Beans and Peas
Preparing Dried Black Beans
Dried black beans are a little insurance policy that the Muddy Boots Farmers stash away at the end of one season, knowing that they may come in handy at the beginning of the next season if the weather isn’t cooperating. But this year they are pairing them in the share with a Chipotle Pepper (smoked, dried jalapeno) and scallions. Sounds like the perfect set-up for a meatless rice and beans dinner!
Even though these beans were harvested last fall, they will still be very tender and creamy. They will likely not need to cook as long as dried black beans you get in the grocery store. While many recipes for dried beans call for soaking them overnight, I find that is not necessary with these beautiful fresh little guys.
Here is my “go to” recipe for preparing black beans. It is from Martha Rose Shulman who writes Recipes for Health for the New York Times. For a little smoky heat, throw in a piece of the chipotle – these are powerful little peppers, so unless you like really HOT, save the rest of the chipotle for another dish.
Here is a tip to keep the beans black when they are cooking: Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to the water you cook the beans in. It will keep them from turning purple.
Washing and Storing Rapini, Chard, Kale and Beet Greens
Rapini, Chard and Kale can be cut and then washed in a large bowl of fresh cold water. Make sure the bowl is large enough to swish the pieces so that they can release any sand or soil that might be clinging to the leaves. Gently lift the greens out of the bowl so you don’t disturb any sand that has settled on the bottom of the bowl. If you notice a lot of sand when you dump out the water, repeat the rinsing process.
Now comes the important part. Dry the greens as best as you can. If you have a salad spinner, use it, but even then, I suggest you get a baking sheet lined with paper towels and spread the greens out onto it. If you don’t have a salad spinner, try putting the greens into a big salad bowl and gently tossing with a couple of paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. Put the greens into a plastic bag and add a folded dry piece of paper towel – it will absorb excess moisture.
Remove beet greens from the beets and wash them the same way you wash the chard and kale. Beet Greens are similar to Swiss Chard and can be sauteed with some garlic and olive oil for a great side veggie. Or, chop them up and add them to soup. I like browning some crumbled sausage, adding some hot pepper flakes and then adding in the beet greens. Toss that with pasta and you have made a meal out of something many people twist off and throw away.
The beets can be stored in a zipped bag in your produce drawer, but leave the top partially open so they can breath. These beets that we get early in the season are super sweet and tender – they are not intended to be stored although they can be. The sooner you eat them, the better they will be!
Rapini (aka Broccoli Raab)
Rapini, commonly known in the United States as broccoli raab (also spelled broccoli rabe), is truly a vegetable with many names around the world. A few of the many names are raab, rapa, rapine, rappi, rappone, fall and spring raab, turnip broccoli, taitcat, Italian or Chinese broccoli, broccoli rape, broccoli de rabe, Italian turnip, and turnip broccoli.
According to whatscookingamerica.net,
Originating in the Mediterranean and also China, it is actually a descendant from a wild herb. Today, Rapini is found growing in California, Arizona, New Jersey, Quebec and Ontario. It is one of the most popular vegetables among the Chinese. It is probably the most popular vegetable in Hong Kong and also widely used in the western world.
Although it has broccoli’s name, broccoli raab is not related to broccoli. It is, however, closely related to turnips which is probably why the leaves look like turnip greens. Lots of broccoli-like buds appear here and there but a head never forms. It is grown as much for its long-standing, tasty mustard-like tops as for their multiple small florets with clusters of broccoli-like buds.
This is one of those special vegetables we may only get once or twice this year so choose your preparation wisely. While people often think of rapini as bitter, I haven’t found that to be the case with the variety that Aaron grows.
So, here are two (of many) ways to go with rapini…one takes an Italian path and the other Asian. Decisions….decisions!
This recipe, from Food 52, calls for the broccoli raab to be blanched before sauteed in a frying pan with garlic (this would be a GREAT time to use one of those garlic scapes from last week’s share! The vin cotto, which is reduced balsamic vinegar with a touch of sugar, is then drizzled on the veggie.
With this recipe, the greens get steamed in the same pan they get their saute in – not a bad technique to use even if you are making the first recipe as it save dirtying another pan. Here you will get a good balance of texture (from the peanuts) and heat (from the pepper).
Aaron's Napa Cabbage Salad
Thinly slice the Napa cabbage (as shown in the photo above) and toss with some thinly sliced red onion or shallot. You can use this same recipe for regular cabbage!
In a mason jar, add the following ingredients and shake shake shake!
