Pickled Blueberries — a tart treat for summer salads

Pickled Blueberries w/ Summer Greens

Pickled Blueberries w/ Summer Greens

My husband and I took a trip to Tacoma recently to visit my family. We didn’t have much in mind in terms of plans, so when it turned out my aunt wasn’t feeling well, we happily took over dinner duty. My husband, who can never do anything halfway, took our meal to a whole new level of delicious.

We started with the several pounds of beef ribs that my aunt had planned on making and added to them: a huge pan of mac and cheese, green beans with crispy bacon, roasted new potatoes and (to add some semblance of health) a green salad.

To make the salad as interesting as its accompaniments, we jazzed it up with plenty of fresh herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon) and a lemon cucumber from my grandma’s garden. Deciding it still lacked some zing, we raided the last of the blueberries from one of her bushes and quick pickled them.

DSC_0832

The “recipe” is simple — combine water, red wine vinegar and sugar using the basic ratio of 3:2:1, heating until the sugar has dissolved. Cool slightly and pour over berries. Add a few springs of thyme, a bay leaf and a clove. Let sit for an hour or longer.

Once you drain the liquid, you can use it to make a vinaigrette for the salad. We started with a portion of the liquid and added minced garlic, a pinch of finely chopped fresh thyme and EVO. I only wish we had had some pecorino or Parmesan cheese but I can say it was still a mighty tasty salad.

DSC_0828

I’d call this a successful last-minute meal! (*Not pictured was dessert: my favorite summer standby, mixed berry spoonbread, with fresh whipped cream. Yum!)

So good!

So good!

Picnic-Perfect Chicken with Grape & Raisin Agrodolce

Roasted Chicken with AgrodolceIt may be disgustingly cold in Portland right now, but my mind is fast-forwarding to the pleasures of spring. Just when I think I can’t handle any more winter, I know it’ll soon be over and the sun will warm up the city. And when that happens, there will be trips to the river, the park, the coast or down into Oregon’s wine country. And when there are trips like that, picnics are a given!

Last summer I tried out pressed sandwiches for my rather infamous picnic in Newport, OR. I’ve already decided that when spring hits, I’ll be packing this chicken. And I won’t make promises about sharing with any of my picnic-partaking partners. It’s so good, they might have to fend for themselves.

This recipe is, as they would call it in the movie biz, a sleeper hit. It is greater than the sum of its parts, but if it came down to it, it’s the agrodolce that takes it above and beyond. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s an Italian version of sweet and sour, usually made with a combination of vinegar and sugar, similar to the French gastrique.

And it is fabulous. I’ve tasted agrodolce in several different forms — coating onions, lacquered over wild boar ribs and even as a sticky, finger-licking sauce on turkey wings. But this relish could be one of my favorites. The grapes were like little jewels and the onion was almost candied, but the bite of the vinegar was still very present and the pine nuts rounded everything out with a hint of buttery flavor. It’s the perfect topping for any meat, though it perfectly complements this chicken.

Just looking at this makes my mouth water!

Just looking at this makes my mouth water!

Continue reading