Tag Archives: Vegetables

Simpaug Farms CSA: Weeks Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen

It takes approximately 10 weeks to form a new habit. It took approximately 10 weeks (as evidenced by the diminishing level of detail in our “cataloging the share” posts) for collecting and processing our share to become routine.

At some point between 10 and 2 each Sunday, I tidy the fridge, dispose of anything spoilt, wash any dishes, and head to the Farmer’s Market to collect our share. I unpack the crate of goodness into cloth bags, load them into the trunk, and drive home. (The market is three times farther away from our home than the grocery store is, and this process still takes less than half the time of a typical grocery run. No lines!) Once home, I unpack the items, store them appropriately (this now takes less than ten minutes!), and move on with my day.

In the first weeks of receiving the share, I spent hours with the fresh veg – meticulously photographing each item, washing and drying and trimming and wrapping and placing each one in its storage spot, poring over cookbooks and farm magazines looking for just the right recipes to showcase our farm-to-table goodness, and then feverishly batch cooking it all.

Now, it’s just food.

Well. In our house, nothing is “just” food, but bringing the share into our home isn’t a project – and it’s so much less effortful than making lists and choosing each item and packaging them. Sundays are, once again, full of ease.

What’s in Our CSA Share?

For the last few weeks, each of our shares have been remarkably similar: eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, sweet and hot peppers, fresh herbs, acorn and butternut squashes, green beans, lettuce mix, watermelon and pullet eggs.

We’ve eaten watermelon by the slice, and I’ve relished baking cakes with these beautiful, yolky little eggs. Clay developed a new InstantPot chili recipe using acorn squash instead of beans, and a butternut+Parmesan pasta sauce. We’ve made creamy tomato soup and roasted ratatouille, and put up a few jars of salsa for the winter. I made a dozen mini quiches last week that we enjoyed for take-along-breakfasts. And salad is back in season, with a different custom dressing (see yesterday’s post about our thwarted desire for hot oil).

I’m craving a squash-and-potato soup with sharp cheddar cheese, so that’s on this week’s to make list. I’d like to give Ina Garten’s mini Italian frittatas a try. And I’ve been baking stone fruit skillet cakes and fall-fruit hand pies – I’ll keep at both of those!

What’s happening in your kitchen?

Single-Serving Something

img_8335“I think this is a melon,” she said.

It might well have been. It looked like a tiny honeydew—about softball-sized, with sturdy, pale yellowish-green, and a good thump—but it had no fruity fragrance at all. Still the CSA listing said there was to be melon, and everything else was identifiable, so this must have been it. At any rate, its size wasn’t a problem, since she doesn’t like honeydew melon.

I took her to the train, came back to the house, and decided melon would be good for my breakfast.

Slicing it in half, I found flesh that was more yellow than green, and many more seeds (and larger ones) than any melon I know. I sliced off a bit and tried it. Nope. Not a melon. Definitely squash of some sort. I put the mystery squash aside and had a donut.

As lunchtime approached, I took the nothing-ventured-nothing-gained approach and set the toaster oven to 400F. I scooped out the seeds from the squash, lightly oiled and salted each half, and roasted it, cut side down on a little baking sheet. I checked every 10 minutes, and after about half an hour it was tender. I took it out of the oven and let it cool a little while I got to a stopping-point in a music-arranging project, then turned the halves over to take a look.

The squash, now slightly caramelized, revealed itself to be a little stringy. It was a petite spaghetti squash! Now lunch made perfect sense. I scraped it out with a fork, tossed it with a little butter, salt and pepper, and a spoonful of some excellent eggplant caponata I’d made for dinner the night before. It was a perfect single-serving lunch.

Mystery solved.

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Simpaug Farms CSA: Week Nine

Sage

After a week away from home, I’ve been overjoyed to spend two days in the kitchen; we needed to stock up on all of the homemade staples that we used up at the beach! Yesterday we focused on bread, granola, and yogurt, and today has been about trying new things: hazelnut plum shortcakes, a cardamom-rye cake, and a new-to-us cheesy squash casserole.

