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Sierra Harvest: Local bounty awaits you

 

As the calendar turns over to September, collectively we are all hoping to breathe some fresh air and feel some normalcy. Whether or not this is true doesn’t mean we can’t hope! Living in the foothills is not easy right now. And luckily for all of us, there is some solace in the form of autumn’s bounty. Just look around on a walk — plums are falling off trees, apples are ripening, birds are eating elderberries and there are even some wild blackberries left hanging on dusty brambles. And these are just the uncultivated treasures!

All spring and summer, our local farmers have been working hard in above average temperatures (and now smoke) to grow an incredible variety of food for this community, and the harvest is ready. At this time of year, it’s easier than ever to eat local, which benefits our health, environment and economy in a myriad of ways.

Earlier this year, Sierra Harvest’s Nevada County Food Policy Council launched the 20% Whole-sum food by 2025 Challenge. “The goal”, said Miriam Limov, the council coordinator, “is that by 2025 at least 20% of the food that Nevada County residents consume will be local or regional, fair trade, ecologically produced and/or humanely raised.” According to their recent Food System assessment only 10-15% of the food we eat falls into one of these categories.

With this challenge in mind, this article aims to share practical ways you as a consumer can access the abundance of local foods available right now. Local farmer’s markets will continue through the fall and winter, while the Upicks will go another month or two. Contact local farms directly if you are planning to visit, as direct sales may be impacted by smoke or other issues.

RESOURCES FOR EATING LOCAL

Farmer’s Markets

Tuesdays: Grass Valley Raley’s Pine Creek Center, Freeman Lane, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Thursdays: Penn Valley Western Gateway Park, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturdays: Downtown Nevada City, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturdays: Grass Valley K-Mart/McKnight Crossing, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Farm Stands and U-Picks

Stone’s Throw Farm: Tuesday and Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. 1175 Alpine Way, Colfax

Food Love Farm: Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. 16200 Lake Vera Purdon, Nevada City, accepts EBT

Riverhill Farm: Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m.13500 Cement Hill Rd, Nevada City — occasional berry U-picks on Sundays from 9 to 11 a.m.

Peardale Farm: Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 14209 Colfax Highway, Grass Valley

Starbright Acres Farm Store: Everyday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 12575 Polaris Dr. Grass Valley

CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture -“veggie box”)

Mountain Bounty Farm offers weekly half and whole veggie boxes as well as fruit and flower shares

Starbright Acres has boxes left through mid-October

Peardale Farm with three pickup locations

As this is a time of abundance, there is food available beyond what local farmers are producing, you just have to look around! Gardens are dripping with produce and most gardeners love to share.

Are you one of those gardeners who is overloaded? Consider donating excess produce to Sierra Harvest’s gleaning program! In partnership with Interfaith Food Ministry, the Gold Country Gleaning Program helps get fresh produce into the bellies of those who need it most. So far this year, the gleaners have diverted over 10 tons of food that would have otherwise gone to waste! They are always looking for sites to glean from and volunteers to help with the harvest, so the opportunity is there for those who want to get involved.

Speaking of gardens, now is the time to get those last starts in if you want to have a fall/winter garden! It’s a little late to direct seed most things but depending on where you live it’s possible to still seed arugula, radishes, and lettuces. Now is also a great time to consider if you will be cover cropping, the plan for dividing perennials, and where to plant garlic (that goes in October/Novemeber).

In many ways, this can be a challenging place to live, but it’s also an incredible one. We have a robust local food system, and access to irrigation water that many areas do not. Year after year, this community shows how resilient it can be and our agricultural producers are no different. Let’s enjoy the abundant fruits of the season and support those who have worked so hard to bring us local bounty, farmers, and gardeners alike!

For more information or to get involved sign up online on the Food Policy Council website page at: https://sierraharvest.org/connect/food-policy-council/ or contact fpc@sierraharvest.org. Look for this continued series which is informed by the Nevada County Food Policy council’s recent food system assessment every month.

Amanda Thibodeau writes for the Nevada County Food Policy Council as part of the Food System Assessment series

Cassidy at the Food Love Farm U-Pick.
Provided photo

Lynda Balslev: A lighter side of couscous

 

Couscous is an excellent side dish or vegetarian option that is perfect for outdoor dining. It can be served warm or cold, has a satisfying kick of spice, and is healthy to boot. Just a plate of couscous, you think? Well, not quite. Unlike Middle Eastern couscous, which is made with tiny grains of semolina wheat, this couscous is a grain-free alternative, and therefore gluten-free.

