In this week’s share:
- new potatoes
- green pepper
- zucchini and summer squash
- green lettuce
- asian greens
- basil (for real this 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
- 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
- Place potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until fork tender and drain
- 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
- Add the garlic and stir the leek-garlic mixture for 3 to 5 minutes as the garlic softens and releases its flavor
- Add the leek-garlic mixture to the boiled potatoes and mash with a dash of milk, sour cream or plain yogurt for extra creaminess
- 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.