Week 14: Aug. 6, 2014

In this week’s box:

2 pints blueberries

1 flat peaches

half dozen eggs

9 ambrosia cantaloupe

4 watermelons

1 bag tomatoes

1 dozen corn

8 half-pints OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own raspberries, 8 a.m. until noon on Wed., Aug. 6, CSA members only

4 half-pints OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own raspberries, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sun., Aug. 10, CSA members only

Emily’s notes:

These are all familiar summer vegetables, so here are a few ideas you may not have thought of yet:

Cantaloupe sorbet – You could mix in other fruits, as well.

Roasted cantaloupe – This sounded strange to me at first, but now I am kind of craving the idea of eating it over oatmeal.

Cantaloupe and prosciutto with balsamic vinegar and mint – This is kind of a fussy version of a simple appetizer that can be done many ways. You could simple wrap juicy cantaloupe slices in salty prosciutto, or you could put them on skewers with prosciutto (or maybe salami slices instead) and chunks of a good mozzarella.

Cantaloupe jam with vanilla – A beautiful and delicious way to preserve this bounty.

Cantaloupe margarita – If you don’t do this when you have nine cantaloupes in your house, when ARE you going to do it? Already ate your cantaloupe? Guess you’ll have to hit the watermelon margaritas.

Cantaloupe can also be used in smoothies, either fresh or frozen (just remember that with smoothies, you want at least one of the fruits you are using to be frozen for texture. I love to eat a quarter of cantaloupe with a big dollop of cottage cheese nestled in the space where the seeds were for breakfast. No bowl to wash!

Don’t forget, as we mentioned last week, that you can puree cantaloupe and/or watermelon to freeze as popsicles, especially with some whole berries or peach slices thrown in.

I am going to leave you with my husband’s favorite recipe for berry pie. This is traditionally done with blueberries (and you have enough in your box this week), but in my house we have made it with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Try a mix of raspberries and blueberries!

One tip: Don’t skip the homemade graham cracker crust. The store-bought kind just isn’t the same.

Summer berry pie

Ingredients

Crust:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling:

1 quart blueberries, blackberries or raspberries (if using raspberries, you will want about a half-pint to a pint extra for topping the finished pie)

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons corn starch

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 tablespoon butter

Method:

Make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine graham crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in melted butter until blended.

Pack mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and press firmly to bottom and sides, bringing crumbs up to the rim in an even layer. Bake 8 minutes and allow to cool before filling.

Wash berries.

Mix 1 cup berries, sugar, corn starch, salt and water in a saucepan over low heat. Cook until mixture thickens.

Allow to cool a bit, then add butter and the rest of the berries (If making with raspberries, hold off on adding your extra pint until the pie is assembled.).

Pour berry mixture into crust and chill for at least an hour before serving. If using raspberries, place extra berries on top of pie after filling. This pie will get better the longer it sits in the refrigerator, as the mixture thickens and soaks into the crust a little.

Serve with whipped cream.

 

 

 

Week 13: July 30, 2014

In this week’s box:

2 pints blueberries

2 half-pints raspberries

1 flat peaches

1 dozen eggs

2 ambrosia cantaloupe

3 watermelons

1 bushel sweet corn

1 bag tomatoes

4 half-pints OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own raspberries, 8 a.m. until noon on Wednesday, July 30

4 half-pints OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own raspberries, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3

Pick-your-own opportunities for CSA members only.

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $119

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $1,001

Emily’s notes:

Have you been throwing away your peach pits? Did you know that in the center of the pits are small, almond-like nuts referred to by the French as noyaux? These nuts, and even the stony pit that surrounds them, can in fact be used to infuse custards, liquors, vinegars and lots of other things. I recommend this post from the blog BraveTart for starters. It also discusses the rumors that eating peach pits will poison you. Also, take a look at these recipes from Bon Appetit for using all kinds of stone fruit pits. One more way to get more from your CSA! 

Speaking of using the whole fruit, our region’s very own Doctor Yum has a super-simple recipe for making whole-fruit popsicles that would work perfectly with this week’s box. Get yourself some popsicle molds and lightly place some sliced peaches, blueberries and raspberries into the empty molds. Puree some watermelon, or even a mixture of watermelon and cantaloupe, or any of the other fruits you’ve got this week, in a blender and pour the liquid mixture over the fruit in the molds. Freeze until solid and you’ll have a healthy treat come dessert time. Click here for a cute video demonstrating the method.

If you’re like me, you turn again and again to the same flavor profile when serving summer favorites like corn and tomatoes. For me, that’s a Mediterranean blend of salt, pepper, lemon, olive oil and maybe feta or Parmesan. If you’re looking to travel to a new region with your cuisine, try this recipe from Serious Eats for corn and tomato curry. I love the simplicity of it.

If you’ve frozen enough corn kernels or cobs, why not freeze some corn in muffin form? Then all fall and winter you’ll be able to go to the freezer for a homemade baked good to accompany stews and chilis. I usually just add a bunch of corn kernels to the corn muffin recipe you find on the back of your bag of cornmeal. However, here is a Dorie Greenspan recipe for “Corniest Corn Muffins,” adapted by Smitten Kitchen.

 

Week 12: Break even! July 23, 2014

Congratulations, CSA members! This week’s box brings the total retail value of goods distributed so far this year to $882. That means that you have now broken even on the price of your 2014 CSA, with more than a month’s worth of distributions still to go! As Emmett Snead said, “Everything from here on out is free.” Enjoy!

In this week’s box:

2 pints blueberries

1 half-pint raspberries

1 flat peaches

1/2 dozen eggs

1 bushel corn

2 bags tomatoes

2 ambrosia cantaloupes

3 seedless watermelons

2 pints cherry tomatoes

(Please note: all of the below pick-your-own opportunities are for CSA MEMBERS ONLY.)

4 half-pints OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own raspberries on July 23 (CSA pickup day) from 8 a.m. until noon

1 bouquet OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own sunflowers on July 23 (CSA pickup day) from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

4 half-pints OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own raspberries on Sunday, July 27 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

1 bouquet OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own sunflowers on Sunday, July 27 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $133.50

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $882

Emily’s notes

What a bounty of corn. If it’s more than your family can eat, remember that there are many others in our community who can use it. Consider your neighbors, co-workers, church food pantry, area food bank or other worthy kitchens if you find yourself with more than you need.

Corn also freezes well, if you’d like to save some for later in the year. You’ll want to dunk husked ears into boiling water for about 4 minutes, cool them in ice water for the same amount of time you cooked them for, and then cut the kernels from the cobs, to be sealed in airtight bags with as much air removed as possible. They’ll last for up to a year. For a nice illustrated step-by-step on freezing corn, click here.

While we’re talking about freezing, a flat of peaches presents opportunities for preservation, as well. First, you’ll need to peel the peaches. The method for doing this is the same as for peeling tomatoes, a task you’ll want to do if you plan to make sauce out of this week’s box. Using a paring knife, carve a shallow X in the bottom of your peach or tomato. Get a big pot of water boiling, and have a large bowl of ice water ready right beside the pot. Dunk the peach or tomato into the hot water for about a minute, then transfer to the ice water for the same amount of time, then to a dish towel to wait until all of your blanching is complete. You should then be able to pull off the peels by hand. Cut the peaches away from the stone and slice them. Place in a bowl with about a tablespoon of sugar per 4 peaches (or more , but you do need some sugar to help preserve the fruit), and a little vanilla if you like. Toss in this mixture and allow to sit for a few minutes, then lay the peaches out  in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Freeze them like this until they are solid, and then place the frozen peaches into Ziploc bags. I have found this method makes it easier to remove the frozen peaches for later use than just spooning the entire peach-and-sugar mixture directly into a bag to freeze.

Want to save your blueberries? Wash them and freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bag them after they are frozen and you’ll have some delicious, icy smoothie ingredients ready for months to come.

