Now we’re getting somewhere
As Culiaria Eugenius points out, the coming of summer brings a shift from greens and peas and more greens into the rich variety of summer produce. At yesterday’s market, I had to keep reminding myself that I’m heading out of town later in the week, so I restrained myself to one of Wood Family Farm’s excellent rib steaks, a bunch of garlic tops that are already opening (hey, they were only 50 cents a bunch), a few of what will probably be the last sugar-pod peas, some of the first green beans, a half pint of cherries – and two pints of raspberries.
It’s too hot to cook indoors, but I thawed the steak and gave it a good massage with a mixture of smoked paprika, cumin, rosemary and a dash of dried chipotle, plus a little salt, then put it in a bag to soak up those smokey flavors with plans to grill it tonight, once the ocean breezes start blowing in from over the Coast Range and cooling things off. There will be green beans – just gently steamed with a dab of butter – and perhaps a pan of garlic tops and mushrooms set to simmer at the edge of the grill. Some of the steak (I can’t eat it all at one sitting) will get sliced for use in a salad or wrap; there are enough green beans for a second meal, and somewhere along the line I’ll do something with the cherries. This week, I anticipate at least 3-4 meals from mostly local food. And it’s just going to get better as the summer progresses.
Yesterday, though, I couldn’t bring myself to cook at all. I rinsed and nibbled some of the peas, raw, for lunch. And then there were the raspberries.
Raspberries and I, we have history. I love them with a love that surpasseth understanding, above all other fruits, even summer-ripe peaches or the crisp antique apples of fall. Until I moved to the Willamette Valley, I’d never lived anywhere raspberries were grown; they were always rare, imported treats, so expensive that I never bought more than half a pint at a time, and carefully doled them out a few at a time as toppings for ice cream or cheesecake.
I still remember the realization, that first summer living in Oregon, that I could eat as many raspberries as I wanted. Followed, soon afterward, by an encounter with an acquaintance who was complaining that the raspberry canes in her back yard had run amok, and that she didn’t really like raspberries, so if I wanted to come over and pick some, I could help myself.
I think I came close to “too many raspberries” that summer. But never since.
Now I have raspberries growing in my own back yard. In their third year, they’ve spread out nicely along the eastern fence, and they’re thick with nascent fruit this summer; with a few weeks, I should be harvesting bowls full a day.
But not yet, so I snatched up two pints of the first market raspberries – Cascade Bounty, a relatively new cultivar – and brought them home.
There are lots of fine things to make from raspberries: Jam, pie, a simple puree (simmer raspberries an a very small amount of liquid – water, white whine – until they fall apart, sweeten to taste or not, then press through a strainer to remove the seeds) that can be used in everything from drinks (a few tablespoons of raspberry puree + sparkling water over ice!) to sauces to desserts.
But at the start of the season, I don’t bother. I just eat them.
I managed to consume nearly half a pint on the way home from the market. And a few more as I gently picked through them looking for squashed or overripe berries that might promote mold.
And then, for dinner, just this:
Raspberries. Cream. That’s all.