The star of the show is cauliflower. Its versatility, sturdy texture and nutty, buttery flavor seamlessly transform otherwise wheat-y and starchy preparations. Cauliflower is a healthy, tasty stand-in for wheat in flour mixes for pizza crust, crackers, breads and pasta. When finely chopped, it’s a great substitute for rice, and when pureed, cauliflower is a light and fluffy alternative to mashed potatoes. While the end results have a notable nutty and vegetal quality, cauliflower, with all of its iterations, is light, gluten-free and delicious.

In this couscous recipe, cauliflower florets are blitzed into tiny pieces, then sauteed in a pan until crisp-tender. Next, proceed as you would with a traditional couscous dish, tumbling it with bunches of chopped green herbs, vegetables and spices. The extra bonus is that, unlike wheat couscous, which requires the absorption of a large amount of water and olive oil to soften, cauliflower couscous needs only a splash or two of oil in which to saute. So, have at it with no regrets, and dig in with a big spoon.

Lemony Cauliflower Couscous

Active time: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

1 medium head cauliflower, cored, leaves discarded, florets coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 red jalapeno or serrano peppers, seeded, finely diced

1 poblano pepper, seeded, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 cup (packed) chopped Italian parsley leaves

1/2 cup (packed) chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh mint leaves

Place the cauliflower in a food processor and process until very finely chopped, similar in size to couscous grains or fine rice.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and saute until the grains begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, cayenne and black pepper and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the cauliflower is crisp-tender (or to your desired consistency), about 2 minutes more.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. If too dry, add more lemon juice or oil to moisten. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

Couscous is an excellent side dish or vegetarian option that is perfect for outdoor dining. It can be served warm or cold, has a satisfying kick of spice, and is healthy to boot.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

Lynda Balslev: Digging scallops

 

I am a seafood lover, but this has not always been the case. As children growing up in New England, my younger brothers and I were served swordfish on a regular basis. This may sound luxurious, but in those days, swordfish was a local staple harvested from the nearby Atlantic waters, and my mother was determined to serve us fish in the spirit of a well-rounded diet. Swordfish night was not a popular event.

I confess that we took drastic measures to choke down our dinner. Since it was effectively a prerequisite to our desired dessert, my brothers and I often resorted to dousing our swordfish steaks in ketchup (as the eldest, I take full responsibility). Mercifully, when information about mercury levels in swordfish became more widely known, it suddenly disappeared from our dinner rotation. We were not upset.

As my interest in food grew, I outgrew my categorical aversion to seafood. I started by eating milder white fish and seafood, deemed “un-fishy” in flavor. And then I discovered scallops. Sea scallops were and are unlike any other fish or shellfish I have eaten, and wonderfully un-fishy. Creamy white and cylindrical in shape, they don’t even resemble fish, and their flavor is lusciously buttery and sweet. When cooked well — preferably seared — they develop a crispy caramelized crust that gives way to a juicy, tender interior. I was hooked then and remain hooked to this day.

Scallops are easy to prepare in a pan. You can serve them with sauces and accompaniments, add them to pasta and rice, or simply enjoy them on their own. Their natural sweetness is complemented by bright citrus and crisp, sweet vegetables, such as corn and bell peppers, which make them a delightful summer meal. For best results, here are a few simple yet important steps to searing scallops.

Dry:

Line a large plate or cooking tray with paper towels. Place the scallops on the tray and then place another paper towel over the scallops. Gently press to blot any moisture. Let stand for 5 minutes, then discard the towels. This will remove any excess moisture and prevent the scallops from steaming when searing.

Sear:

The best way to cook a scallop is to sear it. Use a cast-iron skillet if possible. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then add oil and continue to heat until the oil is shimmering. Arrange the scallops in the skillet without overcrowding. Sear, undisturbed, until a golden crust forms around the base and the scallop releases with ease from the pan when lifted with a spatula. Do not disturb the scallops until they release easily! Then flip and sear the other side of the scallop.

Size:

Choose the largest scallops you can find. Sizes range from 10 to 40 per pound. Their sizes are measured by the count to a pound and labeled U/10, U/15, etc. The U stands for “under,” which means that U/15 scallops will have a count of 15 or under for 1 pound. U/10 and U/15 are the largest and ideal for searing.

Seared Sea Scallops With Sweet Corn Salad and Garden Salsa

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Salsa

1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Salad

Corn kernels from 2 ears of corn (or 2 cups defrosted frozen corn)

2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped

1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dash of hot sauce

16 to 20 large (U/15) sea scallops

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the salsa ingredients except the oil in a food processor and pulse to chop. Add half the oil and process to blend. Add the remaining oil 1 tablespoon at a time until you achieve salsa consistency. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend. Taste for seasoning.

Thoroughly blot the scallops dry with paper towels. Season with salt and black pepper.

