Posts Tagged ‘summer squash’

Week 12: August 10 – 17, Vacation

August 18, 2008

We spent last week on a lovely vacation in Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks.  I did my homework ahead of time, and found farmers market listings for New York State.

We brought a large cooler with us that contained, among other things, the corn salad and what was left of the Costa Rican slaw that I made in Week 11, along with chicory, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, red cabbage, green bell pepper, potatoes, and two tiny yellow squash, all left over from the previous week (or even earlier). We ate some of the salads for lunch on the Lake Champlain ferry.

Our first night in Lake Placid, my mother-in-law made the chicory, mushroom, and roasted pepper pasta dish from Greens, Glorious Greens and it was colorful and delicious. (Yes, we brought the cook book with us. If you’re looking for it, look under escarole, not chicory.) While she cooked that, I made a colorful if odd salad of lettuce, radishes, yellow squash, green pepper, the largest cucumber, and some knife-shredded red cabbage leaves. It was a lot of food, even for four adults.

We went to the Keene Farmers Market on Sunday.   The highlight was a local dog-and-owner square dance troupe.    The dog and its owner were a couple, and the dogs had to be very, very good at accepting “stay” commands from each of the owners in the square, while lots of other interesting activity was going on, both human and canine. 

We were at the market with my in-laws, who were with us for the entire weekend.  Between all of us, we bought a dozen ears of corn, two zuchini and two yellow squash large enough to make burger-size slices to grill without falling through the slats, one incredible tomato, one bunch of beautiful rainbow chard, two pints of raspberries, a quart of mixed plums and Saturn peaches, and a dozen free-range eggs.

Everything about a free-range egg is sturdier than in a conventional store-bought egg – the shell is harder, the yolk is brighter and stands taller in the pan, even the whites are better, although I can’t describe how.  It was $3 for the dozen and worth every penny!

We hadn’t intended to buy peaches, because we get those around home (Boston area) often enough. Plums were more interesting, and we couldn’t decide between the two varieties being sold. When we asked for a mixed quart, the farmer looked around for an empty quart container to fill for us. Not finding one, he picked up one that already had peaches in it. Instead of completely emptying it out before putting in plums, he left some peaches explaining that they’re very sought-after, costing half again as much closer to New York City. (He lives much closer to New York City than to Lake Placid, but comes up to the Adirondacks to fish, and pays for gas by selling at the farmers market.) They’re strange looking fruit, because the flesh makes a doughnut around the pit, with dimples on the top and bottom where the pit is shorter than the fruit. They were, in fact, tasty, but we liked the plums better.

We grilled the squash and zucchini, and ate leftovers all week. Leftover corn we cut off the cob and diluted the overly spicy corn salad that I’d made the week before. Leftover wine and mushrooms inspired a yummy chard side dish: we cooked the mushrooms in some olive oil until they started to release juices, then added minced garlic, then red wine. It all cooked together for a bit while the rest of supper heated. When everything else was nearly ready, coarsely chopped chard went in, and was pushed around until it all wilted. The mushrooms were purple from simmering in wine so long, but the colors of the chard stems still showed through.

We visited the Cornell Maple Research Station where we learned about the many ways they’ve found to increase yield and reduce energy needed. We bought a half gallon of dark (grade B) maple syrup while we were there.

We had picked 8 blackberries before going away. When we got home again, we harvested a relatively-whopping 19 blackberries. More had ripened and then gone past during the week, so we left those for the birds.

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Week 10: July 27 – August 2 (Part II)

August 4, 2008

We went to the farmers market this weekend and bought an eggplant, a bunch of cilantro, and ten peaches.

