melt). Place a berry in center of the pancake and form the dough up around the berry, making sure the leaves remain exposed. If possible, chill the strawberries at this point so the chocolate will harden more quickly during the dipping.
Dip the dough-covered strawberries in the melted chocolate, to within 1/4-inch of the almond dough mixture (in other words, leave a rim of the dough exposed for the prettiest appearance) and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill. Remove from cookie sheet when the chocolate has hardened and place in a covered container, in the refrigerator. Berries are best when served within 24 or 36 hours. After that, they begin to ooze berry juice (but they still taste wonderful).
Scofield House Strawberries in White Chocolate Cream
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 ounces coarsely chopped white chocolate
1-1/2 cups whipping cream, whipped to form soft peaks
1 quart fresh strawberries
Place the 1 cup of whipping cream in a heavy-bottomed 1-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the cream just comes to a boil (about 2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk in egg yolks with a wire whisk until light and creamy. Gradually whisk in the warm cream to the egg mixture. Return to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and white chocolate, continuing to stir until the chocolate has melted. Refrigerate overnight.
Gently mix the 1-1/2 cups of whipped cream into the custard. Re Clean and slice the strawberries. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar if desired. Spoon strawberries halfway into 8 parfait glasses. Spoon 1/4 cup of white chocolate mixture over strawberries. Fill rest of each glass with strawberries. Spoon on another layer of the custard. (For a more decorative touch, instead of simply spooning the last layer of custard on top of the berries, you could fill a decorating bag with the custard and pipe a dollop of custard on top of the strawberries. Chill at least 1 hour to firm up the custard.
Recipe from the Scofield House Bed and Breakfast, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
River Walk Inn Strawberries in Port
1 quart fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
½ cup good-quality tawny port
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
Combine all ingredients and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. If berries are not sweet, you may sprinkle with a little sugar. Dessert wine is a good alternative to port.
Recipe from River Walk Inn Bed and Breakfast, Eugene, Oregon.
THE BARE MINIMUM EQUIPMENT LIST FOR MAKING JAM:
Most of these items are self-explanatory and will be found in any department store where canning supplies are sold.
- Boiling water canner. If you plan to store all of your preserves in the refrigerator, you won’t use this. But if you have limited refrigerator space, you’ll want to take the extra steps to "can" your batches of jam, fruits, pickles, and relishes so that they can be stored at room temperature. This requires "processing" the filled and capped jars in a boiling water canner. They’re not expensive, and they’re usually made from lightweight aluminum or enameled metal. Any pot will do, as long as it will hold several jars sitting on a rack (see below), and still have enough head room to cover the jars with at least 2 inches of water boiling vigorously and not leaping out of the pot.
- Canning jars and lids. The most common sized jars available are half-pints, pints, and quarts. You’ll need half-pints and pints for jams, relishes and chutneys, whereas the quarts are handy for bulkier items like pickles and fruits in syrup. All sizes come in either "regular" or "wide-mouthed" tops. Obviously, wide-mouthed jars are easier to fill, however, from an aesthetic point of view, I tend to use more of the "regular" jars.
- Jar funnel. Even if you’re using the wide-mouthed jars, you’ll need this device for filling canning jars. It’s designed to nest on top of an empty jar and direct a ladle-full of preserves (or relish, or salsa, or chutney, or pickles) down into it without leaving messy glops on the jar rim. Get one, they’re cheap!
- Jar lifter. Unless your hands are tough enough to withstand a plunge into scalding-hot water, you’ll need this device to retrieve filled and sealed jars from the depths of a boiling water canner.
- Lid lifter. A magnet embedded into the business end of a plastic wand, designed to fish out the lids from their hot soaking water. Look, ma! No hands.
Rack - keeps jars off the bottom of the boiling water canner during processing. Also keeps jars from bumping into each other during the process, which helps to eliminate breakage.
STEP-BY-STEP TIPS FOR MAKING JAMS
1. PREPARE JARS AND LIDS:
Start with freshly-washed canning jars and two-piece canning lids (available this time of year in most supermarkets and hardware-type stores). Wash them by hand in hot, soapy water, then give them a rinse and place the jars, bottoms up, on a towel-lined cookie sheet in a warm oven until needed.
To prepare the lids, just follow the manufacturers directions that came with them. Typically, you’ll place them in a pot of water which you’ll bring JUST to a boil then remove from the heat. The hot water softens up the sealing compound that is on the flat lids. Leave the lids in the hot water until you use them.
2. PROCEED WITH MAKING THE JAM:
Wash and remove caps from strawberries. Place small batches in a bowl and crush one layer at a time until you have 4 cups of crushed berries. Place the measured berries in a 6- or 8-quart heavy-bottomed pot. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring this mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add the butter, and stir it in.
Remove the pot from the burner. Add the entire contents of liquid pectin and quickly stir it into the hot fruit and sugar mixture. Return the pot to the burner, bring to a rolling boil (NOTE: "rolling boil" means a vigorous boil that can’t be stirred back down to a simmer), and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove the pot from the heat and place it on a hot pad to settle down for a couple of minutes. At this point, if there is any foam on the surface, scrape it off with a spoon.
