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In the share this week:

  • sweet corn
  • cucumbers
  • heirloom tomatoes
  • paste tomatoes
  • Sungold cherry tomatoes
  • green zucchini and yellow summer squash
  • red and orange bell peppers
  • jalapeño peppers
  • Asian greens, collard greens & kale
  • garlic
  • basil
  • cilantro
  • parsley
Another pile of sweet corn is on the way

Another pile of sweet corn is on the way

Sweet Corn is Back!

This is the first time I’ve successfully succession-planted sweet corn, so prepare to enjoy a second round of this classic summertime treat, just in time for a welcome spell of hot and dry weather. If you want something different than the usual corn on the cob, try this easy corn and black bean salad that can be scooped up with tortilla chips.

Corn, Cherry Tomato & Black Bean Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears of sweet corn, cooked until just tender
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can of black beans, washed and drained
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, washed and drained (optional)
  • 1/4 of a white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely chopped (optional)
  • juice of 2 small limes or 2 TB bottled lime juice
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt to taste

Directions:

A Really Good Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a chilled summer soup that’s made by throwing the entire high-summer harvest into a blender. As refreshing as it sounds, I’m usually not a gazpacho fan. Done wrong, it can taste like you’re drinking bland salsa. But we found a great gazpacho recipe from the Kitchen Garden Cookbook, another thoughtful gift from my sister. I think it’s the vinegar that gives it its balanced brightness. We added our own twist to the recipe by roasting the tomatoes first, mellowing the acidic tomato flavor. This recipe is great for those great big heirloom tomatoes. It also helps to have a hand-cranked tomato strainer to easily remove seeds and skin.

Tomato Gazpacho with Roasted Pepper & Cucumber

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs tomatoes, quartered; juicy heirlooms work great
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 small or one large cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Arrange the quartered tomato pieces in a single layer in one large — or a couple of smaller — glass baking dishes. Drizzle tomatoes generously with olive oil and toss with your hands to coat. Roast tomatoes in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until very soft and the skin is blackened on the bottom
  3. While tomatoes are cooking, roast the red bell pepper over an open flame on a gas range, rotating frequently until it’s blackened on all sides. If you have an electric range, use a gas grill or broil at close range. Wrap the roasted pepper in a clean dish towel and allow the pepper to steam its skin loose. Unwrap the pepper and rub off the charred black skin with your thumbs. Run under cold water to remove the last stubborn flecks. Cut open the roasted pepper and remove the seeds and stem. Roughly chop the rest.
  4. Let the tomatoes cool, then run through a tomato strainer (strongly encouraged) or remove skin and seeds by hand
  5. Working in batches, blend the roasted tomatoes (and juice) with roasted peppers and the rest of the ingredients in a blender until smooth
  6. Let the soup cool for 2 hours in the fridge or overnight
  7. Serve in small bowls or mugs with a dollop of good olive oil and some fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

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Save Those Tomatoes

The warm weather and sunshine has ripened an unprecedented pile of tomatoes for this week’s share. If you can’t keep up with the bounty, here are some easy ways to preserve that fresh tomato flavor for later:

  • quarter and roast heirloom tomatoes using the method above from the gazpacho recipe. Either run the tomatoes through a strainer to remove skins and seeds, or put the whole roasted mess, seeds and all, into sealable freezer bags. Instead of opening a can of diced tomatoes for a winter stew or chili, defrost the bag.
  • for paste tomatoes, score the blossom end (opposite of the stem) with a small x and drop in boiling water for 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. The skin should be loose enough to peel off easily. Either pack them into freezer bags as is, or half and remove seeds. Defrosted, they’ll make a great base for a fresh pasta sauce
  • the easiest method is to freeze whole raw tomatoes. No chopping, no roasting, no strainers. Just put the ripe tomato in a freezer bag and voila. When it defrosts, it will be mushy, but very flavorful, perfect as a base for stews, soups and sauces

Brighten Up Grilled Vegetables with Herbs

In that same cookbook, the Kitchen Garden Cookbook, I found a great recipe for a simple seasonal herb paste called a sauce verte (green). The author uses any green herb on hand and blends up small batches of this garlicky, olive-oil paste to toss with any assortment of grilled or roasted veggies all season long. It would be great, for example, on grilled slices of zucchini and summer squash, which don’t have a lot of flavor on their own. Here’s a sauce verte that you can whip up using this week’s basil, parsley and garlic. After you grill or roast the zucchini, squash, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, etc. simply toss with 1/3 cup of this herb-infused paste and serve with a little more fresh-chopped parsley.

