Monday, August 24, 2009

The Blueberries Taste Like Blueberries

So you've listened to my advice and have gone blueberry picking. What do you do now with 4 quarts of blueberries?

Freeze them!

Frozen blueberries are great in fruit smoothies, blueberry pies and other desserts. Researchers at Tufts University and the USDA Center for Aging put blueberries at the top of their list of 40 fruits that deliver antioxidant activity.

To freeze blueberries simply wash and dry the berries - removing any stems or debris. Spread out the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours until the berries are frozen. Berries can then be transferred to a Ziploc freezer bag and put back in the freezer until future use.

Check out this recipe I have adapted using local fresh or frozen blueberries and raspberries.


Makes 4 Servings

Mascarpone cheese, a velvety rich Italian cream cheese, has been made famous by chefs in America for it's use in tiramisu. I prefer to either make my own or purchase Vermont Butter and Cheese Company's mascarpone. For this recipe I have adapted traditional Tiramisu using fresh local berries readily available this time of year.

While summer raspberries are no longer available - try this recipe with some frozen raspberries or wait for the fall raspberries to ripen (soon!). For some fall raspberries go to the Isham Family Farm or the Charlotte Berry Farm.

1 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup fresh raspberries

1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese

10-12 Savoiardi biscuits (Lady Fingers)
1/2 cup Chambord or other raspberry liqueur

Fresh mint sprigs and 10-15 blueberries for garnish
4 martini glasses

1. In a medium saucepan combine blueberries, granulated sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the berries give off their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the raspberries and cook until they are heated through but still hold their shape, about 2 minutes. Remove the berry mixture from the heat and let cool.

2. Dip both sides of each lady finger in the Chambord and place on a plate and set aside to let the liqueur soak in. In the meantime make the mascarpone cream.

3. In a medium bowl, combine confectioner's sugar and heavy cream. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add in the mascarpone cheese and continue to beat until a smooth cream is formed, about 1 minute.

4. To assemble the Berrymisu, spoon about one tablespoon of mascapone cream into the bottom of each martini glass. Next add a layer of the soaked lady fingers, enough to cover the cream. On top of the lady fingers, spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the berry mixture. Repeat layers one more time - you should be ending with the mascarpone cream on top (3-4 tablespoons for top layer of mascarpone cream). Smooth out the cream and garnish with mint and fresh berries.

5. Cover each martini glass and chill for 2 hours or overnight.

- Copyright In Season Personal Chef and Nutrition Services

My Blueberry Nights - A Vermont Summertime Experience

Last Tuesday, Nick and I were in the mood for a picnic, live music, and some blueberries. The logical choice was to head out to Owl's Head Farm.

At Owl's Head Farm in Richmond Vermont you can pick your own blueberries while enjoying live entertainment on selected Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the 2009 blueberry harvest season. Entertainment is complimentary with a 2 quart minimum purchase per person prior to entering the fields on music nights.

On our way, we swung by On the Rise Bakery in Richmond to pick up some fresh bread for our blueberry picnic. Along with the fresh bread we had an heirloom tomato pasta salad, chilled Prosecco and for dessert, of course, blueberries.

It was a hot August evening, and we started out the evening with a 10 minute refreshing light rain which helped to cool things down. Our patience was rewarded with a beautiful rainbow (the picture doesn't do it justice).

After picking our blueberries, we spread out our blanket and enjoyed the "fruits" of our labor while listening to Full Circle, a live recorder ensemble, adding a bit of medieval flair to our little feast. We stayed to watch the sun set over the mountains. A great ending to a unique Vermont summertime experience.

The blueberry season is winding down and this Saturday is the last day of picking at Owl's Head Farm so if you want some blueberries and great live music, go soon or you will have to wait until next year! Give them a call for current picking conditions.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tomato Late Blight

I hate to start out my blog on a negative note, but I thought it was rather important to inform people of what is going on in the land of farmers due to all the rain that has been dumped on the Northeast this simmer.

While it is nice to see the sun these past couple of days, it is not without some regret that there have been some casualties in the farming world. Nick and I are CSA members at Full Moon Farm. Full Moon Farm is a 155 acre certified organic vegetable farm now located in Hinesburg, Vermont. Now in its tenth year of production, Full Moon Farm is committed to connecting consumers to their local food sources and producers. For those that are unfamiliar with CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), a CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. To find a CSA near you go to the Local Harvest website.

Back to the bad news. It was a couple weeks ago that we received an email from the farmers at Full Moon Farm telling the members the unfortunate news that all of the farms tomato plants had to be pulled up and destroyed due to Late Blight. Here is that email:

"Hi Everyone-
Rachel and I have been torn apart about how to write what is coming next. Thankfully, there is a story in the

New York Times:
that spells it out pretty clearly. Our farm along with almost every other organic and many conventional, has been inflicted with late blight. It is a crop destroyer for tomatoes and potatoes.

For those of you who may have been members in the past, you know how much we love our heirloom tomatoes. The incredible flavors make the odd shapes, sizes and colors worth it. We love our daily tomato, basil and garlic sandwiches. We (really Rachel) usually cans 40-60 quarts of tomato sauce and salsa every year. Our Sun gold cherry tomatoes are always a hit with the kids (Addie loves them).

This year....we will have none. We started to destroy the tomato plats yesterday and hope to have the process completed by the end of tomorrow. We are doing this in order to try to save the potato crop which so far shows far fewer signs of infection. We might be able to save a few more of our potatoes because they are underground and may take longer to get the infection to the fruit (on the tomato it is instant). While we are not going to get our full harvest (we don't usually dig them until late August or September), we might be able to get 30% or maybe a little more or less.

The NYT article tells it like it is. It is nice that home gardeners will get a refund from the big box stores that imported the host plants into the region...but so far we have not heard anything about farmers restitution.

We actually feel slightly lucky compared with some of the wholesale farmers listed in the article as our pain is somewhat spread out with each of you. We will still lose the money that we would have made at the farmer's market ($6,000-$10,000), and we will work our best to get you your money's worth in the share. But this season is certainly a challenge with respect to the range of summer crops that we love to provide for you in the late July through September parts of the season. Our melons are late (and underperforming due to lack of pollination from all the rainy days), corn is late, tomato's ...well enough said, and eggplant and peppers are also underperforming.

We hope this article helps you understand what we are gong through. We apologize.

New York Times:

-Farmer Dave"

The photo above was sent by Farmer Dave of a late blight afflicted tomato plant before it was destroyed. While it is one of the unfortunate risks we take as members of a CSA, there are so many other benefits which I plan to bring to you in the next couple of months. When you go to buy local/heirloom tomatoes at the store or farmer's market this season and are concerned with the higher prices, I hope you will take these farmers' struggles into consideration.

Lucky for Nick and I, the heirloom tomatoes that we planted in our small front porch garden are doing spectacularly, so we won't miss out on tomato heaven this summer. I hope to post some wonderful tomato recipes in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned!