Posts Tagged ‘eggplant’

Traveling and Coming Home

September 10, 2009

I think I’ve been away more than usual this summer.  I like traveling, and I was away doing things that I enjoyed or at least valued.  The food from a week at a camp and a week at a conference center, however, left me feeling lousy.  Dairy and eggs left this vegetarian craving beans.  Processed starches left me wanting whole grains.  And I acutely missed the abundance of fresh, local, delicious vegetables and fruits that I would have had at home.

At the end of the summer, I had the opposite travel experience.  We visited friends in Seattle and enjoyed plums and blackberries that grow on their property.  Then we went to a farmers market that was about 5 times the size of the larger of my local markets.  The variety of produce, cheeses, baked goods, and meat was overwhelming, in a good way.  The prices of fruits were much lower than what I’m used to paying.  I’ll admit a bit of climate envy.

At home, food this week has been about combinations.  A ratatouille included tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, and fresh garlic along with garbanzos, dried oregano, salt, and of course lots of  olive oil.  It would have included fresh basil, too,  if we’d had energy to pick some from out back.

A stir-fry included green beans, broccoli, turnips, turnip greens, radishes, radish greens, and some cilantro.  As has become usual, we firmed up the tofu by heating it without oil in a single layer on a nonstick skillet, flipping it when the first side browned.  To work with the cilantro’s sweetness, the sauce used a generous amount of jarred hoisin sauce along with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

We brought back a salad we particularly enjoyed last fall:  arugula with cheddar and apples, with a balsamic vinaigrette.  We’ve started to get apples from our CSA, and the rainy summer means this should be a particularly good apple season.  Flashback: last year I posted a catalogue of apples.  So far, we’ve gotten Ginger Gold.

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CSA starts and Apple Bread

June 10, 2009

Our CSA began this week with greens, greens, greens, greens, and some more greens.  Specifically, we got two bunches each of red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, pea tendrils, spinach, chicory, and bok choy.  The bunches were so big that they wouldn’t all fit in our refrigerator without difficulty.

That gave us the push we needed to start right away saving for winter.  My husband washed, chopped, blanched, shocked, and froze one of the heads of chicory.  It will be good over pasta with cheese and mushrooms.  Between the time they were first cultivated and the time air conditioning was introduced, mushrooms were a winter crop.

We also cooked the spinach, both bunches, because it takes up so much less space that way. It ended up in a pasta sauce that is basically bechamel sauce with chopped spinach and parmesan cheese.  It made a lot of sauce.  When we have the leftovers, I think we’ll puree the sauce so that it spreads over the pasta better.   I hope that pureeing it doesn’t take away its fresh, green, spinach-y flavor.

We can almost defrost our chest freezer for the summer.  Everything but a few tubs of soup fits easily into the freezer attached to our refrigerator.  I could probably make it all fit, with some time and effort.  We’re reducing what’s in the freezer, still.  The night before our first CSA drop-off, we enjoyed a stir-fry of tofu with tatsoi and Asian eggplant, both from the freezer.  I am pleased to report that both froze satisfactorily.  The tatsoi stems became even tougher and harder to chew than when they’re fresh, and the eggplant was on the softer side but it did still have texture.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well just about everything freezes.  Putting Food By seems to get it right, every time.

The apple bread I wrote about in my last post turned out pretty well, so here’s the recipe.  If you didn’t save a glut of apples this year, come back to this recipe in October when there are lots and they’re cheap.

Apple Quickbread or Muffins (vegan)

Most quantities are guesses.
2 1/2 cups flour, white or whole wheat (dark spices make it brown anyway)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cloves, nutmeg, ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 or 3 tsp salt
3 apples, diced small
1 cup water, or less
1 1/2 cup applesauce

Mix dry ingredients.
Mix apple pieces in to coat with flour mixture.
Add half of water and then applesauce, stirring to mix evenly. If dough is too dry, add the remaining water.
Oil and flour a 9×9 baking dish (or a dozen muffin tins).
Pour in batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

Week 52: May 20-26

May 26, 2009

The first nearby farmers market opens tomorrow!  Our experimental year of eating only local produce is at an end.  The experiment was a success!  We’ve made a lifestyle change.  It’s a change that was building for a while, and we took it to a higher level over the past year.  Next year, I hope that my planning ahead pays off well enough that we don’t feel the need to join a winter CSA, or buy the occasional grocery store tomato sauce or potatoes.  (Flashback to my first post shows what I thought we were getting ourselves into.)