3. FILLING AND CAPPING YOUR JARS:
Remove a hot jar from the oven and place it next to the pot of hot jam. Place the jar funnel on top of the jar and ladle some hot jam into the jar. Fill the jar to within 1/4 inch of the top. The space left between the surface of the jam and the top of the jar is called the "head space." Lift off the funnel and place it on a clean surface, like a saucer or dinner plate. To make sure there are no droplets of jam on the jar rim, wipe it with a clean, damp cloth.
"Attach lid." This phrase will be used in all future recipes. Here are the steps it involves: Using your magnetic lid wand, fish out one of the flat metal discs from the pot of hot water. Shake off excess water, and place it on the jar rim with the sealing-compound side down against the jar rim. Next, remove one of the metal screw bands, shake of excess water and screw it down onto the jar. Screw firmly, but not excessively. If you’re planning to process your jars in a boiling water canner (see below), then place your filled and closed jar in the pot of hot water using a jar lifter. Repeat the filling and closing with all of the jars, placing each one in the pot as it is filled and closed. You will probably run out of jam before you run out of jars.
4. PROCESS IN A BOILING WATER CANNER (or not):
If you have enough refrigerator space, you can, at this point, simply store your jams in the refrigerator without further ado. They will hold their quality well beyond one year. But if you want to make your jams "shelf stable," so they can be stored at room temperature without molding or otherwise suffering in quality, you need to process the jars in a boiling water canner. In some cookbooks, this procedure is called a "boiling water bath." Use a pot that is deep enough to ensure that the jars are covered by at least 2 inches of water, and that there will be 2 inches of pan left to keep the boiling water from bouncing out while it’s boiling.
When the jars are filled, lids screwed on, and placed in the boiling water canner, bring the water to a boil. You may have to adjust the heat slightly at this point to tame the boil - you don’t want water leaping out of the pan, but you do want a vigorous boil that won’t go away. Boil the jars in the water (this is called "processing") for 10 minutes. (NOTE: The processing time varies from recipe to recipe, although most jams are processed for 10 minutes. After the jars have been "processed", remove them with your jar lifter and place them on a towel in a draft-free area of the kitchen.
5. LISTEN FOR THE PING:
The most satisfying sound to a food preservers ear is the tell-tale "ping, signifying that a vacuum has been formed and the jar is sealing properly. The ping occurs as the lid is sucked down from its convex to concave position. It occurs anywhere between the first few moments after removing the jars from the canner up to an hour or so. After the jars have completely cooled, check the seal by pressing down on each lid. If it’s truly sealed, the surface will be solid and won’t bounce back to your touch. Place unsealed jars in the refrigerator.
If you’re going to make your jams "shelf stable," as opposed to storing them in the refrigerator, you will need to process the filled-and-closed jars in a boiling water canner. This is the time to fill the canner with water and get it heating up on a back burner while you make the jam. I’ll walk you through the "processing your jars in a boiling water canner" further down in the recipe.
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This is my most treasured kitchen tip that I will share with you today. This single store-bought phenomenon has turned salad construction into a delight. Here's how it works:
- First, purchase a food-grade clear plastic box (with lid) that is large enough to hold the equivalent of at least 5 nights worth of salad greens. Obviously, it needs to be small enough to fit on a shelf in your refrigerator. My own purchase is a Rubbermaid model measuring 11-by 16-inches, and is only 6 inches tall.
- Purchase your salad greens. NOT the "Salad In A Bag" variety. We're talking genuine heads of lettuce, with all of the leaves still attached to the stem. I buy 6-pack bags of Romaine lettuce hearts from Costco.
- Prep your greens for the box by removing each and every leaf and rinsing them in cool water. Vigorously shake the leaves (but don't dry them) and arrange them in the box. I like to arrange them in two or three groupings, beginning with the darkest and least crunchy at one end and the crunchiest at the other. That way, when making my salad each night, I can easily monitor the balance of textures.
- That's it. You will be shocked at how dramatically this simple box will alter your attitude about throwing together the evening salad. No wrestling with grimy Romaine leaves at the last minute. No pawing through slimy butterleaf in a clinging plastic produce bag. The box keeps the collection of greens hydrated and crisp down to the last leaf. And the prep work has already been done.
- Okay, so what happens to all of the other salad ingredients you ask? Won't they continue to wreak havoc on one another in the vegetable bins? Nope. When I removed the lettuce element from that environment, all of the other vegetables suddenly behaved. Mainly because they were no longer fighting for space. But also, because it was suddenly easier to police the situation and nip any problems in the bud, so to speak.
JAN'S AMAZING VINAIGRETTE BASE
You know the biggest problem with homemade vinaigrettes? We store them in the refrigerator to keep all the herbs and garlic fresh, but when you go to use them - if you haven’t thought ahead and removed the vinaigrette from the fridge - the olive oil is thick and gunky until it gets up to room temperature. So...I’ve developed this amazing "salad helper." It’s a vinaigrette base made from red wine vinegar with gobs of minced garlic, lots of fresh-ground peppercorns, salt, and a pinch of sugar. Store THIS mixture in the refrigerator and keep the olive oil in the pantry at room temperature. Then...when you’re ready to toss the evening salad, just whisk together some of the zesty vinaigrette base with the desired amount of your room-temp olive oil and you’ve got a tossed-green in no time.
Makes 3 cups of Vinaigrette Base; enough to create at least 6 cups of vinaigrette. That’s a ratio of 1 part vinaigrette base to 1 part olive oil; some people prefer an oilier vinaigrette, in which case, your vinaigrette base will make considerably more vinaigrette.
