Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pizza Tonight

I made pizza tonight. I spread pesto on a large flatbread, then topped with provolone cheese. On top of this went onions, red bell pepper, and broccoli. I baked it at 425 until the crust was crispy and the cheese melted. Then we topped everything with sliced tomatoes. Yum!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peak Veg Revisited

Here it is, only a few days after our last trip to the farm during "peak veg" and we have made another trip, with a tropical storm tossed in the mix over the weekend.  Irene moved farther west than originally forecast, so we escaped with some wind and rain, and although some people lost power (and still don't have it back), we did not.  Happily, the farm looked today like nothing had happened.  The only indication of Irene was the fact that the high tunnel had been taken down as a precaution.  I imagine it will soon be going back up.  The U-pick field was bountiful--we came home with purple and yellow beans, basil, cherry tomatoes (and we munched a couple in the field, too), and flowers.

In our share was arugula, an assortment of salad greens, 3 cucumbers, a red pepper, a head of green cabbage, an eggplant, 2 tomatoes, 2 jalapenos, carrots, chard/bok choi.  There was also a watermelon, which we forgot to pick up.  Fortunately, Bill saw something he wanted to photograph and while he was doing that, I remembered, so I went back and grabbed our melon! 
When we got home I gave my neighbor the usual container of flowers, along with some beans (yellow and purple), our eggplant, a couple of the tomatoes from the two flats we'd bought on Friday, and a batch of pesto I whipped up.  We still have our two eggplants from Friday and I really do not think we would eat 3 this week, so I figured we could see whether she liked them.  She does.  That's good. 

I made another batch of pesto and put it in the freezer.  Tomorrow I will freeze the chard we got today and some beans.  I will have to rearrange the refrigerator to fit in the cabbage and carrots, but they can stay out until then.

Then it was on to the task of making supper.  I had some tomatoes from the flats we bought Friday that needed to be used up today, so I decided to make creamy pasta florentine--it is adapted from the New Laurel's Kitchen Cookbook--they call it vermicelli florentine.  It's a good idea and like most other things, quite adaptable, so I leave some stuff out, change amounts, put in different stuff, all depending on what I have--it's somewhat different every time, but it still has the creamy consistency that I find so appealing!  And I have to say that it tastes quite amazing with fresh farm veggies instead of canned tomatoes and frozen spinach!!  So here's how I made it this time--as usual, I measured almost nothing--just used what I had, so don't be afraid to play with your food and see what happens!

Creamy Florentine Sauce with Tomatoes
Put some olive oil in a large pan--I used my cast iron pan, but you could use a pot, too, if you don't have a big enough pan.  Add one chopped onion and one chopped bell pepper (or use jalapenos if you prefer).  If you don't have a fresh pepper, you can use the roasted red peppers in the jar.  Cook onion and pepper in oil on high heat until onion is translucent.  Turn the heat down to medium.  Add either 4 tablespoons of cornstarch or 8 tablespoons of flour--again, I was not terribly exact here--you just have to be in the ballpark :-)  Stir everything around until the flour is coating the vegetables and is absorbed by the oil.  Add 1 1/2 cups or so of milk--I used nonfat milk that I had left from another meal and needed to use.  I have also used soy milk in this dish and it works quite well, too.  Stir the mixture until it gets smooth and thick.  Add chopped tomatoes--you can use a can if tomatoes are not in season or use fresh if they are.  I used about 3 large tomatoes tonight.  Stir until everything is blended and add some black pepper and garlic powder.  Sauce should still be thick--the juice from the tomatoes will thin it down some, but if it is too thick, add more milk or some water.  Let this cook for a few minutes and then add chopped chard or spinach.  I used a mix of both, but I have also used thawed frozen spinach that I squeezed the excess water from--either will work fine.  I turned the heat down to low and stirred the fresh chard and spinach in until it was wilted and incorporated into the sauce.  We had it over elbow macaroni, but you can use any shape you want, of course.  Or spoon it over rice or some other grain.  You could layer it between lasagna noodles, add some cheese and bake it.  I spooned it over the macaroni and sprinkled the whole thing with Parmesan cheese.  I cooked too much macaroni, but that's OK because I have enough for breakfast tomorrow--even after putting some aside for Bill's lunch!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peak Veg!

