Wednesday September 17th 2014
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Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

Last week’s column featured vinegrette salad dressings and an old-time favorite which is newly trendy again: Green Goddess Dressing.

This week, Fresh From the Farm focuses on fruit. We’ll still have fresh cherries for a couple more weeks, there’s a rainbow assortment of tree-ripened stone fruit which dazzles the eyes and tantalizes the tastebuds, and our stalwart Tehachapi-area orchard vendors continue to sell sweet fuji apples and Asian pears. Last week’s blackberries were uniformly sweet and flavorful. Blueberries abound. With days getting longer, strawberry aficianados have several varieities to chose from: the Chandlers which we’ve enjoyed all winter; the larger, firm, bright early season Camarosas; and the “new kid on the Southern California block” Albions, a sweet, deep red strawberry popular in Monterry County and Northern California.

While you don’t have to be a blusing June bride to enjoy this week’s recipes, they do have something of a wedding theme. You’ll find:four ways to celebrate our summer fruit bounty: one old, one new, one borrowed and one blue.

First, blue. As in blueberry blue. Blueberry-infused vinegrette dressing is not just for vegetable-based salads anymore. This simple recipe, modified from one posted on Food.com,is flavorful enough to be drizzled over grilled chicken, fruit salad, even cooked couscous. Both spinach and blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidents and are low calorie, too boot. A cup of blueberries has 82 calories, and a cup of steamed spinach contains a mere 41 calories. Spinach is an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, magnesium and foliate, and a powerhouse of other nutrients.

Try this vinaigrette over a simple salad of baby spinach leaves, goat cheese and walnuts to amp up the nutrition. Walnuts are packed with essential fatty acids. A quarter cup provides approximately 95 % of the minumum daily requirement (MDA). Only 162 calories, a quarter cup of walnuts also provides over 40% of the MDA for magnesium.

Blueberry Vinaigrette

one half cup fresh blueberries
one half cup water
1 tablespoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 tablespoon olive oil
one half teaspoon lemon zest
one half cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
one eighth teaspoon salt
one eighth teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Wash and pick over blueberries. Take one tablespoon of berries and place in medium sized non-reactive bowl; reserving the rest.. Using the back of a spoon, gently mash the blueberries in the bowl just enough so that their skins crack but they retain some shape. Add water, then stir in the sugar, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk briefly, then add remainder of blueberries. Cover and chill for an hour or more. Taste before serving; adjust seasonings if necessary. As blueberries range from rather tart to fairly sweet, you’ll want to make sure not to skip this step.

Next, the borrowed (and another blue). This yogurt-based blueberry dressing was borrowed from the food blog, Chef a la Port, maintained by local personal chef Evan Branning. I’ve modified it slightly for those of us who cook by measures, not weight.
Blueberry Dressing and Dip

three quarters cup plain fat free yogurt
2 tbsp honey
scant one-half cup blueberries
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Directions:
Put all of the ingredients in a blender, cover, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Add lemon juice if it is too sweet or honey if it is too sour. Start gradually, tasting after each addition, until the desired balance is achieved. If it seems bland to you, try adding an additional pinch of salt
Serve this drizzled over a simple green salad garnished with whole blueberries. The blueberry and yogurt dressing is also a wonderful dip for fresh fruit slices. Keep this recipe in mind for your summer entertaining. It will keep for up to five days refrigerated. Just make sure that it’s brought up to room temperature before serving.

The next recipe is new. New to me, at least. I’d never envisioned fresh cherries and fresh herbs in a fruit salad before running across this recipe while researching last week’s column. Almost more of a fresh chutney or condiment than a conventional fruit salad, Tamara Murphy’s creation takes full advantage of Pacific Northwest fresh cherries available at Seattle area farmers markets. Murphy is one of those chefs who cook with a handful of this and a pinch of that. I’ve translated her outline into a recipe that will serve six as a side dish.

Cherries, Basil and Mint Salad
3 to three and a half cups stemmed, washed sweet cherries, cut in half and pits removed
one small to medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
around 8 fresh basil leaves, torn (not cut)
around 8 fresh mint leaves, torn (not cut)
pinch of crushed red chili flakes
zest of one large or two medium oranges
extra virgin olive oil
generous pinch of sea salt
one eighth teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Mix the cherries, onion slices, torn basil and mint leaves, red chili flakes and orange zest in large bowl. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Add a generous pinch of sea salt and around one eighth teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Mix to coat cherries and onions. Adjust seasoning to taste. .
This salad makes an excellent accompaniment to roast chicken, turkey, lamb or pork. In a more casual mood? Murphy says it’s great with pork sausages or salty ham like Prosciutto or Serrano, great cheese, and fresh-baked bread.

The something old in our quartet of fresh fruit dressings and salad comes from mid-twentieth century Down East Maine.

