Where did the summer go?

The sun is setting earlier these days, making our evening walks and bike rides a tighter squeeze before dark. This week the school bus started making its morning and afternoon rounds again too. Grape samples say we are ready for Crush 2016; both Locati Cellars and Lagana Cellars are scheduled for picking; by my next post we will have at least half of our white grapes pressed (three varietals).  Autumn Equinox is just weeks away and I feel like summer is just getting started.

This last week I prepared a few meals for the freezer to accommodate the Hubby’s potato harvest and my grape harvest schedules.  There are some quick-to-fix items in the cupboard as backup too.  While visiting with my parents for their anniversary last weekend my mother provided me with four beautiful zucchini from their garden and encouraged me to look up the Curried Zucchini Soup recipe from Allrecipes.  She tells me she changed it up a bit with more seasoning than called for and sweet potato; that even my father (doesn’t like zucchini) loved the soup.  (We are curried soup fans, recall this post?)  So, with four fresh zucchini available, a Locati Sweet Onion, locally grown garlic from the Farmers Market, and two cups of my own amazing turkey broth made from a whole turkey we roasted that I simmered with trimmings from all of the vegetables we cook with.  As I don’t do nightshade fruits, I make my own curry mix (recipe below).

My changes to the Allrecipes.com soup summed up:

  • added two large cloves of garlic and sautéed with the Walla Walla Sweet Onion
  • grated the zucchini rather than chopping it
  • added one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger as I added the zucchini
  • tossed the zucchini until it wilted before adding the curry powder and stock
  • used three tablespoons of curry powder
  • home-made soup broth, turkey based
  • no blender use after the soup cooked, personal preference

I would like to put diced potatoes and chopped water chestnuts in next time, maybe some turkey pieces too as Hubby likes to have his meat.  Preparation and cooking were speedy; might even make it again before the fresh local zucchini are gone… if time allows.

 Nightshade-free curry powder (sorry, been using it so long the sources have disappeared):

  • 4.5 teaspoons Turmeric
  • 2 heaping teaspoons cumin
  • 2 heaping teaspoons coriander
  • 2.5 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Fenugreek
  • *when I cook I ad 1/4 cup fresh parsley to the pot as well since I typically have this available rather than putting dried in the blend

Sift it all together, put it in a jar and close the lid tightly.  This is a fairly mild curry, as you can imagine, so we like more than most recipes call for.  It takes a few minutes to measure and mix, but well worth it.

I wanted to pair an off-dry Riesling with dinner, but couldn’t find one in our wine cooler.  Instead I chose a L’Ecole Chenin Blanc (dry) in hopes the fruit would pair well with the spicy curry.  Alas, not the best together.  Had I looked at my previous post I might have grabbed the Arbor Cellars Marsanne/Picpoul blend that I passed over this evening.  But, we have fresh watermelon and that was a delight with the wine as dessert!

It took a while to fly out of Harvey Field in Snohomish on Sunday due to the cloud cover.  Once we took off and managed to find a hole to climb through we were greeted by sunny blue skies and the majestic Mount Rainier. Cheers!

Rose’, a sweet onion aptly named

I realize I am a bit of a sucker for Walla Walla Sweet Onions, but once you have them you know, without a doubt, they are the sweetest onions grown – anywhere!  This year a small number of Rose’ Walla Walla Sweets has been made available in our local Farmers Market by Locati Farms.  Handy tip: you too can have Walla Walla Sweet Onions, just hop online and order from the Locati Farms link above during the June/July season.  A few weeks ago I wrote to tell you about ‘sweet rose’ onions in the Netherlands; those onions are nothing like this.

Rose' and yellow Walla Walla Sweet Onions
Look, Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onions from Locati Farms!

Hubby and I sliced a yellow and a Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet to compare raw flavor: both wonderfully sweet, as expected.  Most red onions have a fierce bite from the Pyruvic Acid; most make your eyes water from the naturally occurring sulfur as you slice them.  The beauty of our local onions is their lack of both Pyruvic Acid and sulfur.  Of course, this very thing, coupled with the higher water content of the Walla Walla Sweets is what makes them tender and reduce their storage time.  You can dehydrate them to prolong storage like I do.

Locati Cellars at Locati Farms
Preparing to bottle 2014 red wines at Locati Cellars production facility at Locati Farms.

