FINALLY…Tomatoes Are Here!

This year has been a challenge in so many ways. First, we had a cool, wet spring. Which brought us into an even wetter summer, which then catapulted us straight into an incredibly hot and humid stretch, followed by an unseasonably cool period. Really the only things to thrive during these weird weather spells are the plague-like levels of flea beetles and Colorado Potato Beetles. Fortunately, as we head into the final week of August, we are beginning to see some of our usual summer abundance. So, between that, and my need to remind myself of one of the main reasons I work at the farm (incredibly fresh, organic produce) I decided to cook this weekend. Scroll to the end of this post for this week’s recipes using corn, tomatoes and basil.

First, I had to figure out what I was making. I had a few eggplant from last week, in addition to what I got in my share Friday. I had a ton of tomatoes, and I had just bought some okra (see below)…so while this may not be the most balanced of meals, it certainly cured some of my cravings!  I fired up the grill to prepare for Grilled/Roasted Greek Eggplant Spread.  All I did was crank the grill to high, and put these babies on.  Once they were all charred and delicious on the outside, I just sliced them open, scraped their insides into my food processor, and proceeded with my recipe. The picture doesn’t really do the final product justice—but the resulting puree is fresh and light, and tastes good on just about anything. I usually just eat it as a dip with pita chips or other veggies. I have also used it on pizza (with a little feta cheese and maybe some kalamatas) or as a topping for crostini. If you have a lot of eggplant, you can grill/roast them and puree them, then freeze the puree in baggies until you figure out what you want to do with it, or save it until the middle of winter when you are trying to remember what summer tastes like.

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Next I made gazpacho—this is a great soup to make when you really want to make a dent in your share box.  I did use many of the tomatoes that I got in my share this week, but I also took advantage of our supply of seconds (produce with imperfections that doesn’t make the cut into your share). This allows you to buy produce in bulk for a discounted price. Who cares what a tomato looks like if it will just be turned into sauce or soup? Anyway, I had never tried this particular gazpacho recipe by Alton Brown, so gave it a shot. It was a little more complicated than the recipes I usually print out, so I didn’t bother writing it up. It was delicious; however I have followed other recipes that were not as complicated and tasted every bit as good. Too bad I forgot to photograph it before we ate it…

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Once the gazpacho was chilling, I decided I was in the mood for some fried okra. We are growing a really neat variety this year called Big Buck, a German Heirloom. It is really prolific and produces large, FAT fluted pods. It can be a little off-putting since it looks so big compared to “regular” okra.  However, this variety stays tender, even at the larger sizes.  Plus, when you slice it, it makes really pretty star shapes, which is beside the point when you are frying it, since the batter obscures the pretty stars…but it WAS tender and incredibly tasty.  Our okra crop isn’t really big enough to supply everyone with more than maybe a share, if that, but we do have some to sell. And, if you see it in the swap box, GRAB IT.

The final thing I figured I needed was some aioli, or mayonnaise. This recipe is a perfect use of your Happy Hen eggs—the fresher the egg, the better the mayo. This stuff is great. And mildly addictive. I added a handful (or two) of basil to the basic recipe and ended up with not only a dip for my fried okra, but a spread for the next day’s BLTs with heirloom tomatoes… Seriously, this stuff bears no resemblance at all to Hellmann’s, and it is ridiculously simple with this food processor recipe from Mark Bittman—all you need is an egg, some olive oil, a little lemon juice, then whatever flavorings you can dream up.

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Purslane…Weed or Wonderful?

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), is a low growing succulent with a lemony flavor and somewhat crunchy texture when eaten raw. Both the stems and leaves are edible. It is similar to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. Because of its high level of pectin, purslane can be used to thicken soups and stews (similar to how okra is used).

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Purslane may be a common plant (aka, weed) but it is incredibly good for you. It is high in vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Purslane provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. (from Mother Earth News)

Pretty good for something you are likely to find growing right in your own yard or garden! As always, when eating foraged foods, use only what hasn’t been sprayed and that you know hasn’t been exposed to any harmful chemicals.

 

To learn more, check out the following links:

Mother Earth News–Power Packed Purslane

The Pleasant Crunch of Purslane–New York Times

http://www.prairielandcsa.org/recipes/purslane.html

Grilling vegetables…

I have been at the beach for a week, so am feeling a little out of touch. I received an update from Huffington Post Taste today, with an article on grilling vegetables. Gone are the days of a grilled portobello on a bun as the only vegetarian option at a BBQ (though I should point out, many of these should satisfy the meat eaters in the group too)! I am just going to include the link to this article, because there are way too many delicious recipes for me to list here. I cannot wait to get my share this week and start testing some of these out. Here are just a few of my favorites:

 

New Recipes!