If you have an ice cream maker, there’s nothing like peach ice cream in the summer. Here is a recipe I made a few years ago that worked well. Don’t throw the egg whites out when making this. You can freeze them in a Ziploc bag and use them later, like when you are really craving macaroons.

PEACH ICE CREAM

recipe from Epicurious.com

  • 2 pounds ripe peaches
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Cut an X in bottom of each peach, then blanch in boiling water 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss with lemon juice and 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar in a large bowl. Let macerate, covered and chilled, at least 8 hours.

Whisk together cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Add cream and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Add to yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, to temper, then pour mixture back into saucepan.

Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl and stir in extracts. Chill custard, its surface covered with parchment paper (to prevent a skin from forming), until cold, at least 4 hours.

Transfer 2 cups peaches with slotted spoon to a bowl.

Purée remaining peaches and liquid in a blender until smooth. Add purée to custard and freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to a bowl and stir in reserved peaches.

Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, about 2 hours.

Another peach recipe I’m excited to try is this delicious-looking recipe for grilled peach “splits” from Smitten Kitchen.

If you’re grilling, don’t forget that corn can be great cooked on the grill. There are several ways to do this, and I like this post from Serious Eats comparing them.  You might also want to place some of your cherry tomatoes on a skewer, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill them alongside your meat for 6-8 minutes, just enough to heat through and absorb some smoky flavor and char.

Week 11: July 16, 2014

In this week’s box:

2 pints blueberries

1 dozen eggs

2 dozen ears corn

1 flat peaches

2 bags tomatoes

1 bag cucumbers

1 bag yellow squash

1 bag zucchini

1 bouquet **OPTIONAL BONUS** pick-your-own sunflowers, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

4 half-pints **OPTIONAL BONUS** pick-your-own raspberries 8 a.m. until noon

4 half-pints **OPTIONAL BONUS** pick-your-own raspberries on July 20, noon until 3 p.m.

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $95

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $748.50

Emily’s notes

When I start to see tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, I always think of gazpacho. Summer in a bowl (or cup), gazpacho is one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make, and it’s perfect for these hot days, because there is absolutely no heat involved (unless you choose to add some hot peppers, which are nice). Let’s think of gazpacho this week not as one single recipe to be followed in exact detail, but as a concept that will allow you to use your summer vegetables with ease in your kitchen. Here are several ideas to work from:

– Traditional gazpacho – When I studied in southern Spain, people would drink this almost as a beverage at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s refreshing and a delicious way to consume vegetables. If you are trying to cook as much as possible with only things from your CSA box, I would place 4 tomatoes, 1 peeled cucumber, one of the smaller onions leftover from last week, if you have one (if not, add scallions, a garlic clove or red onion), salt, pepper, olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar to a food processor or blender (all the vegetables should be cut into chunks that this equipment can handle). Whir them all together and adjust for seasonings, then chill for a few hours before serving. I would consider adding fresh corn kernels and a dollop of sour cream when serving. Garden herbs including basil, chives and parsley also make a nice addition. Now, if you want a really nice recipe that really mimics the gazpacho I remember from Spain, try this one. The bread adds a nice thickness and body to the soup.

– Gazpacho with fruit – Don’t forget that peaches can be a great addition to savory dishes, including gazpacho. Try this recipe from Epicurious for Peach and Tomato Gazpacho.

– Deconstructed gazpacho – You could make endless summer salads by chopping tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer vegetables and throwing them in a bowl with olive oil, seasonings and maybe a little cheese. The New York Times offers this recipe for Tomato, Cucumber and Corn salad. I say who needs a recipe? If you have good vegetables on-hand, experiment with different combinations of no-cook side dishes like this. Squash and zucchini can be used raw if sliced thinly enough. Or grill them and mix with your raw ingredients for a hot-cold salad with great texture.

