Lentil Salad with (local) Hazelnuts and Goat Gouda

I must admit, I’ve never been a huge lentil fan.  That being said, I look at my recipe demos as a great opportunity to change my mind about different foods.  When I saw this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, it addressed some of the issues that I have with lentils – mainly the skins popping open and the mushy-ness of it all – and I had to try it.

Cook’s Illustrated recommends a two-step process to cooking perfect lentils – you brine them first and then bake them in the oven.  I must say, these were so good that lentils may have found their newest fan!  I soaked them for an hour in a sea salt and water brine, and then covered them and left them in the fridge until the next morning (you can leave the brined lentils in the fridge for a couple of days before baking).  When I baked them, I used a mix of 50/50 water to broth, which I made using Rapunzel vegan vegetable bouillon – you can alternately use low-sodium chicken broth if it doesn’t matter if the dish is vegetarian or not.  I wouldn’t recommend using one of the liquid vegetable broths that we carry at the Co-op, as both Pacific and Imagine use ingredients that I don’t feel would meld very well with the rest of the recipe.

After I let the lentils cool (you can serve the salad hot or at room temperature) I mixed together the dressing and voila – delicious lentil salad!  We’re lucky enough to have a hazelnut orchard in our county, so I garnished the salad with Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards toasted hazelnuts (in bulk) and with shredded Benning goat Gouda.

I must tell you that this is already one of the top five most popular recipes I have ever sampled for customers – the salad is very flavorful with a tangy finish and garnered numerous enthusiastic responses from tasters!

Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Gouda © Sassy Sampler 2012

Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Gouda

Serves 4 – 6


  • 1 c French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 6 c water
  • 2 c low-sodium broth—chicken or veggie*
  • 5 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 t Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c chopped curly parsley
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 oz crumbled or shredded hard goat cheese, like Gouda (about 3/4 c)
  • 1/3 c coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts

* for a vegetarian version, I recommend using Rapunzel vegan vegetable bouillon—boil 3 cups of water and add one bouillon cube and boil until it dissolves.  Measure out 2 c to use in the recipe (you should only have a small amount left over).  I don’t recommend using the pre-made vegetable broth from Imagine or Pacific Foods for this recipe.


  1. Place lentils and 1 t salt in a bowl.  Cover with 4 cups warm water (about 110°F) and soak for 1 hour.  Drain well (drained lentils can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days before cooking).  If you are using bouillon instead of chicken broth, you can prepare it at this point as it will also keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F.
  3. Place drained lentils, 2 c water, broth, garlic, bay leaf, and 1/2 t sea salt  (reduce salt if using bouillon cube broth) in a medium  oven-proof saucepan or baking dish.  Cover and bake until lentils are tender but remain intact, 40-60 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, and mustard together in a large bowl.
  5. Drain lentils well using a colander with small holes; remove and discard garlic and bay leaf.  Refrigerate for about a half hour if serving at room temperature.
  6. Add drained lentils, parsley, and shallot to dressing and toss to combine.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with goat cheese and hazelnuts.

Notes from Cook’s Illustrated:

“Why this recipe works:  The most important step in making a lentil salad is perfecting the cooking of the lentils so they maintain their shape and firm-tender bite. There turns out to be two key steps. The first is to brine the lentils in warm salt water. With brining, the lentil’s skin softens, which leads to fewer blowouts. The second step is to cook the lentils in the oven, which heats them gently and uniformly. Once we had perfectly cooked lentils, all we had left to do was to pair the earthy beans with a tart vinaigrette and boldly flavored mix-ins.

French green lentils, or Lentilles du Puy, are our preferred choice for this recipe, but it works with any type of lentil except red or yellow. Brining helps keep the lentils intact, but if you don’t have time, they’ll still taste good. The salad can be served warm or at room temperature.”

Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese PDF

Raspberry Muffin Squares

It’s been a busy couple weeks here at the Co-op –  I thought that even though I haven’t had time to make anything for sampling, I would share the recipe of the month from the Whatcom Farm to School program using February’s featured local ingredient – frozen raspberries.

