Dear CSA members,
I don’t know if it was the fertilizer we spread last week, the subsequent thunderstorm, the past several sunshiny afternoons or the combination of all three, but the plants in the lake garden seem to have perked up over the past couple of days. Eggplants are starting to bear fruit, peppers are recovering from a hornworm infestation (ugh!), and the edamame (soybean) plants are covered with small purple flowers and tiny bean pods. Our pole beans are shooting off the top of their trellis and are beginning to flower as well, so look for more green beans to be appearing in your shares in a couple of weeks.
Yesterday, John called me from the buckwheat field in amazement at all of the pollinators at work in the delicate white flowers. “There must be 5,000 bees around me,” he said, “all kinds—honeybees and wild bees—some I’ve never seen before!” I had to go see for myself. As I approached the field’s edge, I smelled the sweet musk of the blooms and heard a faint humming beneath the sound of the expressway traffic. Then my eyes focused and I saw them, thousands of bees and other winged insects—small flies and butterflies—earnestly combing bloom after bloom, sipping nectar, gathering pollen. The honeybees, I assume, are from my folks’ nearby hives, but it’s encouraging to see so many wild pollinators out and about as well, particularly in light of the difficulty beekeepers have had over the past several years in keeping our domestic honeybee population going.
I’m sure that those of you who were with us last year have lots of creative eggplant recipes tucked away from last year’s bounty! I know that a lot of people like to do eggplant and zucchini on the grill, but my favorite way to eat up the fruits of this season is ratatouille. I really think I could eat this for dinner almost every night and not get tired of it.
Ingredients: Olive oil; Bell Pepper, chopped; Onion, chopped; Tomatoes, chopped; Garlic, minced; Zucchini or other summer squash, sliced; Eggplant, cut into cubes; Fresh Basil, chopped. Optional: jalapeno or chili pepper, dried oregano, salt, pepper.
Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion, cook until just soft. Add garlic (and hot pepper, if using it—it’s not traditional, but I like it). Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add eggplant, summer squash, and pepper. Sauté until soft. You can add in oregano here if you like and salt and pepper. You might want to cover the pan to let things cook down a bit, though I rarely do. Once veggies are soft, add tomatoes and basil and cook until tomatoes are soft. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
If you aren’t a big fan of cooked zucchini or summer squash, you can always use it to add body and moisture to baked goods. Thanks, Crystal Boddy, for passing along this recipe for zucchini brownies. (Thanks for the sample, too!)
Fudgy Zucchini Brownies
Ingredients: 2 squares unsweetened chocolate; ¾ tsp baking powder; ¼ cup butter; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 1 cup sugar; 2/3 cup flour; 1 egg; 1 cup shredded zucchini; ¼ tsp salt. Optional: walnuts.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 inch square pan. Melt the chocolate and butter together and mix until smooth. Pour into a bowl, then add the sugar and mix well. Add the egg, salt, baking powder, and vanilla—mix until combined. The stir in the flour and fold in the zucchini. Pour batter into pan and top with walnuts if desired. Bake for 25 minutes. (Note: you can substitute 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon butter for each square of unsweetened chocolate.)
Lots of cucumbers again this week! Here’s another type of salad that you could make using them:
Ingredients: 1 cup medium-grind bulghur; 1 cup boiling water; 1 cup each diced tomato and cucumber; ½ cup diced onion or green onions; 1 cup chopped parsley; ¼ cup chopped mint (or cilantro or dill if mint isn’t available)
For the dressing: ¼ cup fresh lemon juice; ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil; 1 clove garlic, minced; 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
Mix the bulghur and water in a bowl and cover. Let it sit about 15 minutes, or as long as it takes you to cut up everything. Cut up vegetables and herbs. Mix the dressing ingredients together. Mix the bulghur and vegetables and herbs. Pour the dressing over it all and mix well. Let it sit about an hour for flavors to blend. John made a big batch of this last week and we’ve been eating it both as a salad and tucking it into pita breads to make pocket sandwiches. I especially like it in the pitas with a little bit of tahini spread into the pita as a dressing.
As we were clearing beds for fall planting this week, we came across some volunteer potatoes which sprouted from potatoes we missed during last fall’s harvest, just enough to put a few in full shares. We’ve had terrible luck with our potato plantings this year, but we do have one late bed of Red Norlands that are looking pretty good, so we’re still hoping that everyone will get a taste of those yet this fall.
Another vegetable that is in full shares this week is the Chimayo pepper (the red pointy ones). This is a new variety that we’re trialing this year and they’ve just begun to ripen. It’s a chili pepper that is supposed to have the flavor of a chili without as much of the heat. In the ones I’ve sampled so far, the heat seems to be variable—some of them have very little heat apart from the seeds and veins, while others are spicier. John fried a few up for lunch today and they had a nice sweet flavor. I haven’t figured out exactly what to do with them, though I think they might be nice roasted or grilled or chopped into stir fries. I also think that they would be good in a spicy dip of some kind. If any of you come up with a great way to use them, I’d love it if you’d pass it along.
Have a delicious week! Amy