Heat a large (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when it begins to shimmer, arrange the scallops in the skillet without overcrowding. Sear until a golden crust forms around the base and the scallops release easily with a spatula, about 4 minutes. Flip the scallops and continue to cook until golden brown and cooked through the centers, about 3 minutes more, depending on the size of the scallops. Transfer to a plate.

Spoon the salad onto a serving plate. Arrange the scallops on the salad. Drizzle a little salsa over the scallops and the salad. Serve with the remaining salsa.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

Sea scallops are unlike any other fish or shellfish and wonderfully un-fishy. Creamy white and cylindrical in shape, they don't even resemble fish, and their flavor is lusciously buttery and sweet. When cooked well — preferably seared — they develop a crispy caramelized crust that gives way to a juicy, tender interior.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

Hiding in plain sight: Avanguardia Winery

 

My series of articles, Hiding in Plain Sight, could never be complete without including Avanguardia Winery (avanguardiawines.com). Owner/operators Rob and Marilyn Chrisman have one of the most fascinating vineyard and winery operations you’ll find anywhere in California and yet after 15 years they remain solidly under the radar.

Rob first started getting interested in wine back in the 1970s. At the time he was “experimenting with a lot of great Italian wines and blends,” he recalled. He discovered that many of the varieties he was enjoying were not being grown or produced in America. “The Italian varieties were an empty niche,” he explained. “Sangiovese wasn’t even on the radar screen.”

As he tasted and explored, he became convinced that Eastern European and Italian varietals were especially well suited to blending. He started imagining making wine. He realized that to get the kind of grapes he wanted he would have to grow them himself. The idea of planting a vineyard became increasingly appealing to him.

In 1977 he planted a hobby vineyard in Tulare County teaming with the University of California at Davis Foundation Plant Services to import several Italian grape varieties previously unknown in the U.S.

In 1981, working with Dr. Austin Goheen at the Plant Service Dept at U.C. Davis, he requested a dozen obscure Italian varietals that all had to be imported from Italy. Now, years later he is still the only vineyard in the country actively growing several of them.

In 1990, after extensive soil and climate research, with precious cuttings in hand, they moved to Nevada County selecting a 15-acre parcel on Jones Bar Road as the perfect spot for their vineyard and winery.

Their three-acre vineyard includes opposing hillsides folding into a ravine that offers a multitude of sun exposures and ripening conditions. They grow 23 different varietals matching the varieties to specific locations throughout the vineyard.

In the early years Chrisman operated as a home winemaker winning Best of Show at the County Fair twice. Eventually he got bonded and released his first commercial wine in 2007.

His first wines were blends crafted from two to six different, mostly unusual Italian varieties, but also included grapes from France and Eastern Europe. Chrisman believed he could produce more complex, layered flavors by blending several varietals together.

That means the wines come with unusual proprietary names like Cristallo, Ampio, Premiato, or Selvatico. The wines are made from some really obscure grape varieties including Forestera, Peverella, Rkatsiteli, Erbaluce, Biancollela, and more. That’s the fun of it. For most people it is uncharted territory.

I wondered, in a world dominated by Chardonnay and Cabernet, how that was working out? Rob admitted that sometimes people were a little confused but once they try the wines they like them. “They’re appreciative of what we’re doing. They have an enjoyable tasting experience and learn about varieties they’ve never heard of and certainly never tasted,” Chrisman explained.

Stylistically, above all, Chrisman believes wine should be food friendly. At a time when many California wineries are pushing the limits of ripeness and alcohol levels, Avanguardia’s emphasis is on balance, with lower alcohol levels, higher acidity, and minimal oak treatment. “In some ways our wines are more European than California,” Chrisman said.

“We rely on the tradition of selecting grapes for their synergy of flavors and tastes while using creative combinations in our blending,” Chrisman said. “From the crisp, racy minerality of our dry white, Selvatico, to the generous depth of Ampio, our wines are designed to complement fine cuisine and provide new and unique tastes.”

In 2016 Chrisman introduced a line of estate varietal wines including several Italian red varieties; Montepulciano from Abruzzi; Corvina – better known as Valpolicella; Lagrein from Alto Adige; and Fiano, a white from central Italy.

Chrisman’s other current project is sparkling. A few years ago he introduced L’Hedonista Brut, the first “methode champenois” sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in Nevada County. Excited by his success he has five experimental wines in varies stages of development, bringing the entire production process in house. It will still be a while before any are released but there are some quite interesting prospects.

Last week I stopped by the Mill Street Tasting Room. I liked the Estate Varietal line-up including the fruity and supple Corvina, the spicy, brooding Lagrein and the full-bodied yet dry and crisp Fiano. The two wines that really caught my eye were Tre T, a complex blend of old and new world flavors and Premiato, a nicely aged Barbera/Dolcetto blend that offers well-developed flavors that are still tight and fruity.