3 cups red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic (6 large cloves)
1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon greshly ground black pepper
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl (preferably one with a pouring spout). Select a 3- to 4-cup capacity bottle or jar with a screw-top lid (consider using empty liquor or water bottles). Pour the prepared vinegar mixture through a funnel into the bottle and store in the refrigerator.
To prepare vinaigrette as needed, whisk together desired amounts of the vinegar base with good quality olive oil. You can either do this right in the salad bowl and toss with the salad ingredients, or you can whisk a small amount in a separate cup then drizzle over your salad before tossing.
Dijon Vinaigrette Alternative: To 1/2 cup of my Vinaigrette Base, whisk in 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a splash of soy sauce or Ponzu sauce before whisking in the olive oil.
The Stand-up Course will be in the Buchanan's hazelnut orchard.
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SAVE THE DATE! My Second Annual Tyee Harvest Dinner for Nuts.
Friday, July 13th.
Last year it was a celebration for my newly-relased cookbook, "Oregon Hazelnut Country - the food, the drink, the spirit." We were welcomed to the Buchanan Family Century Farm and Tyee Winery by Margy and Dave Buchanan and Tyee winemaker, Merrilee Buchanan Benson. The stand-up course took place in their hazelnut orchard. Then it was up to the barn for white linens, china, and a country feast of delights straight out of my book. (Note: Transportation from the orchard to the barn was provided - but many chose to take a lovely stroll.) The meal was prepared and served perfectly by our region's finest caterer, Valley Catering.
Naturally, all of Tyee's wines paired beautifully with the courses.
Well...We're doing it again! And seating is limited.
For details, including a look at the menu, and reservations, go to www.tyeewine.com
The Soup Course!
And it ends with a bonfire!
For more info, a peek at the menu, and reservations, go to www.tyeewine.com
"Above the Willamette"
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Thirty years of marriage and we're down to our last three original dinner plates. Beginning with twelve in 1981, by the turn of the century it was The Final Four. Then, last week, one more slipped from my grasp.
It's just the everyday stuff, of course, not the company china. So much less of a tragedy one would think. But as I stood there holding the crisply broken pieces back in place one last time before placing them in the trash, I realized what a lifetime of family experiences had been layered over the surface of this common pottery. For me, the memories were etched into the fragments as palpably as the delicate crackling in the glaze of my mother's favorite teapot that gives it such character. Or the fine lines emerging on my face.
It's the everyday experiences, conducted around those everyday dishes, that build up to make a life. The kind of below-the-radar accumulation that doesn't even seem precious until you're looking back and you realize that it underpins all the "significant" outcomes you thought were taking place around the good china.
As a cook, you might find comfort in these thoughts, not only in the context of family life, but also in that of environmental awareness. The foundation for stewardship of the land is not made up of legislation, but of countless gestures of small individual significance that build widespread understanding of our inescapable connection to and dependence upon this land.
Like this week's harvest of fresh, local produce. Just as surely as you gain a satisfying moment from the act of cooking with the seasons, you're transferring a tiny sense of wonder to all who come in contact with the process: the grandchild apprentice who will never forget the aroma of fresh-picked blackberries simmering in sugar, your college-bound son discovering the dish of apple cobbler you tucked into a corner of his trunk before he pulled out of the driveway, all the friends who sit at your table.
And so, every time you choose to step into the kitchen and wrestle a peck of Oregon berries (or peaches, or pears or tomatoes) into edible offerings, you've banked one more coin in the Oregon Trust. Which is why I say, to nourish these lands so that they will continue to inspire and sustain us is accomplished one unremarkable step at a time. Just as the layering on of routine experiences within a family ultimately defines that family, celebrating the season's bounty can be considered about as ordinary as your first set of dishes.
Fresh Dungeness crab is a great addition to Cioppino.
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WITH WINTER (finally!) pounding away at our psyches, I wanted to share my wonderful rendition of a fish and crab stew: cioppino. What makes it especially great for this month is that, even though we’ve just survived the holiday season, we still want to gather with friends and family. Without the fuss! Well, this the perfect offering. For one thing, the tomato-stew base can be made ahead and reheated at the gathering right before serving. Then it’s simply a matter of dropping in the various forms of fish and shellfish in proper order so that none gets over-cooked.
You’ll notice that the types of fish and shellfish are based on whatever you can find that’s fresh and fabulous in the fish market. Crab, for instance, is in season right now, so I always include it in my winter Cioppino.
There are as many renditions of this San Francisco classic as there are folks who’ve left their hearts there. Good friends Pam and Dan Bottom shared a version with me several years ago, and I was blown away by its simplicity and flavor. It’s become my signature stew. What makes it especially great is the fact that the tomato base can be prepared days ahead. Then, just before you’re ready to serve, you can heat it up and begin adding the fish and shellfish in the appropriate order so that everything turns out tender and cooked to perfection. Just make sure the ingredients are fresh! fresh! fresh! So know your fish guy.
One great way to keep the expense under control is to turn the dish into a potluck sort of affair. You make the spicy tomato base, then assign your guests one or two of the seafood selections. That way the cost of the evening’s meal is evenly shared by all who are going to enjoy it.
With the main course handled, all you have to figure out are the accompaniments: A fabulous salad, of course; plenty of good-quality artisan bread; and the right wine and craft beer..
