Week 18: August 28, 2013

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

1 flat of peaches

4 heads of garlic

1 pint of blackberries

2 pints of raspberries

4 eggplants

4 peppers

3 pounds of butter beans

*Optional Pick-your-own between 9am-12pm only*

2 pints of raspberries

1 quart of grapes

Total retail value of this week’s box: $100.50

Total retail value of goods distributed this year: $1,117

Emily’s notes:

It’s hard to believe this is the last pickup before October!

One possibility for your eggplants and peppers is a caponata. This is a Sicilian dish made of chopped cooked vegetables dressed with olives and capers. You can alter this recipe to suit your taste, but here’s the basic idea:

Eggplant and pepper caponata

2 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

juice of one lemon

one garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

handful pitted olives (kalamata would be nice) optional

juice of half a lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup feta cheese (optional)

Place the eggplant and peppers on a roasting tray. Sprinkle on oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until all vegetables are coated. Roast in a 450-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until vegetables are cooked and slightly browned.

When vegetables have cooled slightly, toss them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Just in case you have trouble getting though your berries before they begin to spoil, here is a recipe I adapted last week from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook. It’s a great way to get a little more mileage out of your berries, as these muffins will keep for about a week in the fridge, or you could freeze them for longer storage.

Summer Berry Muffins

Makes 18 muffins

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups whole wheat and 1 all-purpose)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk (substitute any mix of yogurt, sour cream and milk if you are running low on milk)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1 1/2 cups sugar

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Throw in the salt (if you use kosher salt it usually won’t go through a sieve). Stir this mixture lightly to ensure all the ingredients are mixed.

In another bowl, combine milk, eggs and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix by hand to incorporate but don’t overmix. This batter will have lumps.

Add berries and sugar and stir gently until combined.

Spoon into lined muffin cups and bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean (A cake tester in my house is a dry spaghetti noodle.).

If you’ve only ever had canned butter beans, you are in for a treat. The fresh version is much better! This post from the blog A Taste of Carolina has some helpful tips and recipes for cooking fresh butter beans. It also tells you how to freeze them to eat later in the year.

Enjoy this last boxful of summer. I’ll be back later for some tips on using fall vegetables!

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Week 17: Aug. 21, 2013

Concord grapes

Concord grapes

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

2 watermelons

1 flat of peaches

14 ears of corn

1 pint of blackberries

1 1/2 pints of raspberries

2 eggplants

2 peppers

3 lbs of string beans

*Optional*

Pick-your-own bonus available only between 9am – 12pm

2 pints of PYO raspberries

1 pint of PYO blackberries

1 quart of PYO grapes

Total retail value of this week’s box: $105.50

Total retail value of goods distributed this year: $1016.50

Emily’s notes:

What a feast of watermelon we have had this year! If you’re looking for a new way to serve it, try pairing it with corn in a salsa. Simply chop the watermelon into a small dice, add an ear or two’s worth of corn kernels (No need to cook them, but sometimes it makes it easier to cut them from the cob if you zap the unshucked ear in the microwave for a couple minutes.). Throw in chopped red onion, some minced jalapeno pepper if you have it, olive oil, lime juice and chopped cilantro, parsley or basil (My rule on herbs is to use whatever’s growing best.). Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. This would be great with some hearty blue corn tortilla chips, and would make a pleasingly colorful appetizer at a party.

Turn your peaches and blackberries into a quick and relatively healthy crisp for dessert. For this recipe, I would use two peaches and about a half dozen of these giant blackberries. It’s fairly forgiving, though, so adjust it as you see fit.

Peach and blackberry crisp

2 peaches, peeled and cut into 8 slices each

half-dozen (or so) of Snead’s giant blackberries

cooking spray

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour (All-purpose is fine, but I feel like I can pile on more ice cream if I use “healthy” whole-wheat.)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/8 cup chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)

Spray a 1.5-quart baking dish with cooking spray and arrange peaches and berries in dish.

Combine flour, sugar, oats, cinnamon, salt and butter in a medium mixing bowl. Use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until just about all of the dry ingredients feel coated with butter. Lightly mix in the nuts, if using. Spread this mixture over the fruit and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the top is browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Those grapes are something else. Such strong, true grape flavor. It’s hard to eat grocery store grapes after this. But they do have a lot of seeds. Last week I made freezer jam out of mine. It took about an hour, and I did it after the kids were in bed, but it was worth it. I have made a lot of freezer jams that haven’t jelled, but this one worked. I think that’s because grapes contain a lot of natural pectin. I have three jars in my freezer, but kept one in the fridge to eat right away. It was great on buttered toast and, of course, in peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. If I have time this week I’d like to take it to the next level by putting the jam between two layers of peanut butter shortbread crust and making PB&J bars. Like I said, if I had time. Here is the process I used to make jam out of my grapes. I highly recommend doing this, so that you can go enjoy a great big spoonfull of that glorious grape-y goodness without stopping to spit seeds.

