Apricots

native to: China or Armenia
in season here: June to early July

Apricots, Prunus armenaica, are closely related to plums (more distantly, they join plums, peaches, and apples as relatives of the rose). They may have originally come from India or China and were certainly present in ancient Greece and Rome, but the general scientific consensus these days is that they came from Armenia. They were brought to Virginia in 1720, but didn’t do all that well until they arrived in California in 1792, where the climate was much more suitable. Here in Washington State, of course, we think of them as being from Yakima and Wenatchee, and may even associate them with Cotlets. It’s easy to tell if an apricot is reasonably local and delicious or has been picked green and imported hundreds or thousand of miles: the better an apricot smells, the more flavor it has. The essential oil from apricot pits is sold as bitter almond oil (just like almond extract is actually made from peach pits).

Apricots are one of summer’s earliest fruits and provide plenty of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin C, copper, and potassium. Their flavonoids and other polyphenols have been linked to heart health, and their carotenoids and xanthophylls are thought to protect vision. They are also a good source of catechins, an anti-inflammatory most commonly associated with green tea. They support bone health, with all the necessary minerals needed to grow bones and prevent osteoporosis. They’ve been used to treat digestive complaints, earaches, fever, skin problems, respiratory problems, cancer, and anemia (with what success, my superficial research doesn’t mention). Apricot oil is used on strained muscles and wounds.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw apricots
label-style nutrition information for dried apricots
World’s Healthiest Foods
Live Strong

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Spiced cherries

Spiced cherries

The Royal Anne is the cherry that gives the best results in spicing. Put the cherries into a stone jar or porcelain pan. Heat one quart of good cider vinegar with two coffee cups of sugar; put into a muslin bag one teaspoon each of various spices, heat with the vinegar and sugar to the boiling point, then pour over the cherries and let stand over night. Repeat this a second time. Then put the cherries in glass bottles or jars, heat the vinegar a third time, pour over and seal. Fine with meats. Prunes are good spiced by this recipe, but the skins of the prunes must be pricked with a fork to prevent bursting.

From: Jennings, Linda Deziah (compiler), Washington women’s cook book. The Washington Equal Suffrage Association, 1908.

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Citrus Shrimp and White Bean Salad

6 Tbsp. lime vinaigrette*
3/4 lb. small or med. shrimp, peeled and deveined
15 oz. canned white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley

4 cups arugula, lettuce, or salad mix
1 orange bell pepper, thinly diced

Heat 2 Tbsp. lime dressing over medium heat. Add shrimp and sauté until they start to turn opaque, about 3 minutes. Add beans and parsley and heat through. Divide greens and pepper among four plates for a side dish, or two for a main course. Top with shrimp mixture and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Adapted from meganwarerd.com

*Any kind of vinaigrette-style dressing will work, but Newman’s Own Light Lime Dressing is suggested. You can also make your own by mixing 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp. vinegar, 3 Tbsp lime or lemon juice, and black pepper and salt to taste.

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Sautéed spinach with garlic

1 lb. spinach, stemmed, washed, and patted or spun dry
1 Tbsp. olive oil or butter
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Sizzle garlic in the oil or butter until it just begins to brown, about 3 min. If using butter, be careful not to burn it. Stir in about half the spinach, letting it wilt before adding the other half. Cook over high heat until the liquid from the spinach evaporates, about 5 min. Season and serve.

If you would like to serve this dish at room temperature rather than hot, use oil; the butter will congeal if allowed to cool.

Adapted from Vegetables / James Peterson. William Morrow, c1998. ISBN: 9780688146580

Mr. Peterson goes on to give a very similar recipe for chard, with a little more oil and a little less garlic. In fact, this technique will probably work with any greens you care to cook; it’s also nearly identical to the nettle recipe Ray of OlyYoga fame recommends, except he adds a little chopped onion.

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Newsletters: 29 June, 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 29 June, 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Fresh strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin c (1 cup supplies 140% of the RDA), fiber, folate and potassium. They have been linked with lower blood pressure and may help against cancer, memory loss, diabetes, gout, constipation, and sluggish liver. They contain flavinoids that help cholestrol from damaging artery walls, and antioxidants that also have anti-inflamatory properties. They’re even good for the eyes. The Romans acknowledged the medicinal properties of strawberries, and Native Americans treated digestive complaints with strawberry leaf tea.

Although strawberries have been eaten in Europe since ancient times, the modern commercial strawberry is a mix of varieties from the Americas and Europe. Defining “berry” popularly, the strawberry is the world’s most popular berry (defined technically, the banana is the most popular, and strawberries aren’t really berries at all).

