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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!

 

Red cabbage adds eye-popping color to any dish

Red cabbage adds eye-popping color to any dish

In this week’s share:

  • zucchini and yellow summer squash
  • head of red cabbage
  • Asian greens
  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • sugar snap peas
  • green lettuce
  • kale
  • basil
We try to harvest our zukes on the small side to keep them tender. The rare baseball bat makes for great cake, though.

We try to harvest our zukes on the small side to keep them tender. The rare baseball bat makes for great cake, though.

50 Ways to Eat Zucchini

OK, that’s a lie. I don’t have time to list 50 ways to eat this week’s inaugural crop of zucchini and summer squash. But I’m here to tell you that these thin-skinned members of the squash family are some of the most versatile garden ingredients. In our house, it’s all about grilling. Other people have really gotten into the whole zucchini noodle craze (Vegetti or similar tool required). Here are a few more delicious ideas from the Left Bower Farm archives to get you inspired for the next few weeks’ onslaught of squash:

Today's lunch: fried rice with carrot, zukes, summer squash, kale and basil (with bacon, of course)

Today’s lunch: fried rice with carrot, zukes, summer squash, kale and basil (with bacon, of course)

The Slaw That Keeps on Giving

This past 4th of July weekend included 3 potluck cookouts in a row. Since we had 6 heads of extra cabbage in the fridge, slaw was the first and some might say only option. The snap peas inspired us to go Asian, and we did so in a big way, preparing three huge bowls of this Snap Pea and Cabbage Slaw. We veered from the recipe a little, replacing almonds with toasted peanuts and a handful or two of crunchy fried chow-mein noodles for good measure. The secret is in the dressing, which is an unlikely combination of Asian flavors (garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil) and mayonnaise. I know, it sounds a little off, but trust me, it works! I think it would look and taste downright amazing with the red cabbage.

 

What's up, doc?

What’s up, doc?

In this week’s share:

  • carrots
  • sugar snap peas
  • hakurei turnips and turnip greens
  • 2 heads of red lettuce
  • savoy cabbage
  • kale
  • chard
  • scallions
  • basil
  • (maybe, just maybe another head of broccoli)

Carrot Christmas

During the 8-month stretch of the gardening season, there are few days I look forward to more than carrot pulling day. This Wednesday morning is going to be like Christmas in July around here. If you’ve never pulled a carrot before, you owe yourself the pleasure of yanking one of these tasty beauties from the ground. There’s a technique, of course. Don’t just grab the frilly tops and tug because you’re likely to come away with a handful of greens and a scalped carrot stubbornly stuck in the dirt. Instead, reach all the way down until you can get a firm grip on the carrot’s “shoulders” — the part the bulges up slightly above the soil line — give the shoulders a wiggle to loosen the carrot’s grip, and then pull straight up, careful not to snap the carrot in half and leave an irretrievable stump six inches deep. If you want to join in the fun, meet me at the farm Wednesday morning. There is plenty of carrot-pulling pleasure to go around.

Sugar Snap Peas

No more shelling! These half-moon-shaped sweet peas can be eaten shell and all. Simply snap off the “crown” to remove the string running along the pea pod’s spine. If you can resist eating the entire bundle straight from the bag, try our favorite new recipe from Australian food writer extraordinaire Donna Hay:

Crispy Rice Omelette

Ingredients:

  • 2 TB vegetable oil (add a dash of peanut or sesame oil for extra flavor)
  • 2 cups of cooked rice (day-old Jasmine or other fragrant rice works great)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 big handfuls of sugar snap peas, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chili pepper (optional)
  • 8 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • handful of basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • soy sauce, Sriracha and more chopped basil to serve