Sauce Verte

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 green onion (or a few thin slices of regular onion), coarsely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of parsley, chopped
  • 2 TB capers
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 TB oregano leaves
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 3 TB extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Put everything except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until finely choppped
  2. With processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Sealed in a container, the sauce will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator
Late August brings colorful and super-sweet peppers

Late August brings colorful and super-sweet peppers

In the share this week:

  • big ‘ole sweet onions
  • red, orange and green bell peppers
  • heirloom slicing tomatoes
  • small and medium paste tomatoes
  • sungold cherry tomatoes
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • eggplant
  • jalapeño peppers
  • garlic
  • basil
  • cilantro
  • parsley

∞ Ways to Eat Peppers and Onions

You’re getting freshly pulled sweet onions this week from my friend and neighbor Beth Smith of Oak Hill Farm. Beth has been growing onions for years, so I defer to her in all things allium. May I suggest the classic combination of sliced onion and sweet bell peppers, the base of many a fantastic summer meal, including:

  • fajitas
  • gyros
  • Italian sausage
  • pizza topping
  • stir-frys

These sweet onions will also caramelize beautifully. Dark and flavorful caramelized onions are excellent on burgers, pizza, in pasta or as the base of a caramelized onion tart with apples, potatoes, cauliflower, or, of course, bacon. The key to making the best caramelized onions is “slow and low”. Use a heavy-bottomed cast iron pan or dutch oven and cook on medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to scrape up crispy bits. Don’t stop until the onions are dark brown and super soft. Deglaze the pan with wine, stock, balsamic vinegar or water to dislodge the remaining sticky bits. For the best results, follow Bon Appetit’s Caramelized Onion Common Mistakes — And How to Avoid Them.

Stuff Those Tomatoes

We learned this recipe on our honeymoon and come back to it again and again during the height of tomato season. You can use any tomatoes for this, but the small and medium paste tomatoes (oval-shaped instead of round) are the easiest to scoop and stuff. Roast them until they’re almost falling apart and they’ll create an instant sauce when folded into your favorite pasta.

Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes & Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 medium and small tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 sprigs of Italian parsley, chopped
  • Italian bread crumbs, roughly 1 cup
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • your favorite pasta; linguini is good here

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil spray
  3. Cut each tomato in half and scoop out the seeds and loose flesh into a mixing bowl. Place the halves — which now resemble oval-shaped bowls — on the baking sheet
  4. Add the garlic, parsley and chopped basil to the mixing bowl. Pour in bread crumbs a little at a time until the mixture thickens enough to stay on a spoon
  5. Add salt to taste
  6. Scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture and fill each tomato half
  7. Top each stuffed tomato with a little more bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil
  8. Bake for 25 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and slightly charred on the bottom
  9. When you make the pasta, save a half cup of the cooking liquid
  10. Fold the whole roasted tomatoes into freshly boiled pasta, adding a little of the cooking liquid to help the tomatoes spread evenly.
  11. Serve with fresh-grated parmesan