Irony: this week’s CSA share is the first of the summer that doesn’t contain any squash. Thankfully we had a large patty pan leftover from last week and adapted the casserole for it. Speaking of the share…

What’s In The Week Nine CSA Share

Vegetables

  • Beets, 16 ounces
  • Garlic, 1.5 ounces
  • Green Beans, 16 ounces
  • Miniature Purple Eggplant, 16 ounces
  • Onions (1 red, 1 white), 10.5 ounces
  • Peppers (Bell, Bull Horn, and Hot), 34 ounces
  • Sage, 0.5 ounces
  • Savoy Cabbage, 44 ounces
  • Swiss Chard, 8 ounces
  • Tomatoes (Heirloom, Slicing, Roma, and Cherry), 79 ounces

Other

  • Eggs, 1 dozen

Leftovers and Market Gleanings

We did have a few things left over from last week, and peak local produce is available at our supermarket; we love to support the local farms who can supply grocery stores, so have quite the haul of “additions” this week.

  • Asparagus, 12 ounces
  • Avocado, 1
  • Bananas, 3
  • Blueberries, 48 ounces
  • Butter Lettuce, 8 ounces
  • Carrots, 10 ounces
  • Celery (stalks and leaves), 10 ounces
  • Corn (on the cob), 4 ears
  • Crimini Mushrooms, 8 ounces
  • Green Pepper, 6 ounces
  • Jalapeno Pepper, 2 ounces
  • Lemon, 1
  • Lime, 1
  • Red Plums, 20 ounces
  • Savoy Cabbage, 30 ounces
  • Slicing Cucumber, 8 ounces
  • Strawberries, 35 ounces
  • Yellow Onions, 16 ounces
  • Yellow Peaches, 50 ounces

That’s 30 pounds of produce for two people! Yikes.

What To Make With This Week’s CSA Share

Omelets

My mom taught me a new method for making omelets which I quite enjoy, so we’ve had delicious egg-and-vegetable concoctions for breakfast several mornings in the last week. Any vegetables can become a terrific omelet filling as long as we balance bitter and savory flavors, fill it out with a bit of cheese for structure, and add some acid in a sauce.

Squash Casserole

The patty pan squash and a bit of red onion have become a fabulous-smelling miniature take on a popular online casserole recipe. We substituted stone-ground wheat crackers for butter crackers, jack cheese for cheddar, and salted butter for unsalted butter + salt, and it smells like a perfect accompaniment for charred corn and grilled steak (tonight’s dinner plan).

Eggplant Parmesan

With a fistful of fresh mozzarella in the fridge, a quart of homemade marinara sauce in the freezer, and a box of pasta in the pantry, the eggplant is crying out to become eggplant parm. We’ll be able to add a little heft to the dish by tearing the chard into super fine pieces and sautéeing it as an add-in for the sauce, and making a tomato-pepper-cucumber salad with a zippy dressing to serve alongside.

Burgers and Sides

I am strongly hopeful that the avocado, butter lettuce, and a slicing tomato might turn into the fixings of an excellent made-at-home-on-the-grill burger, alongside some roasted beets and fingerling potatoes dredged in sage, and another glorious coleslaw. I’m not sure what Clay’s plans are for Tuesday’s supper, but that’s my vote!

Pork Chops with Mushrooms

Any chard that isn’t consumed with the eggplant parmesan will be a lovely side dish to pork chops with mushroom sauce – especially if they’re tossed with some cold roasted beets dressed in a citrus vinaigrette.

Yogurt Parfait

The weather has cooled enough that a pre-set yogurt parfait will survive my commute, so on-or-after-the-train breakfasts this week will include fruit + yogurt + granola combinations.

Roasted Pepper Hummus with Crudité

We really enjoy making Alton Brown’s from scratch hummus, and with all of the peppers available, and the nuts stocked in our fridge, we’ll be able to make a well-flavored one. I usually take “last night’s dinner leftovers” as packed lunches during the week, but hummus with fresh veggies is Clay’s go-to summer lunch, so I’m sure he’ll make a large dent in the stock of green beans, carrots, celery, and cherry tomatoes.

Salsa Fresca

With the beautiful salsa spices we have from Penzey’s, I’ll turn the tomato, onion, garlic, hot peppers, and any leftover corn into a fresh salsa.

Blueberry Peach Buckle

The peaches are a little underripe; when they are ready, I’ll make a pair of blueberry peach buckles to share with friends. One will be for dessert with dinner guests on Saturday, and the other will be for the casting team at one of the theater companies Clay works with for their season general auditions on Sunday.

