Down on the Farm Notes
Welcome to the CSA Basket Week #3. Lahontan Valley received rain over the past two days and boy do the mornings smell so fresh! What will you find in the basket this week? Organic Summer Squash, Organic Carrots, Organic Mickey Lee Watermelon for Thursday, Organic Arava Melon on Tuesday, Organic Tirreno Melon, Organic Romanian Peppers, Organic Japanese Eggplant, Organic Slicing Cucumbers, Organic Pickling Cucumbers on Thursday, Organic Tomatoes on Thursday, Organic Cherry Tomatoes, Organic Arugula, Organic Basil from Mewaldt’s Organics, Cauliflower from Perry Brothers.
Arava melon are a type of Galileo melons, distinguished by their textured thin netted rind and their high sugar content. The fruit bears a small loose central seed cavity. The average weight of the melons are two to four pounds. Arava melons can be used as a substitute for honeydew melons. They are best suited for fresh eating in salads and appetizers or used as the principle ingredient in a chilled summer soup, granitas, sorbets and popsicles. The sweetness of Arava melons can be highlighted with tart, spicy, cooling and savory ingredients. Choice companions include herbs such as basil, mint, cilantro and arugula, lemons and limes, chiles, nuts such as pistachios and peanuts, ginger, vanilla, prosciutto (Italian ham), figs and grapes. Whole ripe Arava melons will keep, refrigerated, for up to seven days.
Tirreno melon has some of the best eating quality of any variety. This is a 3-4 lb. Italian Tuscan melon, medium orange flesh and high sugars. Mid-late maturity with extended harvest and good shelf life.
Most of the cauliflower plant is edible, but most consumers prefer the head of the cauliflower. Keep cauliflower loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge. Fresh from the market heads will last up to 2 weeks. You can cut cauliflower into florets and store them, sealed, in a plastic bag in the fridge; they will last up to a week. Cauliflower has a lightly sweet, nutty flavor when properly cooked. Raw cauliflower can have a pretty sharp bite, but when combined with creamy dips can be a great addition to a raw vegetable or crudités platter. Cut the floweret’s into pieces not much larger than a table grape. Then turn the cauliflower into a hot skillet with a bit of salt, olive oil, and whatever spices and seasoning strike your fancy that night. Cauliflower is endlessly adaptable, and cooking it this way is quick and delicious. After just a few minutes in the pan the cauliflower starts to brown, and then takes on a deep, nutty flavor.
Romanian Sweet Peppers turn from pale yellow to red when mature. Peppers have thick flesh and are very sweet. Excellent for frying or stuffing! Cut off the tops, split them in half, dunk them in olive oil and spread them across the grill (or a baking sheet, if we’re doing things indoors), sprinkle them with feta cheese and snipped herbs, and wait until the cheese looks like it’s starting to melt. Give it two more minutes, then pull the peppers and eat them on toast, on pasta, on salad, or just by themselves. They’re also great when made into romesco, see recipe below.
PEELING SWEET PEPPERS: Lay the peppers in a broiler pan, and broil until their skins blister (2-3 minutes). With a tong or long fork, slightly rotate them and continue turning until the peppers are completely charred, then pop them into a paper bag. Close the bag and the let the peppers sit in it for 15-20 minutes: the charred skin steams loose from the flesh. Then, holding each pepper over a bowl, slit down one side, open it up, and discard the seeds, ribs and stem. Cut the pepper into 2-3 pieces, and peel off the loosened skin with a paring knife. The bowl collects the pepper juices, which can be used to store the peeled peppers up to 2 days, if you wish. Or, drain the skinned and seeded peppers on a rack. If you have a gas stove, you could also char the peppers over the flame, or you can use an open grill.
Japanese eggplant is smaller and thinner than regular eggplant. Eggplant is quite perishable and will not store long. Depending on the freshness factor of the eggplant at the time of purchase, it may be refrigerated for up to 4 days (up to 7 days if you pick right from the garden as ours has been). However, it is best to use them as soon as possible, preferably within a day. Wrap in a paper towel, and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator vegetable bin. Do not store raw eggplant at temperatures less than 50 degrees F.
Cooked eggplant may be refrigerated up to 3 days (it will get mushy when reheated) or frozen up to 6 months in puree form (add a little lemon juice to discourage discoloration). It holds up fairly well in chunks in soups and stews when thawed in the refrigerator, but not as chunks on its own.
Marinated Japanese Eggplant http://www.allrecipes.com
5 Japanese eggplant
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon mirin (sweet Japanese wine, substitute at will)
Pinch of salt
Wash and trim eggplant ends. Steam eggplants for 10 minutes or until barely soft. Cut into bite size strips. Sprinkle pinch of salt. Combine sesame oil, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a bowl. Mix well until sugar is dissolved. Chill and marinate eggplant for overnight.
Romesco Sauce for Crostini, Pasta, or as a vegetable dipper
4 large roasted Romanian peppers
1/2 cup toasted almonds
2 cloves garlic
1 ripe tomato
1 tsp salt
2 thick slices from a baguette
1 tsp paprika
½ cup or less olive oil
Fresh basil leaves if available
2-4 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
Whirl everything in a food processor. Serve with vegetables such as carrot sticks, lightly steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets, etc. Bread and crackers work well too.
Summer Squash Skillet
2 yellow summer squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
Dash dried marjoram
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
6 to 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
Cut zucchini and summer squash into quarters, lengthwise, and then cut in thin slices. Heat olive oil over medium heat; add zucchini, summer squash, and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until tender. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients. When squash is tender add the tomato and herb mixture to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring, for just a couple of minutes, until hot and well combined. Serves 4 to 6.
1 quart cider vinegar
1/3 cup pickling salt
1 cup sugar
Cut cucumbers into four to eight pieces lengthwise. Let stand in ice water eight hours or overnight. Pack into hot sterilized jars. Fill the center of each jar with two pieces of celery and six pickling onions. Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar. Heat to a boil. Fill jars and seal in water bath for 10 minutes. This is the basic recipe, and you make as much vinegar/sugar/sale solution as you need. Then you can save any unused portions in the refrigerator for the next day’s pickles during canning season, or pour it over sliced cucumber, green bell pepper and onion for a salad. The salad is best when chilled a few hours.