Search This Blog

Showing posts with label fresh fruit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fresh 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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Figs Tart Up

A chance encounter with a discounted flat of perfectly ripe figs led to a day of baking in pursuit of a great tasting fig tart for a recipe I wanted to contribute to Zesterdaily.  
Although it might look complicated, because there are a number of elements (tart dough, custard, roasted almonds, fig confit), each can be made several days ahead.  On the day you want to serve the tart, you'll only spend a few minutes putting everything together.  The tart goes in the oven while you're having drinks with your friends.  Easy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summertime Fun: U-Pick Blueberries on the 101

For most people, summer means vacation time and, more than likely at least one road trip. We started early this year and took a trip up the coast for a long weekend.

Driving from Los Angeles to Northern California, we usually take the 5.  A boring drive, the 5 is all about getting up the coast as quickly as possible.

This trip we decided to take the 101. A bit slower, but a lot more scenic with the opportunity to interact with the communities along the way.

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 deliberation. 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.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Vegetarian Feast

Tomorrow my wife Michelle comes home after being on the road for three weeks. Working out of town, she hasn't had very many sit-down meals. When she gets home I figured she would appreciate a home cooked meal.

Since she prefers vegetarian dishes, I wanted her to have something simple like soup, a salad (maybe a carrot, spinach, or arugula salad), and a dish of poached fruit. A flavorful, healthy meal would get her back on track after so many days eating on the go.

Vegetarian Tomato Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

6 celery stalks, including the leaves, washed, finely chopped
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled (save the peels), finely chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
1 bunch beet greens and stems, washed, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, washed, peeled, stem and top removed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 large farmers' market fresh tomato, washed, stem removed, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
10 cups water

Method

The best vegetables are available at farmers' markets. The beet greens and stalks add a rich sweetness but if you aren't going to buy beets, ask any of the farmers if they'll give you the stalks that people don't want. More often than not, they'll give you a big bunch for free.

Put the chopped tomato on a cutting board or in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Let the tomato marinate while you make the vegetable stock.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot. Add all the celery leaves and half the stalks. Saute until lightly browned, then add the carrot peelings and half the carrots, all the parsley stems, half the beet greens and stems, half the onion, and half the chopped garlic. Stir frequently until lightly browned. Add 8 cups of water. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables. Reserve the liquid.

In the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the remaining vegetables and lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Add the marinated tomato, the remaining 2 cups of water, and the vegetable stock.

Simmer 30 minutes, taste, adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper, and serve.

Variations

Add 1 teaspoon cumin when you're making the stock.

Use cilantro instead of parsley.

Use kale instead of the beet greens.

Top with toasted croutons and grated Parmesan cheese.

Just before serving, add 1/4 cup cooked brown rice for each bowl.

Honey Poached Apples and Pears with Vanilla, Raisins, Cinnamon, and Black Peppercorns

Yield: serves 4-6
Time: 20 minutes

The peppercorns add a bit of heat. Personally, I enjoy eating the candied peppercorns, but they're too spicy for most people.

Ingredients

3 ripe pears, Bartlet or Anjou, washed, peeled, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces
3 ripe apples, Fuji or Granny Smith, washed, peeled, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces
20 black peppercorns
2 sticks cinnamon
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic raisins
2 cups water

Method

Put the water, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, raisins, and peppercorns into a medium-sized saucepan and simmer.

Cook the apples and pears separately. Add the pears to the poaching liquid and simmer 5 minutes. Carefully remove the pears and place into a jar or bowl. Add the apples and poach for 5 minutes. Remove and place into a separate jar or bowl.

Reduce the poaching liquid until only 1 cup remains. Divide the thickened sauce between the apples and pears.

The apples and pears will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Serve either at room temperature or reheated. The fruit is delicious by itself but also good as a topping for pound cake, yogurt, cottage cheese, or ice cream.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Summertime Breakfast

When it's cold, a hot meal, with a generous portion of protein and carbos is the perfect breakfast to get me going in the morning. Fried eggs, hash browns, toast with butter and jam, a couple of slices of bacon, and a cup of coffee. Pancakes with sausages, scrambled eggs, and lots of hot maple syrup is good too. Or, an omelet with cheddar cheese, sautéed chicken livers, caramelized onions and mushrooms. They're all delicious.

But once again in LA the temperature is pushing into the 90s. When that happens, my "perfect" cold weather breakfast leaves me feeling sluggish.

With the heat, I need to switch gears and have something lighter in the morning: a toasted bagel, a croissant, a bowl of cereal, granola with fruit, yogurt, a fresh fruit salad, or as our older son Frank prefers, a fruit smoothie with protein powder. There are plenty of choices.

I want to recommend my new favorite warm-weather breakfast. It may sounds austere but it has so many flavors and textures, it's a great way to start the day. Please write in with your favorite breakfast so we can compare notes.

Apple, Bacon, and Cheese Breakfast

1 large Fuji apple, peeled, cored (preferably farmers market fresh)
4 slices of bacon, crisp
4 ounces of cheese

My son Michael prefers his apples unpeeled. I agree that there are valuable vitamins and minerals in the skin. In this, Michael and my mom had the same opinion, but I prefer the clean taste of a peeled apple. The bacon needs to be very crisp and well-drained. For a semi-soft cheese, I like Jarlsberg, Irish cheddar, or Comte. If you prefer a soft cheese like Brie, Saint André, or chèvre, you can spread the cheese on the apple or a piece of toast. Proscuitto is a good alternative for the bacon.

Serves 1. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

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.