You’re Never Too Old for Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

We made this for dinner last week and earned our children’s undying love for at least 20 minutes. The soup is great, but it’s greatness is multiplied by 1,000 when you dip a corner of a sourdough-cheddar grilled cheese sandwich into it.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 lbs of tomatoes, quartered if really big
  • half a yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic with the skin still on
  • olive oil
  • 4 cups of stock or broth (beef is best, but veggie and chicken work, too)
  • 1 tsp of sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, yogurt or sour cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Generously oil the bottom of a large glass baking dish, then toss in the tomatoes, onion and garlic to coat with oil
  3. Roast the tomatoes, onion and garlic in the oven until tomatoes are nicely blackened and very soft, about 30 minutes
  4. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a simmer
  5. Let the tomatoes cool slightly, then lift away the charred skin (tongs are helpful here) and remove skin from roasted garlic
  6. Add tomatoes (with all their juices) and onion and garlic to the simmering broth. Let the flavors blend for 5 mins.
  7. Blend the soup with a hand blender or regular blender. Add sugar to taste, then stir in cream or yogurt.

There’s Always Room for (Tomato) Pie

These scrumptious tomato pie recipes employ the killer combination of tomatoes, cheese, garlic and pastry crust. Thanks again to our friend Kara for introducing us to this summertime delicacy.

 

 

a lovely Striped German specimen in full blush

a lovely Striped German specimen in full blush

 

In the share this week:

  • heirloom tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • green beans
  • bell peppers
  • jalapeño peppers
  • basil
  • cilantro
  • parsley

Counting Tomatoes Before they Ripen

This summer I fell guilty to the lesser-known companion sin to “counting your chickens before they hatch.” I had the hubris to count my tomatoes before they ripened. For months, my tomato plants grew strong and full, recently growing heavy with swollen green fruit. Despite the relatively cool weather, I didn’t spot the early signs of blight that had already overtaken my plants in years past. So I pronounced with Nostradamus-like certainty that this year would be a record year for tomatoes. Then I went out of town for 5 days…

A lot can change in less than a week, apparently. Through no fault of my wonderful mother, who lovingly picked tomatoes and green beans in my absence, the first destructive flush of early blight has entered the field, wreaking havoc on the orange tomatoes and making headways into the cherry and paste tomatoes. Once it’s begun, there’s no effective organic way of stopping it. We can only hope for dry weather — good luck! — and some sunshine to slow the spread of spores. The good news is that we are sure to have several more weeks of excellent tomatoes, but perhaps not the boon I was prematurely predicting.

the summer harvest is in full swing

the summer harvest is in full swing

Eggplant Ideas

If you’re like me then you need some new ideas for cooking up those beautiful bulging eggplants we’ve been getting. Just in time — and for no apparent reason — I received a free copy of Cook’s Illustrated featuring a recipe for Eggplant Involtini, a fancy Italian word for “stuffed eggplant roll-ups.” Since I’m too cheap to pay for a subscription to this fairly awesome magazine, I can’t share the recipe link online, so here’s my even simpler version of this already pretty darn simple and satisfying eggplant dish.

Eggplant Involtini

Ingredients:

  • homemade marinara sauce or a jar of purchased tomato sauce
  • 2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick planks
  • olive oil
  • 2 links of sweet or hot Italian sausage (optional)
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • cup of bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • handful of chopped fresh basil
  • few sprigs of chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. If you’re making the marinara sauce from scratch, start that simmering first
  3. brush both sides of each slice of eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. place on baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes until slightly browned and soft
  4. (optional) while eggplant is cooking, brown and crumble the Italian sausage in a frying pan and transfer to some paper towels to drain excess oil
  5. in a small bowl, combine the ricotta and 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, basil and parsley along with salt and pepper to taste. If you’re using the sausage, add that to the mix, too
  6. if you’re using jarred tomato sauce, pour it into a large, oven-safe frying pan and start heating it over low until it starts to bubble
  7. once the eggplant has cooled down, plop a large spoonful of the cheese/sausage mixture on the fatter end of each slice of eggplant. Roll up the eggplant like a rug and place each stuffed roll in the simmering marinara/tomato sauce
  8. sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the rolls and slip the whole frying pan into the oven for 10 minutes as the flavors meld and the cheese filling softens to an admirable ooze
  9. serve alone or over pasta

Another eggplant option is to to try a version of this baked tomato and eggplant tian, an easy layered casserole that’s also great with thinly sliced zucchini or squash in the mix. See the blurry cell phone pic of tonight’s dinner below…

the picture doesn't do this tomato, eggplant and squash "tian" justice. it was tast-ee

the picture doesn’t do this tomato, eggplant and squash “tian” justice. it was tast-ee

Tomato-Jalapeño Salsa

The cilantro is quickly bolting — sending its seed-bearing shoots skyward in preparation for death — so I’m going to harvest as much as I can salvage this week. If you can’t use it, just wash and dry it and stick it straight in a freezer bag. Frozen cilantro holds its flavor excellently and is a great addition to fall and winter Mexican meals. In the meantime, set aside some of this week’s juicy tomatoes for a classic salsa.

Easy Blender Salsa

This is basically the same  salsa mexicana recipe, but less chopping!

3-4 medium or 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped

half a white onion, roughly chopped

1 jalapeño, seeded (or not, if you dare) and roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

lots of cilantro, don’t bother chopping, stems and all

juice of one lime (or 1 TB of cider vinegar)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp cumin

  1. Put everything in the blender or food processor and pulse until it reaches your desired consistency (we prefer it on the chunky side) and pop it in a tupperware in the fridge. Lasts for days.
not only are those boxes handy for preventing smushed tomatoes, but they're reusable, so please return!

not only are those boxes handy for preventing smushed tomatoes, but they’re reusable, so please return!

Rustic Italian Bread Salad

I can’t help reposting one of our favorite mid-summer dishes. Here’s our version of the classic panzanella:

1 day-old loaf of crusty sourdough or other rustic white bread, sliced thickly

olive oil for painting the bread

1 clove of garlic, cut in half

1 summer squash, sliced thinly lengthwise

1 eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise

15-20 cherry and plum tomatoes, halved or quartered

handful of basil leaves, chopped

balsamic dressing, homemade or bottled

grated parmesan cheese to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F
  2. Paint both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and place on a large baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, flipping the slices over once. You want them to be nicely browned, but not burnt.
  3. Remove tray, and while bread is still warm, rub both sides with the cut end of the garlic. Let the bread cool.
  4. Grill or saute the sliced squash and eggplant until nicely browned and soft. Season with some coarse-ground salt and chop roughly
  5. When bread is cool, cut it into 1-inch cubes
  6. Toss everything together in a big bowl: bread, veggies, tomatoes, basil and parmesan
  7. 30 minutes before serving, dress lightly with balsamic dressing and toss well

 

sweet corn is the official flavor of summer

sweet corn is the official flavor of summer

In the share this week:

  • sweet corn
  • green beans
  • heirloom slicing tomatoes
  • sungold cherry tomatoes
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • cucumbers
  • eggplant
  • green peppers
  • garlic
they're finally ready!

they’re finally ready!

Sweet Success

A few weeks ago, the fist tufts of pink corn silk emerged from the corn plants. Since then, I’ve been obsessively checking the ears every few days to track the progress of the corn, wondering which week will finally be corn week. I’m pleased to announce that that fateful day has arrived. So get out your corny corn holders (ours were always miniature plastic ears of corn), grab a dispenser of dental floss, and get ready to husk!

Honestly this corn is sweet and tender enough to eat raw, straight from the cob. But if you’re going to cook it, toss it into already boiling salted water and don’t let it simmer more than 5 minutes. You want those kernels to really pop! Grilled corn is also exceptional. Keep the husk on the corn and place it over a hot grill (or directly in the embers of a campfire). Turn occasionally for about 15 minutes until it’s well blackened on the outside. The inside will be steamy and sweet. You can also husk the corn and grill it wrapped in tin foil for a cleaner steam. For more details, check out 3 ways to grill corn.

colorful (and a few colossal) heirloom tomatoes

colorful (and a few colossal) heirloom tomatoes

Your Grandma’s Tomatoes

Heirloom vegetable varieties are plants that have been passed down for generations using open-pollinated seeds. Open-pollinated means what it sounds like, the plants produce fruit from their own kind with the help of busy bees. The result is a seed that is genetically similar (not identical) to its mother plant. Hybrid plant varieties, on the other hand, are the product of an intentional “cross” by a plant breeder. There’s nothing “unnatural” about hybrids — the breeders cross two plants to produce beneficial characteristics, like firmer flesh, better disease resistance or new and interesting colors. But the seeds that hybrids produce are genetically unpredictable and, if planted, may look nothing like the fruit they were “born” from. That’s why you can only save open-pollinated seeds.

