Finally, we are appreciating the bounty our rocky soil and harsh weather provides. There is nowhere near the variety of fruits and vegetables enjoyed by our southern neighbours, so it’s all the more important to make the most of what we grow best.
Sweet and Buttery Herbed Carrots
Serve these when you aren’t sure what your dinner guests like and don’t like, and there’ll be no one trying to hide them under a cabbage leaf. This amount serves 4 generously, or 6 with other side dishes. If you can’t find my choice of fresh herbs, then use what is available or what you like. Dill, parsley and chives are all great with carrots, as well.
1 to 1-1/2 lbs. fresh carrots
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tbsp. each honey and firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. each chopped fresh tarragon and sage
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Peel carrots, or scrub them if they are small and new. If carrots are large, cut them on the diagonal into thick slices. If they are small and freshly harvested, cut off the green tops but leave them whole. Place in a medium pot with enough water to barely cover. Add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until nearly tender. Drain and discard any remaining cooking water. Add butter, honey and sugar and stir over medium heat another couple of minutes — until they are the texture you like. Stir in tarragon, sage, thyme and pepper and serve at once.
Warm Blue Potato and Bacon Salad
My family enjoyed many varieties of potatoes in the fall because of my father’s passion for manipulating soil and seed. When the blue potatoes started to come out of the ground — first the hard, round, waxy-sweet marbles then, later in the fall, the long fat blues that had a particularly offensive nickname that only my most seasoned readers will recall from their youth. This is my take on a famous German salad, updated to take advantage of our harvest. If you don’t have blue potatoes, substitute early red or yellow varieties, although you will suffer tremendous loss of table drama. This amount serves 6 to 8.
3 lbs. blue potatoes, cut into largish bite-sized pieces
6 to 8 strips bacon, diced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. sherry or white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. hot and grainy or Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey
1 medium dill pickle, diced
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
Boil potatoes in well salted water until tender; drain. Fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and set bacon aside; discard all but 1 tbsp. of the fat. Add celery and onion to pan and fry until they are starting to take on a little colour but aren’t soft. Add red pepper and garlic and cook another minute. Whisk in vinegar, olive oil, mustard and honey, stirring to remove any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add dill pickle, rosemary, salt and pepper and remove from heat. Toss potatoes with bacon mixture. Stir in reserved crispy bacon pieces and serve immediately.
Blueberry Crumble Squares
Those bulging supermarket blueberries we’ve been buying all year have half the flavour of their petite wild cousins growing on our hills. If you enjoy picking, then these delicious squares are the perfect reward; no matter how you come across them, locally grown blueberries will give you the very best flavour. The whole wheat flour injects a nuttier taste and maybe a touch more nutrition, but you can replace with all-purpose if you prefer.
3 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 cups large-cut old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. finely grated orange zest (1 large orange)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter
For the filling, bring blueberries, sugar and orange juice to a boil in a medium pot. Simmer together about 5 minutes, until the berries are about ready to burst. Whisk together cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla and stir into hot blueberries. Cook together a minute, just until thickened. Place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the hot mixture and cool to room temperature. For the crust, combine rolled oats, all-purpose and whole wheat flours, brown sugar, orange zest and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingertips to form a crumbly mixture. Press half the crumb mixture fairly firmly into the bottom of a parchment paper-lined, well greased, 8-inch square baking dish. Top with cooled filling, then sprinkle remaining half of the crust mixture evenly on the top. Press down lightly. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, until top is golden brown. Cut into squares while still hot, cleaning the knife after every cut, but don’t remove from the pan until cool.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c-o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.