Quick New Pickles and 4th of July Recipes Inspired by the Farmers’ Market

20120702-231047.jpgIt’s easy to get in a cooking rut making the same handful of recipes all the time. One trip to the farmers’ market is all I need to come back invigorated. Here’s some new inspiration for 4th of July entertaining.

One farmers’ market vendor was sampling pickling cucumbers seasoned with a few simple ingredients. My whole family sampled this crisp, fresh treat, and kids and grown-ups alike were clamoring for me to buy the ingredients and make these new pickles. I took these ingredients:

20120702-231952.jpg and made new pickles in about 10 minutes. These can be made ahead and make a great appetizer for guests to snack on while the barbecue heats up. The recipe is below.

Another easy and novel appetizer are these pistachio and apricot toasts suggested by the lady we met at the Santa Barbara Pistachio booth.

20120702-232517.jpgWe sampled pistachio butter and brought some home to make these toasts. In a flash I toasted some French baguette slices and spread on some apricot jam and pistachio butter. If the pistachio butter is a little thick, make it more spreadable by stirring in some olive oil. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt, if needed.

The final new recipe is Buttermilk Plum Cake.

20120702-234739.jpgI have been wanting to make this rustic cake since I had a delicious version at the casual Los Angeles eatery Food. I used this raspberry buttermilk cake recipe by Smitten Kitchen, who slightly adapted the recipe from Gourmet Magazine. The cake is moist, light, not too sweet, and a terrific showcase for any summer fruit.

20120702-234757.jpgHere’s what we did to slightly tweak the recipe: My kids and I sampled plums from all the farmers’ market vendors and bought the sweetest ones. We substituted two plums as the fruit in the recipe. We cut them up into small chunks with the skin on (about 1 cup). Since the plums were so sweet, we topped with less sugar (1 tablespoon). Another fun option for the 4th of July is to use red raspberries and blueberries. This small, thin cake is perfect for a group of eight or less. If you need a larger cake, double the recipe, and make it in a 13×9 pan. This recipe is a winner: It’s quick and straight-forward to make, looks beautiful, and tastes even better.

To decorate 4th of July tables, here are a couple ideas that are fast to put together. I bought a package of small flags at Target from the $1 bins. I like to put the flags in the flowers.

20120703-001723.jpgI often buy potted flowers so I don’t have to spend time making flower arrangements. Red flowers, like these baby roses, are perfect for the 4th of July. I also found these cut flowers at the farmers’ market and popped them into the vase.

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Have a happy, safe, and delicious 4th of July celebration.

Recipe for New Pickles
Serves 8

Ingredients:
3 pickling cucumbers (about 1 pound total or slightly less)
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 teaspoon of finely grated onion
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
Scant 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
Several fine grinds of fresh cracked black pepper
2 small pinches of white granulated sugar

Directions:
1. Wash and peel the cucumbers. Cut them into bite-sized chunks. Here’s how I did it: I sliced the cucumbers lengthwise into quarters, then sliced crosswise into small chunks that are somewhat triangular in shape.
2. Place the cucumbers in a bowl. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients on the cucumbers, and stir to combine evenly.
3. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

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