In this last week of the year, we’ve eaten more generously of the vegetables we’d been hoarding.  Green beans, frozen spread out on a cookie sheet to stay separate, then transferred to a pint yogurt container, really did stay separate and were easy to cook with.  They joined frozen stewed diced tomatoes and grocery store raisins and chickpeas in a Tunisian stew based on a Moosewood Cooks at Home recipe.  It gets coriander, some cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne; salt of course; and at the very end a generous splash of lemon juice.  The recipe as written involves a few vegetables, none of which are green beans.  It also, as written, involves measuring out the spices.

My husband more closely followed another recipe from Moosewood Cooks at Home, this one for Vegetable Stifado.  He tossed in potato, eggplant, green pepper, kale, carrots, and more stewed diced tomato, a list which overlaps the vegetables called for in the recipe.  There were a lot of colors, shapes, and textures, making it an attractive meal.  It’s spiced with dill, rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and was excellent with leftover red wine added in, too.

As the first harvests of spring become available to us, we’ll be eating the sorts of season-blending meals that have come to feel so unnatural.  Butternut squash stored on a kitchen shelf since November can join corn frozen mid-summer and fresh new spring radish greens in a single year-spanning meal.  Fittingly, the Jewish holiday Shavuos is later this week.  It celebrates the first produce of the year.  That’s truly something worth celebrating.

Week 34: January 13 – 19

January 22, 2009

The longer our winter CSA goes on, the more I’m impressed with the variety and anti-impressed by how much of the food comes from North Carolina and Florida, both of which are outside my foodshed.  I guess it depends on what the alternative is.

This year, we simply didn’t have enough vegetables put by to get us through much of the winter, even if we had eaten (or processed and frozen) all the turnips and squash before any got rotten.  That means the alternative to a winter CSA might have been grocery store produce, either fresh or frozen.  On a recent trip to Whole Foods, which has been making a point of labeling local items in their produce section, the only local vegetables t0 be seen were hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes.  I didn’t buy any.

Next year we’ll be better about buying things at the farmers market to supplement our CSA share.  In retrospect, we neglected to realize that with more vegetables around (going from a small share to a large) we would eat more vegetables.  Plus we were trying to eat for 12 months on 5 months’ deliveries of vegetables, so even getting twice as many vegetables as we were eating wouldn’t have been enough.   (For a peek back at what we were thinking, check out my very first blog post:  Goal: No Supermarket Veggies.)

This week’s haul was the usual red potatoes, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges, and apples, all of which we divided evenly between the two couples.  We also both got green beans and lettuce (red leaf for us, green leaf for them).  We got a green pepper, they got onions.  We got cherry tomatoes, they got avocados.  We got chard, they got some other leafy green but I can’t remember which.

Breaking it down by location, here’s what we got:

  • Massachusetts:  apples, carrots, and onions
  • Vermont: red potatoes
  • North Carolina:  white potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Florida:  lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, pepper, chard, green beans, and oranges

It’s gotten more and more skewed southward with each passing week.  By the end of March, when the CSA ends, I wonder if everything will be from Florida!  That will leave us two months to get through from just our freezer before the farmers markets start up again at the end of May and beginning of June.  Thinking about that now feels a little odd.

The cherry tomatoes joined rounds of zucchini (July, frozen in week 8) and cubes of Italian eggplant (probably August, frozen in week 13, but the label had fallen off) in a sautee to go over pasta.  It was summer in a skillet.

summer_skillet

Freezing zucchini and eggplant had been an experiment. I am pleased to report that the texture of the frozen vegetables was just about perfect, so next summer I’ll confidently freeze more zucchini and eggplant.