1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar (sweeter and not as acidic as red or white wine vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil or other vegetable oil
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t fish sauce (give it depth and umami)
Pickled Jalapeno Juice (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Chopped Pickled Jalapeno’s (to taste)
Chopped herbs (a mix of cilantro, mint and basil is what Aaron uses)
Toss enough salad dressing in with the cabbage to coat all pieces. Refrigerate the remaining dressing. Serve immediately or don’t. If you choose to serve it later as a slaw, just before serving, drain out the accumulated juices and toss again right before serving with a little more dressing.
NOTE: Napa cabbage has a LOT of water in it. This makes it crisp and refreshing when served just after tossing with dressing However, the salt in the dressing will draw out the water as it sits. The water dulls the bright flavors of the dressing so by draining it and tossing with a little more dressing, your slaw will be perfectly balanced.
Short Term and Long Term Carrot Storage
This is from Sweetwater Organic Farm a pioneer in the organic vegetable movement. The farm is located in Tampa Florida!
Carrot roots should be firm, smooth, relatively straight and bright in color. The deeper the orange-color, the more beta-carotene is present in the carrot. Avoid carrots that are excessively cracked or forked as well as those that are limp or rubbery. In addition, if the carrots do not have their tops attached, look at the stem end and ensure that it is not darkly colored as this is also a sign of age. If the green tops are attached, they should be brightly colored, feathery and not wilted. Since the sugars are concentrated in the carrots’ core, generally those with larger diameters will have a larger core and therefore be sweeter.
Carrots can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month if stored properly. Cut off carrot greens, place carrots in a containers with lid and cover completely in water. Keep container in the refrigerator, changing the water ever 4-5 days. Do not store carrots next to ethylene gas producing fruits, such as apples and pears. The ethylene gas they release speeds up the ripening process of other fruits and vegetables.
If you purchase carrot roots with attached green tops, the tops should be cut off before storing in the refrigerator since they will cause the carrots to wilt prematurely as they pull moisture from the roots. While the tops can be stored in the refrigerator, kept moist by being wrapped in a damp paper, they should really be used soon after purchase since they are fragile and will quickly begin to wilt.
Carrots can also be stored unwashed and covered by sand. If stored in this manner in a dark, cool, well ventilated area, the carrots will last up to 5 or 6 months. They can also be left in the ground, covered with mulch, and used as needed until the ground begins to freeze. Carrots can also be peeled, cut up, blanched, and then frozen to preserve them for approximately a year.
Putting Corn Up for the Winter
Corn freezes really well and there are lots of things you can do with it for winter meals. Like most vegetables that you freeze, corn needs to be blanched prior to freezing to stop the enzymes that will continue breaking down the corn even in your freezer.
If you think of the corn cobs as the "bones" of the corn, you may think twice before throwing them into your compost after cutting off the kernels. In the same way you would make a chicken stock, you can make a corn broth with those "bones" and then freeze it. You now have the base for a wonderful Corn Chowder!
- 1 Dozen Ears of Corn
- Fill a large pot with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. In the meantime, shuck a dozen ears of corn and prepare a large bowl of water with ice in it.
- When the water is boiling, keep the burner set on high, drop in the corn, return to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Do in two batches if necessary. After the two minutes, remove the corn from the boiling water and plunge into the bowl of ice water. Keep the water that the corn has boiled in on the stove and turn the burner down to low.
- Once the corn cobs have cooled (about 2 minutes) remove from the ice water. Using a large bowl, hold the corn cob in the center of the bowl and with a sharp knife, cut off the kernels using downward strokes. Be careful not to cut too deeply or you will get the tough ends of the seeds.
- Once all of the corn has been cut off of the cobs, return the cobs to the hot pot of water on the stove and return the heat to high. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium. Keep the corn cobs, uncovered, simmering for 2 to 3 hours. The water will reduce by about half.
- In the meantime, spread the corn out on a cookie sheet and put into the freezer. The corn should take a coupe of hours to freeze. Once frozen, prepare quart sized ziplock bags by labeling them with the date and "corn." Use a 2 cup measuring cup to portion the corn into the bags. Before sipping the bag closed, remove as much air as possible. To store in the freezer, lay flat stacked on one another.
- Meanwhile, back at the corn broth, after the water has reduced by about half, remove the cobs and let them cool. Using the same large bowl, place the cob in the center of the bowl and this time use the back of a butter knife to scrape the remaining bits of kernel out of the cobs. Mix this with the corn broth and blend or use a stick blender to puree and make a rich and thick corn broth. Allow the broth to cool completely and package in Quart sized ziplock bags that have been labeled with the date and "corn broth." Store flat in the freezer as the flat packages are easier to manage and store.
