Snap up season’s nectarines to pair with peaches

If locally grown peaches aren’t a sweet enough treat, nectarines also can be picked and purchased at some area orchards.

Ashland’s Valley View and Central Point’s Beebe Farms, both mentioned in this week’s food section, grow nectarines. But nectarine varieties are fewer than peaches, and the window for snapping them up is smaller.

With both stone fruits in hand, this free-form tart comes together in a snap. There’s no shame, either, in the time-saving step of using store-bought pie crust or puff-pastry dough.

Tribune News Service photo

Peach-Nectarine Tart

For pastry crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or sea salt)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Peach-nectarine filling:

1 1/2 pounds fresh ripe peaches and nectarines (roughly half and half)

1/8 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or sea salt)

3 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

In a bowl of a food processor, place the flour, salt and sugar; process until combined. Add the butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal (for about 15 seconds). Pour about 2 tablespoons ice-cold water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until pastry just holds together when pinched. Add more water, a little at a time, up to 2 additional tablespoons, if necessary.

Gather pastry into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

Once pastry has chilled, remove from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll pastry into a 13-inch round. To prevent pastry from sticking to counter, and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from center of pastry outward to get uniform thickness). Transfer pastry to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover and place in refrigerator while you prepare filling.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Cut the peaches and nectarines in half, remove pits and cut fruit into 1-inch slices.

Place peach and nectarine slices in a large bowl and season with the salt. Then add the sugar and gently toss to combine.

Arrange fruit on pastry, placing them as close together as you can, without overlapping slices too much. Leave about 2 inches of pastry at edges.

Scrape any remaining sugar from bowl and drizzle over top of fruit. Gently fold edges of pastry up and over peaches and nectarines, pleating as necessary. Make sure to seal any cracks in pastry.

Bake in preheated oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until pastry is golden-brown and peaches and nectarines are tender when gently pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

— Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from

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Local fruit just peachy on pizzas, in tortillas

Polling people on how to eat peaches yields predictable — albeit reliably good — responses.

Cobbler is so indispensable that Beebe Farms shopper Julie Hall freezes enough fruit to make it all winter. Putting up peaches is a popular summer pastime that benefits from some local growers, highlighted in this week’s A la Carte, offering seconds and volume discounts.

After canning enough peaches last year to get us through this one, my mother-and-law and I are taking the summer off. That doesn’t mean I don’t crave peaches on the palate. If anything, I try to incorporate them as much as possible into meals, including pizza, one of my favorites.

The recipe that ran with this week’s story closely resembles a pizza I like to make in summer. My most recent version incorporated blue cheese.

But when I don’t want to hassle with rolling out dough, I’ve been known to slip thinly sliced peaches into quesadillas, similar to this concept from the Washington Post. The newspaper’s recipe testers observed that peaches are a natural with savory ingredients, including pork and cheese.

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

Peach Quesadillas

7 ounces fresh pork sausage (3 or 4 links; can be seasoned)

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 medium red oniony

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 ripe peaches

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 or 7 large basil leaves

Eight (6-inch) corn tortillas

6 ounces grated, sharp, white cheddar cheese

Line a plate with paper towels.

Place pinches of the sausage in a medium skillet (discard casings if needed); cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat, seasoning sausage with the five-spice powder after first few minutes. Stir occasionally to break up any clumps.

Meanwhile, peel the onion and cut into a small dice.

Once sausage is cooked through yet still moist, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon rendered fat from skillet; return to medium heat. Add onion, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until softened and starting to brown. Season with the cumin, soy sauce and a few grinds of pepper. Transfer to a bowl; wipe out skillet (you’ll be using it again).

Cut each of the peaches in half; discard pits, then cut each half into thin slices, placing them in a bowl as you work. Drizzle with the oil, then season lightly with pepper.

Stack the basil leaves, then roll them tightly; cut into very thin slices (chiffonade), then transfer to bowl of peach slices, tossing to distribute them evenly.

Arrange 4 tortillas side by side on countertop. Use half the cheese, scattering equal amounts over each one, leaving about a 1/2-inch margin around edges. Scatter or spoon cooked sausage on top of each portion of cheese. Fan peaches on top of each tortilla, so slices overlap and create a wheel. Scatter cooked onion over peaches, then scatter then remaining cheese evenly over each one. Top with remaining 4 tortillas.

Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven; preheat to 200 F.

Lightly grease same (now-empty) skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add 1 quesadilla and cook for 2 minutes, then turn it over and cook for 2 minutes; cheese should be mostly melted and tortilla browned in spots. Transfer to preheated oven.

Repeat with remaining quesadillas, spraying skillet each time and transferring them to oven to keep warm.

Cut each one into wedges; serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted by the Washington Post from “Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining With Ease,” by Jonathan Bardzik (self-published, 2013).

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Fry zucchini with other veggies for texture, flavor

Frying up the remains of a giant zucchini this week, I was pleased to find the flesh surprisingly sweet.

The prolific summer squash usually doesn’t offer so much in the way of flavor. And overgrown specimens, as noted in this blog’s previous post, often suffer seedy centers.

So shredded and mixed with other ingredients is a common treatment for zucchini. Frying until crisp, particularly with a mélange of other vegetables, is bound to improve the most lackluster zucchini texture.

This recipe, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, does just that, evoking Asian cuisine with a tempura-like crunch and savory dipping sauce.

Use the shredding disk on a food processor (quick and easy) or large holes of a box grater for the sweet potato, carrot, cabbage and zucchini.

Chicago Tribune photo

Korean Vegetable Pancakes

1 egg white

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup shredded sweet potato

1/2 cup each: shredded zucchini, carrot, cabbage

1/2 cup mung bean sprouts

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

Canola oil, as needed

Tamari (or other soy sauce), as needed

Rice-wine vinegar, as needed

Toasted sesame oil, as needed

Whisk the egg white with ¼ cup water. Sprinkle in the flour; whisk to a smooth, thick batter.

Heap the sweet potato, zucchini, carrot, cabbage and sprouts into another large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Toss. Let rest for 10 minutes. Scoop up vegetables by handfuls and squeeze, releasing liquid. Drop vegetables into batter. Scrape in the garlic. Mix with a fork.

Set a small cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in a thin film of the canola oil. When hot, scoop in one-quarter of batter. Spread to a thin, 6-inch-wide pancake. Cook for about 6 minutes. Use a spatula to flip (pancake will still be soft). Brown other side, for about 6 minutes. Repeat, browning all cakes.

Mix 2 parts of the soy sauce with 1 part of the rice-wine vinegar and a good shake of the sesame oil. Serve pancakes with dipping sauce, cooked rice and Korean red-pepper paste or hot sauce, such as Sriracha.

Makes 2 servings.

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Fried zucchini pasta combines 2 classic concepts

If only using up overgrown zucchini was as easy as preparing more of something: more relish, more fritters, more ratatouille, more zucchini pickles, even more zucchini bread.

Texture is the problem, of course, with zucchini that escaped harvest before reaching gargantuan proportions. The innermost few inches are almost guaranteed to be pithy and seedy, not ideal for many de rigueur zucchini dishes.

And forget freezing zucchini, either sliced, diced or grated. I’ve never found that texture to my liking, either.

About the only thing that makes such squash palatable are quick breads and muffins. But it would take dozens of muffins and several loaves of bread to dispatch the biggest specimen wrested this season from my garden. Every hour spent on the remedy gives more zucchini time to lurk unnoticed under the vines.

So why not tailor several dishes to the range of textures in a giant zucchini? Trim away the firm, outermost inch or so in strips for pasta, mentioned in a previous post, leaving the innermost core for finely grating? In between, there’s plenty of tender flesh to cut into french fry-shaped batons.

While zucchini pasta and fried zucchini are nothing new, I never would have thought to top the former with the latter, until I spied this recipe from Tribune News Service. And unlike the more mainstream zucchini pasta that could challenge younger diners, this one unapologetically panders to kids’ penchant for fried foods.

Tribune News Service photo

Fried Zucchini Pasta

1 pound small zucchini, sliced into thin 1-inch batons

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Salt, as needed

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound egg pappardelle or spaghetti

1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

1/2 cup torn basil leaves

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Pinch or two hot red-pepper flakes

Lemon wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the flour and a pinch of the salt. In a very large skillet, heat half of the oil until shimmering. Add half of zucchini and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp, for 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer zucchini to a paper towel-lined wire rack and season with salt. Repeat with remaining oil and zucchini.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot and toss with the 1 cup of cheese, the basil and a generous pinch of the pepper. Add reserved pasta water a little at a time, tossing well to coat.