On the same theme, we used the second tub of sugar-macerated sliced strawberries (June, frozen in week 5) to make what just might be world’s most delicious ice cream as my special birthday treat (yeah, that was why the party, too).  Unfortutately, we hadn’t left the ice cream maker’s freezer cannister in the freezer long enough so the freezing process didn’t go quite right and the texture wasn’t what it should have been.  But the flavor, oh the flavor!

We used the green beans in Moosewood’s version of Hunan sauce again, with tofu as usual.  That ends up being just two servings.  With my parents coming to dinner, we needed more food than that.   What else could go in?  A second block of tofu, certainly, but what about more vegetables?  We didn’t have any more green beans.  Carrots didn’t seem quite right, nor squash, nor potatoes.  Cabbage, though, would work just fine.  One of the heads we’d gotten at a late farmers market in November had some moldy outer leaves and was a good candidate for getting used up.  After those leaves were removed, I quartered and sliced the cabbage, and it went into the stir-fry with the green beans and tofu.  It worked, mostly.  I cooked the green beans a little too long before adding the cabbage, and something about the liquid from the cabbage or the fullness of the wok, or maybe just my failure to give the sauce a final stir, kept the sauce from thickening the way it was supposed to.  The balance of flavors was good, my parents seemed pleased, and there were leftovers!

Week 33: January 5 – 12

January 13, 2009

Kale used to be on the (short) list of vegetables I don’t like.  Brussels sprouts are still there.  This is not to be confused with onions, which are on the short list of vegetables that don’t like me.  We kept getting kale in our CSA, and didn’t want to always be giving it away (especially because we only had one friend who wanted it).  Plus, it’s really, really, really good for you.  So we kept trying different things, hoping to find some way that kale was palatable.

After a few tries, I came up with a kale-lentil-lemon soup seasoned with Garam Masala that I like a whole lot, and my husband likes, too. (The recipe is in week 5.)   For a couple of years, any time we got kale, I made the soup.  Sometimes we ate it fresh, sometimes it went into the freezer.  Soup takes up a lot of space in the freezer, so then I learned to blanch and freeze the kale to be made into soup later.

Then a funny thing happened.  We got used to the taste of kale, and started eating it prepared in other ways.  I learned that I like kale with Indian sorts of seasonings, like curry, turmeric, and cumin.  The spiced potatoes and kale I made in week 31 is a good example of that. We’ve reached the point that we’ll use kale in any leafy green recipe, if kale is what we happen to have. Especially if it’s winter and any leafy greens are a treat. (That’s the locavore in me talking.) Our use of kale in the Green Cafe-inspired usually-collards recipe in week 30 was a good example of that. Of course, that recipe still has strong, spicy flavors like cumin and cayenne.  So maybe it’s still all about the seasonings.

This week we got kale again.  (Notice a theme?)  I paired it with lentils and Indian seasoinings.  Some of the soup idea, some of the seasonings idea.  The lentils had to simmer for about 45 minutes before they were ready to be added to chopped kale in a skillet with oil, garlic, salt, and the whole spice rack:  a lot of curry powder and turmeric, about half as much cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and ginger, and a bit of cayenne.  The whole mess went over rice.  It was easy and tasty, so I’d definitely make it again.

Kale was just one of the things we got from our CSA this week.  Due to some sort of a distribution problem, they ran out of large shares before we got to the pick up, so they gave us two small shares instead.  That made sharing with the other couple very easy!  We got what has become a typical share: apples, carrots,  a bag of arugula, and  one onion from Massachusetts; potatoes, sweet potatoes, and the aforementioned kale from North Carolina;  and oranges and a green bell pepper from Florida.

