Market Monday: Up on Blueberry Hill

blueberry pickingThe blueberries were ripe for picking at Conn’s Blueberry Farm, which opened on Friday, in North East. Saturday dawned overcast, perfect for picking, and I headed out at 8 a.m. in 70-degree weather for the 30 minute drive.

You can choose from 3- or 5-quart buckets ($3 a quart), which you then tie around your waist or hang around your neck (waist is easier for me) to pick. About 10 other families were already in field, which opened at 8 a.m.

Overheard while picking:

Small child 1: Mom!!! M, put a blueberry up my butt!

Small child 2: Mom!!! M hit me with the bucket!

M: Mom!!! Look at all the green ones I picked!

Needless to say, it was a family affair out there.

Mom promised a blueberry buckle if everyone would just behave (and stop picking the green ones).

blueberry tree

In a half hour, I had 8 quarts – more than enough to make my mother’s birthday blueberry pie. I paid, put them in my own container for transport home. Alas, NPR had nothing to soothe me on such a delightful morning what with all the shootings and bombings and crazy people driving trucks into crowds in Nice on Bastille Day, which is my nephew’s birthday. This is all just terrible, but I would prefer to think of the lovely market I visited in Nice and had a coffee in the square after shopping. This begs the question of whether you take your children overseas to see these beautiful spots or do you let the terror win.

This was not a question I can answer right now. If it was just me – I am OK to go. I am 53 years old and can make that decision for myself. But there was a 9-year-old American boy who was killed, along with his father, in the Nice attack. And that is not OK.

And all of this has nothing to do with blueberries, but that is what happens when you spend 30 minutes driving each way to go pick fresh produce. So I decided to listen to Oprah and Deepak help me meditate on becoming unstuck in life. They are very calming, BTW.

I also bake to relieve stress. I made some modifications to Smitten Kitchen’s Blueberry Crumb Cake.  If you click, you get their recipe. My changes involve adding buttermilk instead of plain milk, lemon extract instead of vanilla and adding walnuts to the crumb topping instead of putting them in the cake. I also bake it in a loaf pan, instead of a cake pan, because I like the square slices. I like crunch on top of my cakes, not in the middle of the delicate crumb. This is best eaten warm, or the day of baking.

blueberry crumb cake

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Crumb topping

4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup  granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon (or a couple of good gratings) of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a food processor or blender, pulse together all the ingredients except the butter until crumbly. Add the butter and just pulse to combine. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Cake

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon extract
240 grams of all-purpose flour (measurement is important in this recipe – if you don’t have a scale, this is about 2 level cups unsifted flour, minus 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 pint fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and lemon extract. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk until incorporated (2 to 3 additions of each). Do not over mix. Fold in blueberries. Scrape batter into pan. Top with crumb topping.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (don’t worry about blueberry marks on the tester, just look for batter sticking to it).

Remove from oven, cool and serve.

Happy picking (or just plain eating).

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh on Friday: Corn

All spring and into early summer I watch the cornfields around my house as I ride my bike. First, they look like little weeds. Then they start to stretch skyward, reaching my knees and then shoulders. Mason Farms typically has fresh local sweet corn by July Fourth and so the season begins – stretching into September and October depending on the weather. By then, I will be interested in chowders and soups, but when it is 80-plus degrees, not so much.

Growing up, a dozen or so ears would go into a pot of boiling water, turning the kitchen into a steaming mess. Now I microwave it whole, husk on, after chopping off the bottom stalk and about an inch of the ear. Four ears are done in 4 to 8 minutes, depending on your microwave strength (mine takes about 6-7). If you allow it to cool, you can then strip the husk and silk easily off the ear.

I still buy corn by the dozen even though I don’t live in a house with brothers and sisters anymore. Then, a dozen ears would feed our family with no leftovers. Today, I typically have a half dozen leftover. I strip it off the ear and it goes into salads, salsas, breads and dips. I’ll share more recipes as the summer progresses.

