In this week’s box:
1/2 dozen eggs
1 quart of okra
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
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
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.