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Two sweet pumpkins

Two sweet pumpkins

In this week’s share:

  • Pie pumpkin
  • Butternut squash
  • Celery
  • Napa cabbage
  • Collard greens & vitamin green
  • Bell peppers
  • Basil, cilantro, dill & parsley
  • Bittersweet tears for the last share of the season…

My Farm Heroes

As another season draws to a close, I want to give some well-deserved shout outs to the behind-the-scenes helpers who truly make all of this possible, or at least a whole lot easier.

  • My mom, Arlene – She grew up in Brooklyn, raised her kids in the suburbs, sent them off to college, and never dreamed that one of them would end up digging around in the dirt for a living. But my mom is the most supportive farm helper a wayward son could ever ask for. She’s out there every Wednesday, bright and early, cutting herbs, picking tomatoes, and making sure we get every last edible green bean in the field. I know it’s hard on her back, but she doesn’t complain. Even better, she brings lunch — turkey and cheese sandwiches in little plastic baggies — as if she was packing my lunch for the 3rd grade. I still love it. Add this to all of the babysitting and help she offers with our kids, and you get an idea of how lucky I am. Thank you, mom!
  • Leslie – If you pick up your share in Washington, then you’re lucky to have already met Leslie, our steadfast and loyal farm helper and resident mathematician. Bless my mom, but between the two of us we couldn’t divide by 27 (or even count to 27 on some days) if our lives depended on it. Leslie makes sure that we always have enough bags and enough veggies to go in them. She also weeds like a pro, transplants with the best of them, and graciously transports the Washington shares to her house every week. She says coming out to the farm clears her head. Whatever it is, I’m so thankful that she keeps coming back. Thanks again, Leslie!
  • Lauryn – Here’s one of those blessings that defies logical explanation.  Lauryn is not a CSA member. In fact, she has her own large and prolific garden back home. But like Leslie, she comes out to farm every Wednesday, claiming that spending a few hours at the farm each week is therapeutic. I refuse to refuse free help. I try to pay her back with vegetables, but she usually gives them to a housebound friend or the women’s shelter. Personally, I think she mostly comes for the “mom” sandwiches ;). Thank you, Lauryn!
  • Margie & Joe – These are the intrepid owners of Manchester-Farms and the generous folks who first gave Mandy and I the opportunity to grow vegetables on their incredibly beautiful property. I don’t know what you saw in us, but thank you again for your continual support and friendship, and for letting us share a piece of what you’ve created out there in Avella. We love you guys!
Leslie and my mom during our weekly bagging ritual. Don't lose count!

Leslie and my mom during our weekly bagging ritual. Don’t lose count!

Leslie working through a big pile of edamame. Luckily she loves the stuff.

Leslie working through a big pile of edamame. Luckily she loves the stuff.

Pie Pumpkins

The name says it all. These little beauties are packed with natural sugars and perfect for making roasted pumpkin puree. Here’s how:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Remove the stem and cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Remove seeds and scrape out stringy goo. Save seeds for roasting, of course!
  3. Rub a little olive oil on the cut halves of the pumpkin and sprinkle with a little salt.
  4. Place pumpkin cut-side down on the parchment paper and bake for 45 to 1 hour, or until a fork breaks easily through the skin and the flesh is nice and soft
  5. Turn the pumpkins cut-side up and let them cool for 20 minutes. Then scoop out the flesh with a large spoon into a food processor and process until completely smooth.
  6. Use the pureed pumpkin as a base for desserts like pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake, or savory dishes like pumpkin ravioli or that crazy pumpkin soup served in an actual pumpkin thing.

Beef Up for the Winter

Manchester-Farms just announced that they have more grass-fed organic beef for sale. We always have some in the freezer and it’s a real treat in the winter. A half-steer is between 80 and 90 lbs of frozen beef, divided into individually packaged  cuts and 1lb ground beef packages. The price is $7/lb. We usually split a share with a friend or my parents. If you want to make an order or have any questions about the beef, contact Joe Pagliarulo directly at 203-209-6386.

See You in 2014…

Thank you so much for being part of our 2013 CSA. If you were new this year, we really hope you enjoyed the produce and the experience of cooking and eating seasonal local vegetables. If you still want to come out to the farm, there’s lots of cleanup left to do and we’ll be planting garlic at the end of October. Please keep in touch. I’ll be sending out a survey in a few weeks to ask about your favorite and not-so-favorite items so we can start planning for next year!

The deep orange flesh of butternut squash plays well with both sweet and savory

The deep orange flesh of butternut squash plays well with both sweet and savory

In this week’s share:

  • Butternut squash
  • Napa cabbage
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Collard greens
  • Arugula
  • Summer squash
  • Bell peppers
  • Mixed herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, sage & rosemary

T.G.I.Fall

Ask anyone from Western PA and they’ll say their favorite season is fall. I’m right there with ‘em. For me and my family, it’s all about fall food. When the weather turns chilly, it’s a signal to start hunkering down with some soul-warming comfort food. After a summer of avoiding the hot oven at all costs, now it’s time for slow-roasting, long-simmering and real cooking. This week you’ll be getting some of our fall favorites: butternut squash, sweet potatoes and napa cabbage. All three are incredibly versatile, but here are some of our favorite recipe ideas.

Want that butternut? You might have to wrestle for it.

Want that butternut? You might have to wrestle for it.

Butternut Squash

Butternuts have lots of natural sugars which pair great with both savory sauces and sweet desserts. Roasting butternut in the oven is one of the best ways to caramelize those natural sugars. Here’s the simplest way to roast a whole butternut as a side dish:

  1. Preheat over to 400F
  2. Cut squash in half from stem to bottom and remove seeds with a spoon
  3. Place squash halves cut-side down in a glass baking dish filled with 1 inch of water
  4. Roast for 45 min to 1 hour. You know it’s ready when the squash begins to cave in and is very soft when pricked with a fork
  5. Carefully pour out the water, turn squash halves over and let them cool for a few minutes. Then scoop out the flesh with a large spoon into a bowl.
  6. Stir in 1 to 2 TB of butter, 1 TB of brown sugar (optional), a few shakes of cinnamon and a pinch of salt

A classic flavor combination is squash and sage. Some sweet Italian sausage also goes great in the mix. Here are some recipe ideas:

Roasted or boiled and pureed butternut squash is also the perfect base ingredient for soups and bisques:

Napa cabbage leaves are thinner, sweeter and more delicate than regular cabbage

Napa cabbage leaves are thinner, sweeter and more delicate than regular cabbage

Napa Cabbage

(Bitter) Sweet Potatoes

I had such high hopes for the sweet potatoes… Last year, I only planted a few, but got great results. So this year I tripled down and planted 100 expensive sweet potato “slips.” I don’t know if it was a late frost to blame, or the torrential rains and cool summer weather, but only a third of the plants produced tubers, and of those, a significant amount suffered some kind of insect damage below the soil. We love sweet potatoes around here, so we’re mourning the slim harvest. Make the best of the few sweet potatoes you’ll get tomorrow. Some have been trimmed to remove damaged areas, so I would eat them sooner than later. Here are some ideas:

Share Your Ideas

If you’ve made some great dishes with the CSA goodies, share the recipes with the rest of us by replying to the post below.

Collard greens are a nutrient-packed staple of Southern cooking

Collard greens are a nutrient-packed staple of Southern cooking

In this week’s share:

  • Collard greens
  • Arugula
  • Green beans
  • Summer squash
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Jalapeño chili peppers
  • Tomatillos & pineapple tomatillos
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Basil, cilantro, dill and parsley

‘Eating is an agricultural act”

CSA member Jamie was kind enough to give me a book of essays by farmer, writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry. I wanted to share one of those essays with you, titled “The Pleasures of Eating,” because it strikes to the heart of our food philosophy. Berry’s thesis is simple: eating is an agricultural act. As eaters, we are (quite literally) “consumers” that carry out the final act in a long process that begins with the planting of a seed or the birth of a living, breathing animal. To be conscious and knowledgeable of that agricultural process enriches the eating experience. Food that you grow yourself, or at least know where it comes from and how it’s raised, makes eating more pleasurable. Instead of being mere “consumers” of calories, we learn to appreciate our place in a complex and fragile food system that depends on healthy soil, clean air and water, and the humane treatment of animals.

I encourage you to read Berry’s entire essay (linked above). As CSA members, you have made a conscious decision to purchase locally grown food from a small farm. I’m sure each of you have your own motivations for connecting with a local grower. Maybe you’re concerned about the pesticides and other chemicals used in industrial agriculture. Maybe you like the idea that your food has only traveled a few miles from field to fork. Or maybe you just think that freshly harvested vegetables taste better. Whatever brought you to us, I hope that your participation in this odd little exercise has brought you and your family a little closer to your food.

It’s been another surprising and bountiful year in the garden and I’m glad that many of you have been able to come out and see the field where these vegetables are grown, transplant some seedlings, weed and water growing plants, and harvest the fruits of each unique stage of the season. After this week, there are only two more CSA shares left. If you and your family haven’t had a chance to visit the farm, I encourage you to take advantage of these final weeks to come and see us. I know how insanely busy life can get, especially with young children, but I firmly believe that eating is only half of the CSA experience. The other half is knowing firsthand where your food comes from, understanding a small part about how it’s grown, and meeting the person who grows it. Email me and I’m sure we can find a time to see each other at the farm.

I’ll finish with another quote from “The Pleasures of Eating”:

“The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy and remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best. Such a memory involves itself with the food and is one of the pleasures of eating. The knowledge of the good health of the garden relieves and frees and comforts the eater… A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health. And this pleasure, I think, is pretty fully available to the consumer who will make the necessary effort.”

Cookin’ Collard Greens

In our house, we treat collard greens like kale or any other dark green leafy thing. We remove the stem, slice it thinly and add liberally to everything: soup, stews, eggs, pasta, taco filling, etc. But for many folks, collard greens are inseparable from Southern cooking. The traditional method is to simmer the greens for a long bath in an aromatic broth of smoked ham hock, garlic, onions, chili flakes, vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar. This is a good recipe that uses bacon instead of the hock:

Collard is also a fabulous choice for our family’s favorite beans and greens with a side of cornbread.

Off comes the husk to reveal the tangy-sweet fruit

Off comes the husk to reveal the tangy-sweet fruit

Pineapple tomatillos (for real this time)

A couple of weeks ago, I teased you with the prospect of pineapple tomatillos, the tiny husked fruit also known as ground cherries or husk cherries. I finally convinced the kids to help me harvest a nice bucket-load (small hands are better suited to the job). So everyone should be getting a solid two handfuls along with some more green tomatillos. I recommend snacking on the pineapple tomatillos raw or adding to your roasted tomatillo salsa for a fruity kick.

Feta Green Beans

Thanks to CSA member Joann for her favorite green bean recipe:

1 1/2 lbs. green beans cut in 1 inch pieces
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar (I use Apple cider vinegar)
1 clove garlic – minced
1 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper – fresh
1 cup pecans – chopped
1/2 cup red onion – chopped
1 cup feta cheese – crumbled
  1. Place beans in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes until crisp-tender.
  2. Drain beans and rinse with cold water. Place beans in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. In a jar with a tight lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, dill weed, salt and pepper and shake well.
  4. Add nuts and onions to beans. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Fall potatoes provide a hearty base for veggie-heavy stews, soups and curries

Fall potatoes provide a hearty base for veggie-heavy stews, soups and curries

In this week’s share:

  • Fall potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Green and yellow summer squash
  • Red, orange and green bell peppers
  • Arugula
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Basil, cilantro, dill and parsley
My harvest helper enjoying a green bean snack

My harvest helper enjoying a green bean snack

Recipe for an “Indian” Summer

I don’t know if the current heat wave counts as an Indian Summer, but after a July that masqueraded as fall, all traditional ideas of seasons are out the window. Either way, I think it’s an excellent excuse to cook up some Indian and other East Asian food with this week’s veggies. Potatoes and green beans are the base of lots of tasty Indian curries along with a legume like garbanzo beans or lentils. You can add a diced jalapeño for some authentic heat. Here’s how I would make a one-pot curry from this week’s harvest. Serve with brown or white basmati rice.

Dave’s Late Summer Vegetable Curry

2 TB vegetable oil or ghee

1 onion, sliced into thick strips

1 TB fresh ginger, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeño chili pepper, diced with seeds (optional for heat-lovers)

1 heaping TB curry powder

* OR *

1 tsp each: turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground ginger

1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 can coconut milk

2 cups vegetable stock/bouillon

5 potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large handfuls of green beans, trimmed and cut in half

1 medium or 2 small summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch discs

1-2 red peppers, sliced into thick strips

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed of can “juice”

salt and/or brown sugar to taste

chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

  1. Heat oil over medium flame in a large heavy-bottom pan or pot
  2. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 5 mins
  3. Add ginger and jalapeño (optional) and stir for 1 min
  4. Add EITHER curry powder OR ground spice blend (not both) and stir for another minute as spices release their flavor
  5. Add cherry tomatoes and stir for another minute or so as tomatoes soften and release their juices
  6. Pour in coconut milk, vegetable stock and potatoes.
  7. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes
  8. Add green beans, summer squash and pepper strips, stir and cover for 5 minutes
  9. Add garbanzo beans and cook an additional 3 minutes
  10. Add salt and sugar (1 tsp works well) to taste, then stir in chopped cilantro and serve atop rice

Tips for a Thai version: Instead of the curry powder or spice mixture, add 2 TBs of either red or green Thai curry paste. You will also need to add 2 TBs of Thai fish sauce and 1 TB of brown sugar when simmering the veggies. At the end, stir in lots of fresh chopped basil and squeeze in some lime juice if you have it. Garnish with cilantro. You can add chicken or fish to either of these recipes and they’d also be excellent.

Other potato and green bean ideas:

The success of the pepper harvest this year is going to my head

The success of the pepper harvest this year is going to my head

After a slow start, the second planting of summer squash is finally in full swing

After a slow start, the second planting of summer squash is finally in full swing

Arugula is a "spicy" salad green and a fall favorite of ours

Arugula is a “spicy” salad green and a fall favorite of ours

Arugula: hard to pronounce, easy to eat

We fell in love with arugula (known as “rocket” across the pond — if you want the full etymology, go here) in Mexico, where we discovered the odd and wonderful flavor combination that is arugula, cherry tomato, prosciutto and shaved parmesan pizza. Arugula is usually mixed into baby salad blends to add some spicy bite. Alone, it’s a strong and satisfying presence on sandwiches, in salads, and blended into arugula pesto. Everybody should get a hearty handful to experiment with this week. Try these ideas to start:

 

 

Getting ready to dig in to one of our yellow-fleshed varieties.

Getting ready to dig in to one of our yellow-fleshed varieties.

In this week’s share:

  • Watermelon
  • Edamame
  • Green beans
  • Red, orange and green bell peppers
  • Summer squash
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Basil, cilantro and parsley
CIMG1453

To eat an old-fashioned watermelon (with seeds!) position yourself upright (very juicy) and within spitting distance of shrubbery

 

The Watermelon that Almost Wasn’t

Every once in a while, I get a bright idea — or what seems like a bright idea at the time — to outsmart the weeds in the garden. This year, the bright idea was to liberally sprinkle clover seed around my newly transplanted melon seedlings. In theory, the clover would sprout into a lush, but low carpet of weedless green upon which my watermelons would stretch out and mature.

The week I transplanted the watermelon coincided with the first of many unseasonably cold streaks this summer. To protect my heat-loving melons, I covered them with “floating row cover,” a breathable fabric that lets in light and rain, but maintains a steamy greenhouse-like atmosphere underneath. I turned my back on the watermelon patch for a week, and when I pulled up the row cover I saw what looked like the Amazon rainforest in miniature. I could barely make out the struggling watermelon seedlings through the thick stand of weeds, and nary a clover in sight.

I spent a long afternoon hand-weeding the 150-foot watermelon row, gingerly lifting the spindly watermelon vines to rip up the invaders that threatened to smother them whole. Long story short, I could never seem to stay ahead of the weeds in the watermelon patch all season. It was as if they detected my “brilliant” clover plan and decided to punish me for my hubris. The plants didn’t send out nearly as many flowers as I had hoped, which meant far fewer fruit than I had planned.

The good news is that everyone will get a watermelon tomorrow. And the brilliant idea for next year’s watermelon patch? Black plastic mulch. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out…

When watermelon is this fresh and juicy, I can’t see why you would eat it any way other than sliced into triangles. But if you’re looking for a twist, I could get behind this recipe for watermelon, feta and chile pepper salad.

CIMG1457

Edamame: a “superfood” that’s super easy to prepare

Green Popcorn

That’s what Mandy used to call edamame when she first started giving it to the kids for a snack. Must be the sprinkle of salt, because there’s not much of a resemblance. Either way, it worked, and our kids are still crazy about these Japanese-style fresh soybeans. Soybeans are packed with protein, vitamins A and C, plus iron and calcium, which explains why tofu (made from soybeans) is such an effective replacement for meat. But the greatest thing about edamame is that it’s nearly impossible to mess up.

