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Showing posts with label Fruit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fruit. Show all posts

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Grab a Bucket! Blueberries are in Season Again

We just received an email from Santa Barbara Blueberries, a farm a few miles north of Santa Barbara on I-5. The farm will open their doors (gates?) to u-pickers on May 28th. If you sign up on the web site, you can come a week earlier on May 21st. 

On a trip up north last year, we discovered what locals have known for years: stopping to pick your own blueberries is one of the best features of the area.

When I was growing up, my mom’s favorite thing to do when we hit the road was to stop at the roadside stands and buy fruit and vegetables from the local farmers.  What she dearly loved was when we could actually stop at the farm and do the picking ourselves.

One of her favorite places to visit was Cherry Valley, east of Los Angeles, where she would find an orchard that would let us kids climb up the ladders, buckets in hand, and pick and eat as many cherries as we could handle.



Heading up north I remembered those experiences when I saw the signs for Restoration Oaks Ranch's Santa Barbara Blueberry Farm, with its U-Pick option.

Thirty minutes north of Santa Barbara and three miles south of Buellton (home of Anderson's Pea Soup), from May to early August, keep a lookout on the east side of the highway.  There are signs on both sides of the highway but the turn off comes quickly, so be alert, especially on the southbound side where the exit is from the left lane.

Protected from birds by a high wall of netting, the farm grows several varieties of blueberries: Bluecrisp, Emerald, Jewel, Star, Misty, and Sharpblue.  The plants grow in long rows, stretching from the highway back into the hills.

Blueberries grow on low bushes, the fruit gathering in tight clusters on the branch ends.

Walking up and down the rows we passed couples feeding each other berries as if they were on a romantic date.  Then there were the families with kids, who rushed from plant to plant, picking and eating berries, yelling out, "I found the best ones."

For our part, my wife and I approached the task with determination. Mostly that meant picking berry by berry, but when we found a perfectly formed cluster, a quick sweep of the branch yielded a handful of berries that clattered satisfyingly into the bucket.

Harvesting blueberries is sweet work. You pick a few and eat a lot as you walk down the rows. We enjoyed them all the more knowing blueberries are healthy and nutritious.

The best berries are plump, firm, and colored a dark shade of blue. Ripe berries are on the top of the plant but also down below, so it's worth the effort to crouch down and check the lower branches.

In addition to all those nice plump, ripe berries, you'll also see ones that are slightly wrinkled.  We had a difference of opinion about those.

My wife didn't care for them, but I did because they have a thick, jammy taste, reminding me of homemade blueberry pie. Because my wife didn't want any wrinkled berries in our bucket, I ate them as I picked.

My wife wandered off in one direction.  I, in another. We walked up and down the rows, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the easy quiet of the rolling hills surrounding the farm.

Walking down the rows, I couldn't get over that there were so many berries!  How could I pass by ripe, perfectly formed blueberries, sweet and luscious and not pick every one in sight?

With a quick grab, I could fill my mouth with great tasting blueberries.  So delicious, so available.

With blueberry stained fingers, I placed yet another handful of berries in my mouth when my wife called out to me.  Actually she called several times before I heard her.  "David," she said, "Come on, you've had enough."

I nodded in agreement but managed to run my hand along another branch and enjoyed a last mouthful of berries before I re-joined her. With our buckets filled, we walked hand-in-hand down the dirt road, stopping at the outdoor sink to wash the blueberry stains off our hands, and then to the shack where we paid for our blueberries.

In 30 minutes my wife and I had filled our buckets.  At $15.00 a bucket (about 2 quarts), the blueberries are a bargain, considering that at farmers' markets small containers cost $3.00-4.00.

At our friends' house that night, we proudly served the berries as the crowning topping to a pineapple-strawberry fruit salad.  The combination was perfection.  Each fruit had a different tartness and sweetness.  Their flavors melded beautifully.

With a large bowl in the refrigerator, everyone in the house made frequent stops to grab a handful.  In no time at all, we had eaten all the blueberries.

With a short growing season and given that it was unlikely we would drive up 101 anytime soon, when we headed back to LA, we left early so we could stop at the blueberry ranch and pick another bucket.

Back home I remembered all those ears of corn, peaches, and cherries, I used to pick with my mom and sister and I was very happy to have a bucket of blueberries in the refrigerator.  What a great way to start the week with a breakfast of fresh blueberries, yogurt, and cereal.

