Sunday, August 23, 2015

CSA offerings: week 13

 OK, I have to admit: your hunger for cucumbers seems insatiable! And I'm so glad, because we are having a GREAT cucumber year. Maybe you already have your favorite uses all figured out, but I thought I'd include this link to Katherine Deumling's awesome blog, Cook With What You Have, because just this week she posted a super-simple quick pickle you can make with those slicing cucumbers, and then use on all kinds of things. I may even summon up some of my latent cooking energy (which, sadly, wanes as the harvest grows bigger) to make some of these myself.

Heirloom tomatoes are also brimming with that good old-fashioned sunshine-ripened goodness. The harvests have increased since I set a bunch of traps to catch the tomato-loving rodents. It's not a part of my job that I relish, but when they're eating 75% of the ripe fruit (no exaggeration!) something has to be done. So maybe it's a good time to go over the basics of tomato ripeness and storage. With all these funny-looking heirlooms running around in all shapes and colors, it can be hard to tell when they're ready to eat. Basically, you just have to give the fruit a gentle squeeze. If it has some give, then it's a go! If it's still firm, let it sit on your counter for a day (or several). To preserve that good tomato flavor, never put them in the fridge. Tomatoes are tropical fruits, and the cold will make them insipid. (And by the way, if your tomato feels like a water balloon, it's past its prime.)

Italian sweet peppers are ripening, and I am psyched. This is my all-time favorite variety, called Carmen. It's thin-walled and really sweet. When I grew it in my garden, they sometimes didn't even make it into the kitchen; I'd just eat them on the spot. Now I'm saving them for you. But since they ripen slowly, I'll be rotating the offering among the pickup sites.

Lettuce seems to be hanging in for one more week, as is basil, but last week I saw the first signs of downy mildew on a few basil leaves, so its time with us might be short. Enjoy it while you can! One item in shorter supply these days (if you can believe it) is summer squash. We'll keep having it for a while, I hope, but I'll need to start rotating that among pickup sites too, to make sure you get enough if you do choose it.

We're going to take a break from the Chioggia beets for the week and get into some golden beets that have been sizing up a few beds to the south. I've never had much luck with golden beets: the germination rate is bad, they don't grow quickly, they never get very big. This variety, Boldor, is a new one to me, but so far it seems like a winner. And it won't make a mess of your hands, clothes or cutting board!

 Delinda whipped up two delicious seasonal recipes for you to try this week with your produce. Although you might not be getting eggplant this week (I've been rotating it among pickup sites, based on availability), you'll be able to get it again soon, and her caponata would be a great way to use it when you have it. And I, for one, am grateful for creative new ideas for summer squash! They're printed at the bottom of this post.

And finally I'll leave you with a few parting shots from the farm this morning.
egg sac left in the summer squash by Sam, the black and yellow garden spider
another fiery sun rising over the farm
Savory Summer Squash Stew
from shareholder Delinda Free

1-2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 onion
1-2 carrots
1-2 stalks celery
2 small zucchini
2 patty pan squash
1 lg tomato
1 small bunch kale or other greens
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch basil
1 sprig fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried oregano
1 sprig thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Better-than-bouillon chicken stock concentrate
1 can white beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Medium dice the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté in oil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop zucchini, squash, tomato coarsely, add to pot and stir for 5 minutes. Add stock and bouillon concentrate. Add coarsely chopped parsley, kale, and finely chopped fresh herbs. Finally add beans and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, until squash is completely soft and flavors have blended.
Serves 6.

Tangy Caponata
from shareholder Delinda Free

I recently had some caponata made from a traditional recipe. It was delicious, but sweeter than my tastebuds are used to, so I've adapted the traditional recipe to a less sweet and lower-glycemic version with coconut sugar. Caponata is meant to be eaten with bread or bruschetta, but I also found it delicious scooped onto large slices of cucumber.

1 large eggplant, roasted
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 red peppers, diced
Salt to taste
1 lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped, or 1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/2 cup green olives, pits in or pitted
2-3 tablespoons coconut sugar
3-4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Ground pepper to taste

Roast the eggplant, set aside to cool, and when cool, chop coarsely. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat, and add the onion, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, then add the peppers. Cook, stirring frequently, until the peppers are soft, then add the eggplant, and a bit of salt. You may need to add a bit more oil to keep the eggplant from sticking. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring gently. Add the tomatoes and a bit more salt. Cook, stirring thoroughly for a few minutes until the tomatoes are cooked, making sure that they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the capers, olives, vinegar and sugar. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft, and the sauce is thick and fragrant. The sauce may not thicken as quickly with the coconut sugar as it does with regular sugar, so keep cooking slowly to reduce the liquid until it becomes a thick sauce, but not dry. Remove from heat and season with fresh ground pepper, and more salt if necessary. Cover, and cool to room temperature. Sauce will thicken and flavors will ripen overnight in the refrigerator, so this dish is better made in advance. Caponata should be served at room temperature.

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