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going green & getting crabby

Wegetable Vednesday – featuring fresh & local fruits & vegetables

from our farmers’ markets

Our local paper featured several gazpacho recipes in the most recent Food Day section and this one sounded especially intriguing. Fresh, green, light and refreshing soup served chilled with lumps of Dungeness crabmeat piled on top.

Remembering what we learned in art class on color theory – red + green = brown, there’s to be no tomatoes in this one. (I’ve yet to meet a cold brown soup my lips would touch. It may be the same for you.)

Savoring these last luscious moments of summer,

a light dinner:

~ ~ ~

Green Gaspacho with Fresh Crab,

crackly garlicky crostini,

and a good beer in a tall frosted glass 

~ ~ ~

and we’ll not come back inside until the last rays of sun are gone

and our skin has turned to cool.

Green Gazpacho with Crab*

Makes 6 servings as an appetizer, 4 medium portions as a main course with bread

  • 3 cups peeled, seeded & coarsely chopped cucumbers
  • 1½ cups chopped romaine lettuce (plus about ¾ cups thinly sliced for serving)
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1½ Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ Tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 small cloves garlic, or 1 large
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1½ cup cubed crustless white bread (3 oz.)
  • 1 cup water (maybe less)
  • 1 cup Dungeness crab meat (* or grilled seafood such as shrimp, calamari, etc.)
  • 3 Tablespoons minced fresh chives

In a food processor, purée the cucumber, the 1½ cups of lettuce, bell pepper, onion, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and salt.

Add the bread and allow to stand until soggy, a couple minutes. Purée until smooth. Mix in 3/4 cup water. (Add a bit more to suit your preference.) Taste for seasoning. Transfer gazpacho to a large glass or ceramic bowl. Cover and refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Gazpacho can be made up to 2 days ahead of time, and kept refrigerated. Read more

plum crazy

You have no idea how much I’ve missed you, but I’ve missed you like crazy. These 14 weeks of dust and rubble, hammer and nail, paint and stone have drug along their path like a tired old tortoise at times. Forced to slow down and follow the tortoise – I was to learn there was no passing lane – I tried to cultivate patience and grow extra gratitude for the many kindnesses and the pretty views along the way. I had ample opportunity to practice releasing expectations of what my days might bring, and yet at times I would forget, and fail, and feel myself a disappointment. I thought I could post more along the way, but simply put, I couldn’t. I thought I could at least follow fellow-bloggers who I’ve grown so fond of. But not even that. Once or twice my forehead met the brick wall. But over and over again I was taught, let go, be gentle.

I know Life isn’t through with lessons on this score because, when all is said and done, I barely got a passing grade, and that only because my teacher kind of liked me.  {smile}

I’m back, for real this time. We have one new kitchen and two new bathrooms. Even the repairs to our little cabin ~ where we had a flood (of sorts) and a fair share of damage ~ is nearly done. The dust is swept, the windows are washed. The workmen and women have all gone on to other jobs, leaving behind a grateful (and humbled) heart.

I’ll be resuming my trips to Farmers’ Markets and will post the subsequent vegetable and fruit recipes on Wednesdays. I have new Spreenkles to share. Several new takes on pizzas. A chutney, a jam. A soup . a cake . a drink.  And at last I can catch up on some reading! For the next several weeks there will be a fairly steady stream here at Spree, and so far I see no lumbering tortoises on the horizon.

~ ~ ~

We have a plum tree growing out back. The bugs love the leaves and make lace of them, and yet still a crop of plump plums is left for us late summer. Our dogs are plum crazy and love to forage for the fallen ones, though this makes them rather difficult to live with (if you catch my drift) so we always try to beat them to the punch.

Our plums aren’t quite ripe for the eating yet, but I’ve found many varieties at the market that are. Black-skinned, dusty iris or nearly magenta, insides pure gold to deep blushing pink. Have you tasted plucots, (or pluots) that hybrid between a plum and an apricot? You should. The produce man, with honey juices dripping from his knife,  sliced off a piece of his favorite for me. My basket soon was brimming with the colors of Monet’s garden, on their way to becoming jam, fragrant with ginger and warm spices.

Plum Plucot Jam with Ginger & Spices

fills approximately 2 pint jars – possibly 2½ – or 5 half-pint jars

  • a total of 4 pounds ripe plums & plucots* – pitted and diced
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons strained fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice

* Or use all plums if you like – a mix of varieties is nice, but a majority of black plums with deep scarlet flesh will make for the most beautifully colored jam

NOTE: If you prefer to make a freezer jam, you can ignore the canning steps and simply fill your jars with cooked jam, allow to cool, and then place in the freezer.

Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot.  Place a small plate in the freezer (to be used for testing readiness of the cooked jam later.) Put the flat lids of the jars in a heatproof bowl and set aside.

Place the diced plums and plucots, along with sugar, in a wide 6- to 8-quart pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, then continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Pour the contents of the pot into a colander set over a large bowl and stir the fruit gently to release the juices into the bowl.

Pour the juices back into the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Stirring frequently, boil until the syrup is reduced and thick, 10 minutes or so more.

