Huckleberries, or Vaccinium membranaceum for my Swedish friend in Tuscany, are a particular treat this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. Apparently, the little berry has yet to be truly domesticated because it is difficult to grow and does not last long after picking, so it does not ship well. Most huckleberries are picked, by hand, in their native habitat. I buy them - many pints of them - every year from the same farm stand at the Saturday Market (a market that has both crafts and produce in our downtown area that is every Saturday from the May until December). I love this particular stand. The man - and I used to know his name so I feel terrible that I can't remember it this year - who is not a 'farmer' per se, sells mostly dried gourds, and so is often over-looked by many people. Instead of your usual produce one would grow in the garden, he goes out every Friday and picks huckleberries or elderberries, or gathers black chantrelles (the best there are!) and baby porcinis (king boletes) from the forest. Most weekends, his is the first stand I check, because he sells out of his treats fairly quickly, since he has items that most of the stands don't.
Our favorite thing to do with huckleberries is to make 1/2 apple 1/2 huckleberry pies. This very versatile berry, however, would make wonderful jam, or used in place of blueberries in many dishes. They can range from slightly tart to truly sweet, and the best part is that you need not try and remove any of the tiny stems or green berries, just dump the whole lot of them in whatever you're making, because it all cooks down together. Last night, inspired by a post from Kitchenmage a while ago, we decided to make a huckleberry sauce for salmon. You'll have to play around with it a bit because we just kind of threw things together, so the measurements are all approximate, but it tasted divine. You could probably use black currants or blueberries or raspberries too...
Huckleberry Sauce for Salmon, our own creation, but inspired by Kitchenmage
1/2 pint of huckleberries
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (or use a tsp or two of fresh lemon zest - this might even be better!)
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 jalapeno (seeded or not depending on your taste)
1 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. water
Add the first 5 ingredients (through to the jalapeno) in a small saucepan and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Then add the cornstarch solution and simmer another 5-7 minutes until thickened. Serve over grilled or baked salmon that is still slightly pink and tender in the middle (ours was grilled). This is enough for at least 4 servings - possibly more depending on how big your servings are :)
The Street Fair
On another note, this week on campus is the Street Fair - twice a year we're blessed with three days of all kinds of food and crafty goodies from vendors...a very welcome change after eating at the same few (not-always-so-tasty) places the rest of the year. Students come out in droves for the Afghani food, Peruvian food, BBQ, Thai, and Mexican food just to name a few. This year, my lunches at the Street Fair were limited as puppy parenthood requires going home in the middle of the day to let the pup out. But the one lunch I did have there was fantastic - the best I've had so far in three years of trying out food vendors there.
The one I tried this year was: Azure Blue's fish tacos. This is a new vendor to the Street Fair. They served up all organic vegetables with sustainably harvested, seared albacore tuna on soft white and yellow corn tortillas. On the side, there were sugary red onions (Ever made these? yummy! Just thinly slice a red onion and cook it in a little bit of water and sugar...they turn a gorgeous shade of pink!).
I also couldn't resist a slice of their vegan wild harvested blackberry pie with a raw hazelnut crust - the best bite was definitely the lone whole wild blackberry placed on top. The crust was really good - like smashed up hazelnuts coated in butter.
My one weakness with the street fair (besides wanting to eat at it every day for lunch) is the loose- leaf tea from Herbal Upbringing in Portland. I buy at least two bags every time the Street Fair comes around. This time it was a Spicy Spearmint blend with spearmint, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, peppermint & love :) and an organic Woman's Brew containing red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf (have you tried nettle tea? it's great; and available in most health food stores), alfalfa leaf, spearmint, rosehips & love. The picture is of the Spicy Spearmint. I was walking around with my nose stuck in the bag the whole way back to work.
Plus, I just love that I can actually identify the ingredients by sight too (though they are listed on the bag).
Check out Brownie Points - since she's another Eugene foodie who just happens to be here on campus, she might bless us with her version of the street fair too! Of course, she may actually be working harder than I am and not had a chance to go yet, but her site is great too!