Despite Avanguardia’s authentically unique story and great tasting wines, it’s been a ginormous hand-sell. Right after, “where-in-Nevada-are-you-located?” comes the question, “what-did-you-say-this-is?”

Both vineyard and winery work require physical labor and after more than 40 years of growing grapes and making wine in one place or another, Rob admits, some of parts are wearing out.

Chrisman has his right-hand man, Cliff, who helps in the vineyard and winery which eases some of the burden. He can see a time down the road but for right now he is focusing on honing his most unique vineyard and winery operation.

See for yourself. Chrisman can be found minding the tasting room in the winery on Jones Barr Road on week-ends. If you have not been, go. Avanguardia is one of those hidden gems everyone is always looking for.

Rod Byers, CWE, is a Certified Wine Educator and wine writer as well as a California State Certified Wine Judge. He is the host of the local television show Wine Talk. He can be reached at rodbyers@pinehillwineworks.com or 530-802-7172

Avanguardia Winery owner and operator Rob Chrisman.
Photo by Rod Byers
Avanguardia’s three-acre vineyard includes opposing hillsides folding into a ravine that offers a multitude of sun exposures and ripening conditions. They grow 23 different varietals matching the varieties to specific locations throughout the vineyard.
Photo by Rod Byers

 

Patti Bess: The cure for grumpy

Are you feeling grumpy about our fast changing world? Back to masks, the smoke, and the cost of groceries? I sure am. My saving grace? I step off the deck into the garden and the world disappears. In my mind I’m revising my favorite 60’s song written by Gerry Goffen and Carole King, originally sang by The Drifters. If you’re over 50, you’ll never forget, “Up on the Roof.”

“When this old world starts getting me down

And people are much too much for me to face

I step right out through the garden gate

And all my stress just starts to abate.”

Nothing equals that satisfying feeling of accomplishment as time spent in the garden. This past week, the air was only healthy enough to be outdoors in the afternoon. Gardening doesn’t only produce fresher food, it also exercises my bones, muscles and brains. I consider it my garden yoga — lunging, squatting, stretching, bending, reaching. I welcome the mental challenge of remembering to bring the right tool for a task and which jobs I didn’t finish yesterday. Working hard produces endorphins also known as “happy hormones.”

I had grandiose plans last spring. The soaring temperatures, moles and sow bugs kept me realistic and humble. I love the mental challenge of something continually new to learn, just like in cooking. There are failures but more often successes.

And it gives perspective. When I pause my all too human, goal oriented obsessiveness, I “see with new eyes” the beauty of the world around me. Feet planted in the dirt and remembering where our food really comes from, a thank you to Mother Earth is in order.

A few months ago I heard an interview on public radio. A young woman wrote her PhD thesis on the increasing popularity of small backyard gardens and how it is helping to increase the population of butterflies and insects that provide pollination. There is hope in this world.

Did you know that the second highest polluter causing global warming is industrial farming? It plays a major role releasing large volumes of manure, chemicals, antibiotics, and growth hormones into our water sources. This poses risks to ecosystems and human health. Industrial agriculture produces mainly commodity crops, which are then used in a wide variety of inexpensive, calorie-dense convenience foods as well as grain for meat production. It is true that the proportion of people in the world suffering from hunger is less, but there are many more who are now malnourished. Obesity is on the rise globally. Many suffer from preventable diseases often related to diets; like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Our choices have an impact.

Another reason that I’m not feeling as grumpy. August and September are the best best time of the year to eat — the peaches, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, figs, apples etc etc etc. Even if you don’t plant your own, the Farmers Market is in full swing. Supporting our local agriculture and organic growing benefits us all in the long run.

Ragout of Summer Vegetables with Tarragon

This colorful side dish features the subtle flavor of tarragon. It’s best made in a skillet on the top of the stove where the flavorful juices will not be lost.

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white onions, sliced

1 cup sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1 cup sweet red bell pepper, chopped

3 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped (2-3 teaspoons dried)

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet with a lid, sauté onions and garlic in butter for 2-3 minutes or until onions turn translucent. Add peppers and sauté another 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and lemon juice, cover, and simmer 4-5 minutes or just until vegetables are crisp tender.

Remove the lid, stir in the tarragon and sprinkle with salt and freshly grated pepper. Simmer 1-2 minutes longer to allow herb flavor to blend in. Makes 4 servings.

Gazpacho Rose

Everyone has a recipe for Gazpacho, but this one is easy and so refreshing. It’s great for young “picky” eaters. My children always liked blended soups — they couldn’t actually see the vegetables.

