Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Strawberries make life worth living July 3, 2009

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 12:33 am
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Up here on the North Shore, we haven’t seen the sun in….a long time. It’s achieved record-setting proportions.


Strawberries are the last sweet shred of life I am clinging to. We picked up some Marini’s strawberries from the Marblehead Farmer’s Market on Saturday. On Sunday, no egrets made strawberry shortcake.


Slice up the strawberries, add a tiny bit of sugar (maybe a teaspoon) if the strawberries are not very sweet. You can add lemon juice if they are excessively sweet (if you believe in excess in that department).

Pound Cake (from Joy of Cooking, ca. 1964)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix 4 c flour
1 ts salt
4 ts baking powder
Set aside.

Mix 1 cup milk
2 ts vanilla
2 Tb yer favorite likker (that would taste good in a pound cake. No sour pucker. Ew.)
Set aside.
Cream 1 1/2 cups of butter, and then add
3 cups of sugar (gradually).

Add 8 eggs, one at a time; beat thoroughly after each one.

Keep mixing and alternate adding flour mixture and wet mixture. Stir until thoroughly blended.

Baked in a greased loaf pan for 15 or 20 min, or until a toothpick comes out reasonably clean.
Whipped Cream

Take a pint of heavy cream. Whip it up in your mixer, and add (slowly) up to 5 Tb of sugar and 2-3 ounces of your favorite dessert-embellishing liquor (we prefer bourbon or Grand Marnier in these parts). Once it looks like whipped cream, you are done.

Combine and pretend it is summer.



Ikerd for Secretary of Agriculture! June 25, 2008

Recent gossip around the food sphere has been littered with proposals for who should be Obama’s secretary of agriculture (oddly enough, no one seems to care about McCain…a question for another day: Do we think he’s losing or that he won’t listen to us?). My favorite is the head of the Analyzing Agriculture from Afar program at Urban University, followed by Jim Hightower, and then John Ikerd.


Jim Hightower is a strongly opinionated Texan who would insult lots of people and possibly get a few things done. John Ikerd, on the other hand, is a fascinating philosopher academic, with experience working at the USDA on sustainable production, who might be an effective advocate for sustainable agriculture. I’ve even heard that he is charming and likable, which makes him a more realistic candidate than Hightower.


John Ikerd is a strong writer with a background in agricultural economics, and accessible to non-policy wonks like us. A great many of his essays are available online. From the basics of what is sustainable agriculture to what values should underlie rural development, Ikerd’s writing is a readable and inspiring philosophical (and somewhat applicable) primer. Go. Pick one. Read it. Post a few thoughts. Or read my ramblings.




Searching for Alien Strawberries June 23, 2008

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 5:37 pm
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We went to Marini Farms’ strawberry festival in Ipswich on Saturday. We picked strawberries, challenging the kids with us to find the oddest, most “alien” or “mutant” looking ones, which they did with glee, showing off their bumpy and misshapen prizes like young treasure hunters.


Of course, they won’t find these odd delights in the supermarket, as supermarket berries tend to be large, perfect-looking, and fairly tasteless. One of our young pickers came back with an empty quart box, having eaten his finds. The kids wore satisfaction in the red smears on their faces, hands, and shirts.


If you’re too tired after picking strawberries in the hot sun to bake up a pie or shortcake, try this easier-than-pie recipe. My husband and I discovered it while staying at a hotel in Charleston, SC, in May years ago (B.K., “before kids”):


Get yourself a small cereal bowl, fill the bottom with real whipped cream or yogurt, toss in hulled, local, fresh strawberries and drizzle some local honey over the berries.


Spoon a local taste of heaven in your mouth. Enjoy!




No Egrets’ Hyphenated Cheesecake June 22, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:22 pm
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Double-Sized Gluten-Free No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake


We’re gluten eaters ourselves, but one of our favorite dinner guests can’t eat gluten and we spend a lot of time thinking up ways of delighting her with gluten-free foods. No egrets made this with strawberries [I recommend Connors Farm strawberries, but rumor has it Marini’s has lovely strawberries too.] but it will be great with other berries once blueberry and raspberry season comes around. Don’t forget that berries freeze well, and cheesecake brightens up anyone’s February.


2 bags Trader Joe’s (or other) Gluten-Free Ginger Snaps (or regular ginger snaps)
1 stick (1/4 lb.) butter, softened
3/4 lb. fresh, cleaned berries

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, low-fat cream cheese, or a mix of 8-oz. cream cheese and 8-oz. goat cheese, softened
1/4 cup organic or turbinado sugar, or honey.  Hardcore Yankees can try maple syrup (slightly shy of 1/4 cup), with a bit more arrowroot starch.
1½ tsp. arrowroot (tapioca) starch (or more if the berries are very juicy)
3 oz. very dark chocolate
8 oz. whipping cream
¼ tsp. fresh vanilla bean, pulverized


Eat ½ bag of ginger snaps, and put the rest through the Cuisinart to make crumbs [Ed. note: In my single, pre-Cuisinart days, I put ginger snaps (or graham crackers) into a bag and beat them into crumbs with an empty beer bottle. This process seemed to take less time if I drank the beer first.].  Melt butter and blend by hand until the crumbs are slightly wet. 


Pack the crust around the inside of an 8″–9″ springform pan, or a skillet (the skillet is a nice presentation, but it’s hard to serve from)—just press it in there, and work over the bumps, and pack more crumbs in wherever it looks thin.  This makes a nice, thick, slightly spicy graham cracker crust, which will cohere nicely in under 12 hours.  Put it in the fridge and move on.


Put cream cheese and sugar in your mixing bowl and beat it until it is soft and smooth.  If it is lumpy, put your hands on the outside of the bowl to warm it as the machine beats the cheese mixture (this works with buttercreams, too).  Add 2/3 of the berries and arrowroot starch (slowly!) and beat until the mixture is an even pink or purple or blue.  Then spoon it into the crust.


Arrowroot starch, or tapioca starch, is the traditional thickener for pie glazes.  It dissolves well and makes a nice clear (not cloudy like flour) and non-pasty-tasting medium.  It’s great for turkey gravy, too.


Now, take all of the leftover berries and push them into the top of the pie.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or a microwave, you slugabed), and drizzle it over the top of everything.  [Ed. note: This last touch is what will make your dinner guests go “ooohhhh”; your significant other may propose marriage on the spot.]


Clean your mixer and whip the cream; add fresh vanilla bean, but NOT vanilla extract if you’re keeping gluten-free.


If anyone knows of other good brands of gluten-free ginger snaps, or has a recipe, send it along!


 -no egrets


Strawberry Festivals in the North Shore June 20, 2008

Filed under: In Season — blueheronlocal @ 4:31 pm
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This is the weekend of strawberry festivals, they’re all over the North Shore. Go forth and eat strawberries in Danvers and Ipswich.

There are also some yummy Christian strawberries in Amesbury and Saugus. (What is the connection between strawberries and churches? I have no idea.)


Any other strawberry festivities I should know of?