You can find more info at World’s Healthiest Foods and Organic facts.net.

In the kitchen
As I promised (or threatened) last week, I checked Dalby and Grainger for pea recipes, but they only give one. However, I found two medieval recipes in good ol’ Pleyn Delit, so you still get historic pea recipes this week.

Vitellian peas
8 oz. marrowfat or other dried peas, or substitute 1 lb. fresh fava beans
3/4 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. chopped lovage or celery leaves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 egg yolks, cooked
3 Tbsp. honey (+ more to taste)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2/3 c white wine
1/3 c white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Soak peas overnight in cold water, strain, and cover again with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, 1 to 1.5 hours, adding more water if needed. Drain and beat (or puree in a food processer) until smooth. If using broad beans, boil 4-6 min., until tender, drain and puree. Pound ginger, lovage, and pepper in a mortar. Add egg yolks and pound until a smooth paste forms. Stir in honey and fish sauce until smooth. Flush out the mortar into a saucepan with the wine and vinegar; add oil and simmer gently for a few minutes. Add the peas and reheat. Add more honey if desired.
From: The classical cookbook / Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. J. Paul Getty Museum, c1996.

Grene pesen (Green peas)
3 lb fresh shelled peas, or 20 oz. frozen peas
1 c beef broth
2 sprigs parsley
a few leaves of fresh mint, or 1/2 tsp. dried
1-2 fresh sage leaves (1/8 to 1/4 tsp. dried)
sprig of savory (1/8 to 1/4 tsp. dried)
1 slice bread, crusts removed
Boil peas about 12 min until almost done (less for frozen). Blend herbs and bread with enough broth to moisten. Drain peas and add about 1/2 c to the herbs; blend into a smooth, fairly thick sauce, adding more broth as needed. Gently reheat remaining peas in this sauce

Pois en cosse (Peasecods)
2 lb. young peas in the pod, untrimmed
2 Tbsp butter
salt to taste
Boil peapods in salted water 10-15 min., until done. Stir in butter and serve.
From: Pleyn delit : medieval cookery for modern cooks / Constance B. Hieatt, Brenda Hosington, and Sharon Butler. University of Toronto Press, c1996.

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Newsletters: 30 June, 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 23 June, 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
This week’s recipe is from Sue Lundy of Daisy Chain, who will have scapes as well as her distinctive bouquets this week.

Garlic scape and almond pesto
Makes about 1 cup
10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you’d like)
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt
Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle). Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese. If you like the texture, stop; if you’d like it a little thinner, add some more oil. Season with salt.

If you’re not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it from oxidizing. The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed airtight and frozen for a couple of months, by which time tomatoes should be at their juiciest.

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Newsletters: 22 June, 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 22 June, 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Peas are a good source of vitamin K1 and folic acid, needed for bone mineralization, and B6, which is good for both bones and nerves. They also have lots of B1, 2, and 3, C, iron, protein, and fiber. Edible-pod peas (snow and snap peas) don’t have quite as much protein as shelling peas, but they’re quicker to prepare and you get more edible stuff per pound. I personally prefer shelling peas, but I also think that canned peas aren’t actually a food and sweet peas are a kind of flower, so my opinions are not necessarily mainstream.

Peas are native to a region from the near East to central Asia, and admirably suited to our cool Northwest summers. There is evidence that peas were eaten in Asia as early as 9750 BCE, in Iraq by 6000 BCE, and in Switzerland during the Bronze age. Apicius, I’m told, wrote about nine pea dishes… maybe I’ll look a few of those up for next week’s recipes.

In the kitchen
To coordinate with the whole steak/4th of July/barbecue thing, here are some barbecue recipes.

Homemade barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 med. onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
large pinch of dried thyme
2 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, to taste
3 Tbsp. honey
1/3 c red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce
Saute onion, garlic, basil, and thyme in oil 5-7 min., until onion is softened slightly. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, 20-30 min., until thickened. Adjust seasonings. Sauce will keep, refrigerated, several weeks.
From: From the farmers’ market : wonderful things to do with fresh-from-the-farm food with recipes and recollections from farm kitchens / Richard Sax with Sandra Gluck. Harper & Row, c1986.

Colvin’s favorite round steak recipe
For about 1 lb. round steak sliced into finger-sized strips:
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup salad oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon salt
pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon basil
Combine all ingredients. Marinate 4-6 hours. Grill the steak strips at about 300F (not too hot) about 2 minutes to a side. With the oil on the steaks you may get some flare-up, which can be reduced by patting the meat dry with a paper towel before putting it on the grill.
From: the Colvin Ranch newsletter Cattle tales, Mon, Jun 6 2011.

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