We also decided that blueberries and chocolate would go well together. I added 2 cups of blueberries to a Banana Chocolate-Chip Walnut cake recipe, a favorite of my wife. The combination, indeed, is delicious.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cocktails Perfect for the End of the Week: Passion Fruit, Lime or Orange, & White Rum

Just when you thought you'd never get a break, the week is finally over. It's Friday night and you can stop thinking about work, school, and those never-ending errands.

The truth is, if you don't recharge on the weekend, you're toast next week. You'll be in a bad mood. You won't look forward to work, school, or those never-ending errands.

So you owe it to your good humor, your health, productivity and the betterment of all your relationships to kick back and take it easy.

A cool refreshing drink is a great way to slow down and smell the roses, or, in this case, the fresh fruit.

These drinks are all about the quality of the fruit. The limes, oranges, and passion fruit need to be fresh and juicy. The rum must be white. The sugar powdered.

Besides that, you'll need a couple of ice cubes and a muddler or a spoon. Now you're set to entertain yourself or share the good times with friends.

Passion Fruit, Lime or Orange & White Rum

Pick either lime or orange, the choice is yours.

Yield: 1 serving

Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1/4 cup finely chopped lime or orange, with juice
1 teaspoon passion fruit pulp including seeds
1/4 cup white rum
1 heaping tablespoon powdered sugar
4 ice cubes

Method

Crush the lime or orange in a glass with a wooden muddler or the back of a spoon, add the passion fruit, rum and sugar. Stir to mix well.

Add the ice cubes and serve with a small spoon, the better to sip and stir and sip some more.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Caipirinhas, the New Mojito






The national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha, has 4 ingredients: cachaça, sugar, limes, and ice. Simple, delicious, and strong. Cachaça is harsher than rum but more flavorful than vodka.

Off and on for three years our older son, Frank, lived in Brazil. We visited him in Rio where he introduced us to the pleasures of sitting on the Leblon beach, enjoying the incredible view and feasting on "appetizers" sold by vendors who walk up and down the beach.

The variety of delicious treats carried by vendors is amazing. Grilled chicken, saladinhos ("little salty snacks"), cheeses melted on a small brazier, shrimp on skewers, ice cold agua de coco from a freshly opened coconut, and a variety of fruit beyond belief. After you've eaten enough or want a break from watching the parade of beautifully tanned and under-dressed Cariocas (what the natives of Rio are called), a short walk to any of the restaurants and bars that line the beach and a caipirinha is waiting for you.

Because Brazil has such a bounty of tropical fruits, it was only a matter of time before the caipirinha enjoyed the addition of other flavors. Frank had learned to make variations. Going to a nearby farmers' market, we picked out different fruit to add to the basic ingredients.

Back at his apartment we spent the afternoon working our way through many combinations. What we liked best was adding kiwi fruit and pomegranate seeds, then we experimented with the proportions.

When it was time to leave Rio, we packed our suitcase with as many bottles of cachaça as we could legally bring home.

2 ounces cachaça
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/2 lime, cut into 8 pieces, mashed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 kiwi, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
ice, cubed or crushed

Pour the cachaça in a 12 ounce glass, add the sugar and stir well. Pour in the lime, kiwi, and pomegranate seeds. Mix and fill the glass with crushed ice. Serve with an espresso spoon so you can eat the kiwi and pomegranate seeds while you sip your caipirinha.

Serves 1.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Banana Cake with Nuts and Chocolate

This recipe answers the question: what do I do with all those over-ripe bananas?

Our teenaged son has a very healthy diet. He eats whole wheat pasta, nuts, grains, lean cuts of meat, fresh fruit, and a lot of bananas. There always seem to be a few that get over-ripe before he's ready to eat them.

He also likes egg white scrambles, so there are usually extra egg yolks for me to use. I hate wasting food, so the bananas and egg yolks become Banana Cake.

Banana Cake with Nuts and Chocolate Chips

Time: 90 minutes

Serves: 10-12

Indgredients

2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tablespoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cup white sugar
2 eggs + 2 yolks
5 ripe, mashed bananas
¼ teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup cream or ½ and ½
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped roasted almonds or walnuts
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of (2) 9”x4” baking pans. Put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

In a mixer combine the sugar and eggs and wisk until creamy. Add the softened butter and mix well. Then the mashed bananas, baking soda, vanilla, sea salt, cayenne, and cream. Slowly add the flour and stir until well-combined. Blend in the chopped nuts and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the baking pans, stopping 1 ½” from the top, so the cake has room to rise while it’s cooking. Bake for 60-70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave in the pan for 10 minutes, because the cakes could fall apart if you take them out of the pan when they’re still very hot.

Carefully turn them out of the pans and let cool on a wire rack, about 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.