  1. Boil a pot of water
  2. Drop in the edamame pods
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes
  4. Drain and cool in a colander
  5. Sprinkle with salt and serve!

DON’T EAT THE PODS. Not that they’ll kill you or anything, but the beans inside are the tasty part. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently pop them out. Ah, maybe that’s where the popcorn reference comes from!

A lucky few CSA members will get shiitakes fresh from our mushroom logs

A lucky few CSA members will get shiitakes fresh from our mushroom logs

Bonus Fungus

We are excited to report that our shiitake mushroom logs are producing some fat and tasty fungi. Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly enough to give everyone a usable portion, so we’re offering a nice double-handful of shiitakes to the first 6 CSA members who respond to the newsletter. Hopefully we’ll have more next week to give everyone a taste of these delectable treats.

In case you haven’t heard about growing mushrooms from mushroom logs, here’s the scoop. Shiitake mushrooms are the easiest to grow at home. First, you need to find a live oak tree to cut down. You want one that’s no more than 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Steve and Joe from Manchester-Farms were nice enough to cut down one for me. The tree should be chopped down during the winter, before the sap starts to run in the early spring thaw. Then you need to saw it into manageable sections around 4 feet long each.

The next step is to need to buy some shiitake mushroom “spawn,” another word for the dust-like spores of the fungus. You will use the spores to inoculate the logs, meaning the spores will grow a shiitake fungus inside the tissue of the oak logs.

The best type of shiitake spawn to buy is the kind that come in “plugs.” They look like one-inch wooden dowels. Google mushroom plugs and you’ll see what I mean. If you buy mushroom plugs, I suggest that you also buy the custom drill bit that allows you to drill the perfect-size holes in your logs. The process is simple. You drill shallow holes all around the exterior of the logs, leaving 6 inches between each hole. Plug each hole with a shiitake plug. To improve the chances of a good inoculation, most people cover each plug hole with a cap of melted wax. Again, it’s not that hard. And what other garden chores do you have in February?

The next step is the hardest… waiting. It takes a full year for the logs to be fully inoculated with the shiitake fungus. You need to stack the logs in a shadow spot where they can still get wet with the rain. The nearly invisible shiitake fungus will feed on the heartwood of the logs and spread its intricate web throughout the wood. By the next spring, you can start harvesting mushrooms. The trick is to mimic a hard rainfall by dunking the logs overnight in water. We’re lucky enough to have a nearby watering trough for the Manchester-Farms cows. After a 24-hour soak, you remove the logs and let them sit in the shade. After 2-3 days, the “fruit” of the fungus begins to sprout in the form of mushrooms.

We inoculated these logs in February 2012. I meant to do more this winter, but we missed the window to cut down another oak. I’ve been negligent in my log-dunking, because so many other garden tasks have taken precedent, but I hope to pump a few more harvests out of the logs before the season is through. Again, the first 6 emails will get shiitakes this week… so hurry up!

 

Tomatillos add a fruity edge to roasted or grilled green salsa

Tomatillos add a fruity edge to roasted or grilled green salsa

In the share this week:

  • Tomatillos and a few “pineapple tomatillos”
  • Red, orange and green bell peppers
  • Slicing and cherry tomatoes
  • Summer squash
  • Eggplant
  • Jalapeño and hot paper lantern chili peppers
  • Garlic
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Parsley

Salsa Season

Cool late summer evenings are perfect for eating outside with family and friends, and nothing gets the party started like a basket of tortilla chips paired with bold and flavorful salsa. Everything you need to make a great salsa arrives with the August harvest. The tomatoes are ripe and firm, the jalapeños are dark green and deeply spicy, the cilantro is growing like a bush, and now we finally have some ripe and ready tomatillos. If only I had planted a lime tree 20 years ago… and we lived in Florida. Here are some recipes for our favorite red and green salsas, plus a simple trick for turning salsa the appetizer into sauce for a main dish.

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…

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

  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)

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

  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.

Roasted Red Salsa

Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared recipes for a simple fresh diced tomato-jalapeño salsa (pico de gallo) and a blended salsa. This salsa takes those same ingredients and roasts them for a smokier, richer flavor. You can treat this just like the roasted green salsa, simmering it with stock to make a sauce for assorted taco or burrito fillings (chicken, beef and roasted veggies work great).