The August issue of Better Homes and Gardens has a great spread on recipes for corn, green beans and squash. A few that caught my eye (Note: Their website will ask you to enter your e-mail address and create a password to see these.):

Tomato-Topped Corn and Feta Casserole

Garlicky Zucchini Noodles

Peaches and blueberries are a great combination. Take the recipe I shared in this post last year for peach and blackberry crisp and sub in blueberries instead. Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream! When you’re slicing those peaches, it probably helps to know that this week’s peaches are clingstones, meaning the flesh clings to the pit inside. Clingstones ripen earlier than freestone peaches, which you can expect to see in the coming weeks. The fact that they are somewhat harder to separate from the pit and slice is all the more reason to eat them bite by bite standing over the sink!

Do you have great summer vegetable recipes you’d like to share with the group? E-mail me and let me know!

Week 10: July 9, 2014

SunflowerIn this week’s box:

2 pints blueberries

1 half-pint raspberries

half dozen eggs

2 bags tomatoes

1 dozen ears corn

1 heirloom cantaloupe

1 bag of dried white onions

2 eggplant

2 bags Yukon gold potatoes

1 bag sweet Italian frying peppers

**OPTIONAL BONUS** 2 half-pints pick-your-own raspberries, from 8 a.m. until noon, CSA members only

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $58

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $653.50 

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Emily’s notes:

The onions in this week’s box are dried, and will keep longer than the spring onions distributed so far this year. If you keep them in a cool, dry, place, you could use them any time in the next several months!

I’m a big fan of roasting eggplants, either whole on the grill or in the oven, or sliced lengthwise, as The New York Times suggests here. As the Times says, and as I have found, if you try to fry or sautee eggplant slices in oil, they will quickly soak up every bit of oil in your pan like a sponge, and then you’ll end up ingesting all that extra fat in the finished dish. When you roast, the eggplant naturally becomes softer and more flavorful. With the onions, tomatoes and eggplant in this week’s box, I’d suggest trying this recipe for Eggplant Tomato Gratin. For a simpler preparation that can be served at lunch, dinner or snacks, try this technique I detailed last year:

I threw 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 in the sink 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.

Eggplant and tomatoes together get me thinking about panzanella, an Italian salad that uses stale crusty bread (you will want good bread for this, not the flimsy-crust stuff). A salad like this can be anywhere on the spectrum from extremely simple to much more involved. I have thrown together panzanella before by tossing chopped tomatoes with the bread and a bit of salt and pepper. While that sits and “marinates,” I’ll roast some cubed eggplant in olive oil and seasonings in a 450-degree oven for 15-25 minutes. You could throw chopped onions onto the roasting pan, as well. Toss everything together with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and more salt and pepper to taste, and add some chopped parsley or basil and chunks of a cheese like parmesan, mozzarella, pecorino, feta or chevre, depending on what you have. Williams-Sonoma, however, has a much more detailed recipe here for a grilled eggplant, corn and tomato panzanella that looks delicious.

Italian frying peppers are mild, thin-walled peppers that aren’t great for oven-roasting, but do lend themselves to frying and sauteeing. They would be excellent served aside grilled sausage prepared according to this recipe for cast-iron charred peppers with parmesan.

I’ve been disappointed with many a recipe for blueberry muffins, but last week I made this one from celebrated cookbook author Mollie Katzen. It produced the fluffy, not overly sweet muffin I was looking for, and I highly recommend it.

Week 9: July 2, 2014

In this week’s box:

1 dozen ears corn

2 bags string beans

1 bag tomatoes

2 bunches Yukon gold potatoes

1 bag squash

1 half-dozen eggs

1 half-pint raspberries

2 pints blueberries

2 half-pints black raspberries

**4 half-pints OPTIONAL BONUS pick-your-own raspberries, available form 8 a.m. until noon for CSA members only**

Note that you have an extra hour in the morning to pick berries this week!

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $66

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $595.50

Emily’s notes:

How appropriate to have red raspberries and blue black raspberries and blueberries for the Fourth of July. Pair them with pound cake and whipped cream for a red-white-and-blue treat full of summer flavor.