- One dozen corn yields about 8 to 10 cups of corn and 2 quarts of broth.
A Bowl of Summer on a Cold Winter's Day
For this recipe, you can use frozen corn and corn broth that you have put up for the winter following these instructions.
Using corn broth in this recipe is what makes it so rich. Don't shy away from this chowder because of the cream. You can easily cut back on the amount of cream or use milk instead of cream.
- 4 slices thick sliced bacon cut into ¼ inch dice
- 1 carrot peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
- ¼ cup celeriac or celery cut into ¼ inch dice or
- 1 medium onion cut into ¼ inch dice
- 5 medium potatoes peeled and cut into a ½ inch dice (about 5 cups)
- 4 cups corn broth or chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1T kosher salt
- ½ t black pepper
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 3 cups of frozen corn (do not defrost)
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- Heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and brown slowly until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel. Add carrot, celeriac (or celery) and onion to the pot, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Turn heat up to medium high and stir in the potatoes, corn broth, water, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to medium low, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the frozen corn and simmer for 5 more minutes. To thicken the soup, immerse a stick blender into the pot and pulse quickly 5 or 6 times (or use a potato masher) to quickly break up some of the potatoes and corn. Do not over process or you will lose the rustic texture of the soup.
- Stir in cream and reserved bacon. Adjust the seasonings; you may need to add more salt to balance the sweetness of the corn broth and bring out the full flavor of this soup.
There is nothing better on a cold winter’s day than reaching into your freezer for some strawberries! Let them defrost and serve them with yogurt or sliced on your cereal. Bake a pound cake and serve with the berries and a dollop of whipped cream for a trip back to the summer.
Strawberries freeze really well! Here is how to keep them at peak freshness in your freezer:
- Lightly rinse the berries in cold clean water. This well rinse off any sand or straw.
- Hull the berries. A tomato corer does a great job (much better than a strawberry huller!). You do this after rinsing so that water doesn’t get lodged in the berry in the hole left after hulling.
- Dry well and set berries onto a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer. Make sure they are not touching. Put the sheet in the freezer.
- Once frozen, you can store the hard berries in a zippered plastic bag in the freezer or if you have a Foodsaver, this is a great time to use it.
Because you have individually frozen the berries, you will be able to easily remove the quantity you wish and put the rest back into the freezer.
Properly stored garlic can easily last through the end of year holidays and beyond. Commercial growers like Justin recommend storing garlic in the refrigerator in a closed paper bag. But then, commercial growers have plenty of room for garlic in their big walk-in coolers. If you have more garlic than can fit in your refrigerator, keep it in the same place as your onions…34 to 40 degrees and dark and dry. Don’t put them in a plastic bag. Garlic needs to breath and stay dry during storage.
Keep an eye on your garlic and when inspecting it, be sure to not only look at but feel the bulbs. They should feel dense and hard. When they start drying out you can feel the cloves starting to shrink. At that point you need to move into action to preserve the garlic. There are a couple of options:
I like keeping the cloves in tact as I feel it has the best chance of hanging onto the most flavor. This article from ThriftyFun.com suggests several ways to store garlic in the freezer, from dry packing the whole garlic bulb to storing it in olive oil and freezing. While you may be tempted to store peeled garlic cloves in olive oil in the refrigerator, it can lead to deadly results. I learned about this several years ago after packing several quarts of garlic cloves in olive oil. What I didn’t know what I could have simply frozen those jars of garlic and avoided any possibility of botulism – a friend suggested that AFTER I had thrown away all of the garlic and expensive olive oil.
Make Some Toum (Garlic Paste)
This fluffy Lebanese garlic spread will keep in your ‘frige for 3 weeks and can be spread on meat, fish or vegetables before grilling. Here are just a few ways you can use Toum.
- Serve it with roasted or grilled chicken
- Spread it on roasted or grilled vegetables
- Pair it with French fries or potato wedges
- Use it as a dip for pita bread
- Slather it on sandwiches
- Use it to make garlic bread
- Mix it into salad dressings and marinades
- Add a dollop to hummus or baba ghanoush
- Swirl it into soups
Walla Walla Sweet Onions - Move Over Vidalias!
Unlike the yellow onions we got last week in our shares, these onions will be sweet with a mild onion flavor. They are similar to Vidalia onions and are intended to be eaten shortly after harvest rather than stored for use several months later. In fact, they do not store well. If your kids don’t like onions because they are too hot and pungent, walla walla sweets could be the gateway to their appreciating the allium family.