3-4 tomatoes, halved or quartered if large

1-2 jalapeños

2-3 cloves of garlic

half a white onion, thickly sliced

Chopped fresh cilantro

Pinch of sugar

Salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease a casserole dish with vegetable oil
  3. Add tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic and onion to the casserole, tossing to coat lightly with oil
  4. Roast for 30 minutes until tomatoes and jalapeños are soft and slightly charred
  5. Transfer everything to a blender or food processor along with cilantro, sugar and salt
  6. Pulse until mixed but chunky
  7. Cool in fridge before serving

Red Scare

I’ll be including a single hot paper lantern chili pepper in your shares tomorrow. This cousin of the habanero looks exactly how it taste, intensely hot and fiery. Do not attempt to impress friends by chomping this one raw, unless you record a video of your reaction and allow me to post it here (I could use the traffic). This little guy needs to be seeded and cooked to be enjoyable. Or try this recipe from Rick Bayless for a simmered tomato-habanero salsa. The habanero — or hot paper lantern in our case — is cut in half, simmered in the sauce, then removed at the end. It imparts some of its fantastic heat without direct contact with the unsuspecting tongue.

“Pineapple” Tomatillos

If the rain holds off, I should be able to give everyone a handful of ground cherries, aka husk cherries, aka cape gooseberries, aka pineapple tomatillos. These tiny yellow-orange berries are cousins of the green tomatillo, but are meant to be eaten raw as a sweet and exotic-looking snack. Kids love them, especially the way they pop out of their papery husk. You can also toss them into the blender with your green salsa to add a fruity, pineapple-y edge.

Tomato Tart

I caught this recipe for a tomato tart tatin on Epicurious and thought I’d dare you to try it. The reviews on the site are glowing. Tomatoes are fruit, after all….

Freshly picked and barely cooked... that's the best recipe for summer meals.

Freshly picked and barely cooked… that’s the best recipe for summer meals.

In this week’s share:

  • Slicing, paste and cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Jalapeños
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
When even salad seems like too much work, slice peppers thinly and dip in your favorite dressing

When even salad seems like too much work, slice peppers thinly and dip in your favorite dressing

Let the ingredients do the work

One of the greatest benefits of eating fresh from the garden in late summer is that you really don’t have to “cook” very much. The flavors are so strong and the colors are so vibrant, making dinner is 20 minutes of chopping and tossing instead of spending eternity in the kitchen. We’ve been coming back to a few basic recipes this week that I wanted to share. And PLEASE add your own tips and recipes in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Cucumber and Cherry Tomato Salad

2 cucumbers, quartered and chopped

20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 handful of chopped basil

few sprigs of chopped parsley

bottled or homemade vinaigrette (we like balsamic here)

crumbled feta or goat cheese

  1. Toss everything together and serve!

Cream of Tomato Soup

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

  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.

Basic Fresh Tomato Sauce

olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

pinch of red pepper flakes

5-7 tomatoes, roughly chopped

pinch of sugar

generous handful of chopped fresh basil

  1. Heat large saute pan over medium-low and pour in a generous 3 TBS of good olive oil
  2. Before the pan gets too hot, add the garlic and stir continuously for 30 seconds to release flavor but avoid burning. Add the red pepper flakes
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes with all their seeds and juices
  4. Adjust heat to a low simmer. Stir and press down with your wooden spoon/spatula to crush the tomatoes as they cook.
  5. Turn off the heat when tomatoes are softened, but still a little chunky (about 15 minutes)
  6. Add the pinch of sugar, the fresh basil, and toss with your favorite pasta and veggies

TIPS: If sauce tastes too acidic, drizzle with a little more good olive oil. If you’re looking for a way to work through some zucchini, shred it with a cheese grater or food processor and add to the sauce with a couple of  minutes left to simmer.

Easy Blender Salsa

This is basically the same  salsa mexicana or pico de gallo recipe I shared a couple of weeks ago, but less fancy dicing! Food processor is even better than the blender here.

3-4 medium 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.

Potatoes and Leeks

I didn’t plan to harvest leeks this week, but the lonely leek patch is isolated in a section of the field that I desperately needed to till up for a fall cover crop. So even though they are still kind of spindly, I pulled the remaining leeks. And since leeks simply cry out for potatoes, I’ve also decided to harvest some of the fall potatoes a little early. The leeks are few and small, so I suggest using them as a flavor enhancer to creamy mashed potatoes. Just slice the leeks thinly and sauté in butter until soft and slightly caramelized, then stir into mashed potatoes with a little more butter, milk and/or sour cream. Yum.

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