Three to four ripe, medium-sized tomatoes

One third cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves

Two cloves garlic, peeled

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

One half cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

Spoonful of sugar or lemon juice (optional)

One tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Sliced scallions or basil leaves for garnish

In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add the buttermilk and taste for seasoning. Add a touch of sugar or a few drops of lemon juice if you feel it needs it.

Chill and serve in iced cups. Garnish with scallions or a basil leaf. Makes two to three servings.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer, cookbook author and has written for more than 25 magazines over the years. She lives in Grass Valley

Nothing equals that satisfying feeling of accomplishment as time spent in the garden. Gardening doesn’t only produce fresher food, it also exercises bones, muscles and brains.
Getty Images

Paula O’Brien: Take the backyard BBQ to the next level with a Co-op spin on condiments

 

Condiments are versatile, easy to customize and combine. They’ve got a medley of flavors to tempt your palate, tweaking a sauce, dressing or marinade with just the right amount of oomph to get dinner over the finish line or to make you la célébrité de pique-nique with a showstopper dish!

You can take mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickles and relish in a lot of different directions with just pinches of herbs and spices. Mystery solved: Many a “secret sauce” is a simple mix-and-match of condiments with a few added ingredients. Condiments complement the other ingredients as you cook, allowing you to fine-tune your tuna fish salad, stake your claim to the best steak sauce on the planet, or boost the flavor of just about anything that calls for the presence of tomatoey goodness, sharp mustardy twang or briny pickle bliss.

And, just in time for peak grilling and picnic season, you can also do good as you fill your pantry with the condiments you need to create fabulous feasts. For the entire month of August, when you purchase select Woodstock brand organic condiments and barbecue charcoal at BriarPatch Food Co-op, the Co-op will give .25 cents per item purchased to this month’s CAUSE recipient, The Food Bank of Nevada County. Stop by and stock up and help support one of the most important nonprofits in our community-especially at this critical time.

Here are a few recipes to get you started.

Dill Pickle Dip

8 servings

Pickle fans unite! Your friends and family will all agree you’re a “really big dill” when you serve this with dippers or as a sandwich spread. For easy mixing, make sure the cream cheese is very soft.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

2-3 Tbsp pickle juice

¾ cup chopped kosher dill pickles

1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

2 Tbsp sliced green onions

¼ tsp garlic powder

Additional chopped pickles and dill for garnish

In medium bowl, mix cream cheese, 2 Tbsp pickle juice, cheddar cheese, pickles, dill, green onions and garlic powder until well combined. Add more pickle juice for a thinner dip.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Garnish with chopped pickles and dill before serving.

Saucy and Savory Ketchup

Makes about ¾ cup

Transform ordinary ketchup into a crazy-good sauce for burgers, fries, shrimp cocktail or anywhere you want ketchup with a kick.

1 Tbsp canola oil

½ medium yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise

1 clove garlic, pressed or very finely minced

1 Tbsp cider or balsamic vinegar

½ cup ketchup

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¼ tsp ancho chile powder

¼ tsp ground cumin

Pinch ground cinnamon

Pinch ground cloves

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup water

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, stirring occasionally, until browned and very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Add garlic and stir for two minutes more.

Add vinegar and scrape brown bits from bottom of pan. Stir in ketchup, red pepper flakes, chile powder, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, a little black pepper and water. Simmer about 5 minutes to meld flavors and thicken.

Serve at room temperature. Keeps about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Deviled Egg Potato Salad

6 servings

What would summertime be without potato salad or deviled eggs to liven things up? With this two-fer recipe, you get ‘em both! Easy and fun to customize with add-ins.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

6 hard boiled eggs, diced

2 Tbsp sweet onion or green onion, minced

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp cider vinegar

Several pinches, to taste: salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, paprika (smoked or regular)

Optional add-ins: Bacon, dill or sweet pickles, sliced olives, fresh basil, red onions, roasted red peppers, pickled jalapeños, chives… you get the idea!

Boil potatoes in a large pot over high heat until fork-tender. Drain and let cool.

To make dressing, mix mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar and salt/sugar/pepper/spices in a small bowl.

In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, onion, celery, any add-ins and cooled potatoes. Pour dressing over potatoes and stir to combine. Add more salt/pepper to taste.

Top with paprika and serve, or refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.

Paula O’Brien is the editor of BriarPatch Co-op’s newsletter, The Vine

Transform ordinary ketchup into a crazy-good sauce for burgers, fries, shrimp cocktail or anywhere you want ketchup with a kick.
Provided photo

Lynda Balslev: Beat-the-heat with this potato salad

 

This is my “I can’t deal” potato salad. (It’s also my favorite potato salad.)