Alm Hill Garden (Everson, WA) and their red raspberries © Community Food Co-op 2012

Washington state is the leading grower of red raspberries in the US – according to the Whatcom Farm Friends website, Whatcom County produces more than 79% of the red raspberries grown in the state, which is also about half of the total US crop.  We also grow the largest per capita crop of red raspberries in the world, with over 100 growers harvesting 6000 – 8000 acres, creating seasonal jobs for 6000 workers (many of them are local schoolkids – I gave it a go back in the day!).  The bulk of these berries are sold to companies like Smuckers and Ocean Spray, but we carry 3 pound bags of raspberries grown in Carnation, WA year round in our frozen department (and they are $1 off until the end of the month).

February’s featured recipe on the Whatcom Farm-to-School website is Raspberry Muffin Squares.  It is a simple recipe that only takes about 15 minutes to put together and can be made with wheat or gluten-free flour.  You can use fresh berries in season, or frozen anytime of year!  This recipe was originally adapted from USDA Recipes for Schools Muffin Squares.

Photo © Community Food Co-op 2012

Raspberry Muffin Squares

serves 16


  • 1 c all-purpose flour + 1 1/4 c whole wheat flour OR 2 1/4 c gluten-free baking mix
  • 3 1/3 t baking powder
  • 1/3 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 c 1% milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 3/4 t almond extract
  • 2 c whole raspberries, fresh or frozen


  • 1/3 c rolled oats (be sure to use gluten-free oats if you are gluten intolerant)
  • 2 t whole wheat flour or gluten-free baking mix
  • 2 t brown sugar
  • 2 t vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Prepare a 8×8 baking dish by lightly coating it with non-stick spray.
  3. Stir together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk, oil, and almond extract.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir only until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Do not over mix.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.
  7. Evenly distribute the whole raspberries over the top of the batter and gently press the berries into the batter.
  8. Combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a bowl and mix well.
  9. Evenly distribute the topping over the raspberries.
  10. Bake until lightly browned and springy when pressed in the center, about 20—25 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and cool on a baking rack.
  12. Cut into 16 equal pieces.

Muffin squares will last 2 days at room temperature or up to 1 month frozen in an airtight container.

Raspberry Muffin Squares PDF

Simple Italian-style Meat Sauce (gluten-free option)

What a doozy of a week – snow, subzero temperatures, icy roads, frozen hot water pipes (at my house at least!) – and I’m glad things are getting back to normal.  In light of all this, I thought I’d pick a recipe this week that would be the heart of a warming meal.  I went to Cooks Illustrated for inspiration (one of my favorite sources), and found what I was looking for in their recipe for Simple Italian-style Meat Sauce, from the March 2008 issue of the magazine (you can also find it on their website, but you have to subscribe for access – if you cook a lot, I feel that it is well worth it due to the sheer volume of tried and true recipes they offer).

While this recipe has many ingredients, there aren’t so many that it becomes unwieldy, and you use a food processor to do most of the prep work so it is pretty simple to make.  The recipe requires you to brown the mushrooms instead of the meat, which I thought was interesting.  Their theory is that the browned mushrooms enhance the flavor of the beef, and I agree with them.  I used local grass-fed ground beef from Matheson Farms, which is rich in flavor and is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids than beef raised on grain (which is what most cows are fed), so the mushrooms just enhanced the goodness even more!

I used a sweet onion (which is my preference – they taste good and are much easier on your eyes when you are cutting them) and local organic hardneck red garlic in the recipe (easy to peel and has a strong flavor).  You can use any kind of onion or garlic – it just depends on what flavors you prefer.  Since you have to either mince the garlic or crush it through a press, you could even opt to get the minced garlic cubes we sell in the frozen department (if you haven’t seen these new herbs from Dorot, they are really cool – frozen herbs pre-portioned so you don’t have any prep).