Concord Grape Freezer Jam

Ingredients:

2 quarts Concord grapes, washed

3 8-oz canning jars made specifically for freezer use (I used Ball plastic freezer jars with green lids), plus one more container for the jam you will use right away and store in the fridge (This does not need to be canning-quality. I used a recycled glass jelly jar).

2 tablespoons instant pectin (I used Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin)

2/3 cup sugar

*You’ll also need a food processor, a medium saucepan, a medium mixing bowl and a fine sieve or strainer.

jamMethod:

Set up the counter so that you have your sauce pan and your food processor right next to each other.  Skin the grapes by holding them, one by one, with your fingers so that the stem end is pointing into the sauce pan. Squeeze so that the flesh and seed pop into the saucepan, then throw the skin in the food processor. This takes a while. Maybe put your setup in front of the TV so you can stay occupied.

Place the saucepan of grape flesh over medium heat until it starts to boil. Cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 1/3 cup of the sugar to the grape skins and whir them in the food processor until smooth. 

When you’re finished cooking the grape innards, place your sieve over your mixing bowl and pour in the hot grapes. Use a wooden spoon, a ladle or a potato masher to mash the grape pulp until most of the pulp and juice is in the bowl and you are left with just the seeds in the sieve (It is nearly impossible to separate all the flesh from the seeds, so don’t sweat it.).

Mix the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with the pectin in a small bowl. Add the strained grape pulp back into your sauce pan, along with the pureed grape skins and the sugar and pectin mixture. Place over medium heat and stir for about 3 minutes. 

Pour this mixture into your clean jars. Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top of the freezer jars to allow for expansion. This should fill the three freezer jars, plus leave a little extra to store in the fridge for immediate use. Let the jars sit uncovered on the counter for 30 minutes. The jam will seem very runny when you put it away, but after a night in the fridge it will thicken.

Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, freezer for up to a year.

Week 16: Aug. 14, 2013

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

1 ambrosia cantaloupe

3 watermelons

14 ears of corn

1/2 pint of blackberries

1 1/2 pints of raspberries

1 quart of okra

3 quarts of peaches and nectarines

1 quart of Concord grapes

1 bag of frying peppers

2 eggplants

5 large peppers

 

*Optional*

Pick your own between 9am-12pm only

1 pint of raspberries

1 quart of Concord grapes

 

Total retail value of this week’s box: $100.50

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this season: $911

 

Emily’s notes:

When you taste your Concord grapes, you’ll discover just how much more flavor grapes can have than the ones they sell at the grocery store. Concord grapes do have thicker skins than the grapes sold in the supermarket, and they have big seeds inside. So they’re not great for snacking for the little ones. The great thing is that they have a lot of natural pectin, so they will work well in jams and jellies (here is one recipe that does not use any added pectin).

Not into making jam? No problem, you’ll just have to make pie. To turn your grapes into a filling for a pie or cobbler, the first thing you’ll need to do is remove the skins. To do this, hold a single grape with your thumb and first two fingers, with the end where the stem was attached pointed toward a bowl. Squeeze until the flesh and seed pop out, and save the skins in a separate bowl. Once you’ve skinned your grapes, you’ll boil the pulp, strain it to remove the seeds and add this to the skins. You will typically add about a cup of sugar, and possibly lemon juice, tapioca or flour to help thicken the filling. A couple of recipes I liked are this one from Allrecipes.com and this one from SAVEUR. You’ll need to make adjustments based on just how much grape pulp your quantity of grapes yields. Then you can use the filling with your favorite pie or cobbler crust. A nice crumb topping would be good, too.

If you’re looking for a new way to eat your peaches and nectarines, try throwing them on the grill. Before you grill them, halve them and remove the pit. Make a mixture of vegetable oil and cinnamon if you want to eat them as dessert with ice cream, or olive oil, salt, pepper, basil and thyme if you’d like to make them a more savory side dish.