Put a big Walla Walla slab of onion on your burger along with a slice of tomato or add them to a salad raw. Go ahead, they are sweet and add a nice crunch without being over-powering.
This Walla Walla Sweet Onion and Beet Salad gives equal billing to the two main veggies in the dish and makes use of two of the items in our share this week. Use the beet tops in place of the called for “wild green mixture.”
With the proper conditions, Storage Onions should last well into the late winter or early spring, if you don’t use them all before then. A storage onion is a pungent onion…the type that makes you cry when you chop it up. Sweet onions like Vidallias or Walla Walla are not good keepers and will last only a month or so after harvest under the best possible conditions.
Conditions for Storing Onions
Onions like a cool, dry and dark place to hang out in storage. Root cellars tend to be too humid for onions. Some people store onions in their attic or in a room that has the heat turned off. According to Justin and these storage tips from Gardener’s Supply, 34 to 40 degrees is ideal. The onions need to breath and stay dry so store them on a flat surface or in a mesh sack. Here is an article from TheYummyLife.com that suggests alliums store best in paper bags with lots of holes. Detailed instructions can be found on the website along with the results of several tests conducted to determine optimum storage conditions.
It is a good idea to check up on your onions at least once a week. Feel them to see if any are getting soft and use those immediately. If you notice any disease, remove those onions so the chance of the disease spreading is minimized.
Freeze Chopped Onions for Convenience
Onions freeze really well and having a pre-chopped supply in your freezer can speed up meal preparation. Each year I chop a gallon bag of onions and freeze another bag that is a mixture of onions and bell peppers, a combination often called for in recipes that I use.
No preboiling necessary! Just chop the onions to the desired size – a quarter inch dice is good for most purposes. Spread the chopped onions in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Once the onions are frozen, you can put them into a zippered freezer bag and store them in the freezer. Pre-freezing them on the baking sheet keeps the pieces separate from one another so they aren’t all stuck together. This way, you can remove just what you need when cooking.
Golden Baked Onions
This recipe from The Splendid Table makes creamed onions seem boring! Wouldn’t these look beautiful on your Thanksgiving table!
Leeks are a member of the onions (allium) family, but have a unique, mild and sweet flavor when cooked. They will hold up well in your ‘fridge for several weeks when stored in a plastic zippered bag that is left partially open. Typically you would use just the white part of the leek, but I hate throwing away any part of a vegetable and freeze the dark green tops for when I make soup.
Leeks grow in sandy soil and when they push through the earth bits of sand get stuck between their layers. Here is a video from MarthaStewart.com on how to wash and prepare leeks for cooking.
Braised Halibut and Leeks
Leek and Cheese Toastie
Leeks belong to the allium family and, in my opinion, are an underappreciated vegetable.
One reason why people shy away from leeks is that they tend to gather sand and dirt between their layers of skin as they push up through the ground. If they aren’t properly cleaned, that grit could easily ruin a dish! But, as long as you know this and clean them properly (it’s easy – here’s how) you will come to love the sweet and subtle onion flavor that leeks add to dishes.
Leeks are supposed to store well over the winter in a root cellar, but I have never had luck with that approach and have tried many variations. Instead, I freeze leeks and they are great to have handy throughout the colder months.
The safest way to make sure you get all of the dirt out of leeks before freezing is to slice them down the middle lengthwise and then cut them into half-moon slices about 3/4 of an inch thick. Put them into a big bowl of cold water and swish them around vigorously. I usually do this a second time for good measure. Then, let them drain and dry on a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Only when they are completely dry should you put them into a zippered plastic freezer bag, push out as much air as possible and zip it up and store them in the freezer.
Frozen leeks are awesome for adding to soups and stews in the winter such as this super simple and wonderful classic Potato-Leek Soup from Julia Child, but are equally good as the star in a dish such as this Potato-Leek Gratin from the New York Times.
Below is a picture showing how the dirt gets lodged in between the layers of the leek.
If you are going to be eating the leeks fresh, try making them the star of a veggie side dish such as is done in Buttery Braised Leeks with a Crispy Panko Topping from Food 52. Or, if you are looking to dress up your leeks, try this Savory Creme Brulee with a Crispy Leek Topping also from Food 52.
Flavors of the Southwest
This share could easily be something you might get in a CSA is Santa Fe New Mexico, so let’s go with the flow and honor southwestern cuisine this week!