It only took me about an hour to make the sauce, including prep time and letting it simmer for a half hour, and it tasted like it had cooked for hours because the flavors meld together so well – someone even told me it was better than their grandma’s meat sauce!  I served it with a choice of Field Day Organics traditional penne pasta or Tinkyada organic brown rice spirals (my favorite brand for gluten-free pasta because it tastes great and has good texture).  I also used a slice of Rudy’s Gluten-free bread as a substitution to the original recipe’s call for a slice of high-quality white bread so the sauce would be gluten-free.

photo of meat sauce

Simple Italian Meat Sauce © 2012 Sassy Sampler

Simple Italian-style Meat Sauce

adapted from March 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated
Makes enough for 2 pounds of pasta


  • 4 oz white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed and broken into rough pieces (about 6 mushrooms)
  • 1 large slice of sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 2 T whole milk
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 # lean ground been
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 c)
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 T)
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained, 1/4 c liquid reserved
  • 1 T minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 oz grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 c)


  1. Process mushrooms in food processor until finely chopped, about eight 1-second pulses, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed; transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Add bread, milk, 1/2 t sea salt, and 1/2 t pepper to empty food processor and process until a paste forms, about eight 1-second pulses.
  3. Add beef and pulse until the mixture is well combined, about six 1-second pulses.
  4. Heat oil in a large stainless saucepan* over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add onion and mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently,  until vegetables are browned and dark bits form on the pan bottom, 6-12 minutes.
  5. Stir in the garlic, pepper flakes, and tomato paste; cook until fragrant and tomato paste starts to brown, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the 1/4 c reserved tomato liquid and 2 t fresh oregano (use the whole 1 t if using dried), scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits.
  7. Add meat mixture and cook, breaking meat into small pieces with your wooden spoon, until beef loses its raw color, 2-4 minutes, making sure that meat does not brown.
  8. Stir in crushed and drained diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until sauce has thickened and flavors have blended, about 30 minutes.
  9. Stir in cheese and remaining teaspoon of fresh oregano (if using); season with salt and pepper to taste.

Leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

* non-stick cookware won’t work as well for this recipe, as you won’t get the delicious browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

Simple Italian-style Meat Sauce PDF

Kartoffelpuffer (German Potato Pancakes)

We have a really great program in Whatcom County called Whatcom Farm-to-School, which highlights a different local produce item each month in participating schools.  The program is important because it links the foods that children eat to the farmers that grow it, and introduces some local produce into school lunch meals.  This was made possible by a grant from another great local organization, the Whatcom Community Foundation.

Potatoes are the January Harvest of the Month item, so I decided to pick a recipe this month where potatoes are the star.  I chose to make Karoffelpuffer – German potato pancakes.  I thought they would be tasty  and great for a cold day (they are typically served at winter street fairs in Germany).  Since they are best served warm, I decided to cook them right at the demo table, which was a first for me.  It went really well, and made my demo extra fun!

They are very simple to make – simply grate some potatoes (Washington grown!) and finely chop some onion, and then mix them with a little flour, egg, salt, and pepper.  Then you smoosh them in a pan with a little oil, let them get golden and crispy, and then gobble them down!  I served them with applesauce (which is traditional), as well as with some sour cream (I chose the locally made one from Breckenridge Farms) for a more savory version.  I did find a recipe for a vegan version (although I haven’t made them myself) on a great vegan food blog called Seitan is my Motor.  There is also an intriguing recipe for vegan sour cream with olives.  Guten appetit!

Kartoffelpuffer © Sassy Sampler 2012

Kartoffelpuffer (German Potato Pancakes)

adapted from allrecipes.com


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c flour (gluten-free blend or unbleached wheat)
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 c finely chopped (or grated) onion
  • 1/4 c canola oil (or olive, sunflower, etc.)


  1. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Finely shred one potato.  Press potato in between paper towels, cheesecloth, or a clean dish towel to remove as much moisture as possible.  Mix into egg mixture.  Repeat with remaining potatoes.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  4. In batches, drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet and press to flatten with a wooden spoon (try to make them as flat as you can).
  5. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp.  Add more oil as needed between batches.
  6. Drain on paper towels.
  7. Serve warm (you can keep them warm in a low oven).

You can shred the potatoes into cold water, drain, and then squeeze out the excess water (see step 2) if you want to avoid the oxidation that occurs when you shred potatoes.  Note—The oxidation does not affect the taste.