On the night we got the share, when it was freshest, we made an arugula salad with diced apple and cheddar cheese (Cabot, of course).  The apple wasn’t as crunch as I would have liked, but it was crunch enough and the flavors complemented each other beautifully under a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Another apple or two were diced into oatmeal (cut oats, not rolled) and allowed to stew down partway to applesauce.  There was also cinnamon involved, and some cloves and ginger.  We poured maple syrup onto our bowls to sweeten it.

Two of the dozen butternut squash around our kitchen were showing signs of rot, so I figured I’d better make a meal around their salvageable parts.  Turns out it’s easy to cut out the rotten part of a squash and still have good parts that really are good.  Between the two part-rotten squashes, what I got was equivalent to a bit more than one squash.  I cubed it, boiled it until a fork went in easily, then drained the cubes and mixed in butter, lots of sage (dried, because that’s what we have), salt, and pepper.  It made enough to top one pound of penne pasta, and worked out to be four servings.

We dipped into the freezer this week, too.  One supper was a stir-fry of pan-browned tofu, Asian eggplant from the freezer, and organic soba noodles (because we’re lucky enough to have a local Asian grocer who carries such things).  I mixed a sauce from jarred ginger, minced garlic, bottled Hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.  What makes this meal stand out for me was that the eggplant came out with a good texture.  I’d been very worried that blanching and freezing it would soften it too much.  Apparently I got the blanching time right, because it was still nicely chewy.

The fresh pepper and a half dozen carrots went into a tabbouleh, along with parsley frozen this summer.  The texture on the parsley isn’t very good, of course, but it’s still quite edible.  I also put chickpeas into my tabbouleh to make it a very complete meal.  The discovery that I can put any raw vegetables (finely chopped) into tabbouleh was very liberating.  There are too many other things to do with tomatoes.  My favorite tabbouleh is with cucumbers.  As long as there’s bulghur dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and spices (usually parsley, mint, and garlic), it’s tabbouleh and a good lunch.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle author Barbara Kingsolver asks “What do you eat in January?” and answers “everything!”  This week we ate fresh, stored, and frozen vegetables.  I don’t know what to make for dinner tonight because there are too many options.  All through harvest season we eat whatever will spoil soonest.  Now we don’t have anything threatenting to spoil imminently.  What a luxury!

Weeks 24-25: November 2 – 15

November 13, 2008

At the end of the CSA season, our farmer likes to invite shareholders out to the farm to do a bit of picking our own produce.  We went the first weekend in November.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.  We pulled turnips, saving the good greens, and leaving the brown or bug-eaten ones to compost in the field.  We cut tatsoi, mustard greens, and kale to freeze, and a bit of mizuna to cook fresh.  We dug potatoes, which was fun, because my husband had never seen the above-ground part of a potato, and it had been a few years since I’d last dug potatoes, so neither of us was quite sure what we were looking for.  Between my memory and our farmer’s directions (telling us where in his fields to look for what) we were successful enough.  There were also lots of squashes already picked for us, and we chose mostly butternut to take home, because I know more ways to cook it.  We also took a few Little Dumpling, because there’s something fun about one squash = one serving.  Unlike last year, when most of our haul was carrots and parsnips, we pulled neither this year.  The carrots were all gone, and the parsnips were in a different field.

We didn’t think turnip greens would freeze well, especially because we like the crunch of the stems, so we planned to eat them fresh while freezing the other greens from our CSA.  We made a turnip, greens, and tofu stir-fry shortly after our visit to the farm.  It was too hard to get the cooking times right, so the turnips ended up too soft (mush, even) before the greens were wilted enough. 

With the rest of the greens, after they’d had another week to wilt in the fridge, I pureed them into soup.  Wilted greens pureed into soup are wonderful.  I chopped, boiled, and then pureed together a few potatoes, a turnip, the remaining turnip greens, in a broth of water (1 to 2 cups per potato), salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot pepper, and smoked paprika.  Choosing the right spices for a vegetable makes such a difference. 