Most of our fabulous Oregon reds absolutely sing alongside this hearty-yet-elegant dish. From southern Oregon’s smooth and fruity Syrahs to Willamette Valley’s Pinot Noirs, you can hardly go wrong with such pairings. For a craft beer, consider a lovely middle-of-the-road amber ale, which stands up next to the tomatoey base of the stew without overwhelming the fish.
CIOPPINO! - A WINTER FISH AND CRAB STEW
Makes about 8 generous servings of 2-1/4 cups each
Cooked Dungeness crab isn’t exactly requisite, but it is a classic ingredient and since it’s in season, please consider adding it to the mix! Another fun addition would be green-lipped mussels, also known as New Zealand Greenshell mussels. In Corvallis, they’re available frozen and on the half shell at Harry & Annette’s Fresh Fish (151 N.W. Monroe), and Market of Choice (922 N.W. Circle Blvd).
3/4 pound red snapper
3/4 pound halibut
1/2 pound scallops
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups chopped onion
4 fresh cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces salsa (any salsa will do, but I prefer Pace’s "medium" picante sauce)
5 cans( 14-1/2 oz each) diced tomatoes (see note below)
1-1/2 cups dry white wine, such as Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or an Oregon Chardonnay
2 teaspoons each, dried (or 1 tablespoon each fresh): basil, thyme, marjoram, and oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound steamer clams or green-lipped mussels
2 cups fresh peeled and deveined shrimp meat
1 to 2 whole cooked crab, depending on their size, or about 3 cups of firm, cooked Dungeness crab meat (see note)
Salt and additional pepper to taste
Cut the snapper and halibut into 1/2- to 1-inch chunks; set aside in refrigerator until needed.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot and saute the onions and garlic over medium-high heat until the onions are tender. Stir in the salsa, tomatoes, wine, herbs, black pepper, and parsley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened enough to have enough substance to coat a spoon. The stew base may be refrigerated at this point for several days (or even frozen for up to 4 or 5 months).
When ready to assemble the Cioppino. bring the tomato mixture to a boil, then add the fish chunks and simmer until just barely cooked through. Add the clams and cook just until the clams open (discard any clams that don’t open). Add the shrimp and crab and remove the pot from the burner; the shrimp and crab will heat through nicely and not become tough. Add salt and additional fresh ground black pepper to taste..
NOTE ON DICED TOMATOES: I use 1 can of diced tomatoes with jalapeno, and 4 cans of regular diced tomatoes. That little bit of jalapeno adds just enough zip. However, if you think you’ll be serving some very sensitive palates, just use 5 cans of regular diced tomatoes.
NOTE ON CRAB: Adding cooked crab meat is the less messy way to go, but the meat tends to disappear into the stew; whereas, if you simply break 1 (or 2 if they are small) whole cooked and cleaned crab(s) into its parts (legs, claws, and the halved or quartered body), folks can fish out a portion and break it open themselves for a real tastey treat.
ZESTY SLAW WITH CABBAGE, CELERY, CARROT, GREEN ONION AND EMMENTHAL CHEESE
Makes about 6-1/2 cups salad, enough for 8 to 10 side servings
Here’s a wonderful salad to serve alongside the Cioppino. It’s an easy make-ahead offering.
6 cups shredded green cabbage
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped green onion (all of the white and a portion of the green from 4 or 5 onions)
2 cups shredded Emmenthal or other fine-quality Swiss cheese
2 cloves finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, celery, carrot, and onion; toss to combine. Add the cheese and toss again.
Combine the garlic with the lemon juice, vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil then adjust seasonings, adding additional salt, pepper, lemon juice or vinegar to bring the dressing into balance - not too oily, not too zesty. Pour the dressing over the salad mixture, tossing well to completely coat the ingredients with the dressing. Chill well before serving. May be made several hours ahead.
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(Note from Jan: October is Alzheimer's Awareness Month, so I'm posting the following story in recognition of that...)
Perhaps only in a food writer's mind can a connection be made between a spin around the dance floor and a bushel of Gravenstein apples.
The wedding was held on a warm summer evening at a charming old farm, outside of Snohomish, Washington, just east of Seattle. Cloaked in the golden ambiance of a century-old barn glittering in candle light, this promised to be an elegant affair.
But what really drew me to the event was the opportunity to spend time with family and friends from my home base in California; particularly my godparents, Ralph and Louise. Since trips to the San Francisco Bay area are not as frequent as they should be, I wasn't going to let this time slip by.
At 87, Ralph has been dealing with alzheimer's for about 10 years. Growing up, I remember an innately bright and kind-hearted man who sat patiently through all of my middle- and high school drama productions. Even now, his disease hasn't rendered him less sweet or endearing to those around him. And he's so remarkably adept at masking his inability to recognize anyone but his wife of 55 years, that it's easy to carry on a conversation with him as if nothing has changed.
But it has, of course. After a delightful few minutes with Ralph, I've learned to steel myself for the moment when he'll turn to my godmother and ask, "Louise, who was that pretty little girl?"
This special couple represents that phase of my life when my folks were in charge and life was good. It was a fine childhood, particularly those times spent with Ralph and Louise, and the rest of my parents' tight circle of friends. Camping in Yosemite, ramming around California's gold country, San Francisco musicals, these were all grand adventures thanks to these genuinely fine adults who lived full lives that always included my brother and me.
