Week 14: July 31, 2013

In this week’s box:

1 dozen eggs

28 ears of corn

1 flat of peaches

2 half pints raspberries

2 half pints blackberries

1 bag of heirloom tomatoes

1 pepper

1 eggplant

1 pick your own bouquet of sunflowers

3 seedless watermelons

Emily’s notes:

We really are in the peak of summer, when the vegetables are so good and require so little in the way of cooking.  A favorite side salad of mine these days involves popping an ear or two of corn in the microwave for 2:15 (4 minutes for two), removing the kernels from the cob and then adding some chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve aside scrambled eggs or grilled meat for a simple summer supper.

And don’t relegate fruit to desserts and breakfasts. A simple bowl of berries and chopped peaches would taste great next to a char-grilled chicken breast. Maybe add a few slices of tomato on the side. See? Nothing fancy going on in my kitchen these days. With peak produce like this, there’s no need to let cooking get in the way of setting up the backyard sprinkler or kiddie pool and watching the little ones go wild.

What to do with eggplant? The beauty of eggplant is its ability to transform from its raw state, which can resemble the texture of a pool noodle, to its cooked state of creamy, custardy goodness. I was recently inspired by this post on Alexandra’s Kitchen, a local blog profiled in The Free Lance-Star. I did not follow her recipe exactly, but I did throw the whole eggplant on the grill for about 25 minutes total, let it cool a bit, peeled it and let the water drain out in a colander for about 10 minutes. I roughly chopped the cooked eggplant and added about a quarter-cup of chopped basil, a tablespoon of tahini, the juice of one lemon, one chopped garlic clove and salt and pepper. I meant to add olive oil, but it never happened, and I didn’t miss it. I beat this mixture up with a wooden spoon until all the flavors had melded. It was great atop fresh-made homemade pizza the first night. The second night I used it as a dipper for cheese-and-corn quesadillas. I highly recommend throwing your whole eggplant on the grill, burning its skin and then using the cooked inside with whatever flavorings your heart desires. Even just simple olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper wouldn’t be bad.

Peaches need to be eaten at their peak ripeness, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to get through yours before they start to spoil, take the time to freeze some sliced peaches for later. Last year, I used the method outlined in this tutorial from Better Homes and Gardens with great success.

Peaches and blackberries pair beautifully in baked dishes. Nearly everyone has their favorite cobbler, clafoutis or pie recipe, but on busy weeknights, I almost always go for a crisp recipe that’s easy to throw together at the last minute. You can use this with just about any fruit, fresh or frozen. This is a relatively healthy dessert, so if it ends up being the only thing your kids eat for dinner one night, you don’t have to kick yourself too hard…

Peach and blackberry crisp

Serves 4

3 peaches, peeled and sliced

4 to 6 large blackberries

cooking spray

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

half stick of unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

pinch salt (omit salt if you use salted butter)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, chopped (optional)

Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Place fruit in baking dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place flour, butter, sugar, oats, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Work this mixture with your (clean) fingers until it attains the texture of coarse wet sand. This has the added benefit of exfoliating your hands. If using nuts, mix them in lightly after the rest of the ingredients are already incorporated. Gently place this mixture over the berries. Bake 45 minutes to an hour (closer to an hour if you’re using frozen fruit), until fruit bubbles and the topping is slightly browned. If you use really ripe fruit, it will need no adornment, but if it’s less than peak, try tossing the fruit with a bit of honey and cornstarch before placing it in the baking dish to help the juices and flavors come out. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

 

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CSA value: Early birds break even!

This week’s mega-box of summer goodies has a retail value of $77. That puts the total value of goods distributed so far during the CSA season at $699. So if you signed up early at the discount price of $693, you’ve already broken even on your investment, and can enjoy the eight remaining pickups this season (including your Christmas trees and double fall pickup) as a delicious return on your decision to eat local this year.