We’ve been eating some squash, too.  Buttercup squash is a lot like acorn squash.  It works, but is boring, baked and served with butter and maple syrup in the cavity.  Been there, ate that, lots more squash left.  At least all those are local foods.  My mother gave us a pineapple (very much not a local food) but we forgot to eat it while it was really fresh.  So we cut up the pineapple and filled buttercup squash cavities with pineapple chunks, plus a bit of water, and sprinkled the whole thing generously with a Jamaican spice mix, then baked the squash.  Jamaican pineapple squash is a delicious combination, well worth repeating. 

Pineapple isn’t the only fruit I’ve been playing with.  I made oatmeal this weekend (steel-cut, not rolled) studded with cranberries and chunks of apple (both local, of course), sweetened with maple syrup (local again), and spiced with cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Delicious!

We finally started eating from our freezer.  With dough from a local pizza place, we made our own pizza.  (We should have planned ahead and made our own dough in our bread machine.  We have yet to do that, but sooner or later we will.)  Everything we put on the pizza was local:  tomato sauce from the summer before last, fresh mozzarella from the farmers market, and vegetables from our freezer.  One one pizza we used large-diced green bell peppers, and on the other cubed eggplant.  Both vegetables had very good flavor and texture after being frozen and then baked.  Hooray!

We’ve supplemented our CSA veggies with apples, napa cabbage, and lettuce from the farmers market.  for later.  Apple report:  the Baldwins are still incredible, the Mutsus are still crisp and juicy, and the Northern Spy apples that have been sitting in a bag on my kitchen floor for weeks are still pleasant to eat (whereas McIntosh would have gone mushy or mealy ages ago). 

Also at the farmers market we got heads of green cabbage, as a storage vegetable.  I was inspired by the red cabbage from this summer that we ate 3 months after receiving it.  (We got it in week 10 and ate it in week 22.) 

Our kitchen is still overflowing with apples, squash, and pumpkin.  I want to make applesauce, curried squash-and-pumpkin soup, cubed squash, mashed squash, pumpkin puree…  But our freezer is full.  So we bought a chest freezer.  We’ve been talking about doing this since last winter, when we decided to go up to the large share.  Instead of eating a small share’s worth of veggies and freezing the rest, we’ve been eating more veggies, leaving us fewer to freeze.  Finally, in the fall, we got inundated with more than we could eat.  That’s a good thing, because we’re planning to keep eating our vegetables this winter. 

We realized that we only need another freezer about as big as the one on our refrigerator.  At first, we thought we’d find a freezer on Craigslist, but those were mostly much bigger.  They’re also older, and much less energy efficient.  We looked at a few stores to get a sense or how big the freezers are, and how the space inside is arranged and accessed.  For each, we wanted to know about price and energy rating.  Nobody had an EnergyStar freezer for sale.  Finally, we got onto the EnergyStar website, and found that for small freezers the standard is much stricter than for large ones.  Instead of being at least 10% more efficient than the industry average, they have to be at least 20% more efficient.  Only one freezer currently has that rating.  And it’s sold only at one store.  And that store is Walmart.  I’ve never set foot in Walmart.  I abhor their labor policies, and the way they intentionally drive their competitors out of business.  At the same time, they’re a real leader when it comes to the environment, both for how they run their stores and what products they demand from their suppliers.  The long and the short of it is that I still haven’t set food in a Walmart store, and don’t ever plan to, but, thanks to mail-order, I’ve now done business with them, to save about 50 kilowatt-hours per year.

Week 20: October 7 – 13 (Part III)

October 12, 2008

Of the six peppers in our crisper drawer, only two were still in good shape yesterday.  One was so bad it had to go straight into compost.  The other three had parts I needed to cut out (or at least wanted to cut out – they might not hurt me, but I’m not going to find out).  Some of them had parts where the outer layer of skin had detatched from the flesh and looked white, just like dead skin does on a blister.  As I said, I cut those parts off.  What was left was sort of funny-shaped, so I diced what was left of the three peppers, probably equivalent to two whole, healthy peppers.  I tossed the diced peppers into a skilled with garlic and olive oil, and softened them over medium heat.  When the peppers released their juices, I added lots of coriander and turmeric and a bit of cayenne and cinnamon, along with some salt.  (You might recognize my Tunisian spice combination.)  Then I added some leftover couscous, maybe a cup or so, and mixed it up until it turned a turmeric-stained yellow.  When it was warmed through, it was a colorful and very flavorful pilaf for lunch, with a neither local nor organic veggie burger for each of us.  We need to eat veggie burgers to make space in the freezer.

