Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last Days of Summer

As the last days of summer slip by I am inspired to grab onto each moment, to relish them with all my might. I think it was the crickets singing in the yard recently, mixed with the beginning blushes of color on the sweet gum tree, that brought home to me the coming transition of summer to fall. Suddenly there was an urgency to make sure I didn't miss any opportunity for summertime pleasure. I had to make a point to get to a lake and enjoy a cool afternoon swim on a hot day. I've got plans to fit in at least one camping trip where it's not likely to rain. I must make sure that I plan as many outdoor evening meals as I can, complete with glasses of crisp cold Rose'.

Soon I'll be seeking out the best wild blackberry patches to fill as many containers as I can, including the one known as my tummy. Blackberry pies are in the near future and if I can keep from eating every last one of those juicy black morsels maybe, just maybe I'll put some in the freezer for some future cold rainy day when the scent of blackberry pie baking in the oven will be the only thing to truly warm me up.

In the mean time, a late summer rain is coming down outside providing the perfect opportunity to spend the day baking with the summer abundance of zucchini I seem to have recently acquired. My husband has the hardest time turning down homeless food, including zucchini - he's a friend to gardeners, if there ever was one!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Green Bean Season

The last couple weeks of CSA shares from Kirsop Farm has included big bags of beautiful beans. This is one of my favorite veggies and one of the first that I learned to only eat in season. Off season grocery store beans tend to be rubbery, pithy and tasteless. Compare that to the crisp flavorful local in season bean and there is just no competition.

Green beans were always a garden staple for my family. We would grow long rows of pole beans and I would be sent out to pick them. This was in part because my mother's favorite variety, the Blue Lake, tended to have a greater concentration of irritating hairs all over the leaves which would make her break out into a rash - more so than it did me. That and I think it was just her motherly prerogative. (I've now grown into the full blown rash, but wasn't smart enough to produce children to pick the beans for me!) People who have never grown beans or picked there own may not realize how much work it is when done by hand, the way it most often is on small local farms. I always stuck to pole beans because I at least could spend a little less time bending over. Bush beans for me equal one nasty back ache. They do have the benefit of tending to ripen all at once or at least closer together than most pole beans, however. Each person will have there own preference and many types of beans are available in both growth habits.

My mom often canned and froze excess beans to be used in the off-season. Again, home canned green beans are nothing like their commercial counterpart, for that matter neither are the frozen ones. The difference often comes from the freshness of the beans when they are processed. My all time favorite processing of beans is Dilly Beans. My mouth begins to water even thinking of this deliciously tangy and often spicy pantry staple. When I get around to making mine this year I'll share the recipe. For now I'll share a newer way that I've been preparing my steady supply of beans. It all started when I picked up a jar of Garden of Life organic extra virgin coconut oil. This is coconut oil that still has the light flavor of coconut to it, and for this recipe that is important so make sure you are using a similar coconut oil.

Green Beans with Coconut Oil and Garlic

1 pound green beans
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt to taste

Use a wok or large skillet to heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and stir for a minute or so. Add the beans and stir often till their color is extra bright green and they are cooked but still very crisp. Transfer to a serving dish and season with sea salt.

Serves 2-4. I could honestly eat them all myself, but I play nice and share.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Celebrate Washington Farmers Market Week

Governor Chris Gregoire along with Washington State Department of Agriculture and Washington State Farmers Market Association recently proclaimed August 3rd-9th as Washington Farmers Market Week. In celebration they have issued a set of "Shopper Challenges" where you can enter to win a bag of local goodies from your own Farmers Market. To find out more about the proclamation and how to participate in the challenges visit: http://www.wafarmersmarkets.com/washingtonfarmersmarketweek.html.
Olympia's Farmers Market is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10am-3pm.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Say Swiss Cheese

It was a beautiful August evening and my husband and I were out enjoying downtown Olympia's First Friday, where participating downtown businesses stay open later often having special events, speakers, and in this case local artisan cheese. We met Sharon and Kim McCool, the mother and daughter-in-law team of Rosecrest Farm at einmaleins where they had set up a table spread with two kinds of Swiss cheese, and samples. Samples always do the trick for me. I tried the 4 month old Regular Swiss first and my mouth exploded with the bright tang of a well aged cheese. I knew immediately this would be a cheese that could substitute the artisan Parmesans that travel so far to get to my table. I had been looking for a local alternative, and happily have found just that. The second cheese, a 3 month Mutschli Swiss, had classic Swiss cheese flavor, the kind you want when you crave a favorite comfort food. It said tuna melts and ham and cheese sandwiches. I bought a little of each, eager to take them home and start cooking. Rosecrest Farm has been a dairy for over 20 years and certified organic since January of 2007, when they started selling their milk as part of the Organic Valley Cooperative. It's a small family run business where the men work with around 130 Short Horn cows, milking twice a day, while also tending the dry cows and the calves being raised as the next generation of milk producers. The women are now making the cheese. This venture began in March of 2008, after they purchased the equipment and recipes from an 82 year old German man from Oregon who was ready to retire. They chose Swiss cheese for several reasons one being that as far as they knew, no one else locally was making it, and, well, they just like Swiss cheese. It's always good to produce something you yourself enyoy. Rosecrest Farm currently has 4 varieties available for sale. Starting in September they plan to have several flavored cheeses as well. You can order your cheese directly from them by calling the farm and they will ship it to you. If you wish to send it as a gift they'll even put in a hand-written card with your personal message. They ask you to remember that they are a small farm so they may not have all cheeses available at all times and if you are ordering for the holidays please get your order to them at least 3 months in advance - that's not to long from now. You can reach Rosecrest Farm at (360) 740-8988. A website is coming soon and will be found at: http://www.rosecrestfarm.org/.

Cesar Salad with Rosecrest 4 month Regular Swiss
1 large head of Romaine lettuce, torn 1 cup
croutons, home-made preferably
1/3 cup grated Rosecrest 4 month Regular Swiss cheese
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 T mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Blend the anchovy paste, minced garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and olive oil till smooth. Toss with the lettuce, croutons and cheese. Serve with fresh ground pepper at the table.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Treasure Hunt

I spotted the first one sitting slightly buried among the green beans. The next was almost completely covered by the same beans. That was all I saw at first. When I began to ask for them, the woman helping me at Rising River's stand pointed out a third over a ways sitting on some other vegetables. I don't recall what they were, my eyes were just for that third small spikey orb. Then she looked around and found two more, the last of them, we thought. But, surely three would be ok, I didn't want to be greedy, especially since I'm more fond of them than my husband. But when she weighed the first three, I couldn't hold back. I was going to take every last beautiful one. The first fruits of the season - all mine! I walked away so happy. My basket held five small wonders of the thistle family - yes, like Eeyore, tonight I will feast on thistles, otherwise known as artichokes!
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