Seasonal Superfood Spotlight: Blackberries!

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One of my favorite experiences of northwest summertime is a stormy rainy day, followed by a beautiful, warm sunny day and the irresistibly primal urge that rises up and chases me out of the house. I just can’t stay inside! The grey day out of nowhere is like a reminder that life is short and our Seattle summer is even shorter. There is Vitamin D to soak up, warm grass to lay upon… plus it’s late August which means blackberries are in peak season!

Usually when the sunshine beckons I take the dogs for a walk or hop on my bicycle, today I grabbed a bucket. In the neighborhood in North Seattle where I used to live there is a large park with massive blackberry brambles lining the parameter. More berries than you could ever hope to pick. I spent about 2 hours plucking. 3 for the bucket, 1 for my belly, ending up with a solid 8 cups of plump juicy berries.

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Along with the beauty and allure, not to mention their succulent deliciousness, blackberries are a true superfood. As with other kinds of bush berries, blackberries too are packed with numerous plant nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and dietary fibers that are essential for optimum health. Their deep purple skins are loaded with anti-inflammatory properties and they are an excellent source of Vitamin C Further, blackberries contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Copper is required in the bone metabolism as well as in production of white and red blood cells.

It’s a great time to celebrate these wild berries and find a spot to forage. While I have great ambitions of taking these gems and making a delicious pie or perhaps some gluten free muffins, who am I kidding? Really. Many more will be gone before I get home and it’s unlikely the rest will not last until the end of the day. Looks like I’ll have to come back tomorrow!

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Stellar Supper: Pork Tenderloin with a Fresh Fig Glaze

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Walking through the isles of Central Market, the senses come alive with the sights, smell and sounds of the huge, bustling international grocery store. A fresh shipment of live Dungeness crabs crawl all over one another in a water filled tank near the entrance. The lobsters are still and stoic, following movements with their watchful eye, as if they know something big is about to happen. The aroma of coriander, ancho chili powder and bourbon vanilla beans waft from the wall of exotic spices in the expansive bulk section, drawing you in. Fresh vegetables and fruits, a colorful rainbow of options in the produce section. And then there’s my favorite part, the live demo and sample station. Two men in white chefs coats stand behind sizzling cast iron skillets serving up the most delicious looking little plates. Pork tenderloin with fresh mission figs in a honey and white wine glaze. I am immediately inspired. I grab a pound of fresh pork tenderloin from the butcher, and gather the other ingredients making a few adjustments to the recipe. I leave out the honey since the figs are super sweet and will create a lovely sauce all on their own. I also add roasted hazelnuts to balance out the texture and add a bit more healthy fats and protein. Add a handful of spinach or some a portion of steamed kale and you’ve got a yourself a scrumptious supper! Enjoy!

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Ingredients

I lb. pork tenderloin

2 Tbls olive oil

½ pint fresh mission figs

1 cup dry white wine

½ cup roasted hazelnuts

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add olive oil to a heavy bottomed skillet, heat to medium
  2. Cut pork tenderloin into medallions, add to skillet
  3. Season liberally with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes each side
  4. Remove from pan. Set aside on plate loosely covered with foil.
  5. Add a touch more oil to the pan and add figs, halved
  6. Sautee for 3-5 minutes, add white wine and scrape up the drippings
  7. Return pork to the pan, along with the juices collected
  8. Add hazelnuts at the very end

Serve with a salad, a portion of steamed greens or over quinoa brown rice!

Peach Perfect Cobbler

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It was one of those peach perfect Saturday mornings. The sun was bright and hot over the California valley by 8am, though none of us had changed from our pajamas and it was nearing 11. I sat with my nieces and nephews at the dining table flipping through recipes. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have made it my Auntie mission to expose them to the beauty and pleasure of simple, homemade food. Or at the very least, make them yummy treats that don’t come from a box.

I was visiting the bay area from Seattle, and as usual, there would be a feast. My six siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, Dad and his fiancé, Mom and her boyfriend, the whole clan in other words, would gather that evening. We would eat and drink, catch up, eat more, laugh, talk about our lives, drink, eat. It was our thing when I visited and worth the travel every time. I wanted to prepare a desert to share. Homemade and delicious, fresh, simple and decadent. Gluten-free was also a goal.

As I pondered, I walked outside into the backyard. Feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and the cool grass beneath my toes, it hit me. Literally. A plump, fuzzy little peach, right on the shoulder. And there it was, the peach tree bursting in every direction with huge, juicy peaches ripe and ready for the picking! Peach cobbler it is! The first dessert to pop into my head and the only trigger I needed to start salivating.

I called the Littles to help me pick and wash the peaches, kitchen collaboration adding to my excitement! The process that began next was equal parts teaching and learning, endearing enthusiasm, humor and disaster.

There are so many things I love about sharing the kitchen with children. Their utter wonder at simple ingredients and how it all comes together. The fascination with texture and colors. The ease and playfulness they bring to the process. Having their watchful and curious eyes nearby gives me the opportunity to slow down and take advantage of the teachable moments. To appreciate each movement of the spatula scraping the bowl and ingredients folding into one another. I learn that not every little thing has to be perfect. Sometimes, it just needs to be fun and yummy and made with love.

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Back at the tree, the two youngest Gavin aged 4, and Alyssa almost 2 (who has to do everything big brother does), began to help me pluck the peaches and place them in a bucket. We got as many as we could reach from the low hanging branches, then grabbed the long-handled picker to reach the others nestled high in the crown of the tree. According to the Littles and their eagerness (Alyssa: “emmy alp yoooou, emmy alp yoooou”), we had to pick every peach we could see. After an hour of climbing, laughing, getting dirty and gathering yummy fruits, we took stock of our bounty. Of course, we had waaaaay more peaches than needed for one cobbler. After cleaning and freezing the rest of our treasure for smoothies and future peachy desserts, we were ready for the baking!

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In the kitchen, my eldest niece, Madison age 13, helped by filling the largest pot we could find with water and bringing it to a boil. Quickly blanching the peaches followed by dunking them in an ice bath makes for easy skin removal. 8 large peaches, skinless, pitted and waiting in a bowl. The rest of the cobbler making was a messy, lovely breeze of mixing and measuring gluten-free flours, slicing peaches, and melting butter. At one point, the entire 3lb. bag of GF flour was dumped into the bowl of dry ingredients followed by a huge white plume that filled the air, mesmerizing the Littles and nearly turning into a flour fight, if only to see the magic happen again and again! This brought up one very fond childhood memory, but fortunately did not turn into the catastrophe that my siblings and I had caused. We’ll save it until they’re a little older and can remember vividly.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients

8 ripe peaches

½ cup brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 stick of butter, melted

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup milk at room temperature

1 egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  3. Add peaches for 1 minute.
  4. Place peaches in a bowl of ice cold water and let sit for 3 minutes
  5. Peel off skin.
  6. Slice peaches and place in a bowl along with ½ cup of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  7. Stir peaches and let sit.
  8. Pour melted butter into a 9×13 baking dish.
  9. In a seperate bowl, mix Gluten free flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
  10. Stir in milk and egg.
  11. Pour mixture over butter.
  12. Pour peaches over mixture.
  13. Bake for 35 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Serve warm.