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Heat a large, oven-safe non-stick pan over medium-high heat, then add the oil
  3. Add the cooked rice and stir frequently for 5 minutes until rice gets slightly crispy
  4. Add the chopped scallions, sugar snap peas and jalapeño (if using) and stir for 2 more minutes
  5. stir the basil leaves into the beaten eggs
  6. pour the eggs into the pan and let them cook — without stirring! — for 5 minutes. That’s how the rice gets nicely browned and crispy.
  7. slide the pan into the oven for 3 minutes or until top of eggs are set
  8. this is great at room temperature or fresh from the oven. Serve with soy sauce and Sriracha for sprinkling, and more of that fragrant basil

More Snap Pea Recipes

Salad Turnips & Turnip Greens

I grow these creamy white Japanese turnips every year. Known as hakurei turnips, I call them “salad” turnips because they are best when eaten raw, either by themselves or sliced onto a salad. These golf-ball-sized turnips are not spicy like radishes and they’re not tough and starchy like larger purple-top turnips. They have a mild radishy flavor and a sweet finish. If you don’t call them turnips, even your kids will eat them. And don’t toss out those lovely turnip greens. ‘Tis the season for our perennial favorite Turnip Greens with Beans and Bacon.

Raw Veggie Plate (Crudités) with Garlic Aioli

You can’t beat this fresh-from-the-garden appetizer with a gourmet twist. Simply place some carrot slices, sugar snap peas and sliced turnips on a plate with this fabulous homemade garlic mayonnaise for dipping. (To make it into a full French-style picnic, bring along some hard-boiled eggs and  a sliced baguette.) I got this recipe from a great book of simple seasonal recipes from Williams-Sonoma called Cooking from the Farmer’s Market, a gift from my thoughtful sister.

Garlic Aioli

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (if you are sketched out about raw eggs, look for pasteurized eggs at the store)
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1.5 cups olive oil

Directions:

  1. Blend the garlic and salt in a blender until it forms a thick paste
  2. Add the raw eggs, lemon juice and mustard and blend until combined
  3. With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil until it looks like mayonnaise. Homemade aioli will keep in the refrigerator for a week.
savoy cabbage or work of art?

savoy cabbage or work of art?

In this week’s share:

  • (lots of) broccoli
  • savoy cabbage
  • green cabbage
  • beets (see note below*)
  • head of red lettuce
  • head of green lettuce
  • kale
  • chard
  • scallions

Brassica-splosion

The weather this spring has been ideal for growing big and bountiful brassica crops. Brassicas include broccoli, cabbage, kale and other hearty greens. I usually try to avoid loading our CSA members up with multiple heads of cabbage, but there’s no way around it this week. I’m afraid that if I leave the cabbage in the ground for another week we’d risk splitting the heads (these things can only get SO big before they bust open). So in addition to a bowling ball-esque head of green cabbage, you’ll be getting a beautiful head of ruffled savoy cabbage. The stuff is almost too pretty to eat. Almost… I heartily recommend the “Polish” pasta recipe below or an asian slaw.

“Polish” Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 garlic scapes, sliced thinly (or 2 cloves of garlic, minced)
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage, core removed, sliced very thinly
  • 1 lb ground beef (optional)
  • generous pile of kale, stem removed and chopped into small pieces
  • thyme and oregano (fresh or dried), and salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 box of pasta
  • parmesan cheese for the table

Directions:

  1. Boil water and cook the pasta al dente according to package directions
  2. Put a large, heavy pan over medium heat, heat up the oil and then add the onions, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until nicely softened and caramelized
  3. Toss in the chopped garlic scapes or garlic and stir for additional minute
  4. In batches, stir in the cabbage. Crank in some salt to help the cabbage release its  moisture, then cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very soft.
  5. If you’re using the ground beef, add it now, breaking it up into small pieces as it browns and cooks fully
  6. Toss in the kale and stir until it’s nice and tender, another 3 minutes
  7. Add in the herbs, salt and pepper until the mixture is well seasoned and flavorful
  8. Fold the vegetable mixture into the just-cooked pasta and serve with shredded parmesan
not all of the broccoli is this pretty, but it's all tasty

not all of the broccoli is this pretty, but it’s all tasty

Broccoli Love

I’m always excited to hand out broccoli because this is one of the first vegetables of the season that needs no explanation. Broccoli is tasty so many ways — raw, steamed, roasted, stir-fried, drowned in cream of mushroom soup and cheddar cheese — that you really can’t go wrong. Recently I’ve been intrigued by the rise of the broccoli sandwich made famous by chef Tyler Kord at No. 7 Sub in NYC. Watch the video and tell me you’re not at least curious:

