AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Before the First Frost (Recipe: Raspberry Vinaigrette) DATE: 10/14/2009 04:26:00 PM ----- BODY:
The weather forecast predicts near freezing temperatures tonight. I ran into the garden and made a last ditch effort to salvage what’s left of summer.

I picked a gallon of basil leaves.
Since I can’t possibly consume all of that in one week (when it would go bad), I pureed it with a little olive oil and spooned it into ice cube trays.
It’s a little depressing… first, I only got 1 ½ trays out of what seemed like a huge harvest. Second, it turned a dingy green. I recall this happening last year and I had hoped to avoid that with the oil. No luck. On the bright side, I know that pureeing it with spinach when I need it will bring back the vivid green. And if I stir it into a tomato sauce, no one will notice anyway.

The raspberries bush started producing again after Labor Day. I always think of berries as hot weather fruit, but this plant likes the cool of June, and then doesn’t produce again until September. Today, I picked enough to fill a 6 ounce ramekin.

If I wanted an appreciable raspberry harvest, I would let the plant creep further out from its northeast corner. But I want space for other crops (and a few flowers), so I keep the plant small. As a result, I never get more than a fistful of berries at a time – just enough for a snack, a garnish for pancakes or dessert, or a cocktail. But as the lettuces are just coming into full swing, I think raspberry vinaigrette is in order. The bright red will be preserved and will contrast beautifully with the green lettuce leaves (and perhaps bright white goat cheese).

The leeks are approaching supermarket size. I harvested a few today, but still have plenty more coming in. Leeks are a variety of onion, common in French cooking. They’re used to flavor soups and stocks. The French steam them, and serve them cold with vinaigrette as a little first course.

My favorite preparation is simply sautéed in butter, perhaps with a sprinkling of fresh thyme. They make a wonderful side to roast chicken or pork.

As much as I love “melting leeks,” I’m looking for new ideas to showcase them. What’s your favorite preparation for leeks?

Raspberry Vinaigrette
½ cup fresh raspberries
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs. raspberry, sherry or red wine vinegar
½ tsp. fresh thyme
1 tsp. sugar or honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Adjust season to taste with either more salt, sugar, oil or vinegar. Will keep up to a month in the refrigerator.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous jo DATE:10/14/2009 08:23:00 PM braised leeks cooked in a horseradish cream sauce and with a slight gratin of raclette or gruyere at the end. Also in udon/miso soup as crunch and uncooked, sliced and tossed with korean pepper, sesame oil, salt and pepper, sugar and cider vinegar. MMMMM

We won't discuss my naked stalks of Brussels sprouts with NARY a sprout.

We will also hope the frost spares my garden until tomorrow when I can pick all my hot peppers and attempt my first homemade pepper jelly to get me through the winter. Like crack that stuff is. Not, of course, like I would know what crack is ...oh whatever, you get what I mean. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:10/14/2009 08:57:00 PM If all goes well, my leeks will go into a potato leek soup. I've got about 4 pounds of potatoes and some giant leeks that need to be used. I, too, am scrambling to preserve what came off the farm this past weekend. I'm barely keeping up ... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Heather DATE:10/14/2009 09:30:00 PM what a great bounty!! that looks like so much tasty stuff! if i had all those leeks, i'd use them for a crispy shallot and leek cream sauce over halibut. my favorite meal and my favorite restaurant!! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:10/15/2009 07:38:00 AM I agree with TW -- leek and potato soup is one of my favorites. I'd make it without cream, freeze it, and use it as a base for many other soups during the winter. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:10/15/2009 09:01:00 AM Leek quiche (beat the eggs with cream.) Add a little gruyere if you like, but it's delicious with just the leeks. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Julia DATE:10/16/2009 08:30:00 AM jo - Sorry to hear about your stalks! But horseradish and gruyere sounds delicious!

T.W. and Lydia -- good suggestion. Potato leek soups is one of those things that's so simply delicious.

Heather -- sounds delicious! Where was this meal?

adele -- i sense a theme with gruyere... I'll have to try it. ----- --------