We’ve been happy to get so many raspberries lately. Remember that these are the most fragile berries, and need to be eaten, frozen or otherwise processed quickly. To freeze them, simply lay them out on a cookie sheet, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours, until the berries are frozen, and then transfer them to zip-top freezer bags. They’ll be great this winter in smoothies, muffins, pastries and other recipes.

Okra and corn are great companions. I like the looks of this recipe for pan-roasted corn and okra from Food & Wine, but I would skip the step of boiling the corn first. Corn just doesn’t need to be cooked that much. Of course, you can always fry your okra. Here is one recipe for doing that. The Beach Fries food truck that parks at the Fredericksburg Farmers Market has deep-fried corn on the cob on its menu. That’s certainly an option, but I’ve never gone there.

Frying peppers are a wide category that includes peppers that aren’t hot, but aren’t bell peppers. They have thin walls, so they don’t usually hold up to roasting, something I like to do with bell peppers. They are best for just what the name says–frying. Slice them up and saute in olive oil and garlic until they’re soft and caramelize a bit (add salt and pepper to taste). A few ideas on what to do with these cooked peppers:

  • Place them between two slices of crusty bread with some fresh mozzarella and make a panini.
  • Layer them over Italian sausage on a toasted bun.
  • Use them in a quiche, frittata or omelet.
  • Use them as a pizza topping.
  • Add some okra to the saute, then some chopped or crushed tomatoes (fresh or canned). When this mixture has stewed and reduced a bit, add some fresh corn. Serve as a side dish.

 

 

Week 15: Aug. 7, 2013

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

1 flat of peaches and nectarines mixed

1 1/2 pints raspberries

1 pepper

2 eggplants

1 ambrosia cantaloupe

4 watermelons

1 bag of sweet potatoes

1 bag of yellow squash

1 bag of zucchini

14 ears of corn

***PLUS***

Here is something different for those that may be interested in picking your own berries!

Optional: 9 am-12 noon only

1 pick your own half pint of blackberries

1 1/2 pick your own half pints of raspberries

Emilys’ notes:

A quick note on our running tally of your CSA retail value. Did you know that the retail value of last week’s box rang in at $90.50? And this week’s box, with all its summer fruits, has a retail value of $102. That puts the total value of goods distributed so far this year at $810.50. So no matter when you signed up for the CSA, you have more than broken even on your investment!

It just keeps getting better. Here’s another installment of summer in a box. The sweet potatoes in this box are a smaller variety that has a higher sugar content. Ambrosia cantaloupe is a classic variety that is very sweet, with tender flesh and not very much rind. It’s good eating!

This week, I’m liking this Cooking Light recipe for Summer Squash and Ricotta Galette. I am thinking of adding some fresh corn to it, as well. A galette, like a pizza, is a great option to have in your toolbox for serving vegetables and fruits in unique ways. On the savory side, I think grilled squash and eggplant with a mix of ricotta and feta cheeses would be another great galette filling. It’s a free-form tart that doesn’t take a culinary school degree to master. And you can make sweet versions, too, with a slightly different dough. In fact, a peach or nectarine galette (like this one from Simply Recipes) sounds pretty good to me right now.

I’ve talked about ratatouille in past posts, and there are vastly different ways to serve this dish. If you’d like to serve your family a dish that resembles the one served in the animated movie of the same name, here is Smitten Kitchen’s approximation of it, which looks beautiful.

A flat of peaches and nectarines is truly a gift. We feasted on them last week and still had plenty to put away in the freezer for winter crisps and cobblers. This week, I think I’m going to try my hand at freezer jam. Preserving is a weak spot for me, mainly because I am nervous about keeping things sterile with two small children running around, but it’s definitely a goal. If any of you have great canning recipes to share for any of the produce we’ve been getting, please e-mail me so I can share them with the group. The rest of you can learn about freezer jam with me. I’ve always seen freezer jam as sort of a gateway to more involved canning and preserving. You need to make sure you are using special jars or containers designed specifically for freezer use, which you can pick up at many grocery and big-box stores these days. There are many recipes out there. Here is one to start with, but you might want to seek out a few to compare based on what kind of sugar content, flavorings and specific ingredients you are interested in.

You might want to consider chopping up one or two of your watermelons and placing the pieces in the freezer. When they’re frozen, you can take them out, place them in the blender and add peaches, berries, a squeeze of citrus or whatever else you desire. At this point you could serve the mixture to your whole family. If it’s after bedtime, feel free to add a little (I’m not judging) vodka or–gasp–tequila and mix away. From some of the toddler-wrangling and baby-wearing I’ve seen out on the farm on pickup days, I’d say you’ve all earned it.