Whether you have your own garden or can reap the benefits of another's, the holidays are an opportunity to celebrate and elaborate on local flavors. One of the beauties of the Rogue Valley and surrounding region is that so many wonderful foods available to us right now are agreeable with a bit of culinary bling.
"We can be creative with what the season provides," says Helena Darling, owner of Helena Darling Fine Catering, Pear City Catering (for more casual affairs) and the Palace Café in Ashland. "I grew up on a farm, and if you wanted dessert, you went into the kitchen and made it."
2 cups grated cheese
1/2 cup stuffed olives, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine ingredients and shape into balls about the size of walnuts. Roll in finely chopped nuts or place English walnut halves opposite each other on each ball. Serve with salads.
Cranberry Salsa (1985)
1 pound fresh Oregon cranberries
2 to 3 roasted poblano peppers (use canned if you must)
2 oranges, including zest
Juice of a lime
1/3 to 1/2 cup of orange juice (not from concentrate)
2 seeded jalapeno peppers (use surgical gloves to avoid nasty surprises)
Sugar and salt, to taste
Use food processor to chop the raw berries to 1/4-inch shards.
Place the roasted poblano peppers in a closed paper bag, peel cooled peppers and cut into 2-inch chunks. Process or hand chop into 1/4-inch dice.
Scrape 2 teaspoons of orange zest, cut the oranges into 1/3-inch chunks.
Seed the jalapeno peppers, cut lengthwise and then each half into thirds. Process all into ultra-fine dice.
To combine, place cranberries in a bowl, and add all ingredients except salt and pepper. To the mix add at least 1/4 cup of sugar, then add more to taste. When it is nicely sweet, but the other flavors are "present," sprinkle with ground sea salt.
This can be served with all the traditional holiday meats.
— Recipe from Dorathy Anderson-Thickett
Rogue Valley Salad
2 pears, (preferably Bosc)
1 Tablespoon butter
Pinch brown sugar
Salt, to taste
4 ounces walnuts
2 ounces Rogue blue cheese, (crumbles better if frozen first)
Raspberry vinaigrette dressing (1 tablespoon per cup of mixed salad)
Mesclun mixed lettuce
Cut the pears into 1/2-inch chunks and toss with melted butter and a bit of brown sugar. Roast at high heat until crisp and tender. Cool and store.
Toast walnuts, toss with brown sugar and salt to taste. Saute in butter until caramelized. When cool, these should be glazed and crunchy. Cut or crumble into salad.
Add all the cooled ingredients to the greens, toss with the dressing and cheese and serve, saving a bit of pear, walnuts and cheese to sprinkle on top.
— Recipe from Dorathy Anderson-Thickett
Holiday Pumpkin Soup
Field-fresh flavor and beautiful colors
make this light soup a holiday favorite
1 (3-pound) pumpkin, seeded and quartered
1 quart water
2 sliced shallots
3 garlic cloves
3 sage leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 red bell peppers, blistered, peeled and minced
Garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh chives pureed with 1 teaspoon oil
Combine the pumpkin, water, shallots, garlic, herbs and salt in baking pan. Cover and roast at 325 degrees until pumpkin is soft. Remove shell from pumpkin pieces and puree pumpkin and remaining contents of roasting pan. Add the minced bell pepper and check for seasoning. You can add chicken stock or more water if a thinner soup is desired.
To serve: garnish with a swirl of chive puree.
— Recipe from Helena Darling Fine Catering
Darling shared a recipe for pumpkin soup with Homelife readers.
"I don't usually cook from a recipe," she says, candidly. "But I've never had one of my own written recipes go wrong."
Rogue Valley chef Dorathy Anderson-Thickett has been catering events for 28 years, when she began serving pear and blue cheese salad in her Medford business, Soup to Nuts Catering. Local is natural to her.
"This is my identity since 1981," she says. "I believe in local and always have."
If you are interested in history, you might find the archived recipes on the Oregon State University site worthwhile. Check out "mom's" recipes at http://food.oregonstate.edu/recipes/osu.html. We're sharing the recipe for Walnut Deceits, from "Oregon Cheese — Fifty Recipes For Its Use," published in 1927. You'll also find a Cracker Jack recipe from 1934 and a vegetarian carrot loaf from 1925.