But first, my favorite – a fritter/pancake with corn and zucchini. A true fritter, to me, would be round and puffy and totally deep-fried. Mine are more like pancakes cooked with just enough oil in the bottom of the pan to crisp them up, but not deep fry. It’s best made in cast iron skillet.

fritters

 

Zucchini Corn Fritters

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
Kosher salt
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
4 ears corn, kernels cut off
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
Canola oil for frying

Sprinkle zucchini with salt and let stand for about 15 minutes. Wrap in a kitchen towel and squeeze out excess liquid.

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, onion, corn, cornmeal, flours, baking powder, cumin, and salt. Combine thoroughly. Whisk together 1/2 cup buttermilk and the eggs. Add to zucchini mixture. If it is too dry, add more buttermilk. You want it holding together, but not runny like pancake batter.

Heat a large skillet, cast iron is great for this, and add enough oil to coat the bottom (you want to see a little shimmer) over medium heat. Scoop corn cakes, four to a batch, into the skillet (about 1/4 cup or an ice cream scoop). Flatten so they are even (of they are runny, add more flour). Cook until browned on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. You may want to rotate carefully about 2 minutes into this so they are evenly browned. Flip and cook until browned on the other side.

Serve with Salsa or the Ancho Sauce.

fritters with salsa

Salsa

1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded, and diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

In a medium-sized bowl, add tomatoes and toss with salt. Let sit about 5 minutes while you are chopping the rest of your ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients (I only add about 1/2 of the jalapeno, so you I can adjust the heat). Toss. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving so the flavors marry.

This will not refrigerate well.

fritters with ancho

Ancho Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt – just not the nonfat kind)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt
Fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients through salt. Taste and add as much lime juice as you like, starting with about 1 teaspoon. The flavors will develop over time, so allow it to rest about 30 minutes before serving.

Happy summer eating.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

Market Monday: Broccoli and Kale

garden - pardini
In bloom at one of my favorite gardens are zinnia and hydrangea. The sculptures are by Brian Pardini. The garden is by Patty Baldwin. I will share updates of its blooms as the summer goes on.

Throughout this farm market season, I’ll be posting what I’ve found in season at area farm markets and in my CSA basket from Hunter Farms in Fairview.

Greens continue to be strong – my basket included collard greens, kale and lettuce again this week. In the Sisters of Saint Joseph Neighborhood Network community garden on Parade Street, I can tell you that the same veggies are faring well in the square-foot-garden in the city. I harvested the last of the kale out of my garden this week because it has been under attack by the neighborhood infestation of Japanese beetles.

kale

I enjoy kale and particularly like a kale Caesar salad with leftover grilled chicken. The key to a good kale salad is to massage the kale leaves  with the dressing and allow to sit in a baggie or a bowl in the refrigerator for several hours before serving. This helps integrate the dressing into the kale and soften it.

 

My favorite Caesar dressing is

1 egg yolk
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 anchovy fillets (don’t worry they get mashed up)
4 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)
1/8 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup neutral oil, like canola
Freshly ground pepper
Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Place egg, garlic, mustard, anchovy, lemon juice, sugar or honey and fish sauce on the cup of an immersion blender or a small blender. Puree until you don’t see any anchovy and all of the ingredients are combined and a pale yellow in color. With motor running, drizzle in the two oils. It will become thick. Taste. You can add a tablespoon or more oil if it is too thick. Mix in ground pepper and hot sauce (optional) to taste.

This makes enough for several salads and will keep well in refrigerator.

For broccoli, typically I just toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it in a 400- to 425-degree oven until it is browned. It is wonderful served alone or with some of that Caesar dressing. I’ve been known to dip the broccoli into the dressing while making dinner … only to find I’m full and there’s no broccoli for dinner.

Oh well.

But not everyone likes their broccoli that way. A big hit at potlucks at my former office is a broccoli salad made with a creamy sweet dressing, cheese, raisins, lots of bacon and sunflower seeds.

broccoli salad

For a recent outdoor lunch in Warren, I followed the recipe from Ocean Spray, only I made a few changes. I cooked the fresh broccoli florets in the microwave for 90 seconds because I’m not a fan of raw broccoli. The quick nuke makes the broccoli bright green and keeps the crunch, and makes it easier to eat (in my opinion). I cut the amount of sugar in half for the dressing and used the low-sugar dried cranberries.