There are many variations you can try:

  • Use 1/4 c shallot or garlic instead of onion
  • Add a 1/4 t nutmeg
  • Can be served savory with sour cream, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
  • Can be served sweet with applesauce, cinnamon and sugar (which is traditional at winter street fairs in Germany) or berry jam.
  • You can replace the flour with instant grits
  • You can also fry them in butter, or a mixture of butter and oil.
  • Shred an apple into the mixture (squeeze out excess water as you would with the potatoes).

German Potato Pancakes PDF

Michael Symon’s Chocolate Pumpkin Pie (gluten-free option)

I don’t watch a lot of daytime TV, but this last Monday I happened to catch the chocolate-centric episode of ABC’s new show The Chew.  Most of you probably know by now that I am a great lover of chocolate, so when Chef Michael Symon said he had a recipe for chocolate pumpkin pie, I think my heart skipped a beat.  I immediately got on their website and checked out the recipe – it was a no-brainer – this was definitely the recipe I was going to prepare for this Friday’s recipe demo!

We have some beautiful locally grown sugar pie pumpkins in our Produce departments right now, so I decided to use fresh pumpkin rather than canned, although you can use either in this recipe.  I also love bittersweet chocolate, so I used 6oz of the Cordillera 65% dark chocolate coins as well as 3oz organic dark chocolate chips.  I made a gluten-free pie crust using Pamela’s Products Gluten-free Bread Mix “Easy Pie Crust” recipe (which I think is the best gluten-free crust out there), but I also made a wheat-based pie crust because I had plenty of filling for both pies (the recipe is technically for one pie, but I had enough to fill two shallow pies).

The feedback from tasters was pretty unanimous (o.k., there was one person that thought it was “sacrilegious” to add chocolate to pumpkin pie, but she was in the definite minority).  Nobody had heard of a chocolate pumpkin pie before, even though it seems like such a natural combination!  The pie was delightful – a strong chocolate flavor followed by a delicate pumpkin flavor that combined into pie heaven.  I urge you to try this pie this Thanksgiving – it isn’t any harder to make than a traditional pumpkin pie, yet you will wow your guests with your baking genius when you serve it!

Michael Symon’s Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, Sassified Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

 Michael Symon’s Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, with gluten-free option

For the original recipe, click here


For Pie Crust (wheat flour based):

  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, (very cold and cut into small pieces)
  • 2-3 T ice water

Ingredients for Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pie Crust:

  • 1 bag Pamela’s gluten-free Bread Mix
  • 1 cube (8T) Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 c Spectrum Shortening
  • 7-8 T Ice water (tip – you can use half vodka/half water – the vodka evaporates and leaves you with an even flakier crust)

For Pie Filling:

  • 3 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (finely chopped) (I used the organic dark chocolate chips we have in bulk)
  • 6 oz Semisweet Chocolate (finely chopped) (I used the Corderilla 65% chocolate coins)
  • 4 T Unsalted Butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 14 oz can Pumpkin (see instructions below to make your own from scratch)
  • 1 12 oz can Evaporated Milk
  • 3/4 packed Light-Brown Sugar (I used organic dark brown sugar)
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 1 T organic Cornstarch
  • 1 t Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 t Sea Salt
  • 3/4 t Ground Cinnamon
  • 3/4 t Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 t Ground Nutmeg
  • Pinch of Ground Cloves


For the Pie Crust:

  1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse until coarse, with small marbles of butter remaining OR follow directions on bag of Pamela’s Gluten-free Bread Mix for a gluten-free pie crust and skip to the filling instructions.
  2. Sprinkle 2 T of the ice water and pulse until crumbly and dough holds when squeezed together.  Add another sprinkle of water if it is too dry, but do not over-mix.
  3. Transfer dough to a plastic bag, press into a disk, and refrigerate for one hour.

