One look at my potato gleanings made me realize how much of a farmer’s harvest they can’t sell — a splotch, an unsightly wrinkle, non-uniform sizes —because the American shopper is too fickle. Not shown are the very smallest potatoes, no larger than a pea. Imagine how wonderful they’d be whole in a soup.
But it’s just that irregularity of home grown or farmers market produce that is especially delightful. Fellow admirers of odd-shaped vegetables are nodding their heads in agreement.
You’d never find heart-shaped tomatoes or Dr. Seuss eggplants or twisted yellow bell peppers a grocery store. I’m convinced these vegetables taste better, too.
June 1 was opening day of strawberry picking at my favorite pick-your-own farm. This means sinking your teeth into a sun-warmed Mt. Hood—the much-acclaimed Oregon berry. The berry that reminds you (or lets you know for the first time) just what a strawberry tastes like. Or should, anyway.
That my freezer is still full of last summer’s strawberries is only an indication of not knowing how to ration. Daiquiris anyone?
Just before my back said “enough,” I made my way to the rows of plump spinach, giving me the perfect dish for a friend’s party later that day.
Seasonal Salad: Spinach and strawberries with red onion and feta cheese
Fresh spinach (washed and dried)
Fresh strawberries (washed and sliced, not too thinly)
Red onion (sliced very thinly)
Crumbled feta (or goat cheese)
For the dressing:
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Whisk the dressing ingredients together until emulsified. Toss with berries, onion, spinach and feta just before serving. Finish with freshly ground pepper.
What to do with a surplus of leeks
More elegant and refined than an onion, leeks become silky and sweet when cooked. They’re the base of soups or risottos, partner to fish or potatoes. There is no shortage of recipes for leeks. But just in case you come into a surplus, as I just did in my garden, here are a few ways to use them in a hurry.
Rehydrate them later for use in recipes. Here’s an oven method for drying leeks but you can also use a food dehydrator.
Clean and chop leeks. Pre-freeze them on a cookie sheet on a single layer (to prevent sticking together). Then put them in a freezer bag.
With leek recipes, you generally use only the green and light green part. But don’t toss the dark green parts. They’re great for making stock. There are a million variations on vegetable stock. The easiest is to toss leeks, potato, carrots, celery and garlic (for starters) into a pot with water and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables.
Nip the bud
As if having too many leeks weren’t enough, you might also have let yours begin to flower (the Dr. Seuss-like tips shown above), as I have done. Like garlic tops (or garlic whistles), leek tops are delicious grilled or roasted. Chop them up and add to green, grain or bean salads. Toss into eggs or pasta. Or just eat them like an asparagus spear.
Let ’em bloom
Forget eating, leave some leeks in the garden and let them bloom. The long flower stems are just what the Dr. (Seuss) ordered for a wacky and wonderful look.
Why wait to make pesto when the basil is abundant. You can put to work those long-awaited bundles of asparagus. You can pesto just about anything using a basic recipe as a guide and substituting similar ingredients. Here in the Northwest, I like to substitute hazelnuts for pine nuts to give dishes a more local flavor. Mint makes this pesto even more bright and springy.
Asparagus Hazelnut Mint Pesto Recipe Read more
Beyond jam and sorbet, two recipes for dealing with all those blackberries. Marionberry pastilles, gumdrop-like candies, and finger-licking barbeque sauce.