Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cherry Daze

The 4th of July is arguably one of the best days of the year.  What's there not to love?  It's summer, it's hot, it's sunny.  Family and friends alike come together, all in the great outdoors, showing off carefully crafted outfits spewing with red, white, and blue.
You're compelled to grill every food, and not without a fresh cold one out of arm's reach  (Hydration is key in the heat, you know).  There are barbecues, picnics, pick-up games, parades, fireworks.
It's a birthday party for an entire country for goodness sake.  For AMERICA.  Celebration is necessary, and it's hard to not find a good time.

What made this 4th of July even more special this year?  All of the delicious food, of course.  And the fun activities.  In fact, Paonia holds a weekend long festival every year they call 'Cherry Days', since that is when the sweet cherries are usually ready to be harvested and devoured by the pound.  Needless to say I took advantage of this glorious holiday, that was this year centered around fresh and local produce.

First there was the Cherry Days parade.  Over the past month or so I have been helping with a program in town called The Kid's Pasta Project (more details to come in a later post about it all).  But mainly, every Monday this amazing group of kids - backed with an excellent staff of parents - make and serve a pasta dinner using as many local and fresh ingredients as possible, and donates all of their proceeds to a certain charity or local organization.  They even make their own pasta.  It is beyond impressive.

This year, though, it was proposed that the KPP actually have its own garden plot to grow the vegetables for their pasta sauce, instead of always getting the produce from various local farms.  We have been working on the garden since the beginning of June now, and it is looking fantastic.  It has been appropriately named 'The Sauce Plot', and I was proud to be one of the plot representatives in the parade in tangent with the KPP float.  And by representative I mean that Ana and I dressed up as large tomatoes.  The willow branch crowns really made the outfits.

'Pasta Farian'...rigatoni dreads in the hair...sauce pot tops as cymbals...so freaking clever

The theme:  Yankee Noodle Dandy

Since I thereafter had my 4th of July community gathering event checked off my list, I took on my next holiday requirement:  homemade ice cream.  Coming from New England, you just know homemade ice cream is a way of life in summer.  Finding and eating it almost daily is pretty much just like putting sunscreen on at the beach; it's expected and done often.  During these early hot months here out west I have had a hard time getting my fix (where's my Bedford Farm's purple cow chip??), so I finally decided to take it in my own hands.  With the help of Rusty's trusty ice cream maker (brought up all the way from New Mexico) we soon had two flavors waiting for us in the freezer to enjoy:  Coconut Cherry Frozen Yogurt and Buttermilk Peach Ice Cream.  After my first bites I think I finally realized what smoker's must feel after a long time without a cigarette.  Relief, familiarity, contentment, utter pleasure and enjoyment.  Ahh.  I got my fix.  Who needs cigarettes when you have ice cream cones?

Thanks to Elane's nifty cherry pitter, pitting them wasn't the pits.  

Buttermilk Peach; into the chillzone it goes

Coconut Cherry Yogurt at its consumption stage.  Delectable chunks of sweet, ripe Bing cherries.  The greek yogurt, coconut milk, and (shh!) almond extract rock out in this one.

...and paired with Rusty's brownies

Uh oh!...caught in the act of making the second batch.  Oops.

The next day, the real 4th, got even better as it started out with a beekeeping tutorial from Rusty.  The world of bees is incredibly fascinating to say the least, and I cant wait to keep learning.  Overall I'll just say that it took a lot of stamina to not rip off my fashionable bee suit hood and lick the honey right off the comb.  

Can I have some?

This was appropriately followed by a scenic drive up a trail that looks over all of Paonia.  All you need is a patch of grass to stop and have dinner.   
And a car full of fixins.

Who says you can't prep in the back of a 4Runner?

Had been craving grilled porotbellos for too long... a nice soak in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, fresh thyme, and seasonings

Topped with red peppers charred and roasted on the grill top just moments before

Then topped with fresh Avalanche goat cheese medallions

Smoky, tangy, sweet, savory goodness.  See that slightly charcoal smoked color on cheese?  It'll rock your world.  
Followed by a snag of the last two glasses of cherry beer to come out of the tap at the brewery.  Phew!  Close call.  

And just as the holiday started with cherries, it ended with them too.  Sour cherries this time though.  That's right, our first harvest of the little bright red tart treats (we have to get 'em quick before the birds do!)  Now I can only brainstorm what to make with these new gems....

Seems like just yesterday they were bravely coming out of their blossoms...

Now they're all grown up!

Mmm you will make delicious juice

The End.

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