Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UnRecipe: Summer Scrounge

I had one of those moments recently where I looked in our refrigerator, pantry and even our backyard and said: That's it! No more buying anything -- we need to use what we have!! I don't even know why that statement needed to be said, as I'm the one who handles all the household upkeep and it's my own foolish overpurchasing during sales that leaves me with three pounds of bell peppers, two cases of canned tomatoes and no idea what to do next. But the biggest bounty has actually been from our own backyard, and figuring out how to use it.

You can be my huckleberry (yes, I'm gonna say that every summer) - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I found myself with several containers' worth of wild red huckleberries. Teeny-tiny red berries that grow wild in our backyard, from bushes that grow from rotted tree stumps. I know, sounds sexy, right? But they're fun berries to use -- a sharply acidic tart-flavored berry, kind of similar to cranberries but more tender and not as bitter. Lots of vitamin C, so no worries about getting scurvy if you eat them. It takes me about a week or two to gather enough to make jam. And when I say make jam, it's one small jar of the stuff. The berries cook down to nothing, but you're left with a super-concentrated paste of sour stuff that works as good as lemon juice, but with a bright red color.

Taking a cue from a previous post, where I made beet tarts, I made another batch of beet tarts, this time with the swirly Chioggia variety of beets, as we got a bunch in the CSA box and as we all know, they're not Mr. Wasabi's favorite, so it's on me to enjoy them. They're beautiful vegetables and the swirl of white and red means it stains your prep surface and hands much less. Barely at all, in comparison to the bloody murder of standard red beets. I spread the tart red huckleberry jam over the puff pastry, with cream cheese, and laid the roasted beet slices over that to finish in the oven. The sweetness of the beets were a nice companion to the sour berries, with the richness of the cream cheese and puff pastry to bring everything together. Just like buttery flaky pastry and creamy cheese to make a party, right?

Swirly-good beets for another colorful tart - Photos by  Wasabi Prime

I've been herb-harvesting in the yard as well -- before the heat totally baked our mint plant, I pulled handfuls of leaves, as well as a small bouquet's worth of lemon balm. I've done herb pestos with them in the past, but the latest thing that I can make easily and helps prune down the plants is herb-infused iced tea. I buy a supply of caffeine-free iced tea bags, usually a weak black tea blend, and steep a few bags with handfuls of cleaned mint and lemon balm. I put the whole thing in, stems, leaves and all. They just cook away with the tea bags, infusing the liquid with fresh flavor. I strain the liquid and let it chill in the refrigerator. I sometimes add sugar, but it tastes fine without it. If I have citrus, it's nice to let the rind of a lemon or orange sit in the mixture as well. It's one easy way to enjoy the garden every week, right in a glass.

Garden herbal tea - Photos by Wasabi Prime

1 comment:

  1. I had so many red huckleberries I recruited friends to come over and pick them all. Their sourness is too much for me :( But they are so darn pretty.


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