With the peppers out, there was more space in the crisper drawer for new farmers market purchases.  I came home with another four pounds of potatoes and a bunch of dill for making another potato salad for another potluck.  I bought a bunch of chard and a bunch of mustard greens because we barely had greens from our CSA last week, so I was craving them.  I bought a bunch of mizuna to go with the remaining two peppers and two or three baby eggplants, and some of the local tofu, into  a stir-fry for supper tonight.  Because they were there, I bought two huge sweet potatoes, a jar of herbs de provance, and a pint of wild foraged mushrooms.  I couldn’t resist trying Roxbury Russet apples, one of the oldest heirlooms in this area.  When we eat them, I’ll let you know how they are.

We dried another 6 McIntosh apples yesterday.  They go down to something like 1/5 of their original size.  Those 6 apples, when dried, would fit comfortably in a sandwich size bag.  We keep adding to a gallon bag, and it’s finally looking filled. 

We haven’t been doing very well with the Eat Local Challenge.  A lot of socializing recently has involved eating out.  That’s sort of eating locally because it’s supporting local eateries.  (We avoid chain restaurants, and we’ve been doing that for quite a while.)  The eateries that use local ingredients, though, are haute cuisine, and we aren’t looking for (and can rarely afford) that sort of food.  At brunch this morning, I realized that the cream for my coffee might well be the only local food I was consuming, out of the entire meal.

Week 19: September 30 – October 6

October 1, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Eat Local Challenge.  What it boils down to is that there’s barely anything I can change that I haven’t changed already.  I can give up orange juice.  I can replace sugar with maple syrup or honey.  I might be able to buy local eggs.  I’m simply not going to be able to buy enough shell beans to replace all the canned and dried beans we use.  And I’m not going to pollute extra, driving around to specialty shops for specific foods.  So I guess I’m back where I started, which is that I may as well add my name to it because it doesn’t take any extra effort.  (For snack this evening, I had bread made from Vermont-processed flour and Massachusetts-processed butter.  I thought about having herbal tea from Groton, MA with honey from Peabody, MA, but I decided it was too warm.)

I’ve been proselytizing, but the quiet way.  I brought a bunch of scallions and a small bag of dried apple rings over to the neighbor whose dehydrator we’re borrowing as a thank-you.  The only problem with the dehydrator is its capacity.  It’s only good for about two pounds of apples at a time, and we’ve been buying apples in 10-lb bags.   In contrast, my stock pot lets me turn all 10 pounds of apples into sauce at once.

Another bit of proselytizing was with relatives.  We shared a meal with family on Monday and I volunteered to cook, so that I could serve them fresh, local, nearly-organic peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes in Tunisian vegetables, with whole wheat couscous that I bought in bulk in a paper bag that later got filled with vegetable trimmings and put in our composter.  To prepare a generous quantity for six people I used 8 green bell peppers (including the two heirloom St. Nick peppers we had sitting around), 4 small eggplants, and 3 tomatoes.  It’s been especially good pepper weather, but we’ve gotten good about freezing them, so I had to buy 2 more bell peppers at the weekend farmers market to have enough.  I also bought 2 sweet potatoes because we never get those from our CSA. 

This week our CSA share was one bunch of  arugula, one bunch of mizuna, one bunch of carrots, one bunch of parsley, one head of cauliflower, five baby eggplants, six aneheim peppers, ten cubanelle peppers, two sugar pumpkins, twenty apples (about six pounds, unspecified variety) and one pound of green tomatoes.