Transfer pasta to a bowl and top with crispy zucchini. Season to taste with red-pepper flakes and a couple of squeezes of the lemon. Serve right away with additional lemon wedges and cheese.

— Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from Food & Wine magazine.

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Pare overgrown zucchini into pasta-sized ribbons

When garden vegetables are ripening this rapidly, picking becomes almost an hourly exercise.

So I always wonder why we plant “enough vegetables to share,” in the words of my mother-in-law, when we struggle so mightily to consume them all. Yet sun-ripened, garden-fresh, organic vegetables are welcome for just about any occasion.

Beyond sharing vegetables at picnics, potlucks and barbecues, we’ll fete a new baby with a cute basket of lemon cucumbers. Abundant basil, parsley, mint and chives make bouquets both fragrant and flavorful. And we looked no farther than the garden for a last-minute birthday gift.

Of course, I couldn’t resist pawning off a white elephant in the crate of vegetables for our friend’s 30th birthday. An overgrown zucchini filled in the backdrop for more desirable eggplant, peppers and heirloom tomatoes. While our friend couldn’t wait to roast the spaghetti squash, the zucchini passed without comment, politely perhaps.

Roasting in ribbons, however, is one way to dispatch extra-long, extra-thick summer squash. Blanching is a quicker way to soften squash strips carved off with a vegetable peeler. But either method yields an appealing addition to pasta, such as this recipe from the Chicago Tribune, or even a noodle substitute.

Tribune News Service photo

Summer Ribbons

2 pounds (about 3 medium) yellow summer squash or zucchini

Salt, as needed

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised

1/2 pound wide, long pasta, such as pappardelle

1 1/2 cups (total) chopped basil, thyme, parsley and chives

1 tablespoon salted butter, cut up

Pepper, to taste

Cut the squash into long strips, about 1 inch wide and ½ inch thick. Season lightly with the salt.

Toss squash with the oil and garlic; arrange in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets. Slide into a 450-degree oven and roast, turning squash once, until golden-brown, for 25 to 30 minutes. Discard garlic.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Scrape roasted squash (along with any oil) into a serving bowl. Toss with the herbs, butter and cooked pasta. Season with more salt and the pepper.

Makes 2 servings.

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Eggplant casserole can be a hit without Parmesan

“There’s so much food out here to be eaten!” exclaimed my mother-in-law over the garden fence.

After a short sojourn at the South Coast, I returned to a riot of summer colors, shapes and textures in the vegetable garden. Even the appetite of a pesky deer couldn’t stop Romano beans from producing 6-inch-long pods perfect for salad Nicoise, a seasonal favorite in my family.

Is it coincidence that the summer harvest’s other quintessential dish hails from the south of France? Ratatouille — that sublime stew of eggplants, zucchini, peppers, onions and tomatoes — was the focus of this week’s food section.

I’ve previously posted a classic iteration to this blog. But variations abound, including the addition of capers and olives to this week’s featured recipe.

Still, ratatouille remains one of those dishes that I come to late in season. First up is eggplant Parmesan, one of my husband’s hands-down favorites. And based on his rave review of a cheesy zucchini casserole with Ritz topping sampled at a 2013 summer wedding, I may use up some eggplant in this similar treatment with cracker crumbs and cheddar.

Tribune News Service columnist Linda Cicero says that crumbled cornbread, stale garlic bread or panko can be substituted for the crackers. And a shredded cheddar-jack blend or Swiss cheese also may be used. Though only salt and pepper are traditional, you can add garlic powder, crushed red-pepper flakes or chopped, fresh Italian parsley before baking.

Scalloped Eggplant Casserole

1 large eggplant (about 4 cups when cubed)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 eggs

1 cup of evaporated milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1 1/2 cups crumbled saltine crackers

Pare the eggplant, slice it in half to remove seeds and cut flesh into bite-sized cubes. Place in a saucepan with water to cover, bring to a boil and cook until partially soft, for about 5 minutes. Drain well.

While eggplant is cooking, heat oven to 350 F. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Remove half of melted butter and set aside.

