Revisiting the Flavors of Summer

A frequent theme we hear during the summer is, “I love all this produce, but I don’t have time to cook it all!”

We feel your pain. This is one of the great ironies of being a farmer–you are surrounded by all this gorgeous, fresh, organic produce…and we have no time to cook it. I used to try to can my leftovers, but frankly, it was too much work. I still made some pickled carrots, okra and turnips this year, but that was about it. FREEZING produce is much more my style.

Many types of produce can be frozen with little or no prep. Some may need to be par-boiled or peeled first, but most things can just be slipped into a ziploc bag and be stored until you need it. Like now.

eggplant burthaI have been using my frozen green peppers (remember when we got TONS of those this summer?) in chili and gumbo. Over the weekend I found a bag of grilled eggplant I had tucked away. I had made baba ganoush with the last batch I found, so wanted to do something different. I found a recipe that we gave out to members this summer: Eggplant Burtha, from my friend Sujata. It is absolutely delicious!

Eggplant Burtha
Two large Italian eggplants
2 Tsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
One green chili, finely chopped
One clove of garlic minced
Two vine ripened tomatoes, chopped (I cheated and used 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes)
One tsp. ginger, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. chili pepper
1 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. salt
Finely chopped cilantro (plus a little extra for garnish)

Roast whole eggplants in the oven or on an outdoor grill. Let cool, then remove the skin. Mash with a potato masher.

Heat the oil in a medium size frying pan. Add cumin seeds. Once they are brown, add green chili and onions. Fry onions to golden brown (keep stirring so they don’t burn). Add garlic and tomato and fry for few more minutes to reduce the juices.

Add all other dry spices and fry for 2–3 minutes. Once the juices from the tomato have reduced, add mashed eggplant, salt and cilantro. Add minced ginger and cook everything for about five minutes on low heat or until all liquid has reduced. Garnish with extra cilantro.  Serve with steamed rice, roti, or naan.

What else is in that freezer?

Yesterday I unearthed a bag of frozen peaches. You may remember that our peaches were a little funny looking this summer–some were on the small side, some were freckled and weird looking. These were some of the sweetest most delicious peaches I have ever had though, and I didn’t want any to go to waste! My daughter has been enjoying them in smoothies all winter, but I wanted to try something else. So yesterday morning we had peach scones. What a treat on this brutally cold winter day!

chopped peaches

Work share member Meghan must have been thinking of warmer days as well. I saw a post from her on Facebook that she found a bag of frozen garlic scape pesto leftover from June. She and her family enjoyed garlic scape pesto pizza using pre-made naan from Wegman’s. How easy is that? garlic scape naan

I guess the lesson I am trying to impart today is, even if you don’t have the time or the interest to deal with your produce during its peak, try to set aside 10-15 minutes and save it. Not for a rainy day, but a miserably cold one like today–you will be very happy you did!

Grillin’

Guest blogger Bill Wedo offers his take on grilling vegetables.

to be grilledWhen your daughter is a vegan, your wife works at a CSA and your mother-in-law gives you a shiny new Weber, grilling vegetables is not just an option.

It’s your destiny.

Now, accepting your destiny is one thing, controlling it another. Great thing about grilling veggies is that with a little thought – and some EVOO – you can you give the people what they want (mostly) and still enjoy that IPA. Here’s how:

Know your audience. Not everyone enjoys okra or beets. Do some food preference polling over the pre-meal drinks. I have a relative who actually enjoys Korean Kim chi. (Hint: It’s not me)

Know your veggies. Some cook faster than others. Some need prep. Anyone who has had to secretly feed Blackened Pepper Krisps to the dog under the table gets this.

Know your grill. Even the most high-end stainless steel Food Network star is not a Viking convection built-in. There are hot spots waiting to burn the onions and grill slots aching to swallow a too-thinly sliced zucchini. Incidentally, if you are a control freak, order take-out.

grilledHere is a simple grilled veggie medley that you can adapt to whatever your happens to be in your share.

1. Prep. We always soften the beets and potatoes to equalize the cooking time with the other veggies. We also marinate for added flavor. And, there is flammable liquid to throw on the grill so we can enjoy the flare-ups. The cook has to have some fun, you know.

A simple and tasty marinade uses an olive oil base with soy and balsamic vinegar added to taste. If you have garlic or ginger, all the better. In fact, you should experiment. I once whisked in some Old Bay and it tasted great. Unless you are a Yoda/Mr. Miyagi Zen-type master of the tongs, slice veggies thickly and widely. Give yourself a fighting chance of not losing them through the grill surface spaces. Cooking time depends on the lid up or down. I start with it down to warm things up a bit before flipping and sliding. The food, I mean.

chopped2. Pay attention. The zukes and the squash cook much faster than the eggplant. Be ready to move them around from hot spot to not-so-hot spot. If you have to pile them on that little warming rack, go right ahead. It ain’t pretty but it works.

on the grill

3. Perhaps, the most difficult aspect of grilling. Be sure and get all the other knuckleheads to the table BEFORE you plate the food. Nothing worse than having to microwave because your diners are engrossed in Honey Boo Boo. I mean, Downton Abbey.

4. Enjoy.

ready to eat

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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