For the Pie Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Roll out dough on floured surface. (wheat) or on parchment paper.  Press into pie plate, trim to leave 1-inch excess around edges, fold under and flute edges.  Cut a piece of parchment paper or non-stick foil to the size of the pie, and use to line pie crust.  Fill with pie weights, and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.*
  3. Reduce heat in oven to 325°F
  4. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until it is smooth and then remove from heat.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
  6. Fold in the chocolate mixture, and pour into your pie crust(s).
  7. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet and bake at 325° until the center of the pie has set, about an hour.
  8. Refrigerate until cooled completely to serve.

* I only pre-baked one of my pie crusts and they both came out perfect – you can opt to skip this step if you like as I didn’t really notice a difference between then two.

To make Pumpkin Puree –

Wash your pumpkin and cut in half—discard the stem, seeds and stringy pulp.  In a shallow baking dish, place pumpkin halves face down and cover with foil (optional—sprinkle insides with sea salt).  Bake in a 375°F oven until tender, about 1—1 1/2 hours.  Let pumpkin cool, remove the flesh and either purée in food processor or mash it until smooth.

Michael Symon’s Chocolate Pumpkin Pie PDF

Honeycrisp Apple Mini Fritters (gluten-free!)

Now that it’s October, all of our beautiful local apples are becoming available.  Staff at the Co-op eagerly await the arrival of the Honeycrisp apples that we get farmer-direct from Brownfield Orchards in Chelan, WA.  I think that these are the most delicious apple available for a couple of reasons – they are crisp and sweet and tart all at the same time, and they are fantastic in every recipe I have ever used them in.

Making marshmallows with my cousin’s 9-year-old daughter Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I’ve been excited for them to be in season for another reason – in last winter’s Delight Magazine they had a recipe for gluten-free apple fritters that I really wanted to try using the honeycrisps.  Last week I was in Missouri visiting my cousin and her family so I wasn’t here to do a recipe demo (although we did make marshmallows while I was there – see the photo of my little cousin enjoying them!), so this week I got out my copy of the magazine and got to work.

For the last few years, Pamela’s Products has held a gluten-free recipe contest (Delight Magazine partnered with them for the contest last year and published all the winning recipes, and you had to use a Pamela’s product, of course) and this fritter recipe received an honorable mention.  The recipe was created by Maralie Thomas of Villa Rica, Georgia, who I feel deserves unlimited accolades for her work.  You can find her original recipe, as well as the other winners on Pamela’s Products website.  I am a big fan of Pamela’s gluten-free Baking and Pancake mix, which is called for in this particular recipe.  If you have a different GF baking mix that is your favorite, than I am sure you can substitute it; if you can tolerate wheat, a glutenous baking mix should also work.

Fluffy donuts were a distant memory for me after being diagnosed as gluten-intolerant.  Rocket Donuts downtown makes a pretty decent gluten-free cake donut, but it tastes like a gluten-free donut, and I always strive to look for recipes that are gluten-free but don’t taste (or look) gluten-free.  These fritters rocked my world!  Not only did they taste better than any other fritter I have ever had, but they were very easy to make and were delicious whether they were hot out of the oil or cooled to room temperature.  They should really be called “I want to eat the whole batch myself” fritters!  The recipe makes about 30-40 mini donuts (larger than the ones I made for sampling in the photo, of which I got about 75 teeny tiny fritters), so there really is enough to go around…

Honeycrisp Apple Mini Fritters Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

 Mini Apple Fritters

Recipe adapted from original, submitted by Maralie Thomas to Pamela’s Products 5th Annual Greatest Gluten-Free Recipe Contest



  • 2 T organic unsalted butter, melted and cooled (it needs to be really soft so it will stick to the apples evenly)
  • 1 1/2 c organic Honeycrisp apples, peeled/cored and chopped into 1/4” chunks (about one medium-large apple)
  • 1 1/2 c Pamela’s GF Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 1/2 c organic sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 t organic cinnamon
  • 1/2 c organic milk (you can use soy or rice milk)
  • 1 organic egg
  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for frying)


  • 2 c organic powdered sugar
  • 1 t organic cinnamon
  • 3 T water (more or less depending on humidity)