We got an eleventh peach free. When I was putting peaches on the farmer’s scale, one of them was soft enough that I must have made a face. I didn’t want to be rude and put it back, but the farmer noticed, and he picked it up and took it off the scale so I didn’t have to. After we’d paid for our ten peaches, he handed us the soft one and told us to put it on top in our bag and eat it quickly. As soon as we got home, I tried to cut it in half for us to share, but it really was far too soft even for that.  Clearly, it was a peach for cooking with rather than eating raw.  It went into Jamaican Jerk black beans.  I started with dried beans, and simmered them until they were edibly soft.  Then I added a lot of Jamaican Jerk spice mix, a generous amount of salt, some sugar, and the peach (cut up small), and kept simmering until most of the water was gone.  If I’d been serving the beans over rice, I would have left the water (or even added more) to make a sauce for the rice.  Why cook the beans before adding seasonings?  It’s more kitchen chemistry, having to do with osmosis.  The beans absorb more water if there’s nothing in the water. 

The cilantro is to make Costa Rican style slaw.  I was lucky enough to go to Costa Rica on a service-and-homestay trip when I was a student, and I remember salads that were mostly cabbage, sometimes topped with sliced beets, seasoned with salt and lemon.  I remember cilantro being used a lot, but I don’t recall in what foods.  It turns out that cilantro goes very well in a slaw of shredded cabbage seasoned with lemon juice, salt, and olive oil.  I would have made some this weekend, but used up my lemon juice making lemonade.  Apparently, I cook a lot of CSA foods with lemon juice.  I was surprised my bottle was so close to empty. 

The eggplant was intended for grilling, along with zucchini and yellow summer squash.  We invited friends over and were all set to have a cookout.  I made more potato salad, mixed up lemonade, even the peachy Jamaican beans seemed like cookout food.  Only the vegetables were going on the grill.  But then they didn’t.  Because it rained and poured.  So we cut the eggplant, zucchini, and squash into cubes about half an inch on a side and then sauteed it in a big, deep skilled with olive oil, garlic, salt, and dried basil and oregano.  The eggplant went in first, because it needed to soften most.   It was delicious.

I finally got around to dealing with the two pounds of green beans from week 9 (almost two weeks ago).   Some had dry brown spots, like leaves of an under-watered plant, and they were getting soft.  Freezing was out, and so was eating them raw.  Instead, I blanched them and then tossed them with balsamic vinaigrette for a cold side dish. 

Aside from more cabbage than I know what to do with, I feel like we’re under control on getting through our veggies.  We’re using or storing things while they’re still good.  I just hope we’re storing enough.

Week 10: July 27 – August 2

August 1, 2008

This week was almost entirely things that will not freeze well. We got two bunches of arugula, one bunch of tatsoi, three yellow summer squash, two cucumbers, two bunches of beets (well, one of beets and one of onions that we traded for more beets), two small red cabbage, and four pounds of potatoes.

We stir-fried the two bunches of tatsoi (one from this week, one from last week) with tofu, in a sauce of hoisin, tamari (soy sauce), garlic, and ginger.  It was delicious.  Tatsoi has a cabbage-y flavor similar to bok choy, but the leaves are sturdier and don’t wilt down as quite as much.  The stems are very tender and edible and are very attractive, light on dark, cris-crossing in all directions.

The beets this week had unusually long, thin stalks with unusually sparse leaves.  The beet stems-and-greens, therefore, were mostly stems.  I chopped the leaves coarsely and cut the stems to one-inch pieces, maybe shorter.  I cooked them in my usual way, sauteed with garlic in olive oil, then tossed with lemon juice and salt.  They made a meal paired with cheesy polenta – my husband mixed in shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, garlic powder, and pepper. 

I finally made the potato salad I’d been meaning to make since I bought dill for it in week 8.  I did by best to re-create the yummy salad a friend makes based on her grandmother’s recipe.  I don’t know how similar my potato salad was to my friend’s grandmother’s, but I’m very pleased with how it came out.  Here’s what I did:  Cut two pounds of potatoes into large bite-sized pieces.  In a saucepan, cover the pieces with water.  Bring to a boil.  After the water reaches a boil, continue boiling for seven more minutes.  (Test with a fork to be sure the texture is right.  Potatoes cut a different size will need a different length of cooking.)  Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water.  Dress with a mixture of 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola), 1/2 cup white vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, and a half dozen or more grinds of black pepper,  Mix in one bunch of dill, chopped.

