Sunday, July 12, 2015

CSA offerings: week 7

 When High Mowing Organic Seeds advertised the Silver Slicer cucumber as tasty and attractive, they did it a disservice. They should have also mentioned its Olympic-level production! In two days  last week I harvested more than 150 cucumbers from just 44 plants. That's almost two full-sized cukes per plant per day! It's a bit overwhelming, but I tip my hat to this hard-working plant. In celebration, here are a few ideas of things you can do with cucumbers, beyond the traditional green salad:
  • Juice them
  • Put a few slices in your drinking water. They impart a subtle essence to the water, and somehow make it taste extra-hydrating.
  • Cucumbers salads are a great side-dish for warm days. When I was a kid, my mom would make the simplest cucumber salad by tossing peeled cucumber slices with cider vinegar and a little salt. If you want to get a bit more exotic with it, try this Thai Cucumber Salad.
  • Quick pickles are always fun and tasty. With larger slicing cucumbers like these, slicing them cross-wise in rounds, either peeled or not, is a good way to go. Here's a recipe that adds some thinly sliced carrots to the mix too. (And don't be afraid to substitute any kind of onion for the shallots!)

OK, enough about cucumbers...for now. We also have a few exciting new things coming on this week. To sum up:

Green beans! I love this French filet variety called Maxibel, because the beans stay slender, tender, and sweet for several days on the plants. And let's face it: who has time to pick green beans every other day?!
Dragon Tongue mustards. The name alone makes me love them! These beautiful green and purple mustards are my favorite new find of the year so far. Like a mix between mustard greens and bok choi, you can use them like either: raw or sauteed, stir-fried or tossed in a salad. They would also work well in Delinda's Kermit Soup (recipe below).

Red Tropea onions. We're moving on to a new type of onion this week, a pretty red torpedo-type onion named for the town in Italy where they originated. For as long as the tops look good, I'll keep offering them as a spring onion, with greens attached. Treat the tops like scallions and you get two items for the price of one!

This week's recipe from Delinda riffs off of the holey greens I offered last week, but feel free to substitute any cooking greens you like. As the days cool to the 70s and the are nights even cooler, soup comes back to the forefront as an easy, delicious, and nutritious meal. And make sure to check out her instructions for making your own vegetables stock, at the bottom of the recipe! I love the trick of storing vegetable scraps in your freezer then making a bunch of stock at once. It helps ensure you never have to be without a good soup base!

Kermit Soup
(from shareholder Delinda Free)

It ain't easy being greens...things love to eat them, including cucumber beetles!  But, though not perfect looking, holey greens are still delicious, so put them in the blender and nobody will even know that something got there before you!  Homemade vegetable stock is a great way to use the ends and trimmings of all your fresh vegetables, and it adds richness and complexity to simple soups.  This recipe is designed to be experimental, so go ahead and clean out your fridge.  Use anything you've got, and you'll never have the same soup twice.

For the soup:
2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ghee, or butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 large or 3 medium carrots (about 1 cup), chopped
2 large or 3 medium sticks celery (about 1 cup), chopped
1 large leek, chopped fine (only use the white and light green parts, and save the rest for the next batch of stock)
2-4 cloves garlic
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large or 2 small bunches chard, chopped coarsely
1 small or 1/2 large bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped coarsely
1 bunch fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro or dill, chopped
2 quarts fresh vegetable stock (see below), or prepared organic vegetable stock
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
Cayenne to taste
In a gallon pot, heat oil on medium low.  Sauté onion, carrots, and celery for 3 minutes.  Add leeks and garlic, and stir.  Place cover on pan, and sweat the leeks for 5 minutes, then remove cover, and stir until onions and leeks are tender.  Add stock, potatoes, kale, chard, and herbs, and turn up heat.  Bring to a simmer and let cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Add salt and cayenne.  Turn off heat, and let soup cool to warm, then blend in batches in a high-speed blender.  If a creamy consistency is desired, blend all soup on high.  If a slightly chunky texture is desired, blend half the soup on high, and half the soup on low and combine.  Adjust seasonings and return to pot.  Soup may be reheated and served warm, or chilled and served cold.  Makes about 3-4 quarts.

To serve soup:
Certain condiments can be used to enhance the flavor profile of the specific herbs you used.
Dill goes well with a squeeze of lemon and creme fraiche.
Cilantro would be great with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cayenne, or a garnish of chopped kimchee and sriracha sauce.
Parsley would be delicious with a few tablespoons of half and half stirred in, and croutons sprinkled on top.
Experiment with your favorite flavors!

Making vegetable stock:
A great way to save trimmings, peelings, ends, and leaves is in the freezer.  Keep a large plastic container in your freezer, and when you cook, just add the new veggie parts that you won't be using into the container, until you have enough for a batch of stock.  Any vegetables will do, but remember that some strong-flavored vegetables, like celery, fennel, onions, beets, and herbs, should be used sparingly so that they don't hijack the flavor.  Also, beets will turn the stock purple.  Tomatoes can be used in a base for tomato or rustic soups, but should be omitted for cream or clear soups.

1 gallon vegetable trimmings
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
Any fresh herbs you like (parsley, oregano, and thyme are my favorites)
Salt
Water
Optional:
1/2 cup lentils
One or two anchovies
2 tablespoons miso
Dried chilies

Place all ingredients in a 2 gallon stock pot, fill with water and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 1-3 hours, topping up with water as needed.  Strain and use or freeze.

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