Sister Della’s Favorite Fruit Salad

I’ve adopted this wonderful recipe featuring seasonal fresh fruit from Shaker Your Plate, a compilation of recipes from the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. (For more about the Shaker religious sect, see the end of this column.) Sister Frances A. Carr describes the community’s cuisine as “the simple, down-to-earrth cooking of rural Maine,” utilizing “plain, wholesome food well prepared.”
Sister Della’s fruit salad featured ripe pears, peaches, and apples from their orchard, along with grapes, oranges, mayonnaise and sweet cream.

The apple orchard was the best known and loved commercial enterprise of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community during the early and middle twentieth century. Home to many older, nearly extinct apple varieties, the orchard was expanded in 1912. Brother Delmer added commercially popular Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Courtland and Macintosh, as well as more historic varieties. Sister Frances notes with pride that the Maine State Pomological Society would hold its annual meetings in the Sabbathday Lake orchard.

The apple trees, along with sour cherry, peach, pear and plum trees kept the community well-stocked with fresh, frozen, canned and preserved fruit throughout the year. Sister Della’s fruit salad featured ripe pears, peaches, and apples from their orchard, along with grapes, oranges, mayonnaise and sweet cream.

You’ll find local peaches, apples, oranges and grapes at the Culver City farmers markets. Since we won’t have fresh pears until late fall, I’ve substituted Asian pears..
I’m not a big fan of goopy dressings. I halved the amount of mayonnaise and sweet cream in the original recipe. If you’re seriously counting calories, you can substitute plain Greek-style yogurt for the mayo. Low fat mayonnaise and non-fat half and half are also an option, although I can’t vouch for them as I haven’t tried them. .

Sister Della’s Favorite Fruit Salad, Culver City Style

3 cups ripe Asian pears, cut into large pieces.
3 cups fresh peaches, cut into large pieces (I’d opt for the more colorful yellow peaches over white ones here, but either will work).
3 large apples, cut into thin slices (Sister Frances preferred Red Delicious, but I recommend fresh farmers market Fujis, since locally grown Delicious are not available right now)
1 cup grapes
2 large oranges, peeled, cut into chunks, reserving whatever juice is released (you could segement the oranges instead of cutting them if you have the time and patience)
one half cup mayonnaise (or thick, plain, Greek-style yogurt or low-fat mayonnaise)
one half cup sweet cream (whipping cream would be wonderfully decadent, but half-and-half or fat-free half and half would be fine)
lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon caraway seed

Prepare fruit. Mix the mayonnaise and cream together in large bowl. Lightly blend fruit and reserved juices, if any, into the mixture.
To serve, put layer or two of lettuce leaves on serving plate(s). Sprinkle with carraway seeds.

The Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market is held from 2 pm to 7 pm on Main Street, between Venice and Culver Blvds. The Culver South Farmers Market is held on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1 pm in the northeast corner of the Westfield Culver City parking lot at the intersection of Slauson and Hannum.

Katie Malich would be delighted if you kept reading a bit longer. She’s visited several Shaker communities, including Sabbathday Lake, and has been fascinated by what she’s learned.

The Shakers are a little-known religious sect most prominent in the 1800′s and the first decade or two of the twentieth century. Even if you have not heard of Shakers, you’re probably familiar with some of their contributions to modern society: gender-equality, ladder-backed chairs, clothespins, circular saws, flat brooms, and the lovely song, Simple Gifts, which features prominently in Aaron Copeland’s lyrical composition, Appalachian Spring. Shakers, once derisively referred to as “Shaking Quakers,” were a religious sect arising from Eighteenth Century charismatic Christianity. At the height of the movement’s popularity, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing had more than twenty communities in the United States. Believers practiced celibacy as part of the preparation for the coming kingdom of God, gaining new members by conversion, indenturing children and adoption of orphans. Shaker indentured and adopted children were given the option of staying or leaving the community once they reached adulthood Over time, a combination of turnover, aging and fewer converts led to the dissolution of all but one Shaker community: Sabbathday Lake.
The apple orchard was the best known and loved commercial enterprise of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community during the early and middle twentieth century. Home to many older, nearly extinct apple varieties, the orchard was expanded in 1912. Brother Delmer added commercially popular Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Courtland and Macintosh, as well as more historic varieties. Sister Frances notes with pride that the Maine State Pomological Society would hold its annual meetings in the Sabbathday Lake orchard.

The apple trees, along with sour cherry, peach, pear and plum trees kept the community well-stocked with fresh, frozen, canned and preserved fruit throughout the year. Sister Della’s original fruit salad recipe featured ripe pears, peaches, and apples from Brother Delmer’s orchard, along with grapes, oranges, mayonnaise and sweet cream. While many of us today might balk at her generous use of mayonnaise and sweet cream, we have to remember that french fries and cheeseburgers, pizza and transfat-laden “snack” cakes never made their way from the “world” into the Shaker community. Everyone deserves a little treat now and then. Healthful food, plainly prepared doesn’t mean that you have to forgo pleasure at the table.

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