In the farm newsletter this week, Seth, said that we had arrived at "peak veg."  What a great concept!  Since we went away for a few days earlier this week, we did our pick-up today instead of our usual Tuesday.  We will go back to Tuesday next week, barring any lingering aftereffects from Irene, as Tuesdays work better for us.  This means that we went a week and a half between last pick-up and this one--and we still had stuff left in the fridge (some salad greens and carrots), and I got some stuff in the freezer before we left (green beans and chard).  We had some of our farm veggies with us as we were in a cottage with a little kitchen, so I planned simple meals.  We traveled Monday and before we left, Bill put in 6 hours of work, so I knew that when we got there--which we did at a little after 4--we would want to eat something without fuss.  So I bought some frozen ravioli that are little and made a ravioli salad using broccoli, onions, chicken Italian sausage, and pesto dressing.  We ate it cold and it was yummy!  I also had a rice bake with us that had broccoli, onions, and chard.  And we had pesto pizza with broccoli for supper on our anniversary.

Now we have a whole bunch of new stuff and will be going back for more in just a few days!  I will have more stuff for the freezer, and now that there are tomatoes, I see much salsa in my future.  I will make more pesto and make a pesto pizza with fresh cold tomatoes sliced on top. 

I read in the newsletter that there were slicing tomato "seconds" for sale at the farm in 10 lb flats.  I was afraid that we would be too late to get any, but happily there were two flats on the table when we got there today, so we bought them :-)  Yay!

After we put the tomatoes and eggs in the truck, we went off to the U-pick field where we just got basil, cherry tomatoes, beans (mostly the purple ones), and flowers.  There were more herbs available, but it was hot and I was uncomfortable and I did not want to cut any!!  I gave my neighbor some tomatoes and her usual jar of flowers.

Then it was time to get our weekly share.  It was not easy to carry it all!  There was lettuce, various salad greens, a red pepper, 2 eggplant, 2 cucumbers, spinach, chard/bok choi, a head of green cabbage, carrots, 2 slicing tomatoes, 2 large jalapenos, a big cantaloupe and a watermelon!  We had a wonderful chef's salad tonight for supper.  Tomorrow I will cut up the melons and put them in containers in the fridge; I will make salsa; and possibly process some tomatoes for the freezer.

When we were in Eastport, we naturally stopped at Rayes Mustard Mill--an Eastport institution--where I picked up some Heavenly Jalapeno Mustard, Hot and Spicy Mustard, Lemon Pepper Mustard, and the experimental flavor Tarragon and Pepper Mustard.  They have many different kinds, all available to taste on pretzel sticks.  Some varieties are available in the grocery store here, so I bought only what I would not be able to buy here.  I plan to make some interesting vinaigrettes for my many upcoming salads using my new mustards.  Too bad they are so far away because they really do make excellent mustard!!

I asked Seth this afternoon how he was preparing for Irene, which will probably be a tropical storm by the time she reaches us.  He said he is waiting to see a forecast tomorrow because it will be more accurate then.  At that point, he will decide whether or not to take down the high tunnel, which can apparently withstand winds of up to 60 mph.  I had no idea it was that sturdy!  It will certainly be a learning experience for the apprentices, who got a nice write-up in yesterday's newspaper.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who'll Stop the Rain?

Don't know who stopped it just in time for us to go frolic in the U-pick field at the farm this afternoon.  It started raining fairly heavily and steadily last night and it was still coming down when I got up this morning.  I read the farm newsletter and really hoped we would get to pick stuff today, because we won't be able to on Friday and next week we won't be able to go until Friday to pick up our share.  So I was really happy when it was getting close to 2 and the ground was starting to dry up!  Yay!  Off we went and picked beans, cherry tomatoes, flowers, basil, chives, cilantro, and a little oregano and parsely, too.