Roasted Tomatillos, Chilis and Onions
Chili Verde and Mexican Street Corn
New Potatoes - Lovingly grown and "tested" by Justin
Justin LOVES potatoes – any kind! New, storage, white, gold and sweet. He is our potato guy. This week he has a nice combination reds and yellows. He assured me that they are great because of the extensive “testing” he has been doing over the past two weeks. (Someone has to do it!)
If you are new to “NEW” potatoes, you are in for a treat! New potatoes are freshly dug and haven’t been cured for storage. This is why you want to eat them soon! You will be rewarded with a flavor unlike the potatoes you eat most of the year. New potatoes are more moist than storage potatoes and as a result are creamier and have an earthy flavor. Their skins are very thin so don’t peel them. Instead, just give them a light scrub.
With all of the flavor and the delicate texture of new potatoes, you don’t need to do much to them. Steam the potatoes whole (new potatoes cook faster than you think) and then quickly toss them with an herb butter before serving with a generous sprinkle of salt. Here is a recipe from the LA Times that will make the most of these jewels.
Don't throw out those beet greens!
Beet Greens are similar to Swiss Chard and can be sauteed with some garlic and olive oil for a great side veggie. Or, chop them up and add them to soup. I like browning some crumbled sausage, adding some hot pepper flakes and then adding in the beet greens. Toss that with pasta and you have made a meal out of something many people twist off and throw away.
POPULAR MEMBER RECIPE: Smokey Beet Cakes
We got a great tip for a Beet Burger recipe from a member a few years back and it has been a hit with many members since then! This recipe comes from the LucidFood.com blog from Louisa Shafia, author of a fabulous cookbook titled The New Persian Kitchen. Another member just reminded me of the recipe – Thanks Emily Church!
Radishes are a humble little veggie that are quick to grow and withstand colder temperatures – hence, they are a natural for early season shares.
While radishes are great to eat alone with a little salt or in a green salad, you can easily make them into a lunch or side for dinner with just a little work – and it will make you look at radishes in a whole new way!
A simple French lunch – The French LOVE radishes and often eat them spread with butter and sprinkled with salt. Take that idea one step further by spreading some Ploughgate Butter on some Green Rabbit Levain. Add sliced radishes and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. While you don’t need it, here is a recipe from Saveur Magazine.
I didn’t know that you could eat radish greens and how delicious they were until I had a salad at Hen of the Wood that was simple french breakfast radishes with their greens attached tossed with a vinaigrette. The greens are a little peppery and it makes a beautiful first course.
If you want a little fancier salad, grab a bag of baby spinach from this week’s share and make this salad of spinach, radishes and goat cheese.
Here is a grain salad from Food 52 that features radishes and has a great balance between the chewy grain, crisp radish, bright herbs and sweet dried cranberries and raisins. Pick arugula as this week’s green, because it is called for in this salad. I love this recipe because you can substitute many different grains – perhaps you have one or more of these in your cupboard?
Do I need to wash Muddy Boots lettuce?
At a pick-up a few years ago, one of our members confessed to Aaron that she didn’t have time to wash her salad greens the previous week and that they seemed perfectly clean. That is when we realized we hadn’t done a good job letting members know what is washed and what you will need to wash.
Bagged Salad Greens
All cut salad greens (mesclun, spinach, arugula, salad blends) that you get from our “salad bar” are already washed so they can go right from the bag to your salad bowl. You will probably find that these greens last much longer than greens you buy in the store. Think about it…they were cut and washed one day earlier. The same isn’t true of salad greens that come from California or Mexico – they spend several days in a truck getting across the country. If you fold a paper towel into quarters and slip it into the bag under the lettuce, it will help wick away moisture that can lead to the early demise of a fresh bag of greens.
Head lettuce is not washed. In fact, because it grows close to the ground, you may find some soil on it. Not a problem. Gently tear off the leaves and put them in a large bowl of cold water. The bowl needs to be big enough that you can swish the lettuce around in the water. If you have a lot of lettuce, you might be better off just filling up your sink. Let the water settle for a minute or two and then gently lift the lettuce leaves out of the water without disturbing it. I use a colander for holding lettuce in the washing process. Now repeat. This time you should notice less sand and soil. I always rinse salad greens straight from the garden three times.
Now, dry the lettuce. You can let it drain for a few minutes in the colander and then gently blot it with a paper or kitchen towel or ideally you would use a salad spinner. A salad spinner removes the water without damaging the lettuce.
When the lettuce is fairly dry, put it into a plastic zippered bag. I often add a dry paper towel folded into quarters and then pile the lettuce on top of it. Moisture is an enemy of fresh salad greens and the paper towel will wick away some of the remaining water droplets.
