By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
With myriad firework stands popping up between Sandpoint and Moscow, I’m reminded that it’s time to finalize my plans for the Fourth of July celebration. Sandpoint and the fourth personify summer lake living at its best. Whether you’ve made plans for a backyard barbecue, dining al fresco at one of our fine waterfront establishments or just packing some sandwiches and spreading a blanket on the warm sand, most of us are intent on finishing the day with the traditional fireworks display.
You can count on the fourth bringing out the red, white and blue in all of us, first evident in the parades, followed by every conceivable food combination that screams, “Happy birthday, America!” My personal rule: If your potluck contribution requires food coloring (especially blue), please rethink your culinary masterpiece.
My blue for the perfunctory “colors of the fourth” food comes from one source: Riley Creek Blueberry Farm. I called farm owner, Stan Urmann, and headed out last weekend for a sneak peek at my favorite antioxidants.
Who knew something so tasty could be so darn good for you too? These little gems pack a mighty wallop in the benefit department. Low in fat and calories, high in fiber and vitamin C, studies say they can even improve memory and slow down the aging process! Besides eating them fresh or using in my favorite recipes, I keep a frozen bag handy for a delicious little snack or to toss a few in a smoothie.
I’ve been hauling my “little adorables” to Riley Creek Blueberry farm for years because it’s a safe and a fun and easy place to forage for food. There’s no danger of wildlife (real or imaginary) that can bring harm to the grandkids. The only thing that might topple a toddler is a friendly wet-nosed nudge from Riley, the resident black Labrador. He has the run of the place, and he’s as eager to greet the customers as the rest of the Urmann family. In fact, he’s kind of famous and this year—you’ll see Riley’s mug smack in the middle of the farm’s new logo that will be unveiled at the upcoming farmers markets and the supermarkets.
Stan and I took a walk through rows of berries, just beginning to pop in a rainbow of blue hues. I am delighted to find a few ready for the picking. Plump, juicy and delicious, the blueberries seem to find a more direct path to my mouth than my basket; I can’t help myself. Because the weather’s been hot and dry, Stan reports that the UPick season will begin early this year, so get ready to start picking the last week of June. Stan and wife/farm partner, Anita make it real easy by providing buckets, bags and wagons. Other than a few adorable grandkids or a like-minded friend, I show up empty handed when I go picking. Sure, you can pick up a frozen bag of their berries at several local markets, but why would you? There’s something so satisfying about plucking the berries from the bushes, dropping them into the buckets and hefting a full container.
I’m not the least bit surprised that you still “weigh and pay” by the honor system and Anita and Tom have no intention of taking that privilege away from us. These folks are so upright and down to earth that I suspect other folks besides me always error of the side of generous when tallying their take. Speaking of generous, I am struck too, by Stan’s words of praise about his competitor, and he reminds me more than once about the fine blueberry operation on the other side of Sandpoint, Shingle Mill Blueberry Farm.
With college daughter Whitney home to lend a hand for the summer, the place is bursting not only with blueberries, but some great youthful ideas and future plans. One of this year’s additions to their product line is a frozen, “take and bake” blueberry pie and I can’t wait to try mine. Stan runs the production line, but Anita is quick to inform me that it’s her recipe, evident too, by her name on the box. You’ll find the pies, and jams and syrups available all summer long. If you’re going out to pick, go early and beat the heat.
From the looks of the long range weather forecast, some cool food is in order. The watermelon and blueberry salad with feta is the perfect combination of cool and refreshing. I sure hope you’ll give it a try. Have fun, stay safe and be cool.
Watermelon, Berry and Feta Summer Salad
For the vinaigrette:
•1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
•1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
•1/4 cup minced shallots
•1 tablespoon honey
•1/2 cup good olive oil
•1 teaspoon kosher salt
•1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
•6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
•1/4 cup whole fresh mint leaves, julienned
•4 cups seedless watermelon, rind removed, and
cut in 1-inch cubes
•2 cups fresh Riley Creek or Shingle Mill blueberries
•12 ounces good feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced
(Pasture of Eden is my favorite, you can
find at the deli counter at Yokes)
•Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion. If not using within an hour, store the vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator.
•Place the arugula and mint in a large bowl and drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly. Add the watermelon, blueberries, feta and gently toss again.
•Taste for seasonings, finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and serve immediately
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