I realize I am falling behind in my posts. My excuse is that I have been farming. The weather, and the barrage of insect pests, has been crazy this summer! Things seem to be settling down somewhat, so I am hoping to find more time for the fun stuff—finding recipes and making samples for pickup days!

Today we harvested our first (ever), experimental celery crop. We learned a couple of things, and will apply these lessons when we grow it next year. While this celery does have good flavor, the texture is a little tough. This isn’t so much a crudité type of celery, but a gumbo, potato salad or soup celery.  It would definitely benefit from some cooking or spending some time in a marinade or dressing.  The leaves are also very flavorful and can be chopped and used in egg or tuna salad, or used as a garnish for a bloody Mary.  Or frozen and added to heartier soups this Fall.

Anyway, as I said, it was an experiment. One of the benefits of joining a CSA is that you often get to experiment right along with us. So please give us your feedback!

 

Summer is here!

early am at farmWe are slowly transitioning into summer here at the farm, and your shares are starting to reflect this. Today, July 9, marks the last day of lettuce until the fall.  Our Pick-Your-Own (PYO) Peas are also just about done. No more garlic scapes or pea tendrils either. But, this just opens the door for lots of other delicious things!

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are still a few weeks off. But in the meantime, we have lots of zucchini and yellow squash, the ever prolific Swiss Chard, beans (green and yellow!), carrots and beets.  Potatoes and hopefully some corn will soon be joining your shares as well.

flash floodWe had just finished planting our PYO herbs and flowers right before that horrific downpour two weeks ago. We received almost 4″ of rain in about an hour here at the farm. Part of our field with the PYO stuff washed away (in addition to chunks of both driveways). What didn’t wash away is coming along, but that deluge set it back just a bit. (Notice the “stream” in the left hand side of the picture. That usually isn’t there.)

trransplant squash 2We are largely finished with our planting for the spring season–the last to go in was our winter squash—pumpkins, acorn squash etc. We got to use our handy dandy transplanting tool on the tractor, which made our job of planting hundreds of squash much easier…plus it was kind of fun to ride it…

Your shares this week will definitely include beets, Swiss Chard, zucchini and green beans, so here are some recipes to help you use all of those:

What do I do with that?

Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers Markets

One thing we do here at the farm is talk about food and how to cook it. A lot. We want to share this with you as much as possible to help you enjoy what you get each week, otherwise, what is the point of getting all this fresh produce? We realize that not everything in your share box may be familiar to you, but that is all part of the CSA adventure! Each week we try to make sure we have recipes available when you pick up your share, especially for some of the more challenging items, such as kohlrabi, pea tendrils, or Swiss Chard. We find these things to be quite delicious and hope that you will give them a try! Most weeks, I will have a set of recipes that you can take with you. I also will be posting these recipes weekly in our blog, in case you didn’t pick any up.

Many share members have been asking where we find our recipes. I (Kate) subscribe to several food blogs that always provide me with great ideas. Two of my favorites are Alexandra’s Kitchen and Smitten Kitchen. The photographs on both blogs are beautiful and will, at the very least, make you hungry, but will hopefully inspire you to try something new.  A couple of other great sites are  My Recipes (all skill levels, with lots of quick and easy recipes) or Epicurious, for the more experienced cook. Or, when in doubt, just Google it! If you are looking online, checking out the reviews of a recipe can really help weed out some poor choices, or give you ideas on how to tweak something. For instance, last night I was debating what to do with my Swiss Chard stems (which is new for me) and came across this recipe:

The photo is beautiful, so I had to try it. Several reviewers commented however that the brine was too sweet, so I greatly reduced the amount of sugar. I am awaiting the results, but as these are sitting in the cooler at the farm, I am sure there will be some sampling involved in the pickup tomorrow night…If my revised recipe is good, I will include it here.

A unique cookbook organized by plant part to help fresh food lovers make the most of their seasonal shares and purchases.

No one likes to waste food, and I know it can be disheartening to get your share and not know what to do with any of it. Even experienced cooks sometimes have no idea what to do with piles of produce ALL AT ONCE, or need inspiration. Do yourself a favor, and get a good cookbook or two. Check out a few out from library and give them a test run before committing to anything. Some of my favorite cookbook authors are Deborah Madison, Molly Katzen, Mark Bittman and Alice Waters. ALL of these people work miracles with vegetables, but Deborah Madison is one of the best. In fact, check out her book Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’ Markets. Two other produce-centric cookbooks recommended by Local Harvest are From Asparagus to Zucchini, and Farm-Fresh and Fast. These focus on tasty ways to eat deliciously, healthfully and seasonally. Having great recipes at your fingertips takes a lot of the fear out of the unknown. Try something new this week!

Here are the recipes for the shares during the week of June 23rd: