Andrew’s Watermelon Fresco

Fruit, Salads

watermelon fresco 02

I have to confess that I don’t eat enough fruit. I blame chocolate, of course. When my sugar craving kicks in, it’s easiest to reach for the chocolate bar. I also blame cookies. But that’s another confession altogether.

So, when Andrew and Lamai came over for a crab boil, I made sure to have some dark chocolate tucked away in the freezer. You know, in case of an emergency. But the only time that freezer door ever opened was to shock the crab in ice.

As it turns out, this summer’s watermelon is dazzlingly sweet. Has it always been this sweet and I’ve been fooled by the chocolatiers, or did something change?

Anyway, Andrew threw this chilled watermelon salad together in a few minutes. It’s so darned easy to make that its convenience just might rival chocolate. Its juiciness and brilliance, on the other hand, don’t even compare.

Muhammara (Syrian Pomegranate Dip)

Fruit, Sauces & Spreads

Muhammara 01

I love watching people try this for the first time. Its flavor is mystical, almost indescribable. So enchanted by it am I that I feel incomplete if I don’t have any stored in the fridge.

Variations of this mesmerizing dip abound. Some are coarse, some are pureed, some are burgundy, some are orange. But all of them share a few traits: pomegranate, walnuts and red peppers.

Salmonberry Gazpacho

Fruit, Salads, Soups & Stews, Vegetables

Salmonberry Gazpacho 01

Native people of the Pacific Northwest sometimes paired salmonberries with fish during feasts. That the fruit is even named “salmonberry” seems obvious when considering its homonym. Salmon berries, or salmon eggs, are not only similar in size, but in color and texture too.

This dish is my way of saying hello to the summer and good-bye to the spring. The last texture in this dish is the salmon egg, which reminds me of the birth of the berry this year. It lingers momentarily as the cool and tangy gazpacho provides one last taste of the Pacific Northwest’s first fruiting berry.

Basic Salmonberry Vinaigrette

Fruit, Sauces & Spreads

Basic Salmonberry Vinaigrette

For those who find themselves with but a handful of salmonberries, this recipe is a great way to extract and extend their wonderful flavor. This is an effective way to make use of those salmonberries that have begun to bruise and turn to mush in the refrigerator. Use this vinaigrette as a base. The addition of garlic and mint, for example, may be most welcome, while others may prefer a pinch of chile flakes and cumin. For an example, see our pairing with cured salmon and fennel.

Cherimoya Almond Cake (Tarta de Chirimoya)

Desserts, Fruit

Cherimoyas–at least up here in the Pacific Northwest–are beginning to leave the shelves. For the last few years, since I discovered it, this tropical fruit has been part of my warm transition into the spring. Most people have never heard of them, not in my encounters. And those who have face difficulty in figuring out how to use them.

The flavor of cherimoya reminds me of mango, banana, apple and pears all at once. In other words, the cherimoya isn’t simply sweet. It is a symphony of different flavors: sugar with a hint of piquancy, a creamy and mellow tartness and an almost winey clarity. Thus, this dense and moist cake has a flavor profile way beyond its simpler cousin, the Galician cake, Tarta de Santiago.

Salmonberries in Their Own Syrup

Desserts, Fruit

For those unfamiliar with salmonberries, or those who have had unexciting or unpalatable experiences with them, this recipe is for you.  The natural tartness of the berries is sweetened by the sugar, heightening the pleasant qualities of their overall flavor.  For sweeter berries, add more sugar.  Pair with ice cream, cheese, pastries and baked goods like scones or soft breads. Or eat them as I prefer: by themselves with your sticky fingers.

Salmonberries Stuffed with Cognac & Mascarpone

Desserts, Fruit

One benefit the salmonberry has over more popular and cultivated berries is its ability to be stuffed. Because of its dry exterior and the strong flesh around the seeds, these berries can handle a little poking around. The honey and the elderflower introduce the tongue to a subtle but complex sweetness. The slight sourness of the salmonberry is barely tasted as the sweet cognac cream returns with the layers of sugars initially desired.

Strawberry & Epazote Salad

Fruit, Salads

My hunger has been low since I awoke this morning with some kind of sinus irritation.  It was a terrible day to become ill as some friends and I had a date to eat brunch at a tiny French cafe at which none of us had eaten.  All of us had been excited about trying it.  The dishes were great, but I lacked the wherewithal to enjoy myself wholly.  I passed the rest of the day slamming water and tea and nibbling here and there on the empanadas a friend and I spent all afternoon preparing.  Finally, much later, when dinnertime arrived, I opened my fridge and saw the dark red strawberries.  Then the forest-green epazote.  Something magical suddenly occurred.

WHY THIS COMBINATION WORKS: The strawberry is sweet and the epazote is pungent, but both possess a refreshing coolness that, when combined in this vibrant salad, awake the pallid tongue yet bring tranquility to the overworked body.  Epazote, in small doses, is considered medicinal.  Even though the Aztecs traditionally used it to prevent flatulence and expel intestinal worms and other parasites, I like to think that its pleasant but strong fragrance was enough to calm my sinuses for the time being.  It is in the same family as spinach, beets, chard and quinoa–Amaranthaceae.  In large doses, like most things, it’s considered toxic.