Heirloom tomatoes are generally considered to be any seed variety that’s been saved for the past 50 years or more. Many of the heirloom varieties exhibit a certain wild charm and uniqueness of character that’s hard to replicate with even the most ingenious cross. Heirlooms can be beautiful and extremely flavorful, but they are also fragile. We stopped growing heirlooms during the past few seasons, because we were tired of loosing 70% of the crop to cracked fruit and disease. I fell for the well-worded marketing of the seed catalogs, which promised hybrid varieties all but impervious to blight, wilt, and canker, but I was generally disappointed in the results. Last season, which was unseasonably cool and wet, even the hardiest hybrids succumbed way too soon to disease, and the flavor of those that survived was lackluster.

So this season we’ve brought back a few of our favorite heirloom varieties along with some of the hybrids that still seem to deliver great flavor. The bigger tomatoes are just starting to blush (these past couple days of sunshine will help considerably), so you’ll soon be sampling a variety like Brandywine, a beefy red tomato known for its juicy flesh and fruity flavor. We’re also growing Striped German, an almost comically large tomato with yellow sides and a blushing red bottom. I’m excited about a favorite new orange-fleshed hybrid that produces perfectly round, peach-fleshed fruit with almost no acidity. We’ll talk more about tomatoes as the season progresses, but I have it on good authority that this is going to be a record tomato year, so get excited.

Pesto with Green Beans and Potatoes

CSA day is a day early this week, so many of you probably still have potatoes and basil from last week. I strongly suggest that you make a favorite pasta dish from our honeymoon that features the carb-on-carb brilliance of pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes. The basil has been a little spotty this year, but hopefully we can hand out some more tomorrow to replenish your supply.

Spice up your next burrito with our tangy salsa verde recipe

Spice up your next burrito with our tangy salsa verde recipe

In the share this week:

  • tomatillos
  • jalapeño chilies
  • sungold cherry tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • cucumbers
  • new potatoes
  • Asian greens
  • scallions
  • cilantro
  • basil

The First Tomatoes of the Season

Sungold tomatoes are like candy. The dark orange ones are super sweet and the slightly underripe yellow ones pack a satisfyingly sour punch. Be warned, though, hungry children have been known to eat 2 dozen straight out of the colander while your back is turned, forcing you to switch gears mid-recipe on that night’s pasta sauce. The tomatoes are JUST coming in, so we won’t have tons to hand out (yet), so I strongly recommend eating those few golden treasures in their raw, explosive glory. Speaking of explosions, close your mouth.

Tomatillos add a fruity edge to roasted or grilled green salsa

Tomatillos add a fruity edge to roasted or grilled green salsa

Say ¡Hola! to the Tomatillo

Tomatillos are small bright-green cousins of the tomato native to Mexico. They are the main ingredient in Mexican-style salsa verde or green salsa. Tomatillos grow inside a papery husk, dangling from their vines like Chinese lanterns. Eaten raw, they are powerfully sour, which is why most cooks — ourselves included — choose to roast the tomatillo to mellow and sweeten its flavor. We grow tomatillos year after year because we are in love with the roasted green salsa recipe below, which we eat with chips, smothered on chicken enchiladas, and as a base for our green chili. I’ve reprinted our recipes for all three below:

Roasted Green Salsa (salsa verde)

This smoky salsa goes great with chips and in tacos and burritos, but it’s even better as the base for the sauce in the next recipe. Melissa Clark of the NYTimes makes her tomatillo salsa on the grill and serves alongside a chili-rubbed flank steak. Drool…

