Pluots and squashes and berries, oh my

Fresh berries at the Petaluma farmer's market. JULI LEDERHAUS FOR THE ARGUS-COURIER


The markets continue to overflow with the abundance of what some people call one of the five “seasons,” when summer produce continues to be available, and fall produce has arrived as well.


The fruit stands have not one, but three different varieties of pluots, a tasty fruit that is a cross between an apricot and a plum. It stands to reason that since there are a number of colors of plums, such as red, purple and green, there could be pluots in those same colors.

Pluots can be used in cooking pretty much like plums are. They not only are good fruits to eat out of your hand, but they add so much to a variety of dishes. Sliced and added to a salad with a salty cheese such as feta and some sharp greens like arugula is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. Finish with a vinaigrette dressing and you will dine handsomely.

I recently made a plum sabayon gratin, a dessert, which sounds a bit fancy but is really quite easy to make. For those of you like some of my friends, who tell me I have just strung a whole lot of words together that they have no idea about, a sabayon is a whipped dessert made of a sweet wine, some sugar or honey, and egg yolks, and cooked over simmering water.

It is magical how so few ingredients can be spun into something so ethereal and special. A gratin is something created in a shallow heatproof dish, and cooked by one of several methods to be brown on top. If you want the full recipe, just email me.


Winter squashes of many varieties are in the markets now, and they are so delicious. Butternut or delicata squash are two of the most popular now, and both are very good choices. But if you can find red kuri (or curry) or Hokkaido squash, or Kobacha squash, definitely give them a try.

I like to seed and then peel the squash with a sharp potato peeler, and then proceed from there. A helpful hint for removing the seeds is to use a melon baller, a butter curler, or a citrus sectioning knife, if you have one of those tools.

One of my favorite ways to cook it is to cut it in ¼-inch thick slices, coat the slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and roast them in a single layer at 375 degrees until deep golden brown, flipping once to be sure you get both sides brown. The slices are good on their own, and grand with a drizzle of something with a little zest, like nice balsamic or pomegranate vinegar.


There are still fresh berries in our farmer’s markets — strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, all organically grown and delicious. We are so blessed here in California to have such wonderful produce, that sometimes we overbuy, and then what? What happens is we have things in our refrigerators turning bad and moldy.

Here is my helpful hint to stave that off. When I bring berries home I immediately process them as follows:

1. Fill your lettuce spinner half way with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for every quart of water. I usually have 2 quarts, so two tablespoons. It’s okay to eyeball it — no need to break out the measuring devices.

2. Put the berries in the water and swish them around gently. Leave in the water for at least a few minutes.

3. Pull the basket up to let them drain. When well drained, gently pour them out onto a double layer of paper towels on the counter. If you don’t want to use paper, clean kitchen towels are fine as well.

4. Set up flat plastic storage containers with a double layer of paper towels in the bottom.

5. Place the berries in a single layer. For raspberries be sure to put them cup-side down.

6. Cook’s bonus: eat any berries that are very soft as you process the packaging. When I process my berries this way they last for up to a week in the refrigerator, just long enough to get me to the next market day.

Where’s the beef?

If somehow you have gotten the misconception that I only plan to write about fruits and vegetables, here is some information to change your mind. I enjoy all manner of foods and will write about every “cookable” thing in the market. Not every edible thing, because I only plan to write about things that you can somehow put your personal stamp on in your kitchen. Food wagons sell edible things, but they are ready to eat.

At the Eastside farmer’s market at Lucchesi Park a week or so ago I picked up some Kalbi ribs from Heather’s Custom Meats.

Kalbi ribs are beef short ribs that are cross cut with a band saw into a very different cut of meat than the usual way short ribs are sold. The resulting cut of meat is quite thin, usually only about ½-inch thick. Because of the way they are cut, the short ribs can be grilled, where the traditional way to cut short ribs requires a long slow braise. Traditionally Kalbi ribs are a Korean recipe, and you can either make your own marinade or buy one that is just for this dish.

All of Heather’s meats are naturally raised, humanely treated for a trusted local source of beef. Be sure to stop by her table at the next farmer’s market for some delicious local meat.

(Contact Juli Lederhaus at