Salads that Sing
We are all going to be eating a LOT of salads this summer so let’s take a little time this first week to talk about what makes a great salad and how you can make one at home every time.
Today we are considering your basic green salad that includes some type of lettuce or other tender green such as baby spinach, additional items (tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts, fruit, etc.) and salad dressing.
I have a formula for salads that gives you a lot of flexibility, uses what you have on hand and works spring, summer and fall. I pair it with an equally versatile homemade salad dressing. I know that time pressures sometimes make store bought salad dressing a necessity, but in my book, homemade always makes a better salad when you can swing it. If you don’t like nuts or seeds, then leave them out. If you don’t have dried fruit on hand, let it out. While I like the the different textures and tastes this salad combination presents, you need to design it for your tastes and preferences.
Create Your Own Salad
- 8 cups of lettuces/greens (mixed baby greens, boston lettuce, arugula, baby spinach)
- ¼ to ½ cup toasted nuts or seeds (pecans, pine, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds roughly chopped)
- 1 piece fresh fruit sliced or diced (apples, pears, oranges, pomegranates)
- ½ cup dried fruit (dried cranberries, raisins, other dried fruit)
- 3 to 4 oz cheese crumbled (chevre, blue cheese, good cheddar, feta – use what you have available!)
Mix together the first four ingredients. Toss lightly with salad dressing – do not overdress. Put on individual salad plates and sprinkle with cheese, or, if serving in one large salad bowl, sprinkle cheese on top and serve.
Here are some great combinations:
- Arugula, pecans, orange, dried cranberries, and chevre
- Spinach, pinenuts, dried cranberries, pear, and blue cheese
- Mixed greens, walnuts, apple, raisins, and cheddar
Create Your Own Salad Dressing
- 1 t Dijon mustard or country-style Dijon mustard
- 2T Vinegar (sherry, fruit infused, red/white wine, cider, champagne)
- 1 t Optional Flavoring (one or more of the following: finely diced shallot or garlic, fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme, or basil)
- 1 t Optional Sweetener (honey or maple syrup) If you don’t use the sweetener, I recommend just a pinch of sugar)
- Salt and pepper to taste (I always find that it needs more salt than I expect because so little dressing needs to cover so much lettuce)
- 6 T Oil (Extra virgin olive oil or canola oil)
Whisk together the first five ingredients. While whisking, drizzle in the oil. If you really want to get the oil and vinegar to mix together and stay mixed, start with just a drop of oil, whisk it in. Then another two drops; whisk. Three more drops and whisk again. Then start drizzling very slowly while whisking.
To make a creamy dressing, sometimes I will add couple tablespoons of yogurt or crème fraîche to the above recipe. You can also add a tablespoon or two of leftover cranberry sauce, fruit jam, or ½ t of curry powder and a tablespoon of chutney. With the basics down, the variations are endless.
Why You Should NEVER Refrigerate Tomatoes and more tips on veggie and herb storage
Chilling tomatoes can deaden their flavor to a point that they will never reach their full-flavor potential. The best way to store tomatoes is on the kitchen counter, stem-side down. According to Cooks Illustrated, a tomato without a stem is best stored upside down because it protect the tomato from moisture gathering around the stem that could hasten spoilage. While there is a lot of debate around this topic, I have had the great results storing tomatoes this way. In any case, it is generally agreed that putting a tomato in the refrigerator will significantly affect the flavor. Here is some background information.
A couple of years ago, one of our members, Nancy Henry, gave us an awesome tip for storing basil. It really works and will keep the basil fresh for a week or more! Put the basil in a glass of water on your kitchen counter. Then, cover it with a plastic bag. It is absolutely amazing how well this works.
Sadly, this tip doesn’t work so great for other herbs, but Nancy let me in on another secret – a glass herb keeper that she says works great. Here is the one that Nancy has.
So, now that you have fresh herbs on hand, what are some great ways to use them? One of my favorite things to do with parsley is to make chimichurri, the pungent Argentinian sauce that is most often served with steak in that country. It is made with parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and a little red wine vinegar. Chimichurri is equally as good on grilled chicken or fish as it is on beef; in fact, it is also yummy on grilled veggies such as zucchini, summer squash or eggplant.
Here is my favorite recipe from Saveur Magazine, but google around and you will find lots of variations – some include cilantro or oregano – some are spiced up with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes as my favorite recipe is and others are more mild. In any case, the sauce will last several days in your ‘frige and is a handy condiment to have available for summertime grilling.
Storing Winter Squash and Sweet Potatoes
Winter squash and sweet potatoes will be perfectly happy spending the winter together in a cool room in your house – perhaps a room that you don’t use so you have the heat turned down. They keep best at 55 to 60 degrees in a closed box or paper bag.
