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Blueberries

I recently got my hands on 20 pounds of frozen organic blueberries from one of my co-workers. I had to remove them from the box they came in so I could fit the bag into my freezer. So far I haven’t done much with them besides add them to my granola, to my ice cream and to a bottle of vodka. This weekend though, big plans are ahead – blueberry ice cream!

After that, blueberry cobbler and then gallons of smoothies. The funny thing is when I got them I was so excited to have some delicious berries around the house, but now that California strawberries are in season I’m a bit less excited. I almost added strawberries and rhubarb to my box for next week so I could make my favorite all-time pie. But one look in my freezer put that idea to rest; I never thought a bag of blueberries would take such dedication.

I mean they are frozen, so it’s not like I’m cheating. They’ll be as good a month from now as they are today, but I at least have to make a dent in them before I go carousing around with other berries.

In an effort to keep my tropical theme rolling I’ve added mangos back in again this week, as well as keeping in the tangelos and grapefruit, which are both super tasty and nearing the end of their peak season. Especially grapefruit which is winding down. Neither one of these really goes with blueberries too well, but I’ll give it a try anyway. This is what my box is looking like:

Cucumbers
Bunched Carrots
Eggplant
White Onions
Zucchini
Red Radishes
Red Leaf Lettuce
Kale Raab
Minneola Tangelos
Ataulfo Mangos
Ruby Grapefruit
Braising Mix (Cut Greens)

I also ditched my apples for some more braising mix. I love Full Circle braising mix! It really is one of my favorite things. I made some the other day with pan-seared halibut, pan roasted potatoes and mango salsa (recipe from last week’s post). It was the perfect bedding for the fish, great flavor and quickly finished.

Another great thing that’s in the box this week is kale raab. Cook the same way as kale or chard and add to stir fry, braising greens or just a simple side. Kale raab is easily dressed in lemon juice, shoyu or a bit of vinegar and olive oil after lightly wilting. Try mixing it into white bean soup or vegetable soup at the end, letting the heat of the soup wilt it softly.

Eggplant is finally back in the box and slated for a coconut green curry mix I got at Viet Wah. The zucchini and carrots will also get sliced thin and go in there over a bed of jasmine rice. The rest looks like the makings of a salad to accompany on or two of the meals. Hopefully the weather will turn around soon and we won’t have to barbecue in the rain for much longer.

Next week I’ll talk a little more about one pan cooking methods, including the pan-sear and easy stove top tandoori chicken. Until then have a great weekend and eat well.

Mango Lassi

I have to admit that mangos, though one of my favorite treats, are on my permanent exemptions list. Initially I made this decision while in an ‘eating local’ phase, and thought it best to substitute other more-local fare for these Mexico-grown goodies. But the more I thought about it, the more my decision seemed to be about preserving a memory rather than eating in a locality.

I personally believe that organically grown foods are far superior to conventionally grown and GMO foods. I want to support all organic farms, big and small, and especially those in developing neighbor countries that have far less environmental regulation than we do. The abundance and over dependence on pesticides, herbicides and other -cides pollute water resources, harm peoples health and make farming dangerous.

There are great organic farms in Mexico and other countries that are leading the way in organic agriculture and showing other farmers that growing food can be safer, healthier and more cost-effective when done organically, and they deserve my support. The only way the culture will change is if there’s market demand and it is arguably as important for developing countries to learn the benefits of organics as it is for farmers here to realize the same.

So eating from our southern neighbor wasn’t really the issue for me, what I realized was that I have a specific association with mangos, and I rarely eat them for fear of diluting that association.

The first time I ever tried one I was about 12 years-old and vacationing with my parents in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. My dad bought me a mango, which the street vendor then stuck on a stick and in deft swipes removed the peel, sprinkled it with chili powder and topped it with a squeeze of lime juice.

Ataulfo mangoSliced mango

I soon had mango juice running down my face, over my hands and had tossed the stick aside to finish by gnawing on the hairy seed, salvaging the last vestiges of the fruity flesh. I’ll never forget that first mango, the exotic scent, the smooth, slippery flesh and the floral, bright, sweet taste. All other mangos have paled in comparison.

Initially, when I joined Full Circle and had not yet mastered the subtle art of substituting, recipe planning and adding Green Grocery items, I got a mango. It came as a default item in my order and I really had no idea what to do with it. Sure, I’d cooked with mangos in the past, used them in sauces, dressing, and salsas, but the culinary mango craze had ended years before and I hadn’t had one since.

So I went back to the basics—peeled, sliced, a dash of chili powder and a squeeze of lime. It was delicious indeed, but paled in comparison to my memory. So I added them to my exemptions list. Just recently, my co-worker, our Farm Foodie and Product Manager, told me that mangos were in season and if there was ever a time to try them again, it was now.

