Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the best things about fall are

Dahlias

sleeping outside (still!)
the view from my bed
maple trees

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Huckleberries

Two hours spent driving through the Columbia River Gorge (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!) from our house will get you to Trout Lake and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, where the huckleberries are really large and abundant this year.Here are the rules for a successful huckleberry picking excursion:
1. Choose a sunny day in early to mid-September; not too hot and not too cool, warm in the sun with a light breeze
2. Don't take your dog; she will get bored immediately and begin to whine
3. Pack a picnic of homemade salmon spread (with leftover Chinook from
from last night's grill), a fresh baguette from Grand Central Bakery, Japanese cucumber salad (cucumber from the garden, natch), and triple ginger cookies spread with sweetened cream cheese and topped with (what else) fresh picked huckleberries. OMGaaah....
4. If you take your dog, she will whine the entire time
5. Bring small buckets (large is too depressing)
with a rope to hang round your neck (not your waist, let's be professional here)
6. I don't recommend taking your dog, she will be very very restless
7. Remember your cooler, ice, and freezer bags (also small) to keep your stash in for the trip home
8. If you miss berry picking with small children, be sure to take our dog. It will remind you of those days when no amount of treats, games or diversions would stop the whining
9. Also bring water to drink and wash your hands in (and for the dog, if you were stupid enough to bring her)
10. Stay until six o'clock, when the sun will be low enough to blind you so you have to stop in Hood River at the Full Sail Brewery to get something to eat while you watch the wind surfers and wait for the sun to go down
11. You probably shouldn't take your dog; she might puke in the car on the way home

Just park anywhere you can and follow the trail down into the huckleberry bushes:

Even Mr Cranky is happy out here in the woods

Remember not to leave until six o'clock, when the sun is in the tops of the trees:

You will want to wash your hands before you touch the steering wheel

I am very stingy with my huckleberries, and so am unwilling to use them in what most consider to be the highest use of huckleberries: pie. I decided that I would make “hand pies” or wee fruit turnovers rather than regular round pie. You can really stretch out your stash of berries this way, but be forewarned, it is rather time consuming. Plus, wrestling with Pate Brisee (aka pie dough) has never been my idea of a good time. Especially because now I have to make everything without dairy (no butter!) or eggs to suit the annoying vegan in the family my adorable daughter.

Turnovers, as the name may imply, require lots of rolling, handling, folding, and patching and it's not all that much fun when your dough won't cooperate. After way too much fiddling and repairing, this batch actually didn’t ooze its juices overly much. Usually, the ones that I get into the oven with no cracks or tears come out 30 minutes later looking as if they had been the hapless victims in a slasher movie. But look, not too bad:

To make the filling, put 1 1/2 cups huckleberries in a saucepan.

Add about 3 tablespoons of sugar and a splash of water; heat it all up to boiling and stir in about 1Tb. cornstarch mixed with 2 Tb. water and cook until thickened (almost instantaneous, but go a little longer to cook the cornstarch)

That's it.

Or you could grate in a peeled apple if it doesn't look like you will have enough filling when you are about a third of the way done. Um, like I did.

Take your chilled dough from the fridge and roll it out to a rectangle measuring 15" x 10" and cut into 6- 5" squares. Actually, roll it out larger than that and trim to a nice, neat rectangle.

Place a good spoonful of filling onto the center of each square, moisten edges with milk, and fold into a triangle. Press edges with tines of a fork to seal the edges. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with milk and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Do it all over again with the second lump of chilled dough.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 30 minutes, until golden. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Fantastically tender and delicious!

We saw lots of bear signs, coarse hair tangles on the bushes, but no actual bears. Whew.

I prefer to look at Dana Robson's cool animal images:

*from the beholder