And because Ralph was a great dancer, many of my images are of the various dance floors we encountered: a Victorian parlor at the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite, where a solo pianist played past midnight so we all could have a turn at waltzing with Ralph; a country inn near Fiddletown and another lone piano player trying to keep up with our crowd's exuberant style; and of course, every family wedding.
But I hadn't shared such occasions with Ralph in many years. So it simply hadn't occurred to me that he still sported dancing feet until Louise turned to him when the music started inside that barn near Snohomish and said, "Come on, Ralph. Let's dance."
Enjoying the sight of them, my mother and I watched Ralph and Louise drift elegantly around the floor through several melodies. Then, since I didn't know when - or even if - I'd ever get this chance again, I cut in on Louise. It was a fox-trot, and Ralph easily led me through the steps.
The energetic beat faded, but we lingered, waiting for the next tune.
It was Natalie and Nat King Cole, singing "Unforgettable." And the years between my youth and this moment merged. Suddenly I was that little girl at the country inn, peeking through the lace curtains on the porch along with my cousin Bonnie, as the adults waltzed gracefully around the room in the California Sierra foothills.
I looked over my godfather's left shoulder hoping he couldn't see the tears.
As Nat King Cole faded out, a familiar piece of the 40's brought everyone on the dance floor to attention. "Go girl go," laughed Ralph. And I did, holding on for dear life as we spun and dipped to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B."
And then, halfway through "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog," Ralph finally put up a hand. "Oh my, I've got to rest. You know, I'm not 86 anymore."
In search of fresh evening air and a glorious sunset, I found myself standing by a grizzled old apple tree. It must have been at least 75 years old, that tree. A basket of newly-picked apples stood off to the side. Who had planted this tree? Had they been around to watch it mature? Gauged the growth of their family against its sturdy trunk? Picniced beneath it's sheltering branches through decades of hot summer days?
How many pies were born from its countless harvests, I wondered? And for how many people would the mere scent of freshly-picked apples carry them back to this very spot on earth and make them smile?
When a family of settlers at Lord Hill Farm planted this tree, they were undoubtedly preparing for the future. As stewards of the land's ability to nurture our descendants, they couldn't possibly have known that it would be the kind of sustenance that was as good for the spirit as the body. Just as my parents and their circle of friends couldn't possibly have known that the seeds of love they planted in my youth would flourish and bloom as completely as they did.
And how was I to have known that a precious spin around the dance floor with Ralph could distill a lifetime of memories into something so vivid and sweet?
Gravensteins and dance floors.
From the music drifting out through the barn doors, I knew that Ralph was waltzing with Louise once again, and that he had inevitably asked, "Who was that pretty little girl?"
To which I will always say: A very lucky friend.
Open Face Apple Pie
An old recipe which still tastes great today. Serve warm or cold
1 9-inch deep-dish unbaked pie shell
4 to 5 tart green cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
Place sliced apples in the unbaked pie shell. Mix together sugar, flour and salt and sprinkle over apples.
In a saucepan, bring cream to the boiling point; pour over apples. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Bake in 375 degree F. oven for 45 minutes, or until apples are soft and the pie is firm.
Recipe from "Oregon Sampler: Resorts & Recipes," by The Assistance League of Corvallis.
"Berry Treasure" - one of Summer's special gifts, the Marionberry!
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If there's one time of year when it's darned near impossible to wreck a meal, it has to be summer. Summer, when the overwhelming array of colorful, flavorful produce assaults your lucky senses at every turn. Summer, when the trunk of your car after a trip to the farmers' market resembles the produce row at Pikes Place Market, but a day later you're kicking yourself for not picking up "just a few more berries and cukes." Summer, when the only mistake you can make in the kitchen is to underutilize or over-cook what nature has so generously provided. Summer, when the best thing you can do is very little, short of bringing a few exquisitely-flavored fruits and vegetables together on the same platter then standing back to let the co-mingling of flavors and textures work its magic on your lucky palate.
Indeed, this is the time of year when understatement is the best statement, and wowing a hungry crowd is as easy as grilling half a big ol' Walla Walla Sweet with a zesty glob of pesto on top.
So roast those peppers, boil that corn, steam those green beans, and toss a bounty of salad greens. It's that simple. It's that good.
- SIMPLE WAYS WITH SUMMER PRODUCE
- Freeze berries in a single layer on cookie sheets until hard, then store in the freezer in reclosable bags so you have them available for your morning smoothies.
- Make berry purees by blending in a food processor (press the puree through a fine sieve to remove seeds), sweeten to taste, and freeze in ice cube trays. Berry purees are great quick sauces under a slice of pound cake, over ice cream, or alongside cobblers and crisps (swirl in a bit of heavy cream for color and contrasting flavor.
- In the morning, thinly slice a couple cucumbers and marinate with a bit of red wine vinegar (with a splash of water), and chopped green onions.
- Summer Tomato Vinaigrette - a peeled and seeded tomato enriches any of your favorite oil and vinegar dressings - even the bottled varieties. Simply puree in a blender or food processor one medium-to-large sized tomato with about 1-1/2 cups of dressing.
- Pesto tossed with or spread on anything this time of year is fabulous: Spread on halved Walla Walla Sweet onions and broil; toss with freshly-cooked pasta; combine with chunks of grilled chicken breast for a quick salad or sandwich filling; Combine with shredded cheese, then spread on a split loaf of French bread and broil.
