I got to talk to farmers like Betsy Harrison of Valley Flora Farm near Bandon, who with her two daughters grows the organic u-pick strawberries that are eagerly anticipated up and down the coast. Down around Elkton is Estill Farms, where Paula Estill grows both organic and conventional blueberries—and if you don't have time to pick your own you can pick some up from her at the Florence Farmers Market on Tuesday afternoons. And in early fall there are the region's famous cranberries, available fresh in October and November at farm stands and area farmers markets.
Local foraging expert Jesse Dolin said not to forget the wild bounty of the region, listing evergreen huckleberries, salal berries, blackberries, red elderberries, thimbleberries and salmonberries to be found in campgrounds and along hiking trails in the area. I can taste them already on my griddled pancakes drizzled with maple syrup.
We've all been there. A good friend or beloved relative is coming to dinner, someone who has a dietary restriction, whether chosen—vegan, wheat-free, vegetarian, religious—or unchosen, like an allergy to nuts, wheat, garlic, sugar, etc., or an intolerance to certain foods. And I don't know about you, but my initail reaction is to freeze up when it comes to planning the menu.
This happened recently when a couple we've known for years were coming over, one of whom has ascertained over the years that her system doesn't respond well to gluten. It's not celiac disease, just as my husband's intolerance to lactose isn't life-threatening; it's just something that makes for a "rumbly tumbly," as Winnie-the-Pooh would say.
The main dish was easy—they're meat-eaters, and I'd just bought a grass-fed sirloin tip roast from Carman Ranch that I was planning to slice open, slather with a sorrel-shallot-rosemary-fennel pollen mixture, then roll up and rotisserie. An Astiana tomato risotto using tomato stock from the 120 pounds I'd roasted this summer, and a castelfranco chicory salad with Caesar dressing were easy decisions.
Virtually every dessert we normally make has some flour in it. Tarts, pies, crisps, cakes, all flour-dependent. Sorbet was an option, made with the scads of berries I had squirreled away in the freezer, but we were short on time for it to freeze properly. A trip to the store to buy a commercial sorbet was my back-pocket solution, but could I come up with a gluten-free dessert that wouldn't require (another) trip to the store? (The short on time element, remember?)
A search for "gluten free crumble" led to a recipe on the Kitchn website for a gluten-free topping that merely required grinding up oats in the food processor until they were the consistency of flour. Score!
But their crumble recipe (in my humble opinion) resulted in a clumpy product that didn't appeal to me, so I ground the oats in the processor as they suggested, but then used the "flour" as a substitute for the flour called for in my family's crisp recipe, along with the usual suspects: brown sugar, oats, cinnamon and butter or margarine.
The result was a virtual identical twin of my family's recipe, especially glorious because I used a combination of frozen marionberries from our neighbor's garden and equally incredible Chester blackberries from Ayers Creek Farm—of course the splash of Cointreau in the berries didn't hurt, either. And for the full-gluten experience, you can feel free to substitute one cup of all-purpose flour for the oat flour below.
Gluten-Free Berry Crisp
For the topping: 1 c. oat flour (see instructions, below) 3/4 c. uncooked rolled oats 1 c. brown sugar 1 Tbsp. cinnamon 1/2 c. melted butter or margarine
For the filling: 4-6 c. berries 1 c. sugar 2 Tbsp. cornstarch 1/4 c. Cointreau, triple sec or eau de vie
Make the oat flour by processing 1 1/4 cups of uncooked rolled oats in the food processor until it has a flour-like consistency. Mix the oat flour together with the other dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Pour in melted butter or margarine and stir with fork to combine. Set aside.
Place berries in large mixing bowl. Add sugar, liqueur and cornstarch and mix thoroughly. Put in 9” by 12” baking pan. Scatter topping mixture over the top and bake in 350 degree oven for 50 min. to 1 hr. until bubbling.
It's high season in Oregon for berries, folks, and while I don't have an argument with pies, crisps or cobblers—drop one off any time, really!—in my family's opinion there's no higher or better use for fresh berries than finishing a summer's feast with fresh berry shortcakes.
The buttery, lightly sweet shortcakes, which can also do double duty as breakfast scones, come together quickly in a food processor. Shower them with a scattering of lightly sugared berries and a plop of whipped cream (or ice cream, depending on your druthers) to make these ephemeral seasonal delights shine.
Whether you've got raspberries, loganberries, blackberries, tayberries, strawberries, boysenberries, blueberries or—I know I'm forgetting some—a mixture of two or more, save a couple of pints out of your next flat of berries to make this startlingly simple and stunningly delicious classic.
For the shortcakes: 2 1/2 c. flour 1 Tbsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) frozen butter or margarine, cut up 1/4 c. sugar 2/3 c. whole milk
For the berries: 2 pints berries 1/4 c. sugar (adjust according to sweetness of berries) Whipped cream or ice cream
Preheat oven to 425°.
Put flour, balking powder, salt and sugar in bowl of food processor. Pulse four or five times to combine. Add butter or margarine and pulse several times until the mixture resembles cornmeal. With processor running, add milk in a stream. Keep processor running until the dough comes together in a soft mass.
Remove dough from processor, place on floured surface and form into a soft ball shape. Divide dough ball in half and gently pat out each half with your hands into six-inch disks (they will be about 1/2"-5/8" thick). With a butcher knife, slice each disk into six triangle-shaped wedges. On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, place wedges slightly apart for crispier sides, touching for soft sides. I usually separate them by 1/8" and they puff up into wedges that break apart easily. Bake about 12 minutes or until tops are medium brown. Remove to racks to cool.
While the shortcakes are baking, put the berries into a large mixing bowl and add sugar. Using a spatula, gently fold the sugar into the berries. Allow to macerate for at least an hour (you can also place berries in the refrigerator until assembling). Using one wedge per serving, slice wedges in half lengthwise and place on individual serving plates or bowls. Scatter berries over the top and drizzle with juice that collects in the bottom of bowl. Top with whipped cream or ice cream as desired.