Since it wasn’t October yet, I made a soup in which mizuna was the only local ingredient.  It had Japanese udon noodles, shitake mushrooms (dried), hijiki (a sea vegetable, also dried), and tofu, and was seasoned with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.  We ate with chopsticks and deep Chinese soup spoons.  It was delicious. 

My husband made and froze another batch of salsa verde, about three cups this time.  It used last week’s two pints of tomatillos along with some of the cilantro from the farmers market and a few of the sixteen anaheim peppers we had accumulated between last week and this. He chopped and froze the rest of the hot peppers.  He also chopped the rest of the cilantro and froze it in an ice cube tray, with some water, so we’ll have herb cubes to use as needed.   We might do the same with the parsley

Last week, one of the anaheim peppers went into a variant of dal makhni, and Indian lentil stew.  I used red lentils, which break down completely and make a smooth, thick broth for the vegetables.  In last week’s stew I used one anaheim pepper, diced small, two green bell peppers, a couple of carrots, and all of the head of cauliflower.  We ate it over brown rice, which was a good combination.  Lentils and rice aren’t local, but at least they’re dried before they’re shipped, and they’re both things I buy in bulk in paper bags.  I have no idea where the lentils are from, but I know my rice is from California.  Just knowing counts for something, doesn’t it?

Week 17: September 15 – 22

September 18, 2008

I’m kind of looking forward to winter, when I won’t have to wash or chop any vegetables for months. Our freezer is getting very full of yummy things. During the spring and summer, I keep it running efficiently by filling empty space with containers of ice, because keeping ice frozen takes less energy than keeping air that cold. It’s another kitchen chemistry thing, having to do with phase changes and specific temperatures. As we fill the freezer with vegetables, the tubs of ice come out to make space. Almost all of them have come out of the freezer by now.

Our CSA share this week was one bag of mixed baby lettuce, one bunch of arugula, one bunch of mustard greens, one bunch of chard, one bunch of large orange carrots, one bunch of scallions, six green bell peppers, four tiny eggplants, one pound of green beans, four pounds of tomatoes, and one pint of cherry tomatoes.   For fruit this week we got Mutsu and Shamrock apples from the mid-week farmers market. 

We’ve been eating last week’s arugula on sandwiches, and carefully worked our way through this week’s lettuce as quickly as we could.  Baby lettuce is always a race against sliminess.  While arugula is good raw, it can also be just another sharp Italian green good over pasta (wilted with garlic, parmesan, olive oil, and red pepper, of course).  Chard I like so much that we ate it right away, steamed and dressed lightly with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

My husband cooked up delicious homefries with four huge red-skinned potatoes and two bell peppers.  He microwaved the potato chunks for 5 minutes before putting them in the frying pan with garlic, smoked paprika, oregano, basil, and salt (and oil, of course). 

We’ve been getting more cherry tomatoes than I really care to eat fresh.  (The first pint is irresistable, but we’ve reached overload, especially because my husband doesn’t eat them at all.)  It had been frustrating me that cherry tomatoes were, like lettuce, not able to be “put by.”  Then, at the farmers market last weekend, a friend told us that she had dealt with a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes by dehydraing them.  Another friend, a neighbor, had offered us the use of her dehydrator, so when we got cherry tomatoes again this week, I took her up on the offer.  Halved and dehydrated overnight, cherry tomatoes become incredble little bite-sized “sundried” tomatoes.  They’re now under olive oil tucked away in a cabinet.

As long as we were running the dehydrator, I cored and sliced (but didn’t peel) the remaining two Gravenstein apples, and dehydrated them, too.  Apparently, in their heydey, a lot of Gravensteins turned into dried apples because they are good for that.  The dried rings have a sweet, strong apple flavor.

Other vegetables we preserved, as usual, by freezing.  I froze the pound of green beans, the bunch of mustard greens, and three of the bell peppers.  The green beans and mustard greens get blanched and shocked first, the bell peppers don’t.  Greens start off at such a volume that I have to blanch one bunch in two batches, while the entire pound of green beans fits easily in one batch.  When the tomatoes are ripe enough, I’ll stew and freeze them, too.

