Monday, June 30, 2014


It's summer, and that means my annual trip to Moorhead's Blueberry Farm. I love blueberries, but I also get a charge out of picking them myself, and it's a LOT cheaper. There's also the entertainment value.  Blueberry bushes are quite tall and bushy, so you can't really see anyone more than 10 feet away, so there's a tendency to forget that there are other people around you, which makes for great eavesdropping.  The topics of conversation are broader than one might expect from a bunch of people picking fruit.

"Mommy! Look! Look, Mommy! I picked the biggest blueberry in the WORLD!"

The berries are huge this year
Ethics/Death Penalty:
"I asked him why he killed the grasshopper and he said it was because the grasshopper had killed the lovebugs, and the lovebugs hadn't done anything to him."

The woman in the row behind me accidentally dropped a handful of berries down her shirt. There was a pause and then her friend said: "Well, now you have a snack for later."

I spent about an hour picking, and I gathered almost 9 pounds of fruit. The berries are huge this year. And sweet too. There are a ton of blueberry recipes out there: pancakes, pies, jam, muffins, smoothies, even wine (if you're feeling like a challenge) but honestly, that's too much work.  It's summer, it's hot, and there is nothing better than having a big bowl of blueberries in the fridge. I've been eating my almost 9 pounds plain. They are very nice tossed into a salad, or on top of some plain yogurt for breakfast, or even just grabbing the occasional handful when I get the munchies. Why gild the lily?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Salad #3: Herb Marinated Tomatoes

It's probably a little early for this recipe, as the really good tomatoes haven't arrived yet, but I was hungry and the store had tomatoes on sale. The recipe is simplicity itself, requiring nothing more than a sharp knife and time. It's better at room temperature, so if you can leave it out, that would be even better.

Herb-Marinated Tomatoes
4 large tomatoes
2 Tablespoons:
     -  Oregano
     -  Parsley
     -  Chives
     -  Thyme
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Parmesan, for garnish (optional)

1. Chop all the herbs and mince the garlic.
2. Combine in a bowl with the olive oil and salt. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
It does look a little like grass clippings, but bear with me. 
3. Slice the tomatoes about a 1/4 inch thick and place in a shallow, non-reactive, bowl or pan.
4. Spoon the herb and oil mixture over the tomatoes. Cover and leave for at least an hour.
5. Garnish with Parmesan (if you like) and eat!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Small Luxury: Pedicures

This weekend I made the trip into town to go to my favorite nail salon, Leon Nails

It's not a fancy place. It's a small store front in a strip mall: manicures tables on the right, pedicure chairs on the left, and three big revolving racks of polish in the front.  A small altar is centered on the back wall, with joss sticks and fruit. There's a row of licenses above the manicure tables and an autoclave in back. Lucky bamboo and fashion magazines complete the ambiance. It may not be "spa like" but, it's comfortable.

But the real reason to go, is that these ladies know their business, and give great service at a good price.  A pedicure there does not just mean that they paint your nails. They resurface your feet (great for those of us with cracked soles) moisturize and massage all the way up to your knees. The polish job includes a base coat, top coat and two coats of color, not to mention trimming, shaping and basically doing their best to make your feet look worthy of glass slippers, or at least open-toed sandals. 

And did I mention they are really nice? I once destroyed a nail getting into my car, and they re-did it for free.

I could paint my nails myself, but I can't do as good a job. So I'm happy to spend $25 (including a $5 tip) for the pleasure of having my nails done really well. And cherry red toenails make me happy.

My toes, freshly covered in Quarter of a Cent-cherry

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Salad #2: Fennel and Celery

I'm not a fan of kitchen gadgets. I have my knives, my pots, a vegetable peeler and a blender and that's pretty much all I need.  I resist buying gadgets because I don't like cluttering up my kitchen with a lot of stuff that has only one use - I spent years making toast in the oven until I broke down and bought a toaster. 

But every know and then, there is a tool that does something so well, that it's worth giving up the cabinet space. I speak of the mandoline. Lethally sharp, and an incredibly efficient way of creating a lot of thin slices quickly. Someday, my knife skills will be on a par with Martin Yan's; I'll be able to butcher a chicken in under a minute and I won't need a mandoline, but until then, it's a great tool to have.

This salad is easy, fast (thanks to the mandoline) has great crunch and like last week, features under appreciated vegetables. Fennel, which is usually served cooked with other things, and celery, a vegetable that deserves better than being a mere garnish for Buffalo wings.

4 stalks of celery in under a minute - mandolines rock!
My only complaint about this salad is that it lacks color. Fennel is white and celery is pale green. It does not make for a colorful presentation. But the flavor is far from colorless. The fennel and the celery complement each other beautifully, and the lemon juice gives it zing. So serve it with a red steak and enjoy!

Fennel and Celery Salad
makes 4 servings 

2 bulbs fennel
3-4 stalks celery
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper (to taste)

1. Trim the fennel so it's just the bulb and slice it thinly on the mandoline.
2. Trim the leafy bits off the celery and slice it on the mandoline.
3. Combine the fennel and celery in a bowl. 
4. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. You might try dipping a piece of fennel in the dressing to make sure the salt level is where you want it. 
5. Put the dressing on the salad and serve. Garnish with parmesan curls if you feel like dressing it up.

Note: Do not put the dressing on the salad until just before serving. If you leave it on too long, the lemon juice wilts the veggies and they become limp.