Ingredients for Mango Lassi

So I doubled my order of Ataulfo mangos. I ate one, straight up, no nothing and it was awesome.  It wasn’t the mango of my memory, but it was enough to give me a flash of salty shores, hot sun and the pure joy of adventurous eating. I’m glad I did it.

Here are a couple of other things to do with your mangos. Although my favorite is still briefly grilling them, dashing them with smoked paprika and a squeeze of lime. Perfect with flank steak or pork chops.

Mango Lassi

2 ripe mangos, peeled and cubed
1 cup honey yogurt
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1/2 orange, juiced

If you don’t have honey yogurt, just add one tablespoon of honey to the mixture. Place into blender and blend until smooth. Some recipe call for sugar, but I find the mixture of ripe mangos and just a little honey enough to sweeten it perfectly. If you feel you’d like yours a little sweeter, add a bit more honey. If it’s too sweet for you a touch of salt and a bit more orange juice should do the trick.

Mango salsa

Mango Salsa

2 ripe mangos, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup shallots, green onion or red onion, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
3 T cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Salt
Chili powder or smoked paprika

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Salt to taste. Let sit for one-half hour for flavors to blend. Dust with chili powder or paprika before serving.  You can also add avocado, strawberries or red bell pepper for a variety of flavors.

Oh the darkness

This is what it looks like outside

My fiancé said this to me the other day, and I think I’d have to agree. I think we all have a case of the SADs. For those of you that either don’t live in the Northwest or Alaska, or maybe winter in more southern climes, SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder; which basically means you become depressed when it rains too much.

Up here in Seattle we combat the SADs in a few ways: we complain, we become passive-aggressive, we drink copious amounts of coffee, we drink copious amounts, and we complain about how much everyone is complaining. This all works pretty well up until—well, up until about April. It is right about now that we feel generally entitled to just a little bit of sunshine, and very sad when we aren’t getting it.

To combat the SADs (which is a clinically diagnosed mood disorder first formally described and named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health; lest you think it’s some made-up Northwest thing) it is recommended to use light therapy, melatonin or anti-depressants if it doesn’t clear up on its own—somewhere around mid-July I think for us.

Tropical beach

This is what it looks like in my head!

I prefer a slightly different method. When I look at the forecast, as I did today during a beautiful late afternoon break in the clouds, and am confronted by not two, or three, but ten—that’s right ten days of rain and clouds I turn to two things. Barbecues and tropical fruit.

Put on some shorts, crank up the heat and throw on a little Israel “IZ” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole. Then fire up the grill, get some steaks, or some portobello mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, chips, guacamole, anything that reminds you of islands, beaches, summer, sun and have at it. Throw a Hawaiian themed party, have everyone show up in lei and flower print shirts. Put on sunscreen just for the scent, wear your sunglasses indoors, put on your thongs (I don’t care which kind, we’re not judging here, this is a matter of survival), turn the lights up, drink canned beer and dance. Dancing is essential.

That’s why my box now looks like this:

Cucumbers
Fingerling Potatoes
Radishes
Yellow Onions
Zucchini
Cremini Mushrooms
Tomatoes
Braising Mix (Cut Greens)
Minneola Tangelos
Ataulfo Mangoes x 2
Limes

I’ve also added some ground beef, sirloin steaks, halibut, pork chops and two whole organic chicken legs. This will ensure a ready supply of barbecue materials. I know it’s a little meat-centric, but I’m a heartless carnivore—okay, semi-heartless as I believe responsible animal husbandry leads to tenderness and besides, we’re really loading up for some rainy days here.

The cucumbers, radish and tomatoes will be awesome in a light Greek style salad.

Zukes, mushrooms and onions will be taking their rightful place next to some kebabs.

The limes, mangoes and halibut will make a delicious ceviche dish, and since mangoes are at their peak right now (and part of my mirror-island life-SADs detox) I doubled up. I’m hoping to try making some mango margaritas, mango lassis or maybe just grilled mangoes as an appetizer for the pork chops.

Of course, I couldn’t have a box without my favorite greens and since I could sub out kale for the more colorful braising mix—why not?! SO, for those of you suffering silently, or even those hurling verbal assaults at every slow motorist out there, let’s get in this together. If you have a good remedy for SAD, let me know.

Until next week then, chin up. I hear it’s still snowing in the mountains.

Grapefruit and kiwi sorbet

I forgot to change out my box this week. Which normally isn’t a problem, but since we were gone over the weekend and my brother, who stayed at our house and watched the animals didn’t eat his fair share of fruit, we had a bit of an overload. Normally I would just cram them into the juicer, gladly drinking anything that comes out the other side (sorrel juice anyone? Don’t try it, seriously it’s not worth it, but it might make a good cream sauce for fish–I’ll let you know).

