Sunday, July 19, 2015

CSA offerings: week 8

BASIL! Nothing is more evocative of summer than basil. Because I like to make and freeze pesto every year, I have often had the mid-winter pleasure of being returned to the warm days of summer just because I stirred some pesto into a steaming pot of pasta. That sensation never gets old! Well, I'm still filling orders for people who bought my pesto packages last spring, but the plants are growing fast, so I wanted to share a little bit with you too.

Delinda really outdid herself this week with a fantastic recipe for Baked Polenta Cakes with Summer Vegetable Ragout. It makes good use of the basil, along with other herbs and vegetables from your share. (Not to mention butter and cheese, which in my opinion makes every meal better. But you could leave those out and substitute olive oil if you don't agree.) Scroll to the bottom of this email for the recipe!
And finally, maybe it's the cooler weather of the past week that knocked back to cucumber beetles or boosted the kale. Or maybe the plants are just finally hitting their stride. In any case, some new leaves are growing that are not completely decimated by beetles, so I wanted to take the opportunity to offer small bunches of kale, in case the reprieve is brief. Also, mustard greens are on their way out in this return of hot weather, but I'll offer small bunches for one more week.

Baked Polenta Cakes with Summer Vegetable Ragout
recipe from shareholder Delinda Free

These little cakes can be served as finger food, or served with a salad or steamed greens for a lovely light summer dinner.  They make a great party option, because both the polenta and ragout can be made the day before and assembled before the party.  Leftover polenta “muffins” can also be topped with stews or pasta sauce for a delicious quick meal.  Commercial prepared polenta can be used if speed is necessary, but I prefer the texture and taste of fresh polenta.

Polenta Cakes
3 cups water
1 cup dried polenta (Bob’s Red Mill is great)
½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (optional)

Bring water to a boil with salt.  Slowly add polenta, while stirring.  Turn heat to low and cook, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for about 30 minutes, until it is thick.  Add butter and stir.  Then fold in parmesan.  Polenta will be similar to a soft dough.  Spoon into muffin pans, smooth off top with the back of a knife.  Polenta may be used after setting for at least 20 minutes, or cool in the pan in refrigerator overnight.  When ready for use, scoop polenta out of muffin tin with a wet butter knife.  Makes 8 “muffins”.

Summer Vegetable Ragout
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 spring onion, diced fine
1 sm-med carrot, ¼” dice
1 sm-med zucchini, ¼- ½” dice
1 patty pan squash, ¼- ½” dice
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 sprig parsley
4 leaves basil
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano
½ teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper to taste

Heat pan on low with olive oil, then add onion, and cook on low till golden.  Add diced carrots, and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes.  Then bring heat to medium and add zucchini and patty pan squash.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, herbs, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated, and mixture is saucy.

Preparing the polenta cakes:
Heat oven to 350°.  With a sharp knife, cut each polenta “muffin” into 3-4 rounds lengthwise, about ¼ - ½” thick.  On a baking sheet, arrange polenta cakes closely.  Sprinkle each round with parmesan.  Spoon a tablespoon of ragout on top of each cake.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Garnish with minced basil if desired. 

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