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a few weeks ago, i made a long-awaited, greatly anticipated trip to the great village of spring lake, michigan, to see my dear friend tara– her home, her food, her ice cream (!!!), her family, her life on the west side!

let me just say the experience was quite delightful, the perfect encapsulation of our favorite things from our year in detroit together. we walked the boardwalk and saw freshly caught salmon fileted and processed by some super professional fishmongers (i felt like i was in seattle or something!). we ate amazing rock piles from dairy treat.

this is a most fabulous combination of soft serve, strawberries, bananas, and peanuts. they graciously give you a spoon and a straw to ensure a happy and thoroughly complete consumption of this dairy treat as it transforms from firmish to softish to fantastically soupy.

we picked blueberries in the sweltering, smoldering late-august sun.

we tried three different varieties of berries: rubels, which are said to have the highest antioxidant levels (and, incidently, the highest populations of mosquitoes waiting for human prey); jerseys, and bluecrops. this picking was so lovely, hot, and just happy. tara said that my outfit appropriately matched the blueberry plants. i replied, “well, i am what i eat!”

the blueberry picking also takes me bake to the very first blog post i ever wrote. it featured blueberries from ms. tara picked on the west side of the state and lovingly transported to our happy freezer in detroit. well friends, we’ve come full circle. the blueberries will be making smashing comeback sooner rather than later!

we ate the most delicious blueberry pie– made fresh by mama whipkey– i have EVER encountered. it was BEAUTIFUL. but was gone too fast for me to catch a picture.

overall, the day was a delight. how grateful am i for friends, sunshine, blueberries, and good times!

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wow. again, it’s been too long. i really thought my time spent with my family in northern michigan these past few weeks would allow me so much time to experiment, cook, eat, and share with you– and the sharing just did not seem to happen! i blame it on a lack of access to internet. you could call it laziness, though, too. or distraction: the lake, the sunshine, the blue skies, fields of sunflowers, and good books. a relaxing refreshing restart, for sure.

while on my hiatus, i had the lovely honor of sharing the lake and the area with roommates from last year’s house, la grande. alanna and tara came to prepare, witness, and celebrate the wedding of roommate numero three, john, which took place in traverse city. alanna graciously came bearing fruits from her garden– gorgeous, plump, bright, and irregular, these babies had me squirming with anticipated excitement.

lemon boy and pineapple tomatoes. the colors? bright, lush, fantastic. the flavor? sweet and tangy, delicate and bold. the lunch we shared? the true essence of summer.

these tomatoes needed nothing–no salt, no oil, no vinegar–for their flavor to really stand out. but, coupled with delicious tomato and kalamata olive focaccia, freshly balled mozzarella, prosciutto (for the meat eaters of the group), and basil from our garden, the meal captured the hearts of all with the orange and yellow vibrant love of summer tomatoes.

oh, how i love the bounty of the summer season. and the experimentation fresh produce allows and inspires. today, i give you blissful beet blueberry goodness.

apparently, i’ve been struck by the fruit cupid. all my savory dishes these days arrive at the table studded with fruit– pasta con peaches, pasta con grapes (that’s my mom’s recipe. look for it soon), and today for your tongue’s delight, beets and blueberries.

i cannot even begin to explain the deep satisfaction this particular meal gave me. literally everything came from the community garden, shipperd greens, most of it picked a half hour before i began chopping, sauteing, tasting, spicing. so fresh, so bright, so life-giving! i am still struck by how fantastic and simple fresh food is– it needs so little help to be so DELICIOUS! ha, a good thing i’m so easily excited by all this even after working on a farm for two years now. so easily entertained.

fresh tomatoes– green zebra and some other heirloom red variety. garlic. green peppers. beet greens. green beans. blueberries. oil. salt. pepper. curry powder. red chili flakes. altogether?! heaven on a plate.

from my happy stomach to yours, i wish you merry august sunshine, sweet corn on the cob, delightful trips to your favorite farmers’ produce stands and markets, eager trips to your backyard/community/neighborhood gardens, and delicious beets & blueberries!

beets & blueberries

a few notes: i steam the beets for at least 5-10 minutes before actually beginning the saute so that it all gets done around the same time. use that time to dice up all the veggies. i think you could really add any vegetables you’ve got to this– the blueberries just act as pockets of color, bursts of tangy sweetness, so good with the curry powder and pepper flakes. if the tomatoes don’t seem to be adding enough liquid to the dish, you could add stock, wine, beer, water, tomato sauce, etc to maintain enough moisture.

4-8 beets with greens, depending on size (or as many as you can get! i say the more the merrier!)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil
2 red tomatoes, diced (for the sauce)
3 green tomatoes, diced (they’ll add moisture and texture)
curry powder
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
green pepper, diced
handful of green beans
handful (or two) blueberries
a hungry stomach

1. first wash beets and cut off the greens. steam them for 20-40 minutes, until a fork can easily prick them. when they are looking close to done, throw in the green beans for final 2 minutes or so.
2. meanwhile, warm enough oil to cover the bottom of a large saucepan over medium heat. chop the stems of the beet greens as you would celery, add to oil with garlic. then add diced tomatoes and peppers.
3. while that cooks down for about 2-3 minutes, ribbon the beet greens. then add them to the tomato mixture, and let ’em cook down.
4. add a few shakes of curry powder (probably a 1/2 – 1 tablespoon) and a pinch of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. taste and adjust spicing.
5. remove from heat and stir in blueberries. plate with green beans and beets. enjoy!

