Monday, July 26, 2010

Lavender Destiny

I had been dreaming about the lavender apricot pickles from Poppy since Thursday night, and it was Sunday. There was no shaking them. I walked out of the house thinking, who do I know that has lavender in their yard? It seemed silly to buy lavender because it’s growing everywhere in Seattle right now, and I didn’t feel good about snatching it without permission (though I’ll admit, it did cross my mind.)

I rounded the corner, less than a block from my front door, and there was a man shoving an old lavender plant on to his yard waste bin. I am not much for fate or destiny, but it seemed pretty clear that Sunday was the day to make the apricot pickles. It was my lavender destiny. I tore off a handful (with permission) and headed to the farmers market for apricots.

I am pretty sure that Poppy’s pickles were quick pickles, and I wanted something to last in the cupboard. I also wanted to up the savory quotient a bit, so I added more vinegar and salt than I think they used. I am not going to give you the recipe here because I haven’t tasted them yet. Maybe they're horrible, or totally unlavendary. They’re still pickling, but they've already started looking lovely and making me smile.

I will, however, share my favorite recipe for sweet pickle brine. Most often, I prefer an unsweetened pickle. But some treats—like spicy onions and lavender apricots—call for a sweeter brine like this one.

Sweet Pickle Brine
Adapted from the Pickled Cauliflower recipe in Eugenia Bone’s Well Preserved
4 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
3T canning salt
Something special: lavender, red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In with the Heirloom

I gave up Diet Pepsi this week. July 5th, to be exact. And I am saying this publicly in the hopes that it will stick. It’s not that I plan never to drink a sip again, but I’d rather it not be an integral part of my work day, as it has been for years.

I get so much pleasure out of eating tasty, healthy, responsible food, it seemed silly to infuse the whole thing with a week-daily dose of aspartame. It’s a little embarrassing, actually. So I’m done.

I bought some spelt a few weeks ago from Finn River Farms, a new vendor at my local farmers market, and have been looking for an occasion to try it out. This event seemed fitting—usher out the daily poison with locally and family farmed, organic heirloom grains.

Out with the Nutra Sweet, in with the heirloom.

I made a salad with the spelt and some red salad onions from Alvarez Farms, and served it with sliced tomatoes and grilled grass-fed top round beef from Bill the Butcher.

Spelt with Onions and Ricotta Salada

1 cup spelt berries
1 small red salad onion (about ¼ cup sliced)
½ cup crumbled ricotta salada
3 T olive oil
2 t red wine vinegar
½ t kosher salt

  • Rinse the spelt. Bring it to a boil in a medium sauce pan with 3 cups of water. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes. Drain and cool.
  • Slice the onion into thin rounds including a few inches of the greens. Separate the rings.
  • Whisk the oil, vinegar and salt together in a small bowl. Toss it all together. Let it stand at room temperature for an hour or so to let the vinegar soak in.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Nature has pretty good taste. Here in the northwest, when the season is starting to serve up some serious summer bounty, I am reminded of all of the great taste combos that are presented to us right out of the ground.

What backyard gardener doesn’t struggle to dream up creative ways to eat yet another summer squash? Grill it, slice it thin and dress it, layer it in lasagna, shred it into bread, gift it to neighbors, bring it to work. By the end of a good season they practically give zucchini away at the farmers market.
And mint—it can take over a garden. You start with one little plant by the garage and the next thing you know it’s rounding the corner and headed for the house. Watch out for the mint!

Which brings me to one of my favorite summer assemblies, or recipes that require little more than putting a few items together on a plate. Grilled summer squash with mint chiffonade is incredibly tasty and a little unexpected. It’s cheap and easy enough to serve it to a crowd. And good all summer long.
Summer Assemblies:
  • Grilled summer squash with mint chiffonade
  • Peaches, basil and fresh mozzarella
  • Tomatoes with gorgonzola, red onions and fresh oregano
  • Sliced, peeled cucumbers with lime and salt
  • Sour cream, blueberries and brown sugar
  • Chives, ricotta and olive oil on wheat toast