-Combine Walla Walla Sweet Onions with cooked and sliced new potatoes, thinly sliced celery, red bell pepper rings and a bit of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard that you've thinned with
some white wine vinegar.
- For a unique finger-salad, cut fresh summer corn into 3/4-inch long rounds then cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, then toss with a bit of your favorite vinaigrette and let stand until cool. Eat with fingers!
- Lightly steamed young green beans that have been chilled then napped in a bit of vinaigrette.
Caprial’s Seasonal Salad Greens with Garlic-Cabernet Dressing
Makes 6 servings
This is an easy salad dressing. It’s also good on grilled or steamed potatoes, tossed in a warm spinach salad, or drizzled over grilled tuna. It will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Cabernet vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 head garlic, roasted and squeezed out of papery skin (see note below)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
Baby greens, or assortment of fresh lettuces (such as butter and red leaf, and radicchio)
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 tomato, cut into chunks
1 bunch of radishes, sliced
1 Walla Walla Sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced
To prepare the dressing, place the chopped garlic, shallots, Dijon mustard, vinegar, roasted garlic and rosemary in a small bowl and whisk together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified and thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use (this dressing will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator).
To prepare the salad, place all of the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add some of the dressing and toss well to evenly coat the ingredients. Serve immediately.
Recipe from "Caprial’s Bistro-Style Cuisine," by Caprial Pence.
Three-Cheese Tart With Baby Greens Dressed in Pear Vinaigrette
The foundation for this savory tart is blue cheese. It’s truly an amazing balance of flavors. Make sure that you’ve got a ripened pear on hand for the vinaigrette
makes one 8-inch x 4-inch high cake (enough for 16 slender slices)
Parmesan crust (recipe follows)
1 pound good quality blue cheese, at room temperature
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pear Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Prepare Parmesan crust.
In mixing bowl combine the blue cheese and cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper and combine well. Scrape the mixture into the pan with the prepared Parmesan Crust, leaving about 1-inch of crust showing. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cake is golden brown and not loose in the center. Remove from heat to cool, then refrigerate up to 24 hours.
To serve, toss the baby greens with enough Pear Vinaigrette to generously coat the leaves. Arrange a serving of the greens on individual salad plates. Arrange a slice of the tart on top (or to the side), then garnish with toasted hazelnuts if desired and drizzle a few drops of the vinaigrette around the plate edge of each salad.
PARMESAN CRUST: You will need an 8- or 10-inch springform pan (if unavailable, use 2 8-inch pie pans and freeze one of the crusts for later). Combine 2 cups flour, 1-1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to mix. Add 1/3 cup chilled Crisco shortening, and 1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter (cut into 16 pieces), and pulse several more times until the shortening and butter are cut into the dough and the dough resembles coars cornmeal. Drizzle in 8 tablespoons chilled water (have a total of 10 tablespoons chilled water available in case you need to add more), pulsing constantly so that the water gets evenly mixed through the dough to form a firm mass (there may be a few dry spots, which you can gather up when you remove the dough from the workbowl). Add additional water if needed to form a dough that isn't too moist.
Remove the dough to a floured surface and gather/roll it into a ball; wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 15 to 30 minutes (the dough can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 6 months)
Let the dough come to just above room temperature (so that it's easy to roll out). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out into a circle wide enough to cover the bottom and reach about half or two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. You can "press and patch" the dough where necessary - the dough is very forgiving. Refrigerate the crust or proceed with recipe.
Makes 2 generous cups
2 (at least 4 ounce) firm-ripe pears, peeled and coarsely cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshkly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon green onion
1 cup vegetable oil (a mixture such as 1/2 cup each of extra-virgin olive oil and canola)
Combine the pear, vinegar, shallots, sugar, rosemary and black pepper in a skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the pears are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the mustard, soy sauce, salt and green onions and puree. Scrape the mixture into a container, then whisk in the oils. Vinaigrette may be prepared up to 1 week ahead and refrigerated.
Sweet Onion and Tomato Salad
As soon as the season's fresh, young plants of basil are beginning to yield an adequate supply of flavorful leaves, it's time to make the pesto. Once you've accomplished this, the following salad can be assembled at a moment's notice ... using only the freshest of Summer tomatoes, of course, and the freshest and crunchiest of sweet onions.
1 pound (about 1 large or 2 medium-sized) fresh Walla Walla sweet onions
Pesto Dressing (recipe follows)
1 large (about 3/4 pound) firm-ripe tomato, cored and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
Fresh basil sprigs for garnish, if desired
Salt and pepper
Cut the onions crosswise into thin slices and separate rings into a bowl. Pour the dressing over the onions and gently mix. On 3 or 4 dinner or salad plates, arrange equal portions of the tomato. Top with equal portions of the onions and dressing. Garnish with basil sprigs, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yields 4 servings.
Pesto Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons pesto (either homemade or commercially prepared).
Salad of Walla Walla Sweet Onions and Cucumbers with Sour cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large Walla Walla Sweet onion, peeled, halved lengthwise through the root end, then thinly sliced into half-rings
1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. In a salad bowl, combine the onion and cucumber with the sour cream dressing. Toss well, then refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving (may be made up to 3 days ahead). Yields 4 servings.