Read more

cedar plank salmon with spearmint sauce

Have you wondered if all we ever eat around here is salad and vegetables and the occasional dessert? no, no, not so! During salmon season (I’m almost embarrassed to say) it’s on our table maybe as much as once a week. Our local newspaper’s food section had a wonderful-sounding salmon recipe last week that I was itching to try. We had a pot brimming with spearmint begging to be crushed and its aromas set free. It was fated.

This dish was so beautiful, so incredibly aromatic that (and now I truly am embarrassed) I was far too impatient to take photos of it. There was going to be no stage-setting. No turning it this way and that and getting the light just so. There was going to be no waiting. I mean none! So here you have it folks. Just as it came off the grill and its fragrant sauce was ladled on. Just before we gobbled it all up, smacking our lips and planning when we’d eat it again next…

This dish was, to my mind, absolutely perfect as it was. No changes were made to the original recipe, other than to halve it since we weren’t feeding a crowd. Therefore, we owe a debt of thanks to chef David Padberg of Portland’s Park Kitchen for the recipe. I’d hug him if he’d have it!

Salmon fillets steeped in the aromas of  cedar smoke and steam, then ladled with a variation on salsa verde, made with fresh spearmint leaves. An incredibly delicious flavor combination.

(I hope you won’t be off-put by the addition of chopped anchovies to the sauce. Those and the capers add the perfect bit of salt & fish to complement the salmon…and their flavors were not at all over-bearing.  The garlic and hot chili seeds added the perfect hint of heat. The lemon zest – oh you know! Let’s get on with it…

(I’ve halved the recipe for you below as most won’t be feeding 10 to 12. The above-pictured salmon fillet was 1 pound and we had sauce left over. It fed 2 generously  –  Guinea Pig loves his salmon – with enough left over for lunch the next day.)

Cedar Plank Salmon with Spearmint Sauce

(5 to 6 servings)


  • 3 anchovies, finely chopped (if using salted anchovies, rinse them thoroughly first)
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh spearmint, finely minced
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, finely minced
  • ¼ cup finely minced shallots
  • Grated zest of about 1½ lemons
  • 2 smallish cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin  olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

the Salmon:

  • 1 untreated cedar plank
  • 2 pound whole salmon fillet
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar

To make the sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together the anchovies, herbs, capers, shallots, lemon zest, garlic red pepper flakes and olive oil. Chef Padberg says to then add lemon juice to taste and allow sauce to sit for at least 1 hour for flavors to meld before serving. I let the sauce sit for quite some time before adding the juice. I waited to add the lemon juice until the salmon went on the grill as I didn’t want the vibrant green to change. Makes nearly 1 cup of sauce. 

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we interrupt…

We interrupt our normal interruptions to bring you a new kitchen. (Normal interruptions, which will include food, will resume tomorrow.)

Long dreamed-of, our kitchen is here.

Pots are bubbling, freezer’s making ice, spices sprinkling, soapstone’s silky, cookies in the oven, mama’s smiling big.

a welcome-back-to-the-kitchen gift from spree’s Grateful Guinea Pig

So many of you good people have offered encouragement these past few months while we went through a fairly major renovation at our house. Some of you spoke from multiple experiences of your own. Your kind words have meant so much to me!  I’ve held and replayed them in my mind on the most discouraging of days (and there were a few of those.) Many of you have asked for a peek into the newly remodeled kitchen – how could I possibly say no when you’ve brightened so many of my days?

We were able to save our cabinets and simply have them re-finished. We attached new pulls on drawers and cupboards.

We replaced our gas cooktop (who does that?!) with induction. It’s hiding over there under the rooster. Love it! Induction is wow, amazing, and since it’s fairly new technology and not all that widely-known, I plan to tell you a bit about it in another post. (I’ll feed you too.)

We replaced sinks and faucets. 

The button on the counter above? It replaces another that had been situated on the cabinet to the side. It was one that everyone’s hip accidentally bumped to start the garbage disposal.

sil-granite sinks – made of granite dust & silicone they’re durable, virtually heat & scratch-proof, quick-drying & easy easy care


We replaced a 23-year-old fridge with one spacious and light, so that fruits and vegetables no longer go there to die.

Have I already mentioned to you that we replaced our old countertops with soapstone? I want to warn anyone out there considering them – they will scratch. (Well, more precisely I mean, you can scratch them – even as careful as you are.) BUT, much to their credit, they are smooth and silky as baby skin (for those of you tactile like me –  you’ll spend a ridiculous amount of time petting them at first .) And because of their satiny finish, light doesn’t glare off them. They’re very very easy on the eyes! And have I mentioned they’re fun to pet?

So what haven’t I shown you or told you about? I think that about covers it. Except something you would have guessed anyway – it is such a joy to be back in the kitchen. A lot of interruptions still, and dust, because our bathrooms are more than a week away from being complete. But this is the heart of the home…the place where we prepare the food that becomes love put on the table…

savoy cabbage on soapstone…look for an Indian-inspired recipe next week, and salmon on a cedar plank tomorrow.

Thanks for sharing in the journey with me and for your thoughtfulness & patience along the dusty way. And Brydie! (City Hippy Farm Girl)  Thank you for the kangaroo cookie cutter from down under! Look to see Joey’s jumping off the platter here one day soon!

love, spree