Add the onions to skillet and saute until transparent. Add drained eggplant and saute briefly to give cubes some color. Remove from heat.

Beat the eggs with the evaporated milk and stir into eggplant mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste and fold in about half the cheese and half the crumbs.

Transfer to prepared pan and top with remaining cheese. Cover with remaining crumbs, drizzle with reserved melted butter and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until casserole is heated through and crumbs are lightly browned.

Makes 6 servings.

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Summer or winter veggies make lentils ‘fabulous’

The garden at Frau Kemmling Schoolhaus Brewhaus may be a bounty of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. But squashes and hardy greens are biding their time until winter sets in.

Versatile and inclined to “last forever,” the two vegetables are “favorite food categories” of chef and Frau Kemmling general manager Hilary Kemmling. A surplus of kale inspired Kemmling to develop a lentil salad last winter that was “fabulous” enough to make the regular menu. Much of the Jacksonville restaurant’s own garden produce, described in a recent newspaper story, is relegated to status as seasonal specials, such as eggplant burgers.

“A lot of times, those specials do end up staying,” says Kemmling.

But lentil salads themselves, are versatile, needing only a variety of legume that retains its shape when cooked. French green lentils, also known as Puy lentils, are ideal. And they pair perfectly with sautéed zucchini and eggplant, or my riff on ratatouille that isn’t cooked to mush. It’s downright decadent when topped with a poached egg, drizzled in olive oil and sopped up with pita or naan bread.

Or serve in lettuce leaves as a low-carb wrap. Here’s another variation on the concept, courtesy of Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service photo

Summer Lentil Salad

1 cup green lentils

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 medium cucumber, not peeled, seeded and chopped

1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped

1/2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon minced, fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese

Cook the lentils in boiling water according to package directions, until tender. Drain.

In a large bowl, stir together the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and red onion. Stir in cooked lentils.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic and pepper. Drizzle over lentils and vegetables and toss to coat evenly. Add the mint and capers and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or up to several hours so flavors blend.

Sprinkle with the walnuts and feta just before serving.

Makes 12 side-dish servings or 6 main-dish servings (total yield 6 1/4 cups).

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Mexican chorizo inspires Greek-fusion pasta dish

Chorizo, of the smoked variety, got a plug in this blog’s previous post. The paprika-infused Spanish sausage, to my mind, qualified for consumption on National Hot Dog Day.

Perhaps better known in the United States is the ground, chili pepper-laden chorizo popular in Mexican food. The vinegar-seasoned sausage was featured in the current A la Carte, which provided DIY instructions.

More traditional even than that recipe’s pork shoulder are pork glands, incorporated in the chorizo that my family recently purchased at Taylor’s Sausage in Cave Junction. Making use of a cut typically discarded during butchering classifies chorizo as cheap, just a couple of dollars. And because it’s so rich, it can be stretched over several meals.

“Rich” by some standards, many chorizos are not only fatty but very greasy. Yet craving its spice, I found myself compelled to cook up chorizo for topping some nachos last week. Tomatoes, onions and chilies fresh from my garden didn’t do much to lighten the combination of chorizo AND cheese, despite the fact that a good quantity of the chorizo’s fat was left behind in the pan.

Although I’d had my fill, a half-pound of chorizo remained in my fridge, challenging me to devise a way of soaking up all that grease. Fortunately, my garden held a favorite item of produce, which doesn’t belong on nachos, but most definitely requires quite a bit of oil for cooking to my taste.

Japanese eggplant provided inspiration for my fusion pasta dish, reminiscent of ones I’d made with similarly rich, just not quite as greasy, ground lamb. I deglazed the sautéed meat and eggplant with Marsala wine and tossed the pan sauce with cooked linguine and feta cheese. Toasted pine nuts and chopped, fresh mint added color and texture.

Sarah Lemon photo

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Hot dogs aren’t just backyard or campground fare

I outed myself in a previous post for serving such low-brow dishes as boxed macaroni and cheese with canned tuna. So I might as well fess up to another food that, with a few extra fixings, masquerades as a meal.

