Tomatillos

With a fancy paper husk and hard, shiny green fruit, the tomatillo is a staple in Mexican cuisine. We typically use them for salsa, and just recently canned a bunch for winter. But we’re stepping up our tomatillo game, and so should you! Bon Appetit has a collection of 27 tomatillo recipes online to get us started on different uses for this sweet/sour fruit. The tomatillo/cucumber gazpacho is calling to us, and CSA members have both in their box this week. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Panzanella

One of the great culinary joys of summer on the farm is the arrival of tomatoes. From now until the plants cease producing, we eat them at every meal. A thick slice of juicy tomato on a bagel with cream cheese is a breakfast I dream about all year.

Sticking with the theme of bread, this week we offer Panzanella, or rustic bread salad.. Lots of cultures have devised ways to use leftover bread – French toast, bread pudding – and this one from Italy is a savory side dish or main course if you add cheese chunks or some type of protein. This only works when tomatoes are at their peak.

You can find lots of recipes on the Internet for bread salad. Some are more complex, with cucumbers and peppers or capers. Dress it up or down as you wish. Note: Bread salad does NOT make good leftovers as tomatoes suffer the minute they are put in the fridge. So make only as much as you need. For the following version, you need day-old bread (baguette or something with a crust), juicy heirloom or slicing tomatoes (you can add halved cherry tomatoes), onion, basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Cube your bread. If it’s very soft, pop in the oven on 350 for 10 minutes or so until crisp but not browned. Put in a bowl, Chop your tomatoes into chunks and your onion into slivers and add to the bowl.  You should have about the same amount of tomatoes as bread or slightly less. Toss.  Add olive oil. Toss. Add red wine vinegar. Toss, Salt and pepper. Toss. Chopped basil. Toss.  Let sit 1/2 hour for flavors to meld. Test seasoning. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Sharing the Love

What to do with a surplus of flowers? Brighten someone’s day, of course! Building Manager Aubrey was more than willing to round up a bunch of containers so seniors at the SHAG Apartments could make bouquets to bring a little summer into their homes.

Roast, don’t blanch, your surplus

If you are so lucky, there comes a point in the farming season, where you are overrun with one type of produce, or many!

Recently it was snap peas that needed to go into the freezer. So I turned on the oven and got to work. Wait. The OVEN?!?

You bet! We’ve found that a blast of heat – 475 for 5 minutes – does the same job as blanching, and the results are so much better!

Traditionally, vegetables destined for the freezer are blanched (dropped for a minute or two in boiling water) transferred to an ice bath and then the freezer. This is to kill bacteria on the outside that could lead to spoilage. Only thing is, the veggies are so waterlogged by the process that they have no snap left once you dig them out of the freezer to eat them. And they also lose their nutritional value. Yuck.

The oven blasted veggies, by comparison are still crisp when thawed. And it works for most any vegetable!

Prep your veggies, toss with a little olive oil, spread one layer thick on your cookie sheets, and bake at 475 for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temp, throw them in freezer bags (marked so you don’t grab peas when you wanted beans!), and put them in your freezer.  It really is that simple!

Considering lettuce

Most weeks, every CSA customer of ours gets a head of lettuce in their box – it’s an anchor vegetable, so to speak. And it’s interesting to us how long that lettuce can stretch out in a week. The farmer and I can go through a head of lettuce in one sitting, and when our son is home, he waits for us to take our servings and then just puts a fork into the bowl. Why is this?

Of course, I’d like to think it’s the presentation – delicate greens need nothing more than a light dressing of oil and vinegar to shine. Years ago, now, it seems, when Trinacria graced our town, the simple salad they served after the main course always caught my attention. Unassuming, honest, stripped down to a few essential ingredients, it was a course I always looked forward to. After a few attempts of trial and error, I came up with my own technique that has won over more than a few non-lettuce eaters. Be forewarned – I list no amounts, it’s all by feel.

Place your washed, spun (or blotted with a clean dishtowel), and torn lettuce in a bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt (I prefer kosher) around and toss a bit with tongs, two spoons, or whatever you have. Add a drizzle of olive oil, toss again. Add a splash of white wine vinegar (cider vinegar, rice wine, red wine or lemon juice can also work, just not white vinegar), and toss again. Voila! Taste and adjust seasonings. Stick a fork in the bowl.

Broccoli

Food is a powerful connection to our own personal culture and tradition. We prepare food the way our parents did or because a certain dish was family tradition. And when new families begin, those traditions merge and morph into new ones.

All this to explain that I come from a tradition of vinagrette-based salads, while the farmer comes from the mayonnaise line. Oddly a jar of mayonnaise will last months in our fridge – there are very few things we use it with (never on sandwiches), but on those occasions, nothing else will do.

While this week’s broccoli salad falls squarely on TJ’s side of tradition, the addition of bacon brings me across the line. The sunflower seeds and raisins lend a nutritious flair, to balance out the decadent fats. We make it only a couple of times a year, when broccoli is fresh in the garden. We make a big batch for our annual music festival getaway. It keeps well in the cooler, and is an easy luxury to unpack and enjoy. Props to Tricia Yearwood and her Broccoli Salad.

What to do about fennel

Fennel, the foodie vegetable. Anise flavored, with fern-like foliage. Perhaps a little intimidating, but worth getting to know! Add a fresh crunch to spring salads, roast or braise to add a certain sophistication to your everyday menus 🙂 The internet is a great place to research new flavors and recipes. Type in “fennel recipes” and find tons of responses that can take your meals from Mediterranean (shaved parmesan or green olives) to Asian (plums and honey/ginger dressing). We tend toward “pantry” recipes, meaning those that use ingredients that we already have on hand, rather than those that need a special trip to the grocery store. With that, we offer Barley, Fennel and Beet Salad, which we had last night with grilled lamb chops. We switched out the almonds for walnuts, which we had on hand. Delish!

Kale is your friend

Kale is a powerhouse of nutrition – one of the healthiest veggies on the planet and super-tasty too! Some people find kale to have a strong flavor – it’s a member of the Brassica family (think broccoli), and is loaded with vitamins and minerals we don’t normally get in our diet. So don’t give up on training your palate to enjoy new foods.

Once you start looking, there are so many ways to eat kale!  I like to add it to most everything! One way to have it handy is to wash, chop, toss with olive oil and roast on a sheet pan for 5 minutes at 475. It keeps well for a week in the fridge, and you can add it to burritos, alongside your eggs for breakfast, dress it with sauce to go with rice – endless!  Then there is our FAVORITE Massaged Kale Salad – just need oil, soy, lemon juice, garlic and parmesan. So good!  Like a Caesar! We’ve actually made kale converts with this salad! On the off chance you have leftovers, they are superb the  next day.