Week 16: September 8 – 14 (Part II)

September 13, 2008

Corn season is now over.  We went to the farmers market this morning.  We didn’t need anything, because we have plenty of vegetables from our CSA and plenty of apples from my husband’s mid-week farmers market trip.  We like the Saturday market, though, because it’s nearby so it’s an easy walk and we always see lots of people we know.  Today was no exception.  We spent most of our time socializing, but we also did some shopping.  We look for things that we aren’t getting from out CSA.  Today we came home with four ears of corn, four small Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes, four very small Asian eggplants, and somewhere between half a pound and a pound of black-eyed peas, still in their shells. 

The corn and tomatoes were for lunch today.  I’ve been waiting for weeks for heirloom tomatoes to come down below $3.50 per pound, and they just haven’t.  So I succumbed, and splurged on some Green Zebras, which I recall being one of my favorites.  I ate two at lunch, and was very disappointed.  The other two aren’t ripe yet, so I’m optimistic that I can catch them at just-exactly-ripe and they’ll be delicious.  We bought corn because we figured it was getting to be our last chance.  It looked good (no tip worms – how much pesticide does that mean?), and had a nice texture, but it had very little flavor.  I guess that means corn season is over. 

The eggplants were to join mizuna and tofu in a stir-fry for supper tonight.  The black-eyed peas will go with whatever greens we get next week in something southern-style, probably with honey, cider vinegar, and cayenne. 

I froze a lot of food today, but didn’t do any blanching.  That’s because two of the things I froze–bell peppers and parsley–get frozen raw, and the others–applesauce and diced tomatoes–are juicy enough to stew. 

I cut this week’s four green bell peppers into bite-size pieces and froze them in a single layer in gallon bag.  They’ll probably turn into the Tunisian vegetables that I gave a recipe for in week 15

I coarsely chopped the parsley and packed it, with a bit of water, into two sandwich bags.  Each of them will go into a batch of tabbouleh

I diced all four pounds of tomatoes (minus the one that went into ratatouille) and stewed them for the usual ten minutes.  I packed them into three 2-cup glass storage bowls.  When they’re frozen, we’ll transfer all three blocks of tomatoes into one gallon bag, with squares of wax paper between them, so we can still get out just 2 cups (equivalent to one can) when we need it.  The Green Guide magazine warns that plastic containers that are safe for cold food might leach chemicals when hot, so it’s better to put the hot tomatoes into glass.  Besides, we don’t get takeout to end up with plastic 2-cup tubs.  Yield:  6 cups of cooked diced tomatoes in juice. 

I turned the 10 pound bag of Macintosh apples into applesauce.  There were a few spots that I had to cut out (bruised to the point of rotting) but mostly they were fine.  I don’t worry about a bit of bruising in my applesauce because the apples are going to get brown and mushy anyway as they cook.  I cored and quartered the apples, but left the skins on because they contain so many nutrients, and besides I’m too lazy to peel them.  They filled my 3 gallon stock pot.  I added half a cup of water to keep the bottom from burning, which would have worked if only I remembered to stir the sauce more often.  I was distracted by cutting up peppers and tomatoes while the applesauce cooked.  I added about 3 tablespoons of cinnamon and about 1 tablespoon each of nutmeg and cloves.   I should have used even more cinnamon.  The flesh of the apples breaks down into sauce very nicely.  The skins don’t.  If I had wanted chunky sauce I would have diced the apples instead of merely quartering them, mostly to get the skins cut up.  Because I was happy with smooth sauce this time, I ran everything through my food mill.  It’s the food grinder attachment for a KitchenAid stand mixer.  It pureed the skins and trapped the tough bits from around the seeds.  (The seeds themselves I had gotten out.)  Yield:  4 quarts of applesauce. 

Stockpot full of quartered Macintosh apples. Stockpot half full of Macintosh applesauce.