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 tomatillos, papery husks removed
  • 1-2 jalapeños depending on your spice threshold
  • 2 garlic cloves, not peeled
  • half a white onion, sliced thickly
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • pinch of salt
  • handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease a glass baking dish with 2 TB vegetable oil
  3. Add the tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic and onions to the pan, tossing to coat lightly in oil
  4. Roast the veggies for 30 minutes, stirring and turning once, until tomatillos and chilis are soft and charred in places
  5. Remove stems from jalapeño, squeeze roasted garlic from its skin, and slide everything from the pan, including juices, into a blender or food processor.
  6. Add water, salt and cilantro and pulse the mixture until it’s thoroughly mixed, but still slightly chunky
  7. Cool for a few hours in the fridge and serve with chips or as a taco topping. Goes great with chicken, pork and fish

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas with Green Salsa (enchiladas suizas)

Ingredients:

  • Green salsa (from previous recipe)
  • 2 cups of chicken or veggie broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Meat from one roasted chicken, shredded
  • Grilled or sautéed mixed veggies — peppers, eggplant, squash, etc. — chopped into small pieces
  • 10-12 medium-size flour tortillas
  • Shredded mozzarella or Mexican melting cheese like Chihuahua
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a saucepan, mix green salsa with the broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes. It should be slightly reduced, but still more like soup than salsa. Add salt to taste.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together chicken and chopped cooked veggies. Add 3/4 of the green sauce and mix to coat everything.
  4. Spray a 9×13 casserole pan with vegetable oil
  5. Roll the chicken mixture in the flour tortillas. Line up the rolled tortillas side by side in the casserole. Crowding is OK.
  6. Drizzle the remaining green salsa over the top of the tortillas, then top with a few generous handfuls of shredded cheese
  7. Bake for 25 minutes covered with tin foil.
  8. Remove foil, turn on the top broiler, and position the enchiladas 3 inches from the broil and cook until cheese is nicely browned — 2 minutes or less, so keep your eye on it!
  9. Serve with chopped cilantro

Green Chicken Chili

I’m not going to give a full recipe for this one, but the idea is simple. Take some shredded chicken, two cans of cooked beans, some chopped veggies, and some frozen greens like spinach or kale and toss in a large pot with a serving of the green salsa and enough chicken broth to give it the desired chili consistency. Simmer for 30 minutes until everything is hot and cooked through. To serve, ladle into large bowls, top with chopped cilantro, shredded cabbage or lettuce, and a dollop of sour cream. Tortilla chips don’t hurt, either.

Danny’s Famous Asian Cucumber Salad

While I’m reposting favorite recipes, let’s not forget my brother-in-law Danny’s easy and outstanding Asian-style cucumber salad. Mix the following ingredients together with 2-3 very thinly sliced cucumbers and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably 4 hours. Adjust white vinegar and sugar to taste. These also go great on top of Asian noodles with a peanut dipping sauce.

  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 TB sesame oil
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp chile pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)

Is that a Baseball Bat or a Severed Leg?

No, you were just lucky enough to get one of the slightly overgrown zucchini from the patch. With all of the rain we got, the zukes grew even faster than usual and a few got away from me. The good news is that you can shred up those monster squash and bake them up in any number of delicious and borderline nutritious desserts. To get you started, here’s a link to Mandy’s favorite chocolate zucchini cake and zucchini apple bread recipes.

Share Your Favorite Recipes

I’m always looking for new ways to cook up all of these cukes, zukes, potatoes and eggplants. If you’ve discovered some home-run recipes, please share them with the rest of us in the comment section below. Thanks!

Two mid-summer flavors that were made for each other

Two mid-summer flavors that were made for each other

In this week’s share:

  • new potatoes
  • garlic
  • leeks
  • green pepper
  • cucumbers
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • green lettuce
  • asian greens
  • basil (for real this time)

Potato Time!

