In Week 2 of our CSA Challenge, Team Carrots took home armfuls of beautiful peak-summer produce last
week, including a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, a purple cabbage with delicate
ruffles, and omnipresent staples such as squash and peppers. Each blogger took a different approach to her lot, and the result, as you can see, indicates that the possibilities are limited only by imagination.
We spotted a few great ideas from fellow food bloggers, too. Like the Easy Watermelon-Dill Tomato Salad on Virtual Farmgirl, Grilled Candied Beets from Woman with a Whisk, and Pickled Sweet and Sour Cucumber (or Squash) from ReMARKable Palate.
And make sure to check out Flour Girl's post on facing a daunting mountain of greens and tackling her fear of beets with a daring foray into borscht. You know what they say–if you can't beet 'em…
What a week in the kitchen. I started with the tomatoes. I needed something fast so I went with the Fresh Tomato and Pesto Pizza.
The recipe sure did show off the freshness of the ingredients,
especially the basil pesto and provolone. That recipe’s a keeper.
The shallots were up next. Before this week I'd never held, let
alone cooked with, a shallot. I found two yummy-sounding recipes on our
website, both using a good amount of shallots. I made the Roasted Chicken with Dried Plums and Shallots, substituting dried apricots for the plums, since that's what I had in my pantry.
I immediately followed up with the Caramelized Shallots and Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta. My son, Cory, and I gave both dishes five stars.
While I was roasting the chicken, I went outside with my son, and my
80-something-year-old neighbor, Melvin, stopped for a chat. He told me
his wife had fallen and broken her femur, had surgery, and wouldn’t be
home for several days. I knew immediately my CSA produce would be
feeding more than just our tummies. I made a plate for Melvin and my
son Cory delivered it. Real nourishment all around.
The dozen eggs shaped the Classic Angel Food Cake
(pictured at the top of this post) recipe into two dozen muffins topped with raspberry puree and icing. (I
realized late in the recipe I didn’t have a tube pan–hence, the
muffins.) With a cup a tea, this made the perfect ending to a long day.
Last but not least, I made stuffed banana peppers. I filled them
with Italian chicken sausage mixed with onion, egg, breadcrumbs, and
Parmesan. I covered with a tomato sauce and more cheese, baked them,
and served with hot buttered bread. Note: Stuffing banana peppers is
much harder than it sounds, even with a piping bag. I wish I’d found
another recipe for the banana peppers. This one didn’t honor their
But, I experimented with a new veggie, shared the bounty, and fed my family. It’s been a successful week.
I usually spend time on the weekend cooking meals for the upcoming week. Not only does it save valuable weeknight time, it also means that my spouse has time to join me in the kitchen. We really enjoy working on our meals together. A glass of wine, a little music in the background, and continuing conversation makes the time go pleasantly. I highly recommend cooking with someone you care about, whether your mom, a friend, or a neighbor.
For the first course of Saturday’s dinner, we took a quarter of the melon, sliced it, peeled it, and draped it with translucent slices of prosciutto. It’s a slightly more straightforward and traditional take on a recipe from the May 2009 issue, Prosciutto-Melon Bites with Lime Drizzle. I first had proscuitto with melon during an Italian vacation about 25 years ago. It remains one of my favorite culinary souvenirs, and I try to have it at least once every summer.
For a main course, we chose Bucatini with Eggplant and Peppers, a recipe from developer Micol Negrin that the magazine ran in May 2004. It calls for both eggplant and tomatoes (as well as the bell peppers from my personal CSA shipment), and it serves 8, ensuring enough for at least another dinner and a fritatta later this week. Though I remember the dish from taste-testing years ago, I’d never made it. I’m glad I finally did: It’s one of those terrific instances where simple ingredients yield far more than the sum of their parts. Roasted peppers and eggplant, fresh tomatoes and garlic, capers and olive oil, plus a generous two tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano came together to make a dish that really tastes like July. And the ricotta salata we grated on top rounded out all the flavors. So did the bottle of sangiovese we opened.
The next day, we grilled the okra to go with some chops. I’d never seen directions for grilled okra; it just came to me one day many years ago when I had an abundance of it from my parents’ farm. (Online, you can find a recipe for Beef, Okra, and Potato Kebabs, developed by former Cooking Light staffer Mike Wilson in 2005 after I mentioned the technique to him.) My rendition is easy: toss trimmed whole okra pods with olive oil and set them on a medium-hot grill just until they have a bit of char. Plate them and drizzle with a little more olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
For dessert, we adapted our recipe for Spiced Grapes in Port Dessert Sauce, substituting the remaining cantaloupe for the grapes. Someone who doesn’t like cantaloupe as much as we do might have carved the melon into balls. But we got more of that heavenly taste by just cutting it up. We tossed the cubes with chopped mint and the port sauce, and piled it into stemmed glasses. It was a cool, delicious way to end the meal. Even better, we have more waiting in the fridge for dessert tonight. In fact, we have more of everything, and that’s why we think leftovers are beautiful.
Of course my first week with these gorgeous vegetables and I have the apex of a Summer cold, although, I think they saved me! Feeling bad, I didn’t want anything but ‘clean’ flavors and thus, I became obsessed with having a Greek salad. It was so easy to use a green bell, so fresh and crisp, with some of the tomatoes that my fiancee’s coworker sent home with him. I will admit I left out of the olives because Stanton doesn’t really eat them. The truth is… He didn’t get to eat ANY of it because I moved on it so completely, it was all gone!
I used the squash in a casserole we are having tonight for dinner. Right now it is assembled and ready to bake in my refrigerator. I actually had only 6 cups of sliced squash so I substituted about 3 handfuls of chopped kale and it seems to have turned out really well and really colorful!
As for the green beans.. So far I’ve eaten about half of them, raw, as a gnosh while I am working on other dishes. They taste so clean and green. I cannot believe you can taste a color but I am sure no one could deny these are the flavor of green, for sure.
I made the easiest recipe first: I’ve always wanted to try our Easy Refrigerator Pickles, and the little pickling cucumbers gave me the perfect opportunity. I love these, although technically they haven’t marinated for the appropriate number of days yet (forgot to factor in time for that). Whew, that vinegar mixture is potent when boiling! My suggestion: Don’t stand directly over the pot.
I was most excited about the heirloom tomatoes. I made Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herbs and Capers: tomatoes, feta, herbs, oil, and balsamic vinegar—-all the good stuff. Our recipe calls for this salad to be served with grilled sourdough bread, but I tried it over fettuccine instead and was very happy with the result. (I knew I could get pasta in somewhere.) I didn’t include the giant yellow tomato. I know it would’ve added nice color to the salad, but I was going to get at least a couple of good BLTs out of it.
I approached the cabbage with trepidation. I’d never sliced up a whole head before—-only bought it preshredded. I had heard that I should quarter it first and then go from there: I did so, and that worked out well. I happened to remember a recipe from our December issue for Sweet and Sour Braised Cabbage (Rotkohl). I like the flavor combinations in this recipe—cabbage, apples, and bacon—and I thought braising might be a good option for someone insecure about getting all the core cut out! I was very happy with this recipe, and I love the beautiful color. I’ll have to remember this one for Thanksgiving. My family generally likes cabbage, and as a lot of Thanksgiving food is beige, I think the meal could benefit from a little color on the table.