Bowling Green's Barbara O'Brien says there are two reasons why she gets phone calls from her children: "When they're sick - or they need a recipe."
|Barbara O'Brien of Bowling Green with her berry soup. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Her offspring, who are currently living busy lives in Cleveland, Washington, D.C. and Berkeley, Calif., might want to get mom on speed-dial this week. She's got a recipe so special it wowed all the judges in this month's edition of the BG Farmers Market recipe competition.
Her recipe for Summer Berry Fruit Soup takes the cake at the second installment of the Farm Fresh Recipe Contest, a new feature of the market for 2013.
With Friday marking the official start of summer, the timing couldn't be more perfect for a chilled soup.
As the contest judges note, "soup and fruit are words not normally used together," but in O'Brien's offering, the combination is refreshingly delicious.
To judge for yourself, come down to the market Wednesday, where Chef Mathew Manley from Heritage Corner will be serving up samples of the berry soup, starting at 5:30.
O'Brien says the key to this versatile soup is the inclusion of ginger. "The ginger makes it," she emphasized.
It brings out the flavor of the sweet summer berries, which is balanced by the natural tartness of lemon, lime and orange juice as well as peel.
"I've been making cold soups for a long time. With this recipe contest I wanted to incorporate fresh fruit - the blueberries, the peaches and strawberries. But I didn't use raspberries and blackberries because of the seeds. They wouldn't enhance the soup, or look good either."
Her favorite way to serve it is for brunch, alongside a small sandwich.
"I have served it for a ladies' luncheon with a chicken salad and a croissant. It seems to be a nice combination.
"You can also put it on top of a pound cake; it kind of soaks in," O'Brien added.
Or, how about garnishing it with sour cream or yogurt?
"It could even be a breakfast soup, as far as I'm concerned," she said.
The contest judges like it over ice cream as a sauce.
O'Brien loves how "all berries have valuable nutrients - vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber. Berries mixed in salads, over cereal, in a smoothie, and as a snack" are all good options in June and July.
She describes herself as "kind of a locovore, especially during the market season."
And surely she is one of the farmer's market's biggest boosters.
A retired nurse practitioner whose last job was with Maumee OB-GYN James Croak, she has filled retirement with an array of projects, most benefitting Bowling Green in one creative way or another.
"For a couple years I did pies for the Farmers Market, until I blew my oven," O'Brien said. She contributed "various fruit pies. I couldn't do anything like custard or anything that needed to be refrigerated."
The only problem is, she found herself baking 15 to 18 pies at a time. "Well, that got a little old. I think this summer I'm going to do it once or twice" but limit the volume to perhaps five to eight pies per market.
O'Brien is even called the Pi Lady - a play on words acknowledging the fact that husband Tom is a retired professor of mathematics at Bowling Green State University. “I had a little sign with the pi symbol on it.”
O’Brien, who won the town’s chili contest a couple years ago with a Cincinnati-style chili, says she entered last month’s market recipe contest, too. “I had a kale soup that I submitted, but it didn’t win.
“So now that (the berry soup) won I’m not going to submit any more this year.”
That doesn’t mean she’ll stay out of the kitchen.
“I have to cook and need to cook. It should be something you love to do, tastes good, looks good and is an enjoyable experience.
“Feeding people is an act of love. If you don’t like to cook, people can tell by the (lack of effort) expended.”
O’Brien calls herself “an experimental cook” who often gets recipe ideas by going online.
“Plug it in and a ton of recipes will show up. Everyone needs an iPad in the kitchen.”
She offers one important preparation hint for her chilled soup.
“It says to saute the ginger in the pot. You don’t need to put oil to saute it. Just saute it lightly with no oil.”
Chef Manley suggests tasting the soup before adding the sugar. You might want to adjust the amount based on the sweetness of the fruit. Straining the soup after blending it will eliminate any seeds from the berries.
For those who shouldn’t consume sugar, O’Brien said the soup will taste fine with a sugar substitute. “They have that Splenda now, in bags.”
This is the second edition of the 2013 Farm Fresh Recipe Contest, and there are four more monthly contests. Community members are invited to try the recipe and help evaluate it for a grand prize at the end of the season.
There is a different theme every month the Downtown Farmers’ Market operates, now through Oct. 16. The entry deadline for the next contest, focusing on summer squash, is June 19. Entry forms are available at the market, at the Downtown Bowling Green office at 121 E. Wooster, or on the Farm and Garden pages of the Sentinel-Tribune’s website, www.sent-trib.com
The market is held every Wednesday, from 4-8 p.m., at 201 S. Main St.
Berry Fruit Soup
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cups chopped strawberries
3 cups chopped peaches
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
1 teaspoon grates orange peel
2 cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup blueberries
Sauté the ginger in water in a medium pot about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of strawberries, 3 cups peaches, grated lemon, orange and lime and cook for 2 minutes. Add water, sugar and juices. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and blend in blender or food processor. Add remaining strawberries and blueberries. Stir and refrigerate until chilled. Serve with mint sprigs.
Optional embellishment: A scoop of frozen yogurt.
Calories 207, Carbohydrate 53 g, Fat 0 g, Protein 1 g, Fiber 2.4 g, Sodium 1 mg.