Dungeness Crab: Take this Crabby Quiz!

Dungeness Crab from the Puget Sound.
Dungeness Crab from the Puget Sound.

This post originally appeared on Amazon’s Al Dente blog on August 18, 2011. Dungeness Crab season is in full swing out here in the Puget Sound so I decided to pull this post from my archives and bring it back to life here on my new website. The links to the interactive WDFW quiz and the informative PDF brochure continue to work, so check them out. 

Here in Washington State, the Dungeness crabbing season is in full swing!

If you live in the Puget Sound region and want to try your hand at crabbing for Dungeness, then be sure to test the waters by taking this fun little quiz right at your desk at home. I discovered this interactive quiz this morning while doing some research on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. I was poking around the crab section, which is quite comprehensive. I easily found information on licensing, harvesting, identification, and preparation. The quiz is fun because it asks basic questions and if you don’t get the answer correct, you are encouraged to review the material! (Aha! We’ve already gone back to school, haven’t we?)

The website also features a video and a useful informative downloadable PDF brochure. If you do go crabbing and manage to haul some home, be sure to have some crabby tools such as these on deck and at the ready!

Photo of Dungeness crab by Carolyn Trainer

Wild Blackberries are Ripe and Ready in Seattle!

Wild blackberries are ripe and ready in Seattle. Pick now and freeze for later. Think smoothies, cobblers, healthy breakfasts for those cold dark dreary days of winter!
Wild blackberries are ripe and ready in Seattle. Pick now and freeze for later. Think smoothies, cobblers, healthy breakfasts for those cold dark dreary days of winter!

Note: This post originally appeared on Amazon’s Al Dente blog in August 2012. Even though three years have gone by, this classic culinary story never goes out of style. Hot and sunny summer days bring a plethora of  fat and juicy wild blackberries growing on the thick and thorny brambles around town! 

The wild blackberries are ripe! At long last, the plethora of wild blackberries found out here in Seattle are plump and ready for picking. On trails and in parks it is common to see berry enthusiasts braving the thorns and picking berries!

I have loved wild blackberry season ever since I moved to Seattle in 1995. I was astonished that so many plump berries were easily found and free for the picking! Back then, everyone seemed to take my enthusiasm with a ho-hum sigh. No one seemed particularly impressed by the glossy fat berries or they simply took their existence for granted. Many of my gardening friends reminded me that they were an invasive nuisance! I was sort of baffled by the lackluster enthusiasm for such a sweet wild treasure. Having been born and raised on suburban Long Island, I can assure you that I didn’t grow up with berries growing so wild and free!

I braved the thorny hedges last week and gathered my first five pounds. The berries were just starting to ripen after a brief heat wave. A pound of those berries were turned into an unstrained berry syrup suitable for ice cream or yogurt. The rest of the berries were frozen on a tray and transferred to a heavy duty freezer bag. They will be turned into cobblers and crisps in the off season.

Are you a wild berry fan? Do you gather berries, such as huckleberries, salmonberries, cranberries, or blackberries in your region?

Kitchen Garden Tips: Washing and Spinning Salad Greens

Seattle's mild maritime climate allows me to have a wonderful winter garden each year. This Arctic Butterhead always survives the winter and springs to life in the spring. The slugs love to hide in the crevices so it's important to wash it WELL!
Seattle’s mild maritime climate allows me to have a wonderful winter garden each year. This Arctic Butterhead always survives the winter and springs to life in the spring. The slugs love to hide in the crevices so it’s important to wash it WELL!
Without a doubt, a bountiful garden is indeed an awesome way to control the family food budget. But, I know from my own kitchen garden experience, that a garden glut can easily overwhelm the cook. It’s a pleasure to have lots of fresh homegrown vegetables to work with, but if you don’t know how to prepare them quickly and efficiently, all of your green thumb effort will be pitched right back into the compost heap when the items deteriorate in the fridge.

With that in mind, I am going to discuss how to wash and dry homegrown lettuces, greens, and spinach. Although organic mesclun mixes are widely available in produce departments, lettuces are some of the easiest and more rewarding things to grow. The supermarket lettuce mixes can’t compare to a diverse selection of homegrown greens destined for the salad bowl. And, of course, freshness is unsurpassed.

It’s well known that slugs and grit take refuge in the leaves’ crevices, so the greens need to be washed properly. Cleaning is generally done by plunging the greens into a bowl of cold water, swishing them gently, removing them and pouring off the dirty water. It can take a few rounds to completely remove the grit and slugs, and once the lettuce is clean it needs to be dried properly so you don’t have a soggy salad once dressed.

Kitchen towels can work, but the best tool for the task is a salad spinner. Both the rinsing and drying can be done in the spinner, so the task is simplified. I like the Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner. The three piece dishwasher safe device has a bowl, a perforated basket, and a lid with a non slip knob. It’s easy create the drying centrifugal force by pumping the large knob on the lid. The patented pump mechanism features a brake button that quickly stops the spinning process.

The large spinner has a bowl capacity of 6.22 quarts. The mini spinner is suitable for small families and for drying fresh herbs.

So, getting to the root of things, it’s obvious that having the right tool can put a whole new spin on dinner!

This blog post originally appeared on Amazon’s Al Dente blog in May 2009.