This time I thought I’d do something different. Well, kind of, at least with the juice. I think I might still be riding off of the brief sun I soaked up on the beaches of Santa Monica when I thought of this. It seriously doesn’t make any sense now when it’s barely 50 degrees outside. But I’m sure after a dinner of spinach gnocchi in sorrel pesto (I have sorrel growing out of my ears), it will be a delicious treat no matter what the outside temperature.

I don’t drink milk, being lactose intolerant it doesn’t sit well with me, but cook with cream on occasion and consume more than I should in other forms of dairy–most notably cheese and yogurt, oh, and butter (mmm butt-er). So when it comes to ice cream I generally turn to coconut varieties or to sorbets.

Ruby grapefruitKiwi

I have been known to throw caution to the wind and get a cone of mint chocolate chip while out on the town, but for sitting around the fireplace after dinner I prefer a slightly tart sorbet.

The grapefruits we get tend to be fairly sweet. Their mature sugars make great sorbets while still retaining the gentle tartness that makes them such a great breakfast snack. When combined with the sweet, tart flavor of ripe organic kiwis it makes the perfect blend of exotic sweetness and refreshing tartness of this sorbet.

Grapefruit and kiwi sorbet

I’ve made this both in an ice cream maker and previously using a whip, a metal bowl and another bowl full of ice and rock salt. It takes a little more elbow grease and the result is practically the same so I don’t feel too bad taking the short cut. I like my sorbets silky smooth and one of the tricks to keeping them from looking like granitas is to add a little vodka.

The vodka will help to lower the temperature that the sorbet freezes at and keep large crystals from forming,; though it will increase the amount of time it will take the sorbet to set up. After about a half hour in the ice cream maker it’s ready to transfer to a container and into the freezer for another hour to two hours depending on how firm you prefer your sorbet.

Grapefruit and kiwi sorbet

2 grapefruits, juiced
2 kiwis, juiced
1 t zest
1 T vodka
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a small pan mix sugar and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. I prefer the slightly caramel flavor of natural sugar, though it will slightly darken the color of the sorbet. After sugar is dissolved, cool completely. Add juice, zest and vodka. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions. Transfer to container and freeze until desired consistency. That’s it!

No, seriously I am ready. Bring it. None of this ‘Oh, here’s a little break in the clouds for you’ or ‘How about a couple hours of sunshine?’ I want spring, now. I’m dieing here and even though I’ll be escaping to California for the weekend – cousin’s wedding – I may return excited yet even more disappointed than ever.

Because more rain at this point is not what we need. We need barbecue weather. We need picnic weather. We need sun. And our crops do to. Although spring has finally sprung in California, bringing with it a true spring like bloom of new veggies, our wet soil has hindered spring planting.

Take solace though – even if it’s not spring outside, thanks to our southern partner farms who are enjoying just a bit more sunshine than us, it is beginning to look like spring in the box. I’m not even changing anything this week, no substitutions and just taking what I get.

Here’s what my box is looking like –

Tomatoes
Klamath Pearl Potatoes
Snow Peas
Red Onions
Baby Spinach
Arugula (Greens)
Romaine Lettuce
Green Kale
Cara Cara Oranges
Kiwi
Mangos
Braeburn Apples

I’m willing to give tomatoes a try, the one I got in my last box is still sitting on my south-facing windowsill, and the Klamath Pearls I can’t wait for. This particular potato is only grown in the rich loamy soil of the Oregon-California border. Soil filled with the minerals from the eruption of Mt. Mazama and the prehistoric Lake Modoc.

These little pots are not to be missed. They are especially good roasted, just boil them first for about 12-13 minutes, toss roughly in coarse sea salt and roast on high, about 450 degrees. It’ll be the best roaster you’ve had, guaranteed.

The snow peas are wonderful just steamed and tossed with a little honey and mint. Or mixed, Sechuan-style, with sesame oil, sesame seeds and some ginger-chili paste. Yum.

Arugula is my favorite spring topping for pizza, or pizza bread, or just made into a salad with shallots, balsamic vinegar, pears and goat cheese. The Fromage Blanc from Mt. Townsend Creamery is awesome in this dish.

The romaine is an excuse to try out the original Caesar recipe in the member recipes section. Drizzled over a quarter of broiled or grilled romaine is a delicacy.

Leche de Mango for dessert, or maybe kiwi sorbet, I’ll let you decide. I’m going to do some research this weekend and explore the depths of my Grandmother’s culinary legacy while I’m down south. Hopefully I’ll come back with a jewel for us all. Until then, have a great weekend. Eat healthy and be well.