James Beard’s Blueberry Cake
Makes one 8-inch square cake (8 servings)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/3 cups blueberries
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Slightly sweetened freshly whipped cream (optional: whisk in a splash of sherry or rum)
Additional blueberries for garnish
In a mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is very light. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Beat in the buttermilk.
Remove 1/4 cup of the sifted flour from the 2 cups of sifted flour and mix the 1/4 cup with the blueberries; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1-3/4 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Fold in the vanilla and floured blueberries. Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 8-inch square baking tin. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 34 to 45 minutes, or until the cake is nicely browned, or when a tester comes out clean.
To serve, stir hazelnuts into the slightly sweetened whipped cream (this can be done ahead). Place each serving of cake on a dessert plate. Top with the whipped cream-hazelnut mixture and garnish with berries.
Recipe adapted from "Wildwood, Cooking From The Source in the Pacific Northwest," By Cory Schreiber.
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I was hanging with the North American Barley Researchers Workshop participants this week at Oregon State University. Here are my recipes used in the Tuesday night banquet that I promised I would share. Bon Appetit! And Happy Trails to you all!
Bruschetta with Tomato, Bacon, Arugula, Hazelnut and Oregon Blue Topping
Paired with Rogue Ale’s Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale, and Tyee Winery 2008 Barrel Select Pinot Noir.
Makes 8 generous appetizers
8 (1/2-inch thick) slices good-quality crusty Italian-style bread
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
3 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, chopped and drained
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (see note below)
3 slices bacon, fried, drained, minced
1/4 cup fresh arugula, finely chopped
1/3 cup crushed roasted and skinned hazelnuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1/2 cup crumbled Rogue’s Oregon Blue
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (or balsamic vinegar reduction; see note below)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grill or toast the bread until nicely browned one both side. Rub with the cut garlic.
About 10 minutes before serving, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, bacon, arugula, and hazelnuts in a small bowl. Toss gently and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
To serve: Spoon the mixture onto the grilled bread. Top each serving with a portion of the Gorgonzola, and then drizzle a bit of the balsamic vinegar. Place the slices onto a hot grill (or into a hot oven) and cook just until the blue cheese begins to melt and the bottom of the bread begins to toast. Serve immediately.
Note on balsamic vinegar reduction: To turn an average balsamic vinegar into a very rich and flavorful one, pour 2 cups of balsamic vinegar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion, 1 coarsely chopped clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and about 10 or 12 peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until the mixture has reduced down to about 1/2 to 1/3 cup and is thickened and somewhat syrupy. Let the mixture cool and then strain through a fine sieve (be sure and press the onions and garlic with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out all of the juicy balsamic vinegar). Store the reduction in a tightly closed jar. It will keep for months and months in the refrigerator! Use it to drizzle over tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, or to jazz up a vegetable saute or to drizzle over roasting vegetables. Deelish!
Beverage thoughts: Sure, there are a lot of flavors going on in this one little preparation, but they’re all headed down the same road by my estimation, which is a big and fruity southern Oregon Syrah. I’ve enjoyed numerous ones, including a luscious offering from Del Rio Vineyards, as well as Pheasant Court’s Rogue Valley Syrah, Spindrift Cellar’s Syrah, and Belle Vallee’s Rogue Valley Syrah.
In the beer world, you can’t go wrong with an amber ale that’s won 14 gold medals since its introduction in 1989. And that’s Full Sail’s Original Amber Ale, which brings a sweet, malty, medium-bodied experience to the table, along with a slightly spicy-floraly-hoppy finish. All of that stands up nicely to the blue cheese, tomato, bacon, hazelnut and arugula in this dish.
Barley Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Smokey Bacon
Makes5 cups, enough for about 6 to 8 servings (3/4 cup each)
4 ounces smoked bacon, thin sliced and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups pearled barley
1/3 cup dry white wine (such as Pinot gris or Pinot blanc)
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dried porcini mushroom pieces (see note)
3 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesanio Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garnishes: chopped parsley?
In large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute the bacon over medium heat until richly browned. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and reserve for later.
Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Add the butter and the onions to the pan and saute over medium heat until the onions have softened and turned slightly golden.
Stir in the barley, wine, broth, and prepared mushrooms. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley has absorbed most of the liquid and is very tender. It should have a creamy character, but not "soupy," and definitely not overly dry. Just like risotto!
When ready to serve, stir in the Parmesan, along with the reserved bacon pieces.
NOTE: I don’t reconstitute the dried mushrooms, but I do chop them before adding to the pot. I use a food processor and just run the motor in quick bursts so most of the pieces are about 1/4- to 1/2-inch in dimension...some can be smaller. But you want to avoid very large pieces so that the mushroom flavor is evenly distributed.,
Smokey Short Ribs Braised in Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar Ale and Gingered Mirepoix with Balsamic Reduction
Paired with Rogue Ale’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar Ale and Spindrift Cellars 2008 Syrah.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
In classic French cooking, a mirepoix is a trio of finely chopped vegetables: onion, carrot, and celery. In this recipe, the addition of garlic and fresh ginger root bring an even richer and more complex depth of flavor to the finished sauce.
Because short ribs are very fatty, I strongly suggest making this dish one day ahead to allow the fat time to settle at the top of the sauce for easy removal.
