As local forecasters were predicting a coastal heat wave, I made a foray into the Central Valley, where it was really hot. Thank heaven for the perfect climate to bring crops there into fruition! And thank the Lord for field workers willing and able to work in the heat to bring the crops into your favorite local and farmers markets.
Stone fruits and melons, nuts, fresh grapes and raisins, and all the tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic to add to local avocados for your tasty salsa have been historically nurtured in the rich alluvial soil and water washed in from the Sierra via the mighty Kings and San Joaquin Rivers. And so the historic link between the Central Valley and Central Coast continues to be forged.
Just in time for your Fourth of July picnics, you can pick up huge nominally priced and certainly luscious cantaloupes and watermelons. I always look forward to the gigantic Royal Blenheim apricots, making sure to freeze some for winter, after sprinkling them with a little sugar and Fruit Fresh. White peaches and nectarines form the base for a wonderful Fourth of July compote combined with our coastal raspberries and blueberries, as is or dressed with a little vanilla yogurt.
Did you know that there are an increasing number of varieties of blueberries being successfully grown in our area?
Did you know strawberries are the only fruit with seeds (called achenes) on the outside? (Thanks to the Food Networks Alton Brown for the culinary trivia.)
Tropically grown bananas are also in the berry category, but the seeds are encased in the flesh of the fruit.
According to our tour guide at the botanical garden on Kauai, bananas are actually the worlds largest herb plant. She also told us that it takes a 3-foot stalk of sugar cane, which is in the grass family, to produce one cube of the sweet stuff.
Anita and Lanny Loveland multiplied the following recipe to feed the parishioners at Santa Rosa Church one Friday in Lent. They add some chopped crisp bacon; during the summer, you might substitute farm-fresh corn.
Corn Chowder 2 cups diced potatoes 2 15-oz. cans corn 5 stalks celery, chopped 3 cups hot water 3 tablespoon of butter 1 cup evaporated milk (nonfat works fine) Lawrys seasoned salt Dash of black pepper Parsley flakes McCormicks garlic and herb blend (salt free) Cook potatoes in water until fork-tender; add celery and cook five more minutes. Drain most of the water and add the other ingredients, seasoning to your taste. Reheat to a boil, and serve piping hot! Serves five. Anita makes a large portion of the following dish, named for the young lady who first prepared it for the Lovelands, and freezes some planned-overs for later. She always earns raves for the dish
Chicken Riki 4 boneless chicken breasts Olive oil and fresh garlic 1 can cream of mushroom or celery soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup 1 cup red or white wine 1 can artichoke hearts, quartered 1 jar basil pesto, or 1/2 jar each of sun dried and basil pesto 2 pkg. DiGiorgio cheese tortellini, prepared Sauté chicken in olive oil, add in garlic and then mushrooms. Slice meat in small pieces and add remaining ingredients to simmer. Serves 8-10 really well over the pasta, with green salad and garlic bread!! she adds.
Please submit your crowd pleasers to Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or e-mail to Cambrian@the tribune news.com