In the heat of the summer, when it’s too hot to move, it’s nice to have a few easy recipes to rely on when you simply can’t cope with cooking. These recipes hit the spot without making you sweat unnecessarily over a stove; they can be prepared in just a few steps. They are minimal, fresh and light and won’t make you feel heavy and weighed down once you’ve enjoyed eating them.

This is a European-style potato salad that I make throughout the summer. It’s a regular feature in our meals, so I don’t think twice about making it. However, I did think twice about it recently, when I offered to bring a potato salad to a gathering of friends. The host’s response was swift: “No, I don’t want anything rich, heavy and loaded with fat.”

Her vision of a potato salad was the mayo-heavy American-style salad, thickly coated in a sweet and creamy dressing, and this salad is nothing like that. It’s light and bright, laced with vinegar and oil, and tumbled with handfuls of fresh herbs, which add flavor and leafy texture. The best part, in my opinion, is you can actually taste the potatoes, which in my book is the key to a good potato salad.

When making this salad, it’s important to immediately toss the drained hot potatoes with vinegar, so they will absorb the vinegar as they cool. Then add the remaining ingredients, followed by the fresh herbs. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly before adding the herbs, so they will soften slightly from the residual heat without wilting too much.

From there you can fiddle with the recipe to your taste. White wine vinegar is the go-to, but you can change it up with another light vinegar, such as champagne, cider or even white balsamic. As for the herbs, have fun with what is growing in your garden. Parsley, chives and dill are my favorites, and I usually add all three at once.

Simple Summer Potato Salad

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled

Kosher salt

1/4 cup vinegar, such as white wine or champagne vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons dried mustard, such as Colman’s

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (packed) chopped mixed green herbs, such as Italian parsley leaves, dill and chives, plus more as needed

Place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water and add 2 teaspoons salt.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Immediately sprinkle the vinegar over the potatoes and stir to combine, breaking up the potatoes with a knife into bite-size chunks. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Whisk the oil, garlic, mustard, black pepper, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add to the potatoes and stir to blend. The potatoes will continue to break down a little as you do this.

Cool slightly, about 10 minutes more, then stir in the herbs. If too dry, add another splash of oil. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

In the heat of the summer, when it's too hot to move, it's nice to have a few easy recipes to rely on when you simply can't cope with cooking, like this European-style potato salad.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

Alan Tangren: Farewell to summer?

You may be surprised to learn that pear season starts in mid-summer! Some uncommon varieties ripen mid to late July. Have you heard of Harrow Delight, Moonglow or Rescue? Maybe not.

The first pears we usually see in the market are almost certainly Bartletts, which begin their harvest cycle in late July and August.

Bartlett pears play a huge role in my family history. My grandfather Christian and my uncle Ernie Bierwagen raised pears for decades in Chicago Park, shipping carloads by rail from the packing house in Colfax to markets in the East.

The harvest for most pear varieties peaks in late summer and early fall. Unlike most other tree fruits, pears must be picked in an immature state, as soon as they reach the proper sugar level, even though the skin is still green.

Their flesh will become unpleasantly mealy and dry if left to ripen on the tree.

Many varieties require a period of a few weeks or even months in cold storage to cure properly before bringing out to room temperature to finish ripening, either on the store shelf or at home.

Most of our favorite pear varieties were perfected in France hundreds of years ago. The Bartlett got its sturdy American name early in the nineteenth century, a few years after it arrived in New England from Europe, where it is better known as Williams’ Bon Crétien. (This is where Pear Williams liquor gets its name.)

It is the most widely planted pear in North America and the most popular in the world. Nevada County was famous for growing high quality Bartletts that were shipped all over the country, until the trees were attacked and killed by a serious pest in the early 1960s. Using new disease resistant rootstocks, local growers are planting Bartletts again.

With their juicy, sweet, buttery flesh, Bartletts are the classic summer pear. They are medium to large in size and have a thick neck, but are clearly pear-shaped. When ripe, their skin is golden yellow. The variety Red Bartlett has, of course, dark red skin and is equally tasty.

Bartletts need only a few weeks off the tree to ripen, but they don’t hold as well as some varieties and have a relatively brief marketing season, usually from August through September.

Comice pears are harder to find, but well worth looking for. They are the most perfect pear for eating fresh. The very juicy, fine textured flesh has a lovely winey aroma. Their tender skin is a pale greenish yellow when ripe.

Bosc and D’Anjou pears are available over an extended period, and can be brought out of storage to finish ripening as late as springtime. D’Anjou are short-necked, almost cone shaped, and have fine-textured, tender flesh and pale green skin when ripe. Their firm flesh is good for cooking, so they are ideal for baking or poaching.