Then we got our share.  I was rummaging in my cloth bags for the plastic bags we use every week and that I keep in the cloth ones, so I won't forget them.  I could not find them and we had used the ones I did have in the field.  Naturally when I got home and unpacked the bags, I found what I had been looking for :-)  No matter--I found a place for all of our amazing farm goodies.  We got a head of lettuce, mixed and matched salad greens, chose an Italian eggplant over the Japanese one (although the 2 Japanese ones I had in previous weeks made fine eggplant Parmesan!), a green pepper, a head of broccoli, a wonderful cantaloupe--just at the perfect level of ripeness, 2 cucumbers, mix and match chard/kale/bok choi (I got all chard again), mix and match carrots/beets (I got both), a summer squash, leeks, and a bunch of celery.  We also got our one teaser tomato in anticipation of more to come!

As I was standing in the kitchen this morning with the rain coming down and the cool breeze coming in the open window, I decided that it was close enough to soup weather to make a pot of soup on our return from the farm.  I think it was reading the newsletter and seeing that we were going to get celery.  I love celery in soup, but I don't always buy it because I don't use too much of it except in stuffing and soup.  Anyway, even though it was not that chilly by suppertime, we had our soup anyway!  I ladled it over ravioli and it was heavenly!  And I anticipate it will be even better tomorrow for lunch!  Most of what I used in the soup came home with me from the farm this afternoon, so it was about as fresh as it could get.  What did not come home today came from the farm last week.  The only thing that did not come from the farm was the turkey broth I removed from the freezer earlier.  I used a leek, the green pepper, the rest of the carrots from last week, some of the purple cabbage from last week, a bit of chard from last week, green beans, the summer squash, some of the broccoli, celery, green and purple beans, and fresh herbs--chives, oregano, parsley and basil. 

Even though I am getting stuff in the freezer, I have not been able to use everything in our share in the week between pick-ups--there is that much food.  And I have not been buying veggies at the grocery store except for yesterday when I bought a lot of Maine-grown broccoli because it was on sale--fortunately we love broccoli and use it in many ways.  We do buy fruit and hot peppers once in a while, but we decided to approach this CSA experience with the attitude that whatever we get in our share is what we will eat.  At first, our share lasted us the week, but we had none left by the time we went and got the next one.  Then I started freezing the chard and other greens, then pesto as well.  Now I am getting some green beans in the freezer, too.  And still now--even though a portion of each share goes into the freezer, we have veggies left at the end of the week--which is GREAT.  I use the things that won't keep well first, then the rest.  At the moment, we still have purple cabbage, some chard, and an onion left from last week.  We finished some of last week's veggies for lunch and supper today.  I am not really sure why some people think joining a CSA is overly expensive.  It is a lot to pay up front and I am glad I was able to do it--it was not that long ago in my life that I would not have been able to pay--and during that time the quality of the food I ate was not as good as what I am eating now.  But by committing to eat what we get, we cut way down on our grocery bill and if we were to try and buy this stuff in the store, or even a farmers' market, it would cost way more.  Besides, one of the things I have learned this summer is how it is almost like not even eating the same thing when you compare the taste of the food we get from the farm and the food we buy at the store.  Store food tastes like pretty much nothing.  And although everything for the store is bred now for appearance, the food we get from the farm is so beautiful to look at--bright, vivid colors and different shapes and textures.  Personally, I think the money we spent was well worth it and I wish everyone could do this.  There are interesting models being tried in the world of hunger prevention, so maybe in time, more and more people will discover the joys of CSA!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gonna Need More Bags!

We were loaded down this afternoon when we left the farm.  We got lucky--the clouds came and blocked the sun before we left for the farm, so we did our U-pick stuff in comfortable leisure.  Good thing, too, because there was so much to pick!  Bill picked beans and cut dill.  I cut oregano, parsley, chives, basil, cilantro and flowers.  There is definitely more pesto in my future--there were new patches of basil, cilantro, and dill in the field.