Farm-fresh onions are a great addition to homemade salsa. For a simple version, dice a few tomatoes, chop the kernels from a couple of ears of corn and finely chop the white and green parts of two small onions from your box. Season with salt and pepper, then toss with a handful of chopped fresh cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley if you don’t like cilantro), the juice of one lemon or lime (or both) and a splash of olive oil. To increase the flavor of your salsa, try grilling the corn before you cut it from the cob. This recipe from Emeril Lagasse will give you some more exact quantities. But really, salsa is easy, so don’t sweat the details! You could also finely chop a handful or so of green beans to add color, nutrition and crunch to the salsa. Use as a dip or spoon over grilled meats or fish.

Grill WokHave you ever grilled green beans? This year I bought a “wok basket” for my grill that has really helped give me some new ways to serve CSA veggies. At left, you can see asparagus cooking in it earlier this season. I recommend tossing trimmed green beans with olive oil, lemon juice, chopped garlic and salt and pepper (maybe add a few red pepper flakes for heat). Place your wok basket on the grill to heat up, then, using tongs (and wearing a good oven mitt to protect your hands), place the beans on the basket. Cook, tossing occasionally with tongs, until they are cooked to the level you prefer. Then I like to place them back in the original dish with the marinade and sprinkle on some parmesan or feta cheese while they are still hot. Delicious! I do this same preparation with slices of summer squash and zucchini, but I just place those directly on the grill, not in the basket. I found my basket at Wegmans, but it looks like this. I have found it much easier than my old vegetable “cage,” which always managed to drop a vegetable or two through the grates.

Now, everybody has their favorite way to cook sweet corn, but since many of us stay pretty busy through the summer, I want to make sure you know about a simple technique that can get great corn-on-the-cob on your table in minutes on busy weeknights.

You don’t have to boil water or heat up the grill to have sweet corn ready for a quick dinner. Pop unshucked ears in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes per ear (exact time depends on your microwave). Then hack off the end of the ear that was attached to the stalk and let the corn slide out of the husks. This isn’t quite as good as grilled, roasted or boiled corn, but it sure is easy.

 

 

Week 8: June 25, 2014

In this week’s box:

3 half-pints raspberries

2 half-pints black raspberries

1 dozen eggs

1 bulb fennel with fronds

2 bags red new potatoes

2 bunches spring onions

2 bags green beans

2 heads cabbage

1 bag zucchini

1 bag yellow squash

**OPTIONAL BONUS** up to 4 half-pints pick-your-own raspberries, between 9 a.m. and noon, CSA members only.

Total retail value of goods distributed this week: $54.50

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this season: $529.50

Emily’s notes

With both green beans and potatoes in this week’s box, I highly recommend this recipe I shared last year for Southern-style green beans and new potatoes. It’s a good reminder that bacon makes everything better.

With spring onions and cabbage, I will definitely be making this recipe for cabbage salad with ramen noodles. It works just as well with regular cabbage as with the Napa cabbage called for in the recipe. I find it’s best to use a food processor to shred the cabbage if you have one.

What to do with fennel? You could slice it very thinly and toss it with thinly sliced apples and some of the chopped greens from the spring onions, along with a vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar, some walnuts and blue cheese for a cool summer salad. I would also finely chop some of the green fronds from atop the fennel bulb to add to this. Some folks don’t like raw fennel, though, and in that case, I would just toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic and throw it on the grill or into a 450-degree oven to roast until tender. It becomes sweeter and a bit less licorice-tasting when cooked.

Looking for a new way to serve zucchini and squash? I always love the way the Bavarian Chef in downtown Fredericksburg treats these vegetables. Try mixing green and yellow squash in this recipe from The Kitchn for Potato, Squash and Zucchini Gratin with Goat Cheese. I am always hesitant about gratins, because so many recipes seem to call for enough cream to cancel out all the virtue of the vegetables, but I like that this one is much lighter, and very easy to pull together with this week’s box!

I would also recommend substituting 1-2 shredded yellow squash for the carrots called for in this recipe for Healthy Morning Muffins from Martha Stewart. Please share your favorite summer squash and zucchini recipes if you have them!