Bosc is the most useful and commonly available variety for cooking. The fruit is graceful looking, with a long tapering neck. Some Boscs have more of the bronze coloring of the skin referred to as “russeting”, but there is no difference in fruit quality. Their dense flesh is rich, sweet and aromatic.

Shop grower’s markets early in the season, especially for Comice and Bartlett. Supermarkets and produce stores will have pears from storage well into spring.

Shopping for pears requires advance planning. You may be lucky enough to walk into a store or at a farm stand and find perfectly ripe fruit, but don’t plan on it. They are best ripened at home. This may take a few days or up to a week.

Buy pears while they are still firm and unbruised. Handle pears carefully at the market and at home; they bruise easily. Choose pears that are firm, intact and unblemished. Pick them up and smell the aroma. The best smelling pear will taste best.

Ripen pears in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature, and check their progress daily. Perfectly ripe pears will give slightly at the neck when pressed gently.

You can refrigerate ripe pears for several days before using.

A perfectly ripe Bartlett or Comice pear is a dessert all its own. Serve with soft ripened cheese, especially blue cheese if you like. A few lightly toasted walnuts will make the experience even better.

Fresh pears are great in salads, with bitter greens like frisée and chicory. Later in the season, combine slices of pears and firm Fuyu persimmons.

Pears star in baked desserts. Pear pie, crisp and cobbler are a few of my favorites. Latley I’m happy with pear clafoutis; peeled, sliced and baked in a custard.

Stuffed baked pears, with an almond and Amoretti stuffing, makes and elegant dessert with your own home-made vanilla ice cream.

Pears preserve very well. When I was growing up we always made a batch or two of pear honey; pears cooked down with sugar and lemon slices. Look into any good preserving book for other ideas.

Warm baked pears make an easy and aromatic dessert.

Marsala-Baked Pears

Serves 6

6 medium size ripe pears, Bartlett, Bosc or D’Anjou

1-1/2 cups Marsala or other sweet wine

½ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut a sliver off the bottom of each pear so it will sit flat. Arrange in a ceramic baking dish just large enough to hold the pears comfortably. Pour the wine over the pears and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the pears for about an hour, basting every 15 minutes or so with their cooking juices, until they can be easily pierced with a knife.

Serve with some of the juice drizzled over and a dollop of whipped cream or mascarpone.

As well as saying farewell to summer, this will be my good bye to all you faithful readers. It has been a privilege to share my thoughts and experience with you. I want to encourage you to forage for the best, local, organic produce you can find, and serve it with generosity.

Chef Alan Tangren spent 22 years as a chef in the kitchens of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, eight of those years spent as the Chez Panisse forager. He teaches cooking classes and directs monthly Chef’s Tables at Tess’ Kitchen Store, 115 Mill Street in Grass Valley. Learn more at http://www.tesskitchenstore.com. Contact him at alan.tesskitchen@gmail.com

With their juicy, sweet, buttery flesh, Bartletts are the classic summer pear. They are medium to large in size and have a thick neck, but are clearly pear-shaped. When ripe, their skin is golden yellow.
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Our new recycling challenge: Organic waste

If someone told you there was one action you could take to make a major improvement for the environment, reduce emissions and keep money in your pocketbook — would you commit? That action is simple— Don’t waste your food. It does require some planning, a little education, and a bit of time, but hey, consider this a “job” because you will save money instead of throwing your dollars in the garbage. It is one positive step you can take to contribute to decreasing the climate crisis and it is cost-free except for your time.

In the USA, 40% of food produced is wasted. Retail outlets account for 40% of loss (including around 25% from restaurants), at home is 42% and the farm is 16%. Food waste is problem that falls mainly in the hands of consumers.

The handwriting is on the wall in California. Food waste, via release of methane from rotting food in our landfills, is a major source of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions. A new law (SB1383) was passed that promises to significantly improve our food waste problem.

On the good news front, a provision of the new law (unique to California) is to rescue at least 20% of currently disposed surplus food for people to eat. Nevada County is already in the game. Our local food pantries, Interfaith Food Ministry and the Food Bank both work closely with local farms, grocers, food distributors and citizens with large gardens to acquire food for their hungry population. Also Sierra Harvest manages a food-gleaning program that harvests and donates produce from local farms and orchards to these food relief pantries. So on the farm and grocer side, our county appears to be stepping out with our best foot.

On the “eater side,” we have some work to do. The new law requires that by January 2022, 50% of food waste must be diverted from the landfill. So what will happen to the disposal of food that we must reluctantly part ways with? Details are in process at California CalRecycle, local jurisdictions, and Waste Management. Undoubtedly, we will all have some decisions to make.