The dill is hanging to dry, the cilantro, oregano, parsley, and chives are in water in the fridge and the basil is in water on the table overnight.  It will be pesto tomorrow.  I will probably make some cilantro pesto, too.  I will freeze it and use on/in Mexican dishes in the winter.  There are more and more kinds of flowers each week--this week there are more deep purple flowers, which I love!  When the season started, I was cutting a flower or two of each kind and making up a little jar for us and one for my neighbor.  I still do that, but I no longer cut one of each flower--there are just too many!  They are beautiful, though, and really, they are a nice bonus.  I had not thought of fresh cut flowers when I joined the CSA farm, but I really enjoy having them each week and seeing the different kinds that bloom from week to week. 

After picking, it was off to gather our share.  It was crazy in there and the interns did a great job staying on top of the rapidly emptying tubs of veggies so that everyone could take what they wanted.  Greens are back--there were several salad greens to mix and match, along with lettuce.  We got an eggplant again this week, and a green pepper.  There was gorgeous purple cabbage, mix and match chard/bok choi, mix and match small carrots and beets, 4 cucumbers, 2 zucchini, and 3 more of the fabulous sweet summer onions.  We also picked up a dozen of the farm's eggs.

Then it was home and kitchen with all of our veggies.  I wrapped the cukes and zucchini in cotton towels and knit cotton swatches (this absorbs moisture and they last longer), I put all the herbs in their water and put those away, got everything else where it needed to be and made a couple of small flower arrangements.  Then I went and put my neighbor's where she would find it.  After that, I froze some more green beans and started supper/lunch.  Long day for Bill tomorrow and he gets up ridiulously early, so I make lunch and leave it in the fridge for him.  Often it is leftovers or the same thing we have for dinner--or at least part of it.  Tomorrow's lunch is no exception.  We had salads with supper and he has one in his lunch. I used greens, lettuce, cucumber, green pepper, and herbs.  Then to round out the supper, I cooked some onion and a little chard in olive oil and added a bit of crushed red pepper.  I placed this on a slice of whole grain, very dense rye bread, and then topped with an omelet.  On Bill's, I used some fresh dill and the last of a batch of pesto that was in the fridge.  Then I ground a little black pepper on the top. 

Tomorrow I will make eggplant parmesan.  I have last week's eggplant in addition to this week's, and the weather is supposed to cooperate by being my kind of day--rainy, cloudy and in the mid 60s.  I would prefer it to be 20-30 degrees cooler, but for August, I will take it!  And this means that I can turn on the oven without roasting myself!  I have not had eggplant parmesan in years!  I make it the way my old undergraduate advisor used to make it when he brought it to all the potlucks we had in our department.

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dodging the Raindrops

We sped through the U-pick field at the farm this afternoon so we could beat the threatened thunderstorm.  There was thunder and a few raindrops did, indeed, fall on our heads, but we managed to pick various herbs (including basil, so I sense more pesto in my future), a bunch of flowers, and green beans.  Then it was into the farm store to pick up our share, which included chard/kale--I got a little of each this week--arugula, an eggplant, a bell pepper, carrots, 3 large sweet onions, and 3 cucumbers.  I purchased 2 dozen organic eggs from pastured hens and a package of local bacon. 

Tonight we will have eggs and bacon with a salad and chipotle corn muffins.  The arugula, cukes, onions and herbs--possibly some shredded carrot, too--will be excellent on hummus sandwiches/wraps this week for lunches.  I will probably do one of those baked chard/rice/egg things at some point over the next couple of days, since it is supposed to be slightly cooler and I won't mind turning on the oven.  I will probably end up freezing the kale, although I might use all the chard this week instead of freezing some of it.  Not sure yet how I will use the eggplant, but I am sure it will come to me.  I did end up freezing a few green beans yesterday from last week and I may do a few more this week.  It is working out well for me to freeze stuff in smaller containers because I make a lot of soup in fall, winter, and spring using my Crock Pot.  I throw in a little of this and a little of that, so it is good to have stuff ready to toss in when the time comes.  It will be nice to have the variety of food and know that it's local.