*A Note About Beets

The dark, blood-red tint of a roasted beet is a color that’s hard to find in nature. It’s no surprise that you can use beets as a natural dye for clothes and even hair. What was more surprising to us — and a few of you who were brave enough to ask — is what the beets did to our pee. If you noticed a distinctly orange or reddish tint to your urine after eating beets last week, it’s perfectly normal. Some people believe it’s a sign of low stomach acidity, but some people believe a lot of things… The good news is that you can cancel that trip to the emergency room. It’s just those ruddy beets.

 

no, that's not a handful of snakes. they're scapes!

no, that’s not a handful of snakes. they’re scapes!

In this week’s share:

  • green cabbage
  • garlic scapes
  • sweet peas
  • head of green lettuce
  • head of red lettuce
  • spinach and chard
  • kale
  • vitamin green
  • scallions
  • dill

It’s scape season!

Every year, smack in the middle of June, the scapes slither out of the garlic like punctual pythons. We planted the garlic back in late October. After a long and dreary w—— (I promised to never speak its name again) the garlic sprouts in the spring and grows a 3-foot, onion-looking leafy top by mid-June. The snake-like scapes emerge from the growth point in the top center of the garlic’s green leaves. The scape is really an elongated bud that will bloom into a flower if left alone. But we’re not in this for garlic flowers. We want the bulb; and to fatten up the bulb for a July harvest, we need to snip off the scape and send all remaining energy downward, not upward. Lucky for us, the scape is absolutely delicious — a June delicacy that you absolutely cannot get anywhere else but your friendly local garlic grower.

How to eat garlic scapes

Garlic scapes have a subtle green flavor that’s halfway between garlic and scallions. Cut up garlic scapes like you would scallions, in thin discs. Then use them in the following ways:

  • Soften them in butter before scrambling your morning eggs (add spinach, chard or kale for bonus points)
  • Add them raw to a salad
  • Toss them into a cole slaw (see recipe below)
  • Add them in the last minute of a stir fry – maybe this stir-fried cabbage, tofu and red pepper recipe
  • Whip up a bracing garlic scape pesto (no garlic or basil necessary)
  • Grill them alongside your steak for a charred confection
children, this is where babies come from, cabbage babies, that is.

children, this is where babies come from, cabbage babies, that is.

Cabbage crazy

We’re a little nuts about cabbage in our house. There are so many ways to use this old-world staple. When the weather gets hot like it is this week, we’ll grill up some burgers and cool things down with a big refreshing slaw. Here’s a version that takes full advantage of all of the great treats from the garden this week:

Cabbage, Scape and Dill Slaw with Lemon Dressing

Ingredients:

  • Half a large head of green cabbage, thick core removed, sliced very thinly
  • 2 garlic scapes, bulbs and woody bottoms removed, sliced into thin discs
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 large carrot, grated (optional)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sugar or squeeze of honey
  • handful of dill, chopped finely

Directions:

  1. Put first 4 ingredients in a large bowl
  2. In small mixing bowl or a jar with a lid, add oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and sugar. Stir or shake vigorously until dressing is emulsified
  3. Dress and toss the slaw. Mix in dill and serve. Also tastes great the next day after marinating in the fridge overnight

Cabbage and pasta: A terrific combination

We’ve really gotten into cooking down cabbage until it’s wilted and sweet and adding it to pasta dishes. You have to try this next recipe, which incorporates so many terrific flavors from the CSA share:

 

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