What season is this, again?

October 22, 2017

Market haul from yesterday: Tomatoes, muscadines, cucumbers, and fall strawberries!

If there are strawberries, it must be spring, yes?

No.

Made a whirlwind dash through the Farmers Market (next week is the last one for the season, and I won’t be here, and I did want a final batch of tomatoes), and found…fall strawberries. I have been around gardening and farming most of my life, and I had never heard of such.

The berry people said they’d bought seedling plants in the spring, and held some of the plants in the cooler all summer. The seedlings, thinking it was winter, went dormant.  Once the hot weather passed, they planted them. Seedlings thought, due to our long, warm fall, “Oh! It must be time to do our thing!” So they grew, bloomed, and grew fruit.

Damndest thing I ever saw in my life. Well worth me paying $4 a quart for them (local berries? in late October? you better believe it!), no matter strawberries from Mexico or somewhere were two quarts for $4 at the grocery.

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Strawberry shortcake with sweetened creme fraiche; yummy!

There are only three acceptable desserts for Memorial Day weekend dinners in the South:

  1. Ice cold watermelon
  2. Homemade ice cream
  3. And strawberry shortcake

Do not be bringing any cheesecake or blackberry cobbler or apple pie, no matter how American it is, up in here on Memorial Day weekend. It just ain’t right.

So we had strawberry shortcake. Because I keep buying strawberries at the market, because I keep thinking it’s close to the end of the season for strawberries, and I know I’ll miss them when it’s down to grocery store berries being all I can get. At present, Bill’s, down in Newport, is still putting out berries; they started bearing later than did the Bald Knob berries, so they’ll last a little bit longer. But not much.

For good measure, I also had peaches macerated in sugar and white balsamic vinegar (adding a splash of balsamic to the fruit extends its fridge life, and if you don’t overdo it, you don’t taste it), because I’d gotten them the week before at the market and given them a week on the counter to ripen and soften. I’m not as crazy about early season peaches as I am the later ones; the early peaches are cling peaches, they’re small, and they’re not as sweet, albeit they DO have an intense peachy taste.

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A cooking weekend!

May 1, 2017

Strawberries and pound cake. Can I hear a big ol’ YUM?

After a full week or more of not cooking, I made up for it Saturday. I was, in fact, a “cooking fool” much of the weekend.

Felt good.

The final toll:

  • A shrimp boil dinner Saturday night
  • Pickled asparagus
  • A loaf of apple fritter quick bread
  • A butter loaf pound cake, and macerated strawberries to go on top
  • Pre-cooks for Sunday dinner (see previous post) including getting the potatoes and beans ready to bake and the pork roast rubbed down and in the fridge

I meant to make granola, as I’m out, but I forgot. That’s for today.

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Market goodies. I do dearly love the farmers’ market.

With apologies, of course, to Andy Williams. Christmas is wonderful, too, but Lord help me, how I DO love spring. Not least because of all the food-related bonuses it brings. Gardening, strawberries, salad greens, fresh asparagus, grilling out, draft beer and a cheese-and-sausage plate at the ballpark…

…and farmers’ markets!

Which I love as much as I love spring. Or maybe it’s because I love spring.  More likely, it’s because I love to eat. And a trip to the farmers’ market means there’s some good eating to be done, either there, or when you get home, or over the course of the next several days.

I made my first market of the year back last month, when we’d gone to Hot Springs for a weekend. Had some time to kill, and our hotel was just down the street, so I walked down. Saw some old friends, bought herbs, and oh my God, there were the first strawberries of the season! I grabbed some. Back to the hotel, stashed them in the fridge, set the herbs on the desk. One of our traveling companions came in, was checking out the herbs, and wanted to go. So we went back. I bought honey that time.

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Herald of spring

April 4, 2017

Spring in a soup bowl. Because a dessert dish just won’t cut it.

Saturday morning, I got up and betook myself to Memphis to the Farmers’ Market, because their market opens April 1, and ours doesn’t open until May 1, and I wanted asparagus.

Personally, I do not believe a two-hour round trip is excessive to purchase fresh, local asparagus. Particularly not when you can get local strawberries, as well, on April Fools Day, which is early for local berries. But what better way to have a Sunday springtime dinner than with fresh asparagus and strawberry shortcake?

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Feeling all fruity

March 12, 2017

Fresh pineapple in between the yogurt and the granola.

I think it’s my fault it snowed.

Y’see, how it was, was, I was feeling all springy and such, and I indulged in fruit. Lots of fruit the past week or 10 days. Strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, pears, watermelon. I even toyed with the idea of adding some small watermelons and some canteloupes to my garden plan.

And Mother Nature said, “Uh, uh, no you don’t! Don’t you even start thinking about spring and such!” And that bitch dumped four inches of snow on us yesterday afternoon and last night. On the very day, in fact, that I was supposed to go to Lowe’s and pick up my order of bagged compost, fence stuff, and other assorted garden-y things.

Pffth. I just hope it didn’t get the early peaches.

Anyway. I’m enjoying fruit, whatever the weather is. I made yogurt the other day, and granola, and I’ve had that with both pineapple and with strawberries. Good breakfast fare, that; it’ll stay with you for a while.

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Strawberry shortcake with creme fraiche on top. Kill me now.

Strawberry shortcake with creme fraiche on top. Kill me now.

This time of year, the strawberry shortcake is just canonical. And there are as many ways to make it as there are cooks who do.

When I was growing up, we generally tended toward the sponge-cake-you-bought-at-the-grocery style of shortcake. You know, the ones with a hollowed-out top you put the berries in.  My former mother-in-law made a killer angel food cake, and was a devotee of using that as a base for berries. More traditional shortcake makers use a sugar-cookie-type cake, or a pie crust dusted with sugar and baked in flat wafers or strips, or something along the order of a sweetened biscuit.

You can even take a page from the esteemed Bulldog Drive In in Bald Knob, and put your strawberries over soft-serve ice cream, with shortbread wafers, whipped topping and peanuts.

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