For planning and education tools for making good use of the food you buy, check out the comprehensive information at the BriarPatch Food Coop website https://www.briarpatch.coop/food-too-good-to-waste/. The Food Too Good to Waste section of the website has ideas and tools on storing, composting, dining out, pantry prep, food donation and holding waste-free parties.

For disposal at home, it is tempting to just put the soft food down the garbage disposal (if you have one). The sewer system is designed to take some food waste, and some cities are actually planning to capture such material for further processing. But food down the drain could also cause some disruption in sewer and septic systems

So composting is a far better solution. This was what mankind did for thousands of years, and still does in less “developed” countries. If you don’t have a yard where you can produce compost, perhaps you know someone who is willing to take your food scraps? Or, check out the cool smaller footprint compost bins designed for the household.

If you opt to throw out food, it will become more difficult. For curbside food waste pickup, a separate compartment bin, and charge, is likely coming.

For self-haulers, (a large portion of our county), you will probably be able to take your separate bags of garbage, food waste, green waste to each designated locations at the McCourtney Road Transfer Station (MRTS) for drop off and pay by the pound. The advantage is that you only pay for what you dump instead of renting a big bin for curbside service.

From the MRTS, green waste is transported to a business out of the county for processing, so we lose this resource and produce more emissions via transport trucks. For food waste, similar processors are being sought to comply with the new law.

Ideally, Nevada County could redesign its approach to make use of its organic waste through new business ventures. As a “carrot,” the new law requires local jurisdictions to buy back some of the organic waste (food and green) that has been transformed into mulch, compost or fuel.

Did you know that we have only a couple of composting businesses that source locally and sell to the community? And the purchase of outside compost is a major cost for our local farmers even though we have the raw ingredients right here.

And then there is the lost revenue from produce that local farms never harvest as it is ugly or the cost of labor makes picking it a losing proposition (so food is plowed back into the soil). Finding local sourced, preserved foods on the shelves of our retailers is rare. So to enjoy local produce year round, we need to do our own preserving or provide support to local farms and businesses willing to take on this business opportunity.

To explore some ideas on how to make the best use of your organic waste, don’t miss the Master Gardeners lectures (there will be 2 lectures on composting and vermiculture).

The world of waste is an opportunity, not a problem, waiting for us to try new approaches to prevent food waste and recycle what the unused as a valuable product.

Debbie Gibbs is a member of the Nevada County Food Policy Council Steering Committee, Nevada County Climate Action Now and Waste Not

The world of waste is an opportunity, not a problem, waiting for us to try new approaches to prevent food waste and recycle what the unused as a valuable product.
Provided

Lynda Balslev: A berry-ful meringue dessert

 

Every berry lover should have a recipe for meringues up their sleeve. Snow white, light as air and egg-shell crisp, meringues will dress up your favorite berries in these easy do-ahead desserts.

Crumble and shower meringues as a sweet and dusty garnish, hollow their centers to fill as a sugary edible vessel, or simply fold them into dollops of billowy whipped cream.

Meringues can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks (or longer if store-bought) and are the perfect secret ingredient to pull out for fresh desserts and easy summer entertaining.

Strawberry Meringue Parfaits With Balsamic Syrup

Active time: 25 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes, plus cooling time and standing time

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 pounds strawberries

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces mascarpone

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces crisp meringues, store-bought or homemade (recipe below), crumbled

Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Combine the vinegar, sugar and lemon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced by half and syrupy in consistency, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small heat-proof bowl to cool to room temperature. (Syrup may be prepared up to two days in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use.)

Wash, dry and hull the strawberries. Slice 1/4-inch thick. Reserve 6 to 8 slices for garnish and place the remaining berries in a medium bowl. Pour the balsamic syrup over the berries and gently stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours).

Combine the cream, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until soft peaks form. (Cream may be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use.)

To serve, divide half of the strawberries between serving glasses. Spoon the cream over strawberries to cover. Sprinkle with meringues. Repeat the layering process. Garnish with reserved sliced strawberries and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Crisp Meringues

Active time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours, plus cooking time

Yield: Makes about 40 (2-inch) meringues

4 large organic egg whites, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until foamy. With the mixer running, add the sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing about 5 seconds after each addition to fully incorporate the sugar. Mix in the vanilla.

Pipe the meringue through a pastry bag in decorative rounds or drop large spoonfuls on the parchment and flatten slightly.

Bake in the oven until the meringues are firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven. Do not remove the meringues or open the oven door. Let the meringues dry and cool completely in the oven.

Store in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between the layers for up to 2 weeks. Meringues can be re-crisped in a 200-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

Every berry lover should have a recipe for meringues up their sleeve. Snow white, light as air and egg-shell crisp, meringues will dress up your favorite berries in these easy do-ahead desserts.
Photo by Lynda Balslev