it’s that time of the year– PICKLES! truth be told, i’ve been experimenting with pickling all sorts of random things since the beginning of this year’s growing season. but last week, i showed my mom the joys of larger scale pickling. and by that, i just mean nine quarts of garlic dill pickles. MMMM. nothing like the intense craziness of the canning and pickling escapades of last year with janelle and heather (those days are coming, don’t you worry!) but what a better way to spend a lazy lake day than pickling up some cukes for the fall!?

we’d been planning the pickling for a few days, making sure we were ready to go with the necessities: mason jars, canner, pickling salt, vinegar. on friday, the elk rapids farmers market was in full swing. we went with great hopes for some 1/2 bushels of pickling cucumbers. sadly, there were none! a few pints and quarts around, but not enough for our mission.

no pickles, but gorgeous bouquet from elk rapids farmers market

good thing northwest michigan’s not short on the farms and farm stands. we drove up the rode to altonen’s and were happily greeted with these lovely cukes.

so the pickling adventure began. we sterilized the jars, got the water boiling in the canner, mixed the brine, and sliced the cukes. these are white vinegar garlic dill pickles. so excited for them! but, as many good things, the longer we wait to eat them, the better they’ll be… we’ll see how long we wait it out!

and so it goes. happy pickling to you and yours.

white vinegar garlic dill pickles

3 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup salt
4 pounds cucumbers (i think that’s what my recipe said… this makes enough for 3 quarts)
3 quart sized mason jars, lids, screw tops
3 heads of fresh dill
3 large garlic cloves
peppercorn (optional)

1. bring the water, salt, and vinegar to boil. fill the canner with water and put it on the stove top on high heat, you’ll need this to be boiling when you’re ready to seal the jars of pickles.
2. meanwhile, slice cucumbers. wash the mason jars and keep sterile in an oven on low heat.
3. when the brine’s boiled, pack the mason jars with cucumbers, dill, garlic, and peppercorn. then pour in brine. make sure to leave an inch of head space. thoroughly clean the rim of the jar, and set the lids on top, and screw on ring.
4. at this point, they are ready to go into the canner. make sure you load the canner evenly so that it doesn’t tip or slip or do anything funny (ha, i know this from experience). let steam for 20 minutes. then remove jars from canner and allow to cool. after 24 hours, unscrew the rings and test to make sure the lids and jars have securely sealed. let them wait for at least 2 weeks, then enjoy!


and so august begins. as the sultry sun’s playing hide-and-seek with the clouds today, i am eager and enthused to share with you this lovely recipe, similarly savory with bits of sweet sunshine. i give you pasta con peaches.

to fully understand the birth of this pasta, it is important to know a few things:

1. last year about this time, with a booty of frozen gooseberries in the freezer, i attempted (and succeeded!) in making some gooseberry wine, later learning it was actually hooch. (apparently, using bread yeast makes alcohol hooch. wine yeast makes it wine.) the hooch, i would call a smashing success. pink and puckery and really a charm to drink. this year, the experimentation is growing. the first batch? peach wine! which also meant a bounty of peaches ripe for the cooking.

2. i have been very happily a part of the villages soccer team in the detroit futbol league this season. as such, there began a tradition of carbo-loading before games. the pasta lover that i am, i did not complain about this at all– i, surprise surprise, encouraged this tradition with gusto. it was a great place to try out the basil, kale, and garlic scape pestos that tasted so light, summery, and GREEN earlier this season. i am happy to report that the villages triumphed victorious at the copa detroit this past saturday– after an exhausting four games and a losing season (2-11!), we had quite the cinderella story. (i have to believe our win directly corresponds with the carbo-loading).  a tradition that should not be lost, for sure.

now, all that back story really was just to explain that there were a lot of peaches and a need for pasta, and a new cult favorite was born. such a lovely discovery! the subtle sweetness of the peaches comes at the end of the bite, balancing the heat of the red pepper flakes. the flavors are layered, beautiful shadows of sweet and spice. my favorite bites are those with the hunks of peaches. the golden-orange explosion of peach is so exciting, unexpected, warm, happy! a surprise and a delight. the reviews thus far have been consistent and equally surprised, excited, and satisfied. pasta con peaches, it’s a summer treat that cannot be beat.

pasta con peaches

extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, halved and sliced
2-5 cloves of garlic, depending on taste
a combination of fresh veggies, ideally 2-3 summer squash, a handful of new potatoes, a bunch of green beans–this is really flexible
water/stock/beer/wine (optional)
1 jar of pasta sauce, your choice (ideally i would use homemade, but don’t have any, and used canned. still delicious)
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes– a good pinch
4 ripe peaches, diced
parmesan cheese, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, optional
pasta (i use spaghetti noodles)

1. saute the onions in oil over medium heat until begin to soften, 2 minutes. add garlic and potatoes and other vegetables you want to add. the potatoes take the longest, so i dice them thin and get them in quick to speed up the process. if the pan’s looking dry and the veggies are looking crisp, add a bit of liquid (water, stock, beer, wine, whatever you’d like)  and let them steam.
2. after the veggies are cooking for about 5-8 minutes (perhaps steaming if you needed to add liquid), add pasta sauce, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and let cook until all the vegetables are cooked through. i just keep tasting the veggies to monitor crunch factor.
3. meanwhile, prepare pasta, using salted water and following directions on bag or box.
4. add the peaches and all the juice that comes out of them, skin and all, and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so.
5. combine noodles and sauce. i like more sauce than noodles– you can use a ratio you like! plate with shaved parmesan cheese, hunks of fresh mozzarella, and ribbons of basil as you like. enjoy!