Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mixed Baby Greens Salad with Fresh Blueberries and Grilled Stone Fruits {Drizzled with a Honey-Mint-Lime Vinaigrette}

I've always felt incredibly lucky to have grown up and lived on the west coast... for most of my life. Extreme winters and humid summers just aren't for me.

Until I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I never owned a proper coat. As a child in Southern California, I rode my bicycle nearly every Christmas day, sometimes with my newest sweater or sweatshirt on... sweating profusely, but happy. And now that I do experience, more or less, proper seasons... far more distinct than as a child... I have grown to love the changes... never too drastic to uproot the soul. And... always fruitful.

This is something I definitely took for granted until I lived elsewhere over the years. Fruit wasn't always fruitful. During these periods in my life, if the weather didn't try to get you down, the lack of fresh fruit did.

Good fruit, however, is available quite readily in the Pacific Northwest... thankfully. And, in summer, it's bountiful!! Popped into shakes, diced into cereals, churned into sorbets and ice creams, cooked into jams... and grilled to top salads. Just when you think you might have had enough, you find another way to enjoy them.

This salad came about after a friend casually mentioned a nearby farm for fresh blueberries and a salad she recently had that incorporated these brilliant little gems. They really are a perfect pop of sweetness for a salad of baby greens. And with so many beautiful stone fruits now abundant in markets, what could be more perfect? Grilled sweet, ripe peaches and apricots not only balance the flavor of blueberries... beautifully... they are also a perfect color coordinate!

And... to play along with the sweet, fresh, mellow flavors of this salad... a pop of crisp jicama and a drizzle of honey-mint-lime vinaigrette.

We are so lucky to have such a bountiful bevy of fruit at our disposal... it definitely nurtures the soul... like a childhood bike ride on a warm December day... and it's pretty good on a salad, too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Raspberry Ice Cream... and a Freezer Jam

One of the greatest things about summertime in Oregon... other than actually seeing the sun... on roughly consecutive days... for relatively constant weeks... for a good little period of time... is the abundance of berries.

While our cool springs may tax our patience, it is this very climate, along with our warm summers (when they finally arrive), that allow our beautiful berries to mature slowly and develop their sweet, succulent flavor. (I hope this maturation process holds true for people living in this climate as well...)

While berries may be waning in other parts of the country, we are ripe with selection from local markets, farmers markets, u-pick stands, and roadside set ups. In fact, the blackberry bushes are so prolific through my own neighborhood in the heat of summer, that berry picking is virtually free-for-the-picking. I have, however, largely left the picking to the experts over the years and happily purchased from local farms through various markets and stands.

When a friend suggested that we run out to a local raspberry farm to gather our own berries one morning last week, I figured it would just be a fun outing and I'd come home with a couple of pints. What I didn't expect was that I would become so enthralled with the pursuit. Once we discovered a thicket of bushes that were literally dripping with red, ripe fruit, my thoughts for just a few pints quickly dissolved into a distant memory. Before I knew it I had filled the two buckets I'd lugged out into the fields and ended up carting home eight-plus pounds of berries.

I then spent the next four hours rinsing berries, drying berries, freezing berries, making berry jam... and making berry ice cream.

 It was a great summer's day! Not really a whole lot of sun... but certainly a whole lot of berries!