I want to make a color-switched cole slaw with red cabbage and yellow carrots.  I hope the red color doesn’t run, because then the carrots wouldn’t still be yellow.  When (if) I make it, I’ll have to post a photo.

While we have arugula (or when we had lettuce), various veggies go into green salad. Tonight’s supper, for example, included a salad of arugula, cucumber, and beet roots.  The beets were boiled for 20 minutes (which was a bit too long for the small size of our beets this week), then cooled and sliced.  They’re sweet, colorful, and (if not over-cooked) crunchy, which makes them a wonderful addition to a salad.  Be careful, though, because they stain hands and could probably stain countertops if you don’t wipe them down promptly and thoroughly.

We at the salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I use a Good Seasons cruet, and add balsamic vinegar past the -v- line all the way up to the -w- line, then olive oil up to the -o- line.  I put in salt, garlic powder, basil, oregano, and black pepper.  I have no idea what quantities.  Just sort of to taste.  Sometimes when I make a fresh batch, I’ll dress my salad and then get up from the table to doctor up the dressing.  Usually my problem is not enough salt.  Kitchen chemistry hint:  it’s easier to dissolve the salt in the vinegar before adding the oil.  It’s about polarity.  That will have to be its own post sometime soon. 

When we don’t have leafy greens for a salad, some of those same good-for-eating-raw vegetables become crudites (vegetable sticks) with dip.  We did that recently with carrots, cucumbers, and kohlrabi.  My homemade vegetable dip is very easy:  start with plain yogurt, add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dill, all “to taste.”  Because the base is plain yogurt (as opposed to sour cream and mayonnaise, which is the more typical dip base) it’s very healthy, aside from the salt.  I use lowfat plain yogurt.  I buy Stonyfield Farms, which is based in southern New Hampshire only about an hour north of Boston, so it’s a local food.  And tasty local food, at least on this blog, is the whole point.

Week 9: July 20-26

July 25, 2008

We just ate an incredible, gourmet-looking dinner. We had a zucchini-polenta torte (or was it a casserole?) and a salad. The salad was arugula, cucumber, Gorgonzola (blue cheese), and black raspberries, with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  The torte was in 3 layers:  seasoned polenta, sliced zucchini, and cheddar cheese.  For the polenta layer, I simmered together 1 cup of fine cornmeal (sold as polenta), 1 quart of water, about a tablespoon each of cumin and minced garlic, about a teaspoon of salt, and maybe half a teaspoon of chili powder (I wasn’t measuring anything).  I arranged it in a 9×13 pan, and baked it at 350 for maybe 45 minutes.  The arranged circles of two large zucchini made it look very pretty.   The spiced polenta layer made it very tasty.  We accompanied the meal with another local agricultural product:  perry (hard pear cider) from a farm in northeastern Massachusetts. 

This week’s CSA drop-off left us with one bunch each of arugula and tatsoi,  two zucchini, two yellow summer squash, four smallish cucumbers, one head of cabbage, one pound of Kentucky Wonder beans, two pounds of green beans, and two pounds of potatoes.  We were also supposed to get one bunch of spring onions, but I gave those away to someone else at the pick-up. 

Tatsoi is new this year, and looks like dark green arugula, but Greens, Glorious Greens says it’s flat cabbage and good for stir-fries, which is probably what we’ll do with it.  The zucchini and summer squash would be good grilled and in sandwiches (or just plain), but we’ll probably just sautee them and tossed with pasta. 

A couple of salads have made use of last week’s lettuce, this week’s arugula, a couple of cucumbers, and (as mentioned above) all the black raspberries we hadn’t simply eaten already.  Beets would have gone very well, but to get the right texture they have to be boiled and cooled before slicing into salads, so we didn’t put beets in. 

The weather finally broke.  We had a couple of cool days this week.  Finally, I did some blanching and freezing:  the pound of Kentucky Wonder beans and a pound and a half of slender little carrots, yellow and orange mixed.  The beans blanch and shock for about 3 minutes, and the carrots get 5 minutes.  I had intended to do the two pounds of green beans, too, but ran out of time.