Sausages, frankfurters or, in the words of Anthony Bourdain, “meat in tube form” are handily kept in the fridge or freezer. My family is much less inclined toward hot dogs at backyard gatherings or campfire fetes, preferring to doctor them up for impromptu lunches and dinners (OK, maybe even breakfasts)

Our usual bill of fare is Foster Farms fresh turkey sausages on a Franz pub roll with caramelized onions and Dijon mustard, sauerkraut (if we have it) and a side of sweet-potato fries. That array seems positively gourmet next to my husband’s unwholesome craving for pigs in blankets.

You know the drill: Pop open a canister of refrigerated biscuit dough and wrap said dough around hot dogs and maybe a few other odds and ends like cheese, pepperoncini or onions. He occasionally goes upscale with a cheddar-studded frank from Taylor’s Sausage in Cave Junction.

Sausage aficionados know that Taylor’s country store is the place to save on the varieties stocked at grocers, as well to procure items, such as blood sausage, that Taylor’s doesn’t sell elsewhere.

Like any local, small-batch product, Taylor’s sausages don’t come cheap. So what’s a few more dollars spent on some sophisticated toppings?

This Spanish-inspired recipe would be ideal with smoked chorizo. Pecorino or Asiago cheeses could be substituted for the Manchego.

Tribune News Service photo

Manchego Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs

2 large garlic heads

5 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1/2 cup roasted, jarred red peppers, drained and diced

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

6 grilled hot dog buns or 2 1/2-inch-wide pieces of ciabatta cut to hot dog length and split lengthwise

6 grilled all-beef hot dogs

2 ounces Manchego or hot-pepper cheese

Sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Trim the top ¼ to ½ inch from each of the garlic heads. Place each head, cut side up, in center of a square of foil; drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Enclose garlic in foil. Place packets on oven rack; roast until garlic is tender, for about 45 minutes. Open packets; cool 15 minutes.

Squeeze garlic cloves into a small bowl. Mash enough to measure 1/4 cup (reserve remaining garlic for another use). Transfer to bowl. Mix in remaining 3 teaspoons oil, the red pepper and parsley. Season with the salt and pepper.

Arrange the hot dog buns on plates. Top each with a grilled hot dog, some of the cheese, garlic relish and a drizzle of the vinegar.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Detroit Free Press from Bon Appétit magazine’s July 2009 issue.

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Watermelon trivia is a slice of summertime fun

Washington Post photo

Ways for improving lackluster watermelon recently have seeded this blog.

So why eat watermelon whose flavor and texture aren’t up to snuff? Apart from not wasting such a large piece of produce, nutrition is a compelling reason. The liquid-laden fruit, as I acknowledged in a 2010 post is one of the highest in vitamin C.

Nutrient content isn’t the only surprising aspect of watermelon. For more, take this quick quiz, courtesy of the Washington Post.

1. Settlers in the New World were growing and harvesting watermelons as early as:
a) 1576
b) the early 18th century
c) 1629

2. Cakes baked and decorated to look like watermelons were first developed in:
a) the mid-1950s
b) the late 1800s
c) 1965

3. Famous Americans who grew watermelons include:
a) Thomas Jefferson
b) Henry David Thoreau
c) both

4. The best way to tell whether a whole watermelon is ripe is:
a) Thump it; listen for a hollow thud.
b) Look for a yellow spot on the underside where it rested on the ground.
c) There isn’t one; you have to cut it open.

5. Internal cracks in watermelon flesh (harmless, and caused by extreme weather during growing) are known as:
a) snap lines
b) fruit fault
c) hollow heart

6. Those white things (edible!) that look like seeds in your seedless watermelon are:
a) bugs
b) seed coats
c) seeds

7. Once a watermelon is cut from the vine, it has a shelf life of:
a) 2 months
b) 1 week
c) 3 to 4 weeks

8. Watermelons consistently stored at a cool room temperature (about 70 degrees) have higher amounts of:
a) lycopene
b) water
c) potassium

9. A 15-pound watermelon yields about how many cups of cubed flesh?
a) 15
b) 11
c) 8

10. Which one of these is not the name of a watermelon?
a) Stars ‘n’ Stripes
b) Sweet Favorite
c) Big Baby

Sources: Library of Congress;; the Cambrige World History of Food; the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (Second Edition);

ANSWERS: 1. a, 2. b, 3. c, 4. b, 5. c, 6. b, 7. c, 8. a,9. b, 10. c

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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