I look forward to mid-July for two reasons. First, it’s my birthday, which always means a family trip to Kennywood and some kind of insane cake (chocolate with mint butter cream this year). And then it’s potato-digging time. Digging potatoes, if you can believe it, is even more fun than pulling carrots. With carrots, you have some idea of the size of the carrot based on the “shoulders” bulging above the soil line. Potatoes, on the other hand, are a true treasure hunt. When you shove the pitch fork into the mound of hilled dirt around the base of each plant, you really have no idea how many spuds lie beneath and how big they are. Even after you loosen the soil and pull up the roots, there are bound to be a few stragglers buried deep in the hill. There are few moments as thrilling as burrowing around blindly in that mound of dirt and discovering a nearly lost whopper. It’s less thrilling when it turns out to be a rock.

Potato + Garlic + Leek = Happy Place

Tomorrow you’ll be getting two varieties of new potato, a smaller red-skinned variety and a larger white-skinned spud. For the first potatoes of the year, I like to go simple. Scrub the spuds, quarter them and place in a pot of cold water. Bring the water to boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and mash on your plate with a little butter, salt and pepper. It’s a simple way to enjoy the creamy and earthy “potato-ness” of new potatoes.

But simple is not the only way to go. You’re also getting the first garlic and leeks this week. The garlic has only been curing for a week and a half, so it has a fresh, bright flavor. You’ll also have to wrestle a little with the skin to peel them, because the bottom layer tends to stick. Leeks are members of the onion family that look like large scallions. They impart a mellow oniony flavor to a variety of classic dishes including, of course, potato leek soup. If you’ve never cooked with leeks before, cut them down the middle top to bottom and hold them under running water to rinse off any soil that collects between the layers. The white and paler green parts of the leek are the tastiest, but you can really use the whole plant (we trim off the tougher, wilty ends of the leeks at the farm).

Here’s what we’re going to cook up tomorrow…

Mashed New Potatoes with Leeks and Garlic

Ingredients:

  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 to 3 leeks, cut into thin discs
  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10 small to medium new potatoes
  • dash of milk, sour cream or plain yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until fork tender and drain
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a heavy bottom pan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and cook for 8-10 minutes as they soften and caramelize
  3. Add the garlic and stir the leek-garlic mixture for 3 to 5 minutes as the garlic softens and releases its flavor
  4. Add the leek-garlic mixture to the boiled potatoes and mash with a dash of milk, sour cream or plain yogurt for extra creaminess
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Pickles and Pickled Peppers

I bet everyone gets at least 4 cucumbers tomorrow, which is an excellent opportunity to make some easy refrigerator pickles. The brine couldn’t be simpler: 1.5 cups vinegar + 1.5 cups water + 2 TB pickling salt. Heat the water-vinegar mix until the salt dissolves. Pack cucumber slices into a quart-size ball jar with a few garlic cloves, 3 or 4 black peppercorns and dill seed or flower if you have it. Slices of green pepper make an excellent addition, plus you get to have that Peter Piper thing stuck in your head all day. Pour the brine into the jar nearly to the top, seal with a lid and stick in the fridge. These are properly pickle-y the very next day and last for weeks in the refrigerator. We’re pickling some of last week’s red cabbage, too. Why not?

Going Green (Peppers)

I am a red pepper person. Green peppers are excellent in certain situations (grilled with onions on an Italian sausage comes to mind), but I’m crazy about the sweetness of a red or orange pepper. To ensure a bountiful harvest of red peppers later in the season, we’re thinning some of the biggest green peppers to encourage the plant to keep producing. Plants tend to shut down production once fruit has reached maturity and we don’t like lazy pepper plants in our garden. So enjoy this week’s green peppers, but if you’re like me, think of them as a downpayment on even tastier peppers to come.