What’s Up with the Dirt on the Sweet Potatoes?
Justin has found that the best way to keep sweet potatoes is to store them, unwashed in white paper bags which is how they will be delivered to you. Store them at 55 to 60 degrees. Before packing the bags, the potatoes are brushed off so they won’t be dirty, but will seem very “dusty.” As with many storage vegetables, they have better staying power if they are not washed when they are harvested.
Should the Winter Squash be Cleaned?
I usually store winter squash right from the garden although I have heard that wiping them down with a light bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) may help kill bacteria and organisms on the surface of the squash that lead to early deterioration.
It is smart to keep an eye on stored winter vegetables and when there is any sign of decay, remove those pieces from storage and eat them (removing any bad parts before cooking of course!).
Freezing Winter Squash and Sweet Potatoes
Both winter squash and sweet potatoes freeze beautifully in a mashed form. This makes them handy to make a quick butternut squash soup or sweet potato casserole. Cook according to the directions below and when cool, scoop out the flesh and store in a freezer container or a zippered freezer bag. Label and include the quantity (ie. 2 cups Butternut Squash November 2015).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast on the middle shelf in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool and then scoop out the flesh.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the sweet potatoes to remove any dusty dirt from their surface and then use a fork to prick each potato in a couple of places to allow steam to escape while cooking. Bake for 1 hour (or until soft) on a baking sheet in the center of the oven. Allow to cool and then scoop out the flesh.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
Grilled Summer Veggie Salad
This is a great salad to make when you have a little time and then keep in the fridge for a quick lunch or dinner side.
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Herbs for marinating the veggies such as 3-4 springs of thyme, rosemary, summer savory or tarragon or a mixture.
- 1 Large Eggplant (skin on cut into 1 inch slices)
- 1 Zucchini (cut in half lengthwise)
- 1 Summer Squash (cut in half lengthwise)
- 1 Sweet or Red Onion (cut into 1-inch thick slices)
- 1 Ear Corn (remove husk and silk)
- 1 Red Pepper (cut into quarters lengthwise, seeds removed)
- 1 Cup Cherry Tomato Halves or tomato wedges
- Small handful of basil, roughly chopped right before serving
- Mix together the balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper.Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Set aside.
- Put all of the prepped veggies except the corn and cherry tomatoes into a zippered plastic bag. Add the herbs for marinating (no need to remove them from their stems). Pour in half of the dressing, seal the bag and mix so that all of the veggies are in contact with the marinade. Let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside the other half of the dressing for later.
- Prepare your grill with a medium fire.
- Remove the veggies from the marinade and discard the bag.
- Grilled the marinated veggies so that they get a nice char but are not over-cooked. Also grill the corn.
- Remove from the grill and allow to cool.
- Cut the veggies into 1-inch pieces and put in a serving bowl or storage container if eating later. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs and add to the bowl of veggies.
- Toss in the vinaigrette that was set aside.
- Before eating, add the halved tomatoes or wedges and the rough chopped basil.
The Lazy Person's Guide to Storing Veggies for the Winter - Part 1, Freezing
I have a love-hate relationship with canning. I HATE spending what seems to be days on end in a hot kitchen in August canning tomatoes, jams and pickles. I LOVE seeing all of the finished canning jars on my shelf waiting for winter consumption. I HATE reaching for a jar on a cold winter’s night that seems a little “off.” Maybe there is too much headspace or it has leaked. When in doubt, I throw it out.
Over the past several years I have moved to more simple ways to put food up. Freezing, drying, and root cellaring work for me and are easy.
I always individually freeze items before putting them in a freezer bag. This way I can take the portion I want. Otherwise, everything comes out in one frozen block. To individually freeze veggies, put them on a cookie or baking sheet allowing plenty of room between the items and pop it in the freezer. Once frozen, put the items in a zippered freezer bag, press out the air, seal, label and return to the freezer. Sometimes I use my food saver vacuum sealer – which I love, but isn’t always necessary and can get expensive with the bags you need to purchase.
Green or Red Peppers
Freezing Peppers is really easy and comes in handy throughout the colder months. Just dice the peppers and then individually freeze them. Keep them handy in the fridge when you need them in a recipe that calls for peppers such as chili, home fries or dishes that start with the “holy trinity” of onions, peppers and celery. Sometimes I mix red and green peppers and sometimes I keep them separate. While they don’t remain crunchy after freezing, that doesn’t matter when they get cooked.