Baked Treats

I’ve spent this afternoon making cakes which will serve for tonight’s dessert with the plums. In addition to that and the buckles we’ll make a loaf of banana bread for breakfast toast at mid-week (when the bananas have ripened), and if we have any other fruit left by Saturday morning I’ll turn all of it into a freeform tart.

And suddenly it seems that we’ve made short work of the overwhelming bounty we were struggling to put away a few hours ago!

This garlic is so delicate…

Stuffed

img_8192After you’ve driven in the rain for five hours and reached a vacation site so fog-shrouded it’s hard to tell if you might sail off the edge of the world, you order take-out.

You might do this even if the drive is completely sunny and the beach looks perfect, but I wouldn’t know. I’m new to this seaside-vacation thing.

Either way, you order too much take-out. Not that there really is such a thing as “too much,” but certainly too much for dinner on a driving day. So there are leftovers. And, aside from pizza (which can be perfectly good eaten cold on the beach with chocolate milk), leftovers are meant to be transformed.

This is especially the case if one of your party has dietary restrictions and what was ordered can best be described as Sometime Food.

Thus it was that, as Improviser-in-Chief, I removed packages from the fridge and found partial orders of boneless spare ribs, teriyaki beef kebabs, bourbon chicken, and way more fried rice than should be served to anybody with diabetes and cardiac concerns. So I also removed four bell peppers, a couple of carrots (with their greens still attached), a couple ribs of celery, and a bunch of chard. From the basket in the kitchen’s bay window, I took a handful of grape tomatoes, a red onion, and a head of garlic. I set the oven to 350F, put a big saute pan on the stove, a big cutting board on the counter, and got to work.

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I sliced off the tops of the bell peppers and set the bodies in a baking dish. I discarded the seeds, ribs, and stems, and chopped the tops. The chopped bits, along with the celery (diced), red onion (diced), garlic (2 cloves, minced), and chard (stemmed and chopped) were salted and sauteed briefly in olive oil, then put in a big mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, I scooped the chicken, ribs, and beef out of their containers and scraped off as much sauce as I could without making a full day’s project of it, then diced them all, and then gave them a turn in the saute pan, then added them to the big bowl.

Finally, the fried rice and tomatoes went in; when the rice started to get a little sticky, I added a little balsamic vinegar and a glug of the red wine I’d opened to serve with dinner; the object here was just to say “Hey, this isn’t Chinese food any more.” Into the bowl it went with everything else.

My smart leggy brunette sous-chef stirred everything together and then spooned the stuffing into the peppers. And, I might add, she did so far more neatly than I would have managed. I crushed some cracked-wheat crackers and topped the peppers with them. (She also swept up the cracker-crushings that went all over the kitchen floor.) I added some aluminum foil bolsters so the peppers wouldn’t fall over, covered the dish with foil, and set it in the oven.

While the peppers baked, I minced the carrot tops with some savory from the CSA box (I would have used parsley if we’d had any), and sprinkled them with a few drops of vinegar.

After 15 minutes, I removed the foil from the peppers, and after 15 more minutes realized the peppers needed another five. When the peppers were mostly tender, I plated the peppers, ringed with the stuffing that hadn’t fit inside, and garnished with the greens.

My sainted grandmother made stuffed peppers for dinner pretty regularly: bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and rice, topped with stewed tomatoes and seasoned with nothing more than a little salt. Bless her soul, they were bland and mushy. These were crisp, full of vegetables, and, well, interesting. They weren’t candy-sweet, they weren’t OMG-the-MSG salty, and if I hadn’t known their origins as Chinese takeout I’m not sure I would have guessed.

I would not suggest that this meal was worth driving five hours in the rain for, but let’s put it this way: there were no leftovers.

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Simpaug Farms CSA: Week Eight

“Man At The Wheel” statue within the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial

Clay and I are on vacation, taking a week to visit and explore* Gloucester, Massachusetts and the Cape Ann environs with my parents. We’ve rented a gorgeous little house near Stage Fort Park, and are enjoying the salty air between thunderstorms and patches of dense fog. The sun is valiantly trying to burn off the haze this morning, so I’m hopeful that the garden will dry out by mid-afternoon.

