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!

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 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.

 

Week 9: June 26, 2013

In this week’s box:

3 pounds of green beans

1/2 dozen eggs

3 pounds of potatoes

2 bunches of green onions

2 bunches of beets

2 bunches of swiss chard

14 ears of bicolor corn(white and yellow on the same cob)

1 head of broccoli

1/2 pint of raspberries

1 pint of blackberries

1 bag of tomatoes

Retail value of this week’s box: $46

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this season: $472

Emily’s notes:

vegOn a recent trip to the library, I stumbled upon a cookbook that I think would make a great reference in any CSA member’s kitchen. It’s called, “Eat More Vegetables” by Tricia Cornell, and was published in 2012. Cornell, who lives in Minnesota, is a longtime CSA member. She writes about how the weekly box of produce was overwhelming for her for the first few years of membership, and she even dreaded CSA pickup days at times because of the volume that came into her kitchen. But over the years she developed rhythms and devised dishes that made it all a lot more manageable and enjoyable for her entire family. There are some really creative recipes in here that look like a lot of fun. I think I might have to make an exception to my self-imposed ban on buying new cookbooks to add this one to the home library.

When I picked up this book, I was thinking about beets, which also appear in this week’s box. Cornell’s recipe for Beet and Goat Cheese Tart looked intriguing to me. I’m going to be entertaining guests this week, so I might give it a try. Here it is:

Beet and Goat Cheese Tart

Serves 8 as an appetizer

1 pound beets

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 egg

6 ounces goat cheese

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons honey (optional)

1 teaspoon dried sumac (This is a Middle-Eastern spice that Cornell says is optional, but adds a nice tartness.)

Wrap beets in foil and roast at 400 degrees until a knife slides easily all the way through (This took about an hour with the beets we got last week.). You want beets on the softer rather than firmer side for this recipe. Leave the oven on. Peel the beets under running water as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Slice them 1/4 inch thick.

Mix yogurt, egg and goat cheese. Place pastry on lightly floured or parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush very lightly with olive oil. Cover pastry with overlapping disks of beets, leaving about 1 inch around the edges. Spoon goat cheese mixture over the top, still leaving the edges clear. Drizzle with honey (I am thinking balsamic vinegar might be a good alternative here.) and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until edges are puffed and golden brown. Cool completely, then slice into 2-inch squares and serve.

If you’re looking for more beet ideas, the beet salad described in this post on the blog “Dinner: A Love Story” looks nice to me. I also might have to make this beet hummus that has been on my to-do list for years, but never seems to get made before I use my beets for something else. Like cake.

With onions, green beans and potatoes in this week’s box, you’re all set up to make a classic Southern side, green beans and new potatoes. This recipe from the blog Deep South Dish gives a good guide. I can smell the bacon now.

On a busy night, I sometimes like to roast my green beans. They don’t get as soggy, and the flavors of what you dress them in intensify a bit. The last time we got green beans, I roasted them after tossing them with a mix of sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and brown sugar, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. This recipe for parmesan roasted green beans from the blog Skinny Taste looks like something I’ll have to try with this batch.

And the first corn of the season is here! Last year I discovered that the best way to get corn on the table quickly on a weeknight was to toss it in the microwave, husk and all, and cook for about 3 minutes per ear (exact time will vary based on your microwave’s power). Remove it with a potholder (It’s hot!) and hack off the end that was attached to the stalk. Then you should be able to shake the cooked ear of corn straight onto your plate without having to deal with those pesky silks. It’s not quite as good as roasting corn in an oven (also with husks on) or grilling it, but it’s pretty good for a quick weeknight technique, which is what I need most of the time these days.

You could combine fresh corn taken off the cob with chopped tomates and onions from this week’s box for a quick fresh salsa. Toss the mixture with a little olive oil, lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro (if you like it). Dice some of the potatoes and serve them hash-brown style, and scramble a few of the eggs. Spoon your salsa over the potatoes and eggs and you have a really tasty dinner completely from your CSA box!

You can click the “Swiss Chard” tag at right to see all the recipes we’ve linked to for chard so far this year. I am thinking of using my pizza dough recipe to make a chard calzone this week. I’ll share the recipe if it turns out!

This far into the season, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog. Are the recipes useful? Do they fit your lifestyle? Are there vegetables that you need more ideas for? Please e-mail me here with your comments (I will specify that I am asking for comments about the blog itself. Questions about CSA pickup should be directed to the Sneads.)