What’s still in our fridge?  Some beets and carrots, all four pounds of potatoes that we’ve gotten so far, the bunch of dill I bought to make potato salad with, one kohlrabi, two zucchini, two summer squash, three cucumbers, one head of cabbage, one bunch of tatsoi, and two pounds of green beans.  I wonder what else we can freeze.

Week 7: July 6-12 (Part II)

July 11, 2008

The most exciting food this week was the most local:  blueberries from our backyard. 

Eight Delicious Blueberries
Eight Delicious Blueberries

 

Last year, we put in blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry plants.  They were mail-order, and arrived as barely more than twigs. We got 3 of each type of plant, but one of the raspberries died.  Only one of the blueberries matured enough to flower and fruit this year.  We noticed yesterday ( July 10, 2008 ) that the berries were ripe.  We picked and ate our first-ever blueberry harvest:  8 delicious berries. 

The photo shows my husband holding our harvest.

Tonight, for the first time this summer, we grilled.  We have a charcoal grill, and we used a vegetable grilling tray to make it easier not to lose food between the bars of the grill.  The vegetables we grilled were summer squash, beet roots, and beet stems.  The beet greens I cooked in the microwave, so as not to heat up the kitchen.  Everything was delicious. 

To prep it for grilling, I sliced the summer squash, and tossed (briefly marinated) it in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and jarred dried spices:  basil, oregano, and garlic powder.  If I were using fresh herbs, I’d sprinkle them on after grilling. 

I trimmed the beets, but for the past few years I’ve been too lazy to peel them.  I’ve also stopped peeling my carrots and potatoes, and I only buy them organic.  I prepped the beet roots for grilling by slicing them, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick, and then lightly oiling and salting the slices.  I also lightly oiled and salted the stems, which I left long (not cut up) to reduce their chances of falling through to the charcoal.  The beet slices need more cooking time than the stems.  The beet greens I microwaved.  Like the roots and stems, I seasoned them with oil and salt, and then also splashed in some red wine vinegar. (I used vinegar because it was out already for use on the summer squash; normally I’d use lemon juice). 

Earlier in the week, I used the microwave-to-not-heat-the-kitchen trick on the mizuna.  Before microwaving, I tossed on some rice vinegar, soy sauce (tamari), sesame oil, and ginger paste (which didn’t mix in as well as when I sautee the mixture). 

It was finally cool enough, by the time we’d finished eating, to blanch and freeze the kale.  (See instructions in week 4.)

Just for recordkeeping, a quick rundown of what’s still in the fridge:  The napa cabage and parsley (both week 6) are demanding attention rather urgently.  The carrots (6 bunches from weeks 6 and 7) and beet roots (3 bunches from weeks 5 and 6) are waiting quite patiently until their services are desired.  The kohlrabi (2 from week 6) I’m not sure of, how long it will stay good.  The spring onions (week 7)would probably make a lovely stock, but onions and I don’t get along, so I need to give them away.  I still don’t know what to do with the fava beans (2 pounds from weeks 6 and 7).

Week 7: July 6-12 (Part I)

July 9, 2008

This week from our CSA:  one bunch each of beets, red Russian kale, spring onions, mizuna, and broccoli; 3 bunches of carrots (2 yellow, 1 orange), 2 kohlrabi, 2 pounds of yellow summer squash, and 1 pound of fava beans

The kale and broccoli are the only things that will freeze well, but we already ate the broccoli (and yes, it was delicious, sauteed up in olive oil with garlic). 

The carrots and beet roots will keep perfectly well for a long time in the refrigerator. 

I’ve never had kohlrabi before, but at least Joy of Cooking has an informative entry.  It looks like it will keep for a short while (longer than a week), as will the summer squash.  I wonder if there’s a good way to cook them together?  Squash is lovely grilled. 

The mizuna and beet greens will only last a few days, so I’m worried about using them up in time.  Normally, we eat at home 6 nights a week, but summer messes with our schedules and we need to make an active effort to eat perishables before they turn.

I still have no idea what to do with the favas.    (See week 6.)