 

Big flavorful cucumbers, perfect for a cool summer snack

Big flavorful cucumbers, perfect for a cool summer snack

 

In this week’s share (might be easier to list what’s NOT in this week’s share):

  • cucumber
  • green beans
  • eggplant
  • zucchini & summer squash
  • broccoli
  • red cabbage
  • asian greens
  • kale
  • green lettuce
  • scallions
  • basil

Make Room for a Whopper

This week brings one of those monster shares that straddles spring and summer. The first of the summer crops are coming on strong — big ‘ol cucumbers, summer squash, loads of green beans and the first jet-black eggplants. But we’re still harvesting the very last of the broccoli, red cabbage and kale. For dinner tonight, we had a true mid-season special: baked and breaded cod in a dill butter sauce, salad with cucumber and carrots, green beans, and a side of the first tiny new potatoes (you’ll be getting those soon). I was so proud, I had to take a picture…

Everything is from the farm except the fish

Everything is from the farm except the fish. This is what I live for!

Cool as a…

One of our favorite ways to eat cucumbers is Mexican-style with a generous squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt. I remember attending our very first birthday party in Mexico — the neighbors were kind enough to invite the stammering gringos. As an appetizer, they passed around a plate of sliced cucumber dressed with lime, salt and chili powder. The chili powder wasn’t my thing, but I ate through the pain. Our chili-less version is very refreshing on a hot summer day.

Garlic Pulling

Thanks to everyone who came out for the garlic-pulling party last Saturday. The work went fast and we chowed down on some delicious farm-fresh food, plus some addictive cookies.

Grilled Squash and Eggplant Pasta with Basil

I posted this recipe last year, but it’s worth repeating. Grilling is one of the easiest and most flavorful ways to prepare summer squash and eggplant. This meal can also incorporate braised kale, roasted bell peppers and cherry tomatoes (coming next week!). Grilled chicken or salmon also goes great.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, or 3 small ones, sliced lengthwise to 1/4-inch thickness

1lb of dry pasta (all types work great here)

2-3 summer squash, also sliced lengthwise

1 large onion, sliced into large rings (try to keep the sections intact, instead of separating the individual rings. It makes it easier to grill)

olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, minced

5-6 leaves of kale stems removed and chopped

2 bell peppers (optional)

big bunch of basil

Parmesan cheese

Handful of cherry tomatoes (optional)

Salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes, if you like them)

  1. Salt eggplant slices and let them sit in a colander for 20 minutes to draw out water. Rinse off salt and pat dry.
  2. While eggplant is resting, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop it from getting mushy. Toss lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking.
  3. In a large bowl, toss eggplant, squash slices and onion slices with olive oil until lightly coated
  4. Put a saute pan over medium-low heat and add 3 TB olive oil. When oil is hot, add half of the minced garlic and the kale/chard.
  5. Saute for 1 minute, then add 1/2 cup water to the pan and cover. Lower heat and let the greens braise for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. If using the bell peppers, set them over an open gas flame on your stovetop. Turn them until blackened on all sides, about 3 minutes. Wrap the roasted peppers in a dish towel and let them steam for 10 minutes.
  7. While the peppers are steaming, turn on your grill to med-high heat.
  8. Lay the eggplant, squash and onion slices directly on the grill or on a grill pan. Close the grill lid, then turn after 3-5 minutes, once the veggies have nice grill lines on one side. Close lid and check again after 3-5 minutes. The squash cooks the fastest, so don’t let it get charred while the eggplant and onions are finishing up. Remove grilled veggies
  9. Back in the kitchen, unwrap the bell peppers and rub off the charred skin. Slice open the peppers, remove the seed pod, then chop roughly.
  10. Chop the rest of the grilled veggies
  11. Set the kale pan back over med-low heat. Uncover and add the rest of the garlic. Then add all of the grilled veggies. Stir everything together and season with salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes, optional)
  12. In a very large bowl, toss the grilled veggie mixture with the pasta. Add parmesan cheese, chopped basil and halved cherry tomatoes (optional)
  13. Enjoy!

Share Your Recipe Ideas

I’m getting the newsletter in late this week, so I haven’t had time to rustle up any more recipes for this week’s bounty. Help a brother out and share some of your favorite recipe ideas below for broccoli, green beans, eggplant, red cabbage and the rest of the goodness. Thanks!

 

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