4 pounds meaty beef short ribs, bone in
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced (see note)
1 cup of chopped celery (see note)
1 cup of coarsely chopped carrot, (see note)
2 tablespoons peeled and coarsely chopped fresh ginger (see note)
4 to 6 cloves garlic peeled and minced (see note)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup Hazelnut Brown Nectar ale (Rogue ale)
1/4 cup black bean garlic sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 to 3 cups beef broth
Additional Hazelnut Brown Nectar as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 330 degrees F.
Brown the short ribs in the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Turn each rib to brown on all sides. Remove the browned ribs and place them in a roasting pan. Add the finely minced (as described below in "note") onion, celery, carrot, ginger, and garlic, and continue cooking until the onion and garlic has softened.. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the balsamic vinegar and continue cooking to reduce the vinegar by half. Add the 1 cup of Hazelnut Brown Nectar ale, black bean sauce, soy sauce, and enough beef broth to make a generous amount of braising liquid (enough liquid to almost cover the ribs. Stir to combine the ingredients.
Pour the sauce over the ribs, cover and roast for 2 to 3 hours, or until the ribs are very tender. Add additional Hazelnut Brown Nectar as needed.
Adjust seasonings, adding pepper and salt as needed.
NOTE: Mince all of the vegetables finely by cutting them into chunks, then mincing together in a food processor by using the on-off or "pulse" button.
Easter in Yosemite!
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It's a marvel really, that those short little side paths we wander down on our journey through life so often lead to the great adventures that practically define our future. But time and again, I've found that those unremarkable excursions prove to be more significant than first imagined.
Every spring, with the great sense of renewal and hope that comes with it, I'm reminded of that. And then my mind inevitably wanders back to an Easter vacation I took with my family many years ago. It was our annual week of camping in Yosemite National Park. But unlike the carefree trips of earlier years, my heart was heavy with all the uncertainties and woes of a college senior.
Most of all, I was dreading an upcoming organic chemistry final, but there were also the more broad concerns: Who was I really, and what the heck was I going to do with my life?
So, Easter morning found me down by the river, aimlessly skipping rocks into the lazy current and brooding over the unknowns in my future. At that moment I still remember how desperately I wished that I didn't have to leave this inspirational high country retreat which I had loved since childhood. We had just returned to our campsight from a Easter sunrise service and were supposed to be getting spiffed up for brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel. My older brother tracked me down, and immediately sensed my mood. Instead of harassing me or telling me it was my turn at the wash basin, he planted himself on a nearby boulder and took up my rock-tossing activity.
"What's bugging you, Janet?" he asked gently as we watched our stones make three synchronized hops before disappearing beneath the river's surface.
When I told him a few of my concerns, and just how strongly I dreaded leaving the park the next day and getting back to real life, Don's response caught me completely off guard. He was, after all, one of the most stable and practical individuals I knew. With single minded determination, he had gone from college to law school and marriage, and was about to make partner in a prestigious San Francisco law firm.
"You know," he said, "summer's coming. When we go over to The Ahwahnee today, why don't you stop off at the front desk and ask the manager if there's a chance they'll be looking for help?"
It was too simple and direct of a thought to be considered life altering. And yet, my brother's suggestion turned out to be just that. I did go to work at The Ahwahnee after graduation. But what was to be one summer turned into two glorious years of work and play.
When I eventually left, I returned to the Bay Area and began my official career as a food stylist and recipe developer in a San Francisco test kitchen. But the experiences and friendships I had acquired during those Yosemite years have continued to nourish my soul to this very day. I have a deeper understanding of people after meeting and greeting the thousands of visitors I was paid to interact with. And I know, without a doubt, some of my best food stories I eventually came to write began at 10,000 feet above sea-level on the trails between Tuolomne Meadows and Yosemite Valley.
My life without Yosemite? I can't even conceive of such a sadness. Yet, if one intuitive brother hadn't taken the time to listen to his sister, none of it would have been. And so, every Easter I give thanks. For a good brother, and for all the little moments in our lives that are so much more.
The Ahwahnee Bran Muffin
At the Ahwahnee Hotel’s Easter brunch that year, I fell in love with a wonderful little bran muffin that was a part of their fabulous pastry tray. Once I was working there, I got to know the chef and eventually convinced him to share the recipe. I’d like to share it with you now.
These muffins are very tender in texture, with a fabulous flavor. But they don’t develop the full rounded top that you may associate with muffins, so don’t be concerned with that particular aspect of their character.
1-3/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup baker’s bran (see note below)
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Then, in order to make sure the baking soda is evenly distributed through the flour, sift the mixture again. Stir in the bran and set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer if possible, cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the honey and vanilla, then the buttermilk.
Add the flour mixture all at once to the buttermilk mixture, blend well, then continue beating for one full minute on medium or high. This step is different from most muffin recipes, but it’s important to continue beating for this full minute, because the cake flour - which is very low in gluten (as opposed to all-purpose flour) - needs to be agitated enough for the gluten to develop. The gluten is what helps the muffins attain good volume during baking.
Fill lightly greased muffin tins no more than half full and bake in a 400 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes; until cake tester comes out clean when a muffin is probed. Makes 24 muffins (using 3-inch muffin tins). If you have a set of mini-muffin tins, they can be used, but the baking time must be decreased accordingly.
NOTE ON BAKER’S BRAN: This is an unprocessed bran product, also known as "wheat bran." In the Pacific Northwest, yoiu’ll find a brand called Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Bran. Do not use any of the breakfast cereal products, they’re a different style of bran.