  1. Add 1 inch oil to a pan or pot and heat over medium low—make sure it is not so hot that it smokes.  You can use any size pan that has sides high enough to accommodate the oil – a smaller pan will use less oil but make smaller batches, a larger pan will use more oil but make larger batches.
  2. Combine the fritter ingredients:  mix butter and apples in a medium bowl; add baking mix, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and mix well; mix egg and milk in measuring cup and add to bowl; mix to combine.
  3. Add the drizzle ingredients together and mix well.
  4. Test oil to make sure it is hot enough by dropping a small piece of batter into the oil.  If it sinks to the bottom and quickly raises up on the bubbles in the oil, then it is ready.
  5. Drop fritter batter by small spoonfuls into the oil.  Cook for about 5 minutes a side.  Turn with a fork.
  6. Remove fritters from oil with tongs or a slotted spoon.  Let fritters sit on paper towels for about one minute to cool, then drizzle with sugar mixture.

You can bake the fritters in the oven at 350°F for about 12 minutes (until golden brown).  Add a little more baking mix to make them hold their shape better.

If you are not gluten intolerant, than a wheat-based baking mix can be substituted.

Mini Apple Fritters PDF

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

Local produce is still in full swing, and I couldn’t resist sampling another recipe with the Growing Garden’s organic tomatoes and bunched basil.

I chose to make tomatoes the focus this month for another reason as well – September marked the launch of a farm-to-school program in Whatcom County schools.  The idea is to feature one locally/Washington grown produce item at participating schools each month so there is a greater connection between local schools and farmers.  September is tomato month in the Northwest, so it was the obvious choice (next month is broccoli/cauliflower month).

While looking for recipes, I learned something new: bruschetta actually only refers to the bread once it has been toasted and rubbed with olive oil and raw garlic.  I always assumed it referred to the whole kit and caboodle!  Regardless, it is a popular antipasti (or appetizer) in Italy and is very easy to make.

In addition to the Growing Garden’s tomatoes and basil, I also used the locally produced BIJA Greek extra virgin olive oil.  For the bruschetta, I wanted to have a couple of options, so I used the local Breadfarm hoagies and Against the Grain Gourmet’s gluten-free baguette (which is my current gf obsession!).  My husband suggested the hoagies, which worked out really well and I definitely recommend giving them a try.  I must say, it was like flies being drawn to honey once I had the samples ready – they were gone before I knew it.  Usually only demos involving chocolate go that fast!

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, made with local ingredients © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta


  • 6 large Roma tomatoes or 5-6 in-season  tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil, + more for brushing bread
  • 2 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T freshly chopped basil, about 10-12 leaves
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t fresh cracked pepper
  • Baguette, cut into 1/2”-1” slices (Gluten-free – can use Against the Grain Gourmet baguette or the Olivia baguette, which is made in Seattle)
  • Grated Parmesan Reggiano


  1. Whisk the chopped garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and basil in a large bowl.
  2. Add the oil in a slow drizzle and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the tomatoes and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, toast the bread: put sliced bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Brush them lightly on one side with more olive oil.  Put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes, but watch them closely to make sure that they don’t burn!
  5. Take the bread out of the oven and rub one side of each piece with a clove of garlic.
  6. Top the bruschetta with the tomato basil mixture (drain any juice that accumulated).
  7. To serve warm, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, top with a little Parmesan, and broil until the cheese melts.  To serve room temperature, top with Parmesan and serve!

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta PDF

Gazpacho (made with all local ingredients!)

For this week’s recipe, I wanted to try to make something that used as many local products as possible. Another major part of my criteria was to make something that required little (or no) time to cook because it is decidedly summer in the Northwest right now (better late than never!).

There is so much local produce available right now – I toured the Produce department and found no less than 35 different items that were grown (and brought to us farmer direct) from Whatcom County farms.; I settled on creating a recipe for Gazpacho – a chilled vegetable soup that originates in Spain. There is no cooking involved and it is quick and easy. I’ve never made it before, but that didn’t stop me!