 

Week 13: July 24, 2013

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

1 quart of okra

1 eggplant

1 pepper

2 watermelons

1 heirloom cantaloupe

3 quarts of peaches

4 pints of grape tomatoes

1 bushel of corn

2 containers of berries

1 bag of italian peppers

Emily’s notes:

Is there a produce item that says “summer” more than watermelon? Since it’s July in Virginia, I’m craving something icy cold these days, and when I saw the watermelons show up on this week’s list I immediately started thinking about watermelon granita. All granita is is liquefied fruit and other optional flavorings that are frozen. Every few hours during the freezing process, you scrape a little bit of the ice crystals to loosen them so that the final product is the consistency of a snow cone. But it’s fruit. So it’s good for you. I’m going to send you to this post by the Pioneer Woman for a well-photographed tutorial on granitas. But don’t limit yourself to the recipe. Swap the sugar for honey if you like. Add some mint. Cantaloupe and peaches could be added to the blender to make a mixed-fruit granita. Go wild!

You have plenty of corn to experiment with this week, so here are a few ideas that go beyond the everyday:

Sweet corn ice cream from Cooking Light

Savory corn cobbler from Real Simple

Blueberry and corn clafoutis from Marcus Samuelsson (You could swap out the blueberries for the berries in your box this week.)

Summer Succotash from Smitten Kitchen (This recipe will also use some of your grape tomatoes.)

Remember that corn is easy to freeze. You can freeze whole ears with or without the husks, or you can remove the kernels from the cob and bag them. I do not think it’s necessary to blanch the corn before you cut it from the cob to freeze it. I froze some using both methods last year and found I liked the un-blanched corn much better when it came out of the freezer.

Okra is a Southern favorite, but some folks just aren’t that into it. I thought I was one of those folks until I got okra in last year’s CSA share. My favorite way to cook it is to stew it in tomatoes using this recipe from the New York Times. Another technique: Simply toss the okra with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes. Really, there aren’t too many vegetables that don’t respond well to this technique (Peel and cube your eggplant and add garlic and lemon juice to the olive oil toss. Roast at 400 degrees until soft and slightly charred, and you’ve got a flavorful salad topper.).

Speaking of eggplant, it’s great on the grill. In fact, looking at this list, I think you could throw together a visually pleasing and appetizing grilled side or main dish by placing grape tomatoes and 1-inch chunks of  pepper and eggplant on skewers. Marinate these in salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice (add garlic, crushed red pepper flakes or other seasonings as desired). Grill until the eggplant has softened. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a few peach chunks to these.

Italian peppers are a sweet pepper variety that’s great for frying, grilling or oven-roasting. If you roast or grill them, then stick them in a paper bag to steam, you will be able to remove the skins, then slice them into thin slivers to enjoy on sandwiches, salads or all by themselves with olive oil, salt and pepper as a side dish. You can also stuff them. One recipe I have my eye on for this week is this one for sausage-stuffed Italian peppers. I’ll probably modify it quite a bit to leave out expensive ingredients like pine nuts (almonds would probably work) and spinach (I’m going to use chard from my garden, but this could be omitted.).

Sliced or chunked eggplant and pepper can be seasoned, grilled and then stored in the fridge for a few days. If I’m cooking meat on the grill on a Sunday, I like to grill extra vegetables to use later in the week. Their smoky flavor is a great addition to sandwiches, quesadillas, salads and pizzas.

Which reminds me, this week’s box has so many great pizza toppings. Corn, tomatoes, pepper, eggplant (Grill or roast it first.) and peaches (Great with barbecue sauce and chicken on pizza.) are all great examples. And making the dough is a lot easier than you probably think. Below is a recipe used once a week or more in my house. It requires no equipment fancier than a bowl and a wooden spoon. I have replaced up to half the flour with whole wheat or white whole wheat flour with good results. This can be a crowd-pleasing way to serve a lot of vegetables at the dinner table.

Weeknight pizza dough (adapted from Jim Lahey)

Serves four generously

1 1/3 cup hot tap water

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry or rapid rise yeast (I have used both, with results that didn’t differ much)

3/4 teaspoon sugar

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Method:

In a small mixing bowl (preferably one with a spout), combine the yeast and the sugar. Pour the hot tap water over this mixture and whisk briefly. If your yeast is good, a foam head will develop on this mixture as you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

In a really large mixing bowl, combine flours, wheat germ, salt and herbs (if using). Pour in olive oil, then give your yeast slurry one last whisk and pour it over the flours. Give this mixture a few good turns with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula, then get your (clean) hands in there and get everything good and incorporated, kneading the dough lightly for about 30 seconds once everything is mixed.

Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and leave at room temperature for at least two hours, but it will be fine if you leave it for much longer.

At least 30 minutes before you want to make the pizza, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. At the same time, turn out the dough onto a floured surface and cut it in half. Shape each half into a ball and let sit under a dish towel on the floured surface until the oven has pre-heated and you’ve assembled your toppings. Cover a standard baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush with olive oil or spray with cooking spray.

When the oven is ready, gently shape one of the dough balls with your hands or a rolling pin until it fits in the prepared baking sheet. If you are only making one pizza, you can place the leftover dough in an oiled zip-top bag and freeze it, or refrigerate it if you plan to use it within the next three days.

Top your pizza as desired and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then dinner’s ready.

One last quick note: as of last week, the total retail value of produce distributed this year was $612. We’re still researching retail value for this week’s box.

Week 12: July 17, 2013

In this week’s box:

2 bags of tomatoes

14 ears of corn

2 bulbs of garlic

1/2 dozen eggs

2 quarts of peaches

4 green peppers

Emily’s notes:

I must confess that I’ve gotten a bit lazy with my meal-planning regimen this summer. Thankfully, every time I’ve gotten to 3 p.m. and realized I don’t have a dinner plan, I’ve had a pantry full of beautiful produce and eggs from Snead’s Farm to make my job easy. Simple suppers of scrambled eggs alongside some very simple preparations of my CSA vegetables have been a hit in our house this summer. Here are a few ideas inspired by this week’s box that could save you on a summer afternoon when you find yourself rushing at top speed toward dinnertime without a plan.

Quesadillas – Slice one bell pepper and remove the kernels from 1 ear of corn. In a large, heavy pan (I highly recommend a cast-iron skillet), heat a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil over high heat. Add one minced clove of garlic. Stir for 20 to 30 seconds, then add the vegetables. When vegetables are heated through and you have a bit of browning on your pepper slices, remove mixture to a plate. In the same skillet, adjust the heat down to medium, add a little more oil and place two burrito-sized flour tortillas on the skillet so that their midlines meet and half of each tortilla is touching the cooking surface. You should be able to flap the other two halves back and forth together, sort of like a tongue, as you fill each tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese, half the vegetable mixture and a sprinkling of chili powder, cumin or your favorite Southwest seasoning. fold each tortilla over and allow to cook 3 to 5 minutes, until cheese starts to melt and bottom of tortilla browns and crisps a bit. Carefully flip each tortilla and cook until browned on the other side. Serve with a simple salad of chopped tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper. I might also add the kernels from another ear of corn to the salad.

Spanish salad – I call it this because my host mother made a variation on this when I was studying in Sevilla, Spain. It’s easy and refreshing on a hot night. Dice 2 to 4 tomatoes. Remove kernels from 2 to 3 ears of corn. Dice 1 to 2 bell peppers (Quantities depend on how many people you’re serving and how big your vegetables are. I usually get a feel for exactly how much to chop while I’m chopping). A diced cucumber is also nice in here if you have one, as is a red onion. Finely mince one clove of garlic if you can handle it raw. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and squeeze of lemon juice. Spoon salad into bowls and top each bowl with one sliced cold hard-boiled egg. Serve with toast or wheat crackers.

Corn and peach salad – Cook 3 ears of corn using your preferred method. Cut 2 peaches into half-inch pieces. Combine corn kernels and chopped peaches. Add the juice of one lime, a quarter-cup of chopped cilantro or basil, salt to taste and chopped red onion if you have it. Hot peppers would be nice with this, or you could small dice some of the green peppers and add them. Serve with cooked eggs or other protein.

Here are a few other recipes from around the Web that require a little bit more grocery shopping but would also be great with this week’s box:

Simply Recipes’ Tomato Pie – I make this recipe several times every summer. This year, I’m thinking of adding some corn kernels to the tomatoes.