The history of the Walla Walla Sweet is closely entwined with the wine we make at Locati Cellars.  Michael F Locati, winery owner, is a third generation Walla Walla farmer, following his Grandfather, Joe Locati, and father, Ambrose, and uncle, Pete, along with his brother, Ambrose (Bud) Jr.  Wine grapes and onions, as well as asparagus, are what the family focuses on now.  Michael J Locati, nephew to Michael F Locati, has been patiently developing the red sweet onion over the last seven years.  By 2018 production of the reds will begin to reach commercial levels.  That means Northwest area grocery chains like Fred Meyer and neighborhood stores and restaurants along with the Walla Walla Farmers Market will have them.  The link above will eventually allow you to order Locati Farms Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onions.  Just think, you can experience these exquisite onions.  Thank me later as I have a recipe to share with you for these delectable onions.

Midsummer picnics, barbecues, and humble meals at home, whatever your reason, this potato salad combines the Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onion (or use a sweet onion you have access to) and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes (think really good french fries) with the savory notes of dill weed, celery seed and dry ground mustard in a creamy dressing to take this salad to another level!  It is based on my mother’s potato salad recipe but instead of boiling the cubed potatoes, I rub them with olive oil and roast them so they are slightly crisped on the outside and soft on the inside.  I was eating the salad warm  after making it and it was super tasty.

Roasted Potato Salad

8 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, rubbed with olive oil to coat

1 1/2 cups Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onion, diced small

6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon dill weed

fresh ground pepper and salt, to taste

2 teaspoons dry ground mustard

3/4 cup each mayonnaise and sour cream OR 3/4 cup each mayonnaise and Miracle Whip

Paprika, optional

Locati Cellars 2014 Dolcetto
Locati Cellars 2014 Dolcetto balanced the herbs and texture of the Roasted potato salad beautifully.

Hard cook your eggs while your cubed potatoes roast in a 350* oven until they begin to turn gold.  Let the potatoes cool a bit, chill to peel the eggs before chopping.  Combine the potatoes, minced onion, chopped eggs, celery seed, dill weed, salt and pepper.  Toss gently to distribute the seasonings.  Mix together your choice of dressing with the dry ground mustard; make sure the mustard gets well blended; add the dressing to the potato mix.  Fold until evenly moistened.  Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

We chose to maintain the Locati theme and pair this salad with Locati Cellars 2014 Dolcetto.  Meaning small sweet grape, this wine is deep purple and full of ripe fruit flavors.  The salad and wine paired beautifully bringing out the herbs and fruit in a nice balance.  Cheers!

Sunset in Walla Walla, no filter is necessary.
Sunset in Walla Walla, no filter is necessary.

Red, Pink and Yellow Onions

It is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Harvest here in our verdant valley.  These delectable, fragile onions are only around for a short time each year and have to be used promptly or preserved as they don’t store like the average yellow, white or red onions we are familiar with in the USA.  I will be getting my 25 pounds to dehydrate this weekend; it is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival weekend too.

Last November, during our tour through Germany we spent a day in Emmeloord, Netherlands.  (This a ‘polder‘ – land reclaimed from the sea.)  The perfectly flat terrain goes on for miles and miles where sheep graze and food crops grow with agriculture related businesses being the primary form of employment.  It is below sea level and the locals enjoy relating the marvel of their home as much as winery peeps in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) like to expound upon the Missoula Floods that have  provided us with excellent soil for vinifera grape growing, amongst other crops.  Hey, we are all human, right?

One of the stops of the day was an onion packing plant; it was an excellent experience.  Set up like the one I have been through in Washington State: trucks backed in to unload, storage bins for the onions, long lines of conveyor belts sizing equipment and bagging/boxing.  What made it interesting to me was that my American perspective was large onions that are either in pre-weighed 5 or 10 pound net bags or loose in the grocery store is the norm.  From the Waterman Onion Packing facility yellow, red and pink (yup, just like wine: white, red and pink) onions the size of large shallots are packaged into net bags of about five onions for grocery store purchasers or graded and sized for bulk shipping to Asian and African nations.  Those destined for Africa were to be sold individually (pieced) as money and/or preservation are in short supply in many places.  Our American onions are less expensive too; sadly, we don’t see how well we have it most of the time.

The pink onions were touted as ‘sweet’ and, being from Sweet country, we had to try one.  A pocket knife was procured and layers were peeled for each that wanted a taste.  Although sweeter than the average onion and great tasting, they are not as sweet as our beloved Walla Walla Sweet Onions.

I had a blast going through the packaging plant while it was shut down for lunch. My white jacket was filthy in short order (I should not be trusted with white clothing) but none of the guys got dusty red jackets of out it…hmmmm.  Since we have been traveling through Washington during potato planting I recognized the huge bulk sacs for shipping at two places where I hadn’t  see them before.  The gypsy in me took advantage of some traveling opportunities while the geeky side is content with the new info.

By the way, feel free to mix and match your yellow/red/pink onions with your wines. Cheers!

W2 June Food Truck Night

What do you do in Walla Walla when the temperatures soar to over one hundred during the first week of June?  Well, if it is a Monday, we go to the Port of Walla Walla Incubators for Walla Walla Food Truck Night!  Usually it is crucial to get there right at 5:00 PM to avoid standing in long lines waiting for food and hoping to find a seat in the shade.  This week it was 101* at that hour, the parking lots were still pretty empty and there were no lines at any of the food trucks.  We also had friends ‘saving seats’ at Burwood Brewery, so we were fairly certain of eating in the shade.

When it is so hot it is hard for me to choose food.  We walked the line of trucks, debating the merits of each before making our decision: Wing & a Prayer BBQ ribs for Hubby, 1/4 chicken for me and Mediterranean Cuisine salads paired with Burwood’s beers. It was slow enough that Mediterranean Cuisine made me a special salad without olives; I thank them profusely!  Our beer choices were Pennypacker, an altbier style lager, that complemented the barbecue beautifully and an IPA for my Hubby to pair with the hot evening weather.  We drank lots of water too as staying hydrated can be tough on such hot days.  As we were leaving lines were beginning to form.

I had enough left over chicken to make myself a salad for dinner (solo, so perfect amount) the next night and share a bit with my very spoiled ten year-old cat, Dragon.

Locati Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Seattle Wine Award gold winner, Locati Cellars small production of 2013 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine: Cabernet Sauv 2016
Don’t miss out on the festivities of Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine the 16-18th of this month!

Happy to have a hot evening without cooking this week as we prepare for WWCC’s newest Enology & Vit grads to party in our backyard this coming weekend!  The following weekend (16-18) is Celebrate Walla Walla, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon. Locati Cellars is participating with our small production of 2014 Kelly Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  It won gold in the Seattle Wine Awards this year.

Walla Walla Sweet Onions are here!
Walla Walla Sweet Onions are being harvested! Best make some time to get mine to dehydrate.

At the same time the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival will take place (18-19th)!  Sample delicious Walla Walla Sweet Onion recipes, purchase onions fresh and in things like mustards, compete to eat a fresh sweet onion in record time and then go wine tasting.  How can you beat a weekend such as this?  It isn’t looking like it will be as hot that weekend; what more incentive do you need? Make your plans, come visit me in the tasting room and bring home your onions!  If you bring home lots, dehydrate them.

Cheers, stay cool!

Walla Walla Sweets – yummmmm

Walla Walla Sweet onions, fresh and dehydrated

Our 25 lb bag of Walla Walla Sweet Onions has been reduced to a couple of gallon bags of dehydrated onion rings.  It took four rounds of eight trays full in the dehydrator, the last of which is still running on the deck as I write.  They smell heavenly and taste like candy; they will flavor my soups, stews, and meats through the winter.  To top it off, we sauteed the last of them for lunch today: delightful!  Grilled turkey burger, fresh picked tomato and a brown ale from England completed the meal.

Braided garlic

I used the passive/screen method to dehydrate many of my herbs successfully.  The later harvest will probably go through the dehydrator.

Thinking I could keep the fresh garlic close at hand in the kitchen by braiding it, I made the tightest braids I could and set them on the screen to dry with the herbs.  Now that the tops have fully dried, the braids are loose, so they will not hang.  Beginners mistake, when I grow it again I will know to make some changes to the growing area and the way I store them.  But it was fun to try it all out and I am sure it will taste fantastic.

I could get antsy for Fall with all of the delicious smells hanging around the house.