I started with gorgeous organic tomatoes, an organic English cucumber, and organic basil from the Growing Garden in Bellingham (grown by our own long-time Board member Brent Harrison).; Organic red garlic came from Rabbit Fields Farm in Everson.; I rounded it out with some extra virgin olive oil (pesticide-free) from Bija that is bottled in Lynden and Bellewood Acres apple cider vinegar, also made in Lynden from local apples. A little Himalayan pink sea salt from Salt Works in Woodenville (the farthest away of my ingredients – they process the salt in-state). I did put some ground black pepper in the soup as well, which isn’t local, but I won’t tell if you don’t!

Tomatoes are in season right now, so while I did peel them, I didn’t bother de-seeding them – the seeds in fresh in-season tomatoes are generally soft and not as bitter as off-season tomatoes.; Other than that, you basically chop your ingredients up, throw them in the food processor, and let them chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat. The longer you can let it chill, the more complex the flavor becomes.  Fumar con fruición!

Gazpacho in a cucumber cup © Sassy Sampler 2011



  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled and rough cut
  • 1 large English cucumber
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 large leaves of basil, chopped
  • 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (Bellewood Acres)
  • 1-2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (BIJA)
  • 1/2 t sea salt (SaltWorks)
  • Black pepper


  1. Add your cucumber to food processor and process until only a few small pieces remain.Pour cucumber purée into a large bowl.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the food processor and process until only a few chunks remain. Add to cucumber purée and stir to combine.
  3. Add the minced garlic and about 4 leaves of chopped basil to the purée. Add sea salt.
  4. Add olive oil and cider vinegar. Add pepper to taste and mix well.
  5. Cover bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. The longer it sits in the fridge, the better the flavors will have combined.
  6. Serve ice-cold with a sliced and toasted baguette (Against the Grain Gourmet makes a great GF baguette). Garnish with more chopped basil before serving.

If the tomatoes you are using are out of season, you may want to remove the seeds either before you purée the tomatoes, or strain the tomato purée after processing. If they are in season, chances are you won’t have to take this step.

All ingredients in this recipe were either grown or processed locally (in Whatcom County or WA State, in-season), with the exception of the black pepper.

Gazpacho PDF

Plum Crisp

September is here…already!  More delicious local produce has arrived, and this time of year there is so much that can be had from backyard gardens and local farms.  September also marks the launch of Sustainable Connections new Eat Local First campaign – a year-round way to connect local farmers with local market support, and in turn raise awareness to consumers.  The Co-op has supported local products and farmers for over 40 years, and we were excited to partner with Sustainable Connections and become a sponsor of the campaign.

After talking this week with Wynne, the Produce Manager at Cordata, I decided that a recipe with plums as the focus was in order.  Not only does the Okanogan Farmer’s Co-op grow delicious peaches, but we also get all kinds of plums from them.  This week we have some beautiful and tasty Santa Rosa plums and a variety of pluots (a cross between a plum and apricot) that were also grown in Washington.  Fruit crisp is simple and delicious, and since I had never had any made with plums I thought it would be fun to try.

I used 8 Santa Rosa plums and 8 yellow pluots, and also decided that the locally grown roasted hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchards in Lynden would be a great substitution for the walnuts called for in the original recipe.  Because I wanted to be able to eat some myself, I also used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats and our own Co-op Bakery gluten-free flour (made using Bob’s certified gluten-free flours) because it would be an unnoticeable substitution for wheat flour.  If you can tolerate wheat, then by all means use the locally milled Fairhaven Flour Mill flour.  We also have locally made butter from Breckenridge Farm in Everson at the Co-op.  The crisp came together quickly (the longest part was cutting 16 plums into small slices!) and smelled divine – it was a delicious mix of tart and sweet that customers really loved, across the board!

If you are looking for resources on eating locally grown and produced food, a good place to start  for Whatcom County residents (besides the Co-op!) is at www.eatlocalfirst.org – you will find links to the Whatcom Food and Farm Finder (also available at both co-op locations), a link to the Whatcom Locavore blog (which features recipes utilizing as many local ingredients as possible), and a list of local restaurants that are participating in the Eat Local First campaign.  If you live outside Whatcom County (and in the US), you can check out www.localharvest.org to find food that is locally grown in your community.