Like peppers, onions freeze really well. Just dice, freeze individually and store in a zippered freezer bag.
If you have the energy and desire, plunge the tomatoes into a boiling pot of water for 30 seconds, chill in ice water and remove the skins. Or, just keep the skins on. Core and chop up. If you package them into one or two cup portions, there is no need to individually freeze them first. Just squeeze out all of the air you can before sealing and freezing. Freezer organization is easier if you flatten them out and stack the packages before freezing.
Technically you should parboil the corn in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and cool it before removing it from the cob and freezing. That will halt the enzymes that will continue to degrade the corn even when frozen. But, if you are going to use the corn for soup, I find it doesn’t really matter. Like the tomatoes, if you package in one or two cup portions, there is no need to individually freeze the corn.
While I find it hard to keep greens beans pleasantly crisp when they have spent time in the freezer, frozen green beans are great for stews and soups. This recipe for Carmelized Green Beans works well if you want to serve frozen green beans as a stand alone side. Green beans should be parboiled in a boiling pot of water for 2-3 minutes and then plunged into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Before freezing it is VERY IMPORTANT to make sure the beans are completely dry. I line a baking sheet with paper towels and lay the beans in a single layer on the towels to absorb the water. Once they are dry, individually freeze them and then store them in a zippered freezer bag.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
Like green beans, frozen zucchini and summer squash work great in soups and stews. I don’t find it necessary to parboil. I cut the pieces into the size I will use – usually half moons about 1/2 inch thick. Individually freeze and then store in a zippered freezer bag.
Greens (Spinach, kale, chard)
Greens are easy. The trick is to get as much moisture out of them as possible after parboiling or steaming and before freezing. Steaming is my preferred approach because the greens don’t soak up as much water in the steaming process. I steam the greens until they are wilted (1 or 2 minutes) and then lay them out on a baking sheet to cool them quickly (instead of plunging them in water and getting them soaking wet). Squeeze out excess moisture and
Things that don’t freeze well (in my opinion)
Broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant
Winter Minestrone – Perfect for all of those frozen veggies!
Here is a great recipe for Minestrone that will make great use of all of those veggies you freeze for the winter.
Clean Out The Refrigerator
Clean Out the Refrigerator Week!
We are at the halfway point for the summer CSA. Many members this year have told me that their rule is to eat everything they get every week before the next week’s pick-up. That was my goal too, but between travel, dinners out and other very good excuses, that hasn’t happened. I do a good job keeping up with things that don’t last that long such as lettuce or spinach, but here’s is what I found in my crisper bin this weekend and what I did with it:
- Hakurei Turnips
I know! I am BAD! Inspired by a friend and fellow member in a similar boat, I cut up and roasted all of these stragglers and now have a lovely bowl of chilled roasted veggies to add to salads for the rest of the week. And, this “housecleaning” came just at the right time given the amazing array of veggies we are getting this week. So, if your ‘frige is brimming with veggies from weeks past, make room for this week’s share.
Roasted Summer Veggies
You can use any of the veggies above or include others we have gotten in recent shares:
- Summer Squash
- Garlic Scapes
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut all of the veggies into similar-sized pieces, about an 1/2 to 1 inch. Put them into a bowl and toss with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Spread the veggies in a single layer onto a baking sheet. Don’t crowd the pan – use a second sheet if necessary. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. turn all of the veggies and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes.
I tossed my salad with a vinaigrette and added some of the queso fresco from last week’s dairy share and also added some toasted hazelnuts. It was a delicious change to my regular lunch salad!
What else can you do with these roasted veggies?
- Toss them with hot pasta such as orzo, drizzle on a lemon dressing and finish with some goat cheese. This can be served at room temperature.
- Bring them to room temp and serve them as a side with grilled chicken or steak.
- Wrap them up in an omelet along with some feta cheese for a light summer supper.
Clean Out the Refrigerator Week - Part 2
Last week’s newsletter sparked some good conversations with a few of our members and I wanted to pass along tips they shared with me.
Corrie Miller made a “very amended” version of this classic summer squash casserole recipe from the New York Times. There is a great little video that goes along with the recipe.
Jackie Leyton said that last year she froze just about anything that they weren’t able to eat from their CSA share. She roasted, braised and par-boiled many different veggies and used them for soups and stews in the winter. Carrots, celery and onions she chopped and froze without any precooking and used them as needed in the dead of the winter.
Spinach, kale, chard and beet greens can all be steamed or parboiled for a minute and then plunged into an ice bath. Squeeze out all of the water and then wrap tightly and freeze.