Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

Today is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere: the summer solstice. The earth rotates on an axis, meaning that its poles move closer to the sun as summer approaches, and then gradually move away until we reach winter.

Midsummer came to Culver City at 10:16 a.m. Pacific Time today. Just as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you don’t have to look far to see signs of love and marriage in the air. Remember, we’re still in June, the traditional wedding month. So when you are at the downtown Culver City farmers market today, pick up some flowers or some handcrafted chocolates, maybe a loaf of fresh artisan bread to go with a jug of wine. Bring along a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and spend some time under a bough reading verses with your favorite “thou.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Southern California’s climate were made for each other. There are at least two outdoor productions scheduled for this summer: one in Topanga and the other in Griffith Park. Enjoy the magic and enchantment of this wonderful Shakespearean comedy. Like all of the Bard’s comedies, you’ll find confusion ensuing after four young Athenians flee into a forest inhabited by fairies to avoid a forced marriage. Of course, there’s a happy ending at the end of Act IV. The Athenian Duke marries his queen. Hermia marries her Lysander and Helena marries Demetrius.

Shakespeare leaves the menu of the grand nuptial feast to the imagination, but Culver City farmers market shoppers will be able to picnic in style on cold baked trout, sunshiny vegetables, solstice green salad and raspberry fool. Even if you’re not much of a cook, you can still get into the solstice spirit with a few colorful and fresh garnishes and accents.

The colors orange and yellow were associated with the sun, and fresh herbs and flowers with the bounty of the season. If you have access to organically grown marigolds, by all means use their petals as garnish. Sometimes you can find edible pansy flowers for sale. But if you’re not sure how they were grown, don’t take a risk. You can use carrot curls or sliced orange peppers or heirloom tomatoes instead.

This Irish baked trout recipe can be served warm or cold. It is a simple and delicious entree either way you serve it.

Baked Trout

(serves 4)

2 T. chopped fresh parsley or tarragon
one half cup butter, softened
4 whole trout, cleaned, approximately one half pound each
salt (Kosher if you have it) and pepper
one half bottle Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
juice of 1 lemon
parsley or tarragon to garnish

When shopping for the fish, look for signs of freshness: eyes clear, not cloudy; and gills with some red in them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the parsley or tarragon into the softened butter. Divide into five pats. Rub salt and pepper into the trout. Place one pat of the herbed butter inside each fish. Place fish in oven-proof dish. Pour wine over the fish to cover. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and drizzle with the lemon juice. Dot with the remaining herbed butter, cut into small pieces. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. In Ireland, this dish is served either hot or cold.

Sunshine Mash
(serves 8)

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into pieces
sugar or honey
butter to taste
optional: garnish with pinch of nutmeg

Cook the carrots in one medium pot of salted boiling water. Use a second pot of salted boiling water to cook the parsnips. Cook until each vegetable is tender. Drain. Combine in a large bowl. Use a potato masher to mash them, or puree a bit at a time in a blender or food processor. Taste. Add salt and pepper, sugar or honey and butter to taste. A pinch of nutmeg makes a wonderful garnish before serving.

Midsummer Salad

(serves 4-6)

Combine five parts of green leaf lettuce with one part of tender dandelion leaves and one part of arugula, stems removed. Make sure to tear, not cut the leaves. If you can find Sungold cherry tomatoes (they are a deep orange yellow and taste as sweet as grape tomatoes), definitely add some. Otherwise, you can substitute grape or cherry tomatoes (either red or yellow). Take some fresh mushrooms. Brush them clean, remove their stems, and slice them. Add them to the salad and toss to mix all ingredients. Serve with hot bacon dressing or salad dressing of your choice.

Hot Bacon Dressing

8 pieces of bacon
2 T white vinegar
1-2 t. sugar or sweetener

Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces.  Place in skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until just crisp.  Drain bacon grease, reserving 1/2 cup.  Set aside.  Put cooked bacon pieces between two absorbent paper towels to remove grease.  This dressing should be served when it is warm.  Immediately before you are planning to dress the salad, heat the reserved half cup of bacon grease in a small saucepan over low heat.  When it is liquid, add the 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1-2 teaspoons of sugar or sweetener, and whisk, off the heat, until well-blended.  Place the saucepan back on the burner and add the reserved cooked bacon bits.  Heat just long enough to warm them up, then remove pan from stove and dress the salad.

Raspberry Fool
(serves 8)

3 six ounce baskets of fresh raspberries (18 oz. Total)
one half cup plus 2 teaspoons superfine sugar (ok to substitute regular)
1 pint heavy whipping cream

Place about 3 cups of the strawberries (approximately 12 ounces) and sugar. Mash together with fork. Set aside. Pour cream into large bowl; add remainder of the sugar. Whip (or whisk) until cream forms firm peaks. Gently fold in raspberry-sugar mixture using a spatula. Divide among either glasses or bowls. Top with fresh raspberries. Serve immediately or cover and chill. If desires, drizzle a small amount of raspberry-flavored liqueur over each bowl before serving.

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 from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. At the northeast corner of the Westfield Culver City parking lot, at the intersection of Hannum and Slauson Blvds.

Katie Malich is looking forward to this summer’s wonderful outdoor productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Independent Shakespeare Company in Griffith Park and the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga..

The Actors' Gang

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