Cooking Light’s Roasted Corn, Pepper and Tomato Chowder

Week 11: July 10, 2013

In this week’s box:

1 dozen eggs

2 large bags of tomatoes

14 ears of corn

2 quarts of peaches

3 pounds of string beans

1 1/2 pound bag red potatoes

1 1/2 pound bag of yukon gold potatoes

2 eggplant

1 bag sweet peppers

Emily’s notes:

I’m going to start off with some fresh ideas for green beans (Although I can’t seem to stop myself from making this recipe for Green Beans and New Potatoes over and over and over again. It’s simple and fantastic.).

This recipe for a weeknight-friendly version of Eggs Benedict looks promising. I’m all for dinners that come 100 percent from the CSA box, so I might swap out the polenta for some grilled or breaded and fried eggplant rounds.

This recipe offers a nice, simple green-bean-and-goat-cheese salad that delivers a different flavor profile than the green bean dishes we’ve been eating in my house lately.

– Green beans are one element of the French salade niçoise. A lot of the other elements are also in this week’s box (Use this recipe as a rough guide, but I always encourage improvisation.). If you can prep your ingredients (boiled potatoes, blanched beans, hard-boiled eggs) ahead of time, the salad will come together without too much fuss at mealtime. Tuna is traditional, but I’m thinking of doing this with a can of salmon that’s been in my pantry for a while.

Just looking at this list, I think a tomato, corn, sweet pepper and peach salsa would be fantastic, especially spooned over grilled chicken. I would probably just toss diced tomatoes, peppers and peaches with corn, olive oil, salt, pepper and perhaps a little basil or cilantro. I don’t think I’d want citrus competing with the peaches.

Speaking of peaches, last year I threw some peach slices into a leftover pesto pasta salad and discovered that peaches and pesto are an amazing combination. I would consider tossing short pasta, chopped tomatoes, roasted or grilled corn and/or eggplant and some nice fresh peach chunks with a pesto sauce for a really summery dish that’s a different take on your usual pasta salad.

If you can get your hands on some good summer squash (not a tall order this time of year), you will have the makings with this box of the traditional French dish ratatouille. There are many strong opinions on how to make this dish, but one that is particularly friendly to this week’s CSA box is in Alice Waters’ book, “The Art of Simple Food,” a great reference for any CSA cook. That recipe is reproduced with adaptations here. This dish is great topped with a fried egg.

 

Week 10: July 3, 2013

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

1 1/2 pints of raspberries

3 lb bags new potatoes

3 lbs of green beans

14 ears of corn

2 bunches of basil

1 bag of tomatoes

Emily’s notes:

With July 4 this week, many of you may be heading to pot luck suppers or cooking for crowds. Your green beans, corn and basil would go nicely in this recipe for Green Bean Salad with Corn and Olives, which would be great at a pot luck.

This box also supplies you nicely for this recipe for herb buttered potatoes with corn. I think you could sub in your basil for the thyme and parsley used in this recipe and it would be more summery.

Earlier this year, we made pancakes out of our turnips and potatoes. I think you could do the same with potatoes and corn and it would turn out nicely. I don’t use a recipe for this, but here’s the method: Grate however many potatoes you want to use. Slice the kernels off of the ears of corn you want to use. Mix these together, then add about 1/4 cup flour (or less) per two cups of vegetables, along with salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne or any other desired seasonings to taste. Add about one beaten egg for every 1/4 cup flour. If the batter seems too wet, add more flour. If it seems too dry, add another egg. You want a consistency that feels like slightly runny raw hamburger patties (doesn’t that sound yummy…) when you form it into pancakes (which I recommend doing with your hands). Drop the cakes into about 1/8 inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a wide skillet (hard to beat cast iron here). Cook until golden brown on each side. I would sprinkle the finished cakes with finely chopped basil and serve with sour cream. These are filling, so you don’t necessarily need meat with them.

Basil is a summer addiction of mine, and I feel sad when I see it go limp after it’s been sitting around too long. So I think I’ll be whipping up a batch of pesto as soon as I can after bringing this batch home. It’s been ages since I used a recipe for this, but this recipe from Ina Garten offers a pretty good guide (There is no need to be exact here with the quantities. I usually like to add the juice of one lemon to my pestos, and I never use pine nuts–too expensive. Walnuts or almonds are just fine.).

And finally, this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans seems to be made for this week’s CSA box. I have had really good luck with the recipes I’ve tried from this blogger, so it’s high on my list.

Happy Fourth!