Since this is a driving trip, the fabulous team at Simpaug Farms arranged a swap on our CSA share; we arranged to pick up our bounty at a Saturday Farmer’s Market in northern Connecticut, on our way here over the weekend. The team in Ellington had boxed all of our beautiful vegetables and helped us move each selection into produce bags for the cooler or crate of food in the car. Then we arrived at the beach with a week’s worth of produce!

I didn’t bring the kitchen scale on vacation, and didn’t photograph the individual items this week, but do have a catalogue compiled from memory.

What’s In The Week Eight Share:

Vegetables

  • Summer Squash, 3
  • Pattypan Squash, 1
  • Barbarella Eggplant, 1
  • Savoy Cabbage, 1
  • Slicing Cucumber, 1
  • Slicing Tomatoes, 3
  • Roma Tomatoes, 3
  • Cherry Tomatoes, quart basket
  • Swiss Chard, 1 bunch
  • Bell Peppers, 3
  • Bull Horn Peppers, 3
  • Jalapeno Peppers, 2
  • Carrots with their tops, 1 bunch
  • Red Onions, 3
  • Garlic, 1 bulb
  • Savory, 1 bunch

Other

  • Eggs – one dozen

What To Make With This Week’s Share

My Dad is on a medically restricted diet, so many of the squash-breads I make every weekend are off-limits this week. We supplemented this week’s share with a few remnants from last week (2 bell peppers, a head of garlic) and some items from the market (a bag of lemons and limes, a bunch of celery, a gigantic sweet potato, a quart of blueberries and a cute little watermelon), and have been enjoying our culinary adventures.

  • On Sunday morning, we made a breakfast of omelettes stuffed with sauteed pepper, onion, garlic, chard, and cherry tomatoes.
  • For Sunday dinner we picked up a quart of chowder from Roy Moore’s Lobster Shack, then grilled some chicken and served it over a gigantic salad alongside.
  • Last night, Clay improvised a stuffed pepper dish from the leftover Chinese and Japanese take-away we ordered on Saturday night; a variety of meats and veggies were mixed into fried rice, stuffed into hollowed out bell peppers, and topped with minced carrot greens and crumbled flatbread crackers. It was delicious.
  • Tonight we’re going to attempt making sweet potato gnocchi and serving it with the fantastic pasta sauce we made a couple of weeks ago.

If the weather continues to be stormy I’ll likely make a ratatouille of the eggplant, squashes, and remaining peppers, but if the sun decides to come out and play, all bets are off.

Rockport Harbor photographed from Tuna Wharf (behind Roy Moore’s)

Simpaug Farms CSA: Weeks Six and Seven

The busiest six days of the summer have come and gone: Clay opened and closed three different musicals in two different states this week, and attended a concert performance of songs from another of his musicals-in-progress last night. Last Sunday morning we unpacked last week’s CSA share into the refrigerator, but other than peanut butter sandwiches and mugs of coffee and tea we haven’t prepared a morsel of food at home since. (We’ve enjoyed a dozen meals with friends and colleagues, instead, which is its own special treat.)

Now that the public portion of his work is done, Clay gets to take it easy this week and finish documenting his work from home. I’m still in the urgency zone, racing to finish a few big work projects by Thursday, but today is our beautiful, brief respite from the outside world, and I’m relishing the time spent unboxing the Week Seven share, unpacking last week’s produce from the fridge, and cooking up all sorts of fabulousness.

Basil and Chard

We received small bunches of basil last week and today, and with some careful changing of the water in the jar, I’ve been able to make almost all of it last. Combining these luscious leaves with the few stragglers in my herb garden, some fresh parmesan cheese, and toasted pine nuts will yield a few teaspoons of pesto… but if we supplement the basil with the gorgeous, tender leaves of swiss chard that are also in today’s box, we’ll have enough pesto for a small jar. I love using pesto to dress pasta salad or as a layer on homemade pizza.

Eggplant, Squash, and Zucchini

Clay has been waxing poetic over the eggplant and squash all week, talking through sorts of possibilities for cooking them. I dream of slicing, seeding, and grilling them, then chopping them for a quick ratatouille – but it’s likely he will overrule me. Stay tuned…

Peppers

I spent two weeks in Budapest several years ago, and ate many, many versions of Paprika Chicken – both because I like it, and because “Paprikás Csirke” is easily recognizable on menus that don’t include English translations. One of my favorite plates was served with blackened tiny potatoes at a street-side cafe on the Pest side of the city; as best as I could tell from a phrasebook-assisted conversation with the waiter, the paprika roux was thickened with a puree of roasted spicy and sweet peppers.

