Dear CSA members,
Well, another chilly week, eh? I just glanced at the forecast this Monday morning and it predicts warmer days and nights to come. The tomato and pepper plants will be happy about that! We will too, though it’s been great weather in which to work outdoors this past week. We’ve been clearing beds, spreading compost, and tucking fall crops into the soil. Salad mix, arugula, beets, and fall carrots have sprouted; the fall corn is up and growing; and we just finished transplanting red cabbages last night. We hope to get fall broccoli and Swiss chard in the ground sometime this week. Keep your fingers crossed for a long, warm autumn!
I took a break from the gardens last Thursday to drive up to Morgan Composting in Sears, Michigan. We haven’t had time this summer to do much on-farm composting and I wanted to pick up a truckload of their composted dairy manure to spread on our fall beds. They were hosting a conference on soil health last week, with speakers including MSU soil biologists and area farmers who are working with their soil