Plum Crisp

Adapted from www.food.com


  • 3# plums (about 16), pitted and cut into 1/4” slices
  • 1/4—1/2 c sugar (depending on how sweet you would like it to be)
  • 1 1/2 T flour (GF or wheat)
  • 3/4 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t cinnamon

Crumb Topping Ingredients

  • 1 c oats (GF or regular)
  • 2/3 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c flour (GF or wheat)
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 7 T unsalted butter (or margarine)
  • 1 c roasted hazelnuts, chopped coarsely


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Prepare a 9×13 casserole dish by spraying it with cooking oil or butter.
  3. Combine the sliced plums, sugar, 1 1/2 T flour, vanilla and 1/4 t cinnamon in a large bowl.  Stir to combine.
  4. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the plums are sitting, prepare your topping.  Combine the oats, brown sugar, 1/2 c flour, 1/2 t cinnamon and the sea salt in a food processor and pulse to combine.
  6. Add butter/margarine by the tablespoon through the feeder tube and pulse to combine after each addition.  The mixture should be crumbly and resemble coarse meal when you are done.
  7. Add hazelnuts to the crumb topping and pulse until combined.
  8. Spoon the plum mixture into your baking dish.  Sprinkle the crumb topping by the handful until the plums are completely covered with an even layer.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Serve with locally made vanilla ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery or from Whidbey Island Ice Cream Co. – available at the Co-op.

Plum Crisp PDF

Agua Fresca

I love talking food with my friend Michael M. at the Co-op – he is also an avid cook and is really good about making all kinds of things from scratch, including his own tortillas and refried beans (which I will be trying myself very soon).  Late last week he was telling me about how he makes Agua Fresca – a refreshing drink that is common in Mexico and Central America.  It is essentially a fruit, grain, and/or flower flavored beverage that is great on a hot (or warm, in our case) summer day.

Yummy local veggies!

The forecast predicted warmer temperatures and sunny skies for this weekend, and I thought that Agua Fresca sounded like a great recipe to demo.  We have so much delicious Washington grown fruit right now to choose from that the biggest decision was deciding what flavors to make!  With Michael’s sage advice, I decided on a couple different ones – watermelon, donut (or Saturn) peach and lime for the first and cantaloupe, cucumber, basil and lime for the second – and all ingredients except the lime were grown in-state.

Agua Fresca is extremely easy to make – simply peel and rough cut your chosen ingredients and throw them in the blender.  Once they are puréed, you strain it through either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, add it back to the blender with a little sugar, and then into your pitcher with some water.  Once it is chilled (very important – it is best when served ice-cold) you are good to go – one sip and you feel like you should be sitting on a beach with a good book – you can almost hear the waves crashing in the background!

You can use any soft fruit (or vegetable) for this recipe, and you are only limited by your imagination.  This is a great way to use overripe fruit, as it will purée that much easier!  I’ve included the recipes for the two versions I made to sample for customers (who loved it – kids especially), but don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

Agua Fresca photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Agua Fresca

Recipe courtesy of Michael Marques



  • 1 “personal” watermelon, chopped
  • 3 donut peaches or 1 large peach, pitted and chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water


  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cantaloupe, seeded and chopped
  • 3-6 large leaves of basil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water


  1. Prepare your fruit/herbs/vegetables.
  2. Add fruit/herbs/vegetables to blender and purée.
  3. Strain purée through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into your pitcher.  Get as much of the juice from the pulp as possible; discard pulp.
  4. Strain again, but back into the blender this time.  Add sugar, starting with 2T and blend until combined.  Taste mixture to see if you want to add more sugar.
  5. Pour mixture back into your pitcher.  Add enough water to fill container and mix.
  6. Chill completely and serve icy cold, preferably with crushed ice.

* you can use just about any sweetener – if you choose to use a liquid one like honey or agave syrup, then you should dissolve it in a little bit of hot water before mixing it into the purée.

Can’t you see the beach?

Agua Fresca translates literally as “fresh water”.  It is served all over Mexico and it very simple to recreate at home.  It is hard to mess up—you can add as much water as you like to make it thinner or thicker, depending on your personal tastes.  Comer con gusto!

Agua Fresca PDF