Embarrassment of Riches

I’m embarrassed to admit I have sorrel growing in my garden that I have barely touched. I planted it early in the year, and I’ve been reluctant to harvest much.  It is so utterly beautiful, I’ve been content to gaze on their bright green, red-etched leaves rather than eat them.

Turns out sorrel is a perennial herb that grows well in the Pacific Northwest. It is related to rhubarb (of course) and buckwheat (brilliant!). Sorrel is well known for its sour qualities and apparently, my particular red-veined variety is regarded as milder than most (indeed!).

Even though my tiny garden is pretty much done for the season, sorrel’s hearty leaves continue to grow like crazy. Armed with increased incentive, I have taken to clipping the leaves for salad.  Apparently, they can become tough, but I’ve yet to experience that issue. Thus far, the leaves are crisper than spinach with a pleasing tartness.

Fall Sorrel Salad

Here’s a rundown on a recent salad featuring the beauteous sorrel with other seasonal greens. I began with a juicy Honey Crisp apple thinking its residual sweetness would offset any lurking bitterness. To complement the apple I went with trusty Oregon Blue cheese—its robust, creaminess was an awesome match.

I brought it all together with a bold sweet-tart Balsamic-Vanilla Dressing laced with nutmeg, and finished  it with a sprinkling of caramelized walnuts. Oh, yes, let’s not forget freshly ground mixed peppercorns, the  crowning touch.

Fall Sorrel Salad

Ingredients
8 – 10 ounces, combination of sorrel and seasonal greens
1 fresh apple such as Honey Crisp
½ cup crumbled Oregon blue cheese, Danish blue, or Maytag
½ cup caramelized nuts
freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Balsamic Vanilla Dressing
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper
¾ cup oil blend, (such as ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup vegetable oil, and ¼ cup walnut oil)

Instructions

  1. For dressing: place all through salt and pepper in cruet or jar and shake; add oil and shake well. Adjust seasoning.
  2. To prepare apple ahead: wash and dry, quarter and remove core, and leave skin on. Cut into 1/4″ width slices. Dip in 1 tsp lemon juice and 1 cup water, drain and cover with paper toweling.
  3. Wash, dry and trim greens, place in bowl and chill.
  4. To serve, toss the greens lightly with dressing, scatter with remaining items and serve. Pass additional dressing.    Serves 2-4

Pumpkin Fields Forever

We are deep in the heart of pumpkin season. For local happenings, folks in the Willamette Valley depend on Bauman Farms to get with the program—especially now that their Fall Harvest Festival is in full swing.  I’ve heard their Pumpkin Patch referred to as the Disneyland of Pumpkin Patches.  Known far and wide for more than hay rides, corn mazes and tunnels, apple tastings and pumpkin hills, students by the busload line up for a jolt of their mayhem madness.

I stopped by on a recent pumpkin scouting expedition and was not disappointed.  With so many different varieties to choose from, they were helpfully organized by category and color. I stayed basic and settled on a very innocuous 5 pound Cinderella pumpkin.

It is so named because it is reminiscent of the pumpkin Cinderella’s fairy godmother transformed into a coach for her trip to the ball. It is a little flattish, with deep indentations; the skin is a dazzling red/orange tinged with shadows ranging from coral to eggplant.

The Cinderella pumpkin is highly regarded for its meaty deep-orange flesh and sweet, nutty flavor.  It has quite the lineage, too, with roots that harken clear back to France; so far back, the Pilgrims are thought to have served a variety of it at their second Thanksgiving in the new world.  Excellent stock, with historic significance—certainly ripe with culinary distraction potential.

Since Bauman’s features both produce and nursery items I headed over to the garden shop and poked around.  I discovered a couple of inexpensive spot color plants: a wine colored oxalis (shamrock plant) with bright white flowers and a trailing beauty called Superbells Coralberry Punch displaying showy lipstick-pink blossoms with magenta centers.

A few days later I cut off the top of the Cinderella pumpkin, scooped out its seeds and filled the interior with the plants.

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Cinderella pumpkin, Step 1

This could not have been simpler; so much for complicated carving.  I’ll probably add a bit more potting soil, but for now, it looks cheery—and not very scary—as it graces the entrance to my front door.

Cinderella pumpkin, Step 2
Cinderella pumpkin, Step 2

As an added perk, I gave the seeds a good cleaning, soaked them in a saline solution for a couple of hours and let them roast slowly in a 325-degree oven for about an hour.  A nice little bonus.

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A nice little bonus