I’m going to try to convince Clay to recreate the dish for me for dinner this week, from that hazy description and this cornucopia of bell, horn, and banana peppers.

Cabbage

I adore cabbage, and have long been enamored with the idea of making my own sauerkraut. After that trip to Hungary, I bought an antique pickling crock and spent several years trying to ferment my own vegetables. It turns out that our kitchen has the wrong climate for producing edible, naturally fermented foods so I sold the crock, have been buying our kraut already sauered, and have stuck to more simple methods of preparing cabbage.

This week, I’m thinking that the small head of green savoy cabbage could be a great accompaniment to Paprikás Csirke if it’s grilled and dressed with something a little sweet and a little salty. And the larger head of savoy and the small head of red cabbage could be shredded and mixed with carrots, pea shoots, and peanut sauce  – wouldn’t that be deliciously fresh under a Szechuan beef stir-fry, instead of rice or noodles?

Red Onions

In this week’s newsletter, Lorraine of Simpaug Farms called these “bunching onions”. I can’t eat any alliums raw, but I love red onions when they are gently sauteed and then caramelized to bring out their sweetness.

Sweet Berry Tomatoes

And these luscious little bites of sunshine – the very best thing about summer – will be eaten right out of this bowl, a handful at a time.

Here’s to another week of excellent meals!

How To Make The Most Delicious Summer Pasta

I don’t have a photo of the finished plate, because I do not have that much willpower.

I love watching food game shows; when people who have staked their reputation on cooking well are challenged to up their game in a public setting, they layer ingredients and flavors and techniques in ways I can’t even imagine. One of the specific things I’ve noticed lately is the tendency to layer sauces: one to dress the bottom of the plate, a second atop the entrée, and a third on the accompaniment. And that new way of thinking inspired the most amazing pasta dish I’ve eaten this year.

First, grill some vegetables.

Sift your CSA share or home garden harvest and pull out three summer onions, a head of new garlic, and six gorgeous peppers. Wrap the garlic in a foil packet, and toss all of the veggies onto the grill. Turn as needed, and when the peppers are cooked through and the onions have some char marks, remove them all to a bowl and head inside to your range. (Unless you have a fabulous outdoor cooktop, in which case you can just move along your gorgeous outdoor kitchen and keep working. But don’t tell me; I’m working to curb my envy.)

Second, make the pasta and a lemon butter sauce.

Throw the fettuccine in a pot of salted boiling water, and toss four tablespoons of butter into a skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, add a peeled, whole clove of garlic, three gluts of chicken stock or white wine, and the zest and juice of a large, ripe lemon. Simmer, whisking regularly, for 7 to 10 minutes until the sauce thickens, beautifully emulsified and fragrant. Discard the garlic, then toss your drained pasta into the sauce, turning it to coat. Your pasta will be glossy and beautiful, and you will want to dive into it with your bare hands. Resist temptation!

Turn those grilled vegetables into a sauce of their very own.

Cut away the blackened edges of garlic, and squeeze four of the paste-consistency garlic cloves into another skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil. Peel and seed two fist-sized peppers, and dice them and one of the onions, and add them to the skillet. Roughly chop three beautifully ripe tomatoes into the skillet; season liberally with salt, pepper, and herbs like basil, oregano, and marjoram. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, just until the vegetable juices come together and bubble.

Prepare your plates.

Pull warm plates from your oven, and divide the lemony fettuccine between them. Spoon the vegetable sauce over the top liberally – you simply can’t be too heavy handed. If you can’t live without cheese on your pasta add a little freshly grated Parmesan – but keep it light so you don’t miss out on the silky texture of the buttered pasta.

Enjoy.

Sit at the table with your napkin readily at hand, and twirl the lemon-butter-soaked pasta through the glorious vegetables. Every bite tastes like a languid summer afternoon, bursting with the richness of fresh-from-the garden veggies and the velvety, sunshine-brightness of lemon.

Reserve the remaining grilled vegetables so you can make this again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. Sun-warmed tomatoes were made for this!