The dressing itself is what I typically use for slaw, so here it is

Creamy Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
Hot sauce, optional, to taste

Mix well. Add to slaw or broccoli salad about an hour before serving. Taste and add salt if needed.

Enjoy summer’s bounty

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

 

 

Escape with al Fresco Dinner

outdoor dining at Ian's

Some nights are just meant for cocooning with family. Sometimes it’s your family. Sometimes it is an adopted or blended family. In any case, escaping from the craziness that summer, racism, politics and general idiocy has bestowed upon us this month was just what was needed this week.

Escape meant retreating to city backyard, beautifully planted with selections from Stan’s and Potratz. We sat in wicker rockers and wrought iron purchased from the Erie City Mission. We talked politics, but were respectful of the opinions of those in the conversation. And we dined under the stars without interruptions from Baton Rouge, Dallas or Minnesota. No tweets from Donald Trump or FBI press conferences about Hillary Clinton. And no news alerts about Erie City Council’s lack of foresight or cohesion when it comes to a restaurant wanting to offer outdoor seating during the all-too-short summer season.

No, once the presidential politics were put aside, we talked about grandmothers, and toddlers, and photography, and high school, and fireworks, and birthday parties, and dinner.

Dinner was grilled prime beef tenderloin steaks from Urbaniak Brothers, wrapped in Urbaniak bacon, and topped with herb butter. Accompanying it was a Greek salad, which I learned to make from a Greek family on a Greek island. It had a few of my beginning-to-ripen yellow tomatoes and oregano, parsley and mint from the garden. Mixed with Bulgarian feta and olive oil wheat rusks from Cleveland’s West Side Market, the salad is tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. Fresh corn from Mason Farms, removed from the cob, was topped with just a pat or two of butter and served warm.

For dessert, I made a lemon and almond cake and served it with macerated berries and whipped cream. The employees at Mason Farms said there are only a couple days left for fresh strawberries, so I had to have some of those mixed in raspberries, which are now appearing. I added some sugar and very good balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness.

Blueberries are appearing in area farm markets, but the blueberries from Conn’s Blueberry Farm North East are coming in a week or two (my favorite place to pick).

I hope you enjoy your weekend. Hug your loved ones. Be kind to one another.

XOXOXO

Marnie

almond and lemon curd tort

Almond Lemon Curd Cake with Berry Topping

Lemon Curd

  • Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons, about 6 tablespoons juice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Make the lemon curd several hours in advance and refrigerate. If you don’t have time, you will need a large ice bath to cool it down. This will take about 30 minutes before you can add it to the cake.

Have a double boiler ready. Or find a pot and a metal bowl that fits into the top. Fill the pot with water to just below where it touches the bowl. If the bowl touches the bottom of the pot, this won’t work. You need at least an inch of water between the bowl and the bottom of the pot to prevent hot spots, which will scorch or lump.

While you are bringing the water to a boil, whisk together juice, zest, sugar and eggs. Place over the boiling water and whisk in the butter one cube at a time. You will continue whisking or using a spatula to keep the mixture moving until it thickens to the point where you can call it curd (think lemon pudding). Remove it from the heat. You can strain it, if you want. Or chill until ready to use.

Cake

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tart pan with removable bottom or springform pan.

Cream butter and 1 cup sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat into the sugar and butter mixture. Add beaten eggs and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.

Pour into the pan. Dollop 8 tablespoons of the lemon curd around the perimeter about 1 inch in from edge of the pan. Dollop another 3 to 4 tablespoons in the middle. Top with the toasted almonds and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 40 minutes, until the top is brown and a tester inserted into the cake (not the curd) comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before removing rim of the pan.

Serve with the berries and whipped cream.

Berry Topping

Mixed berries, totaling about 12 ounces (cut strawberries in half if large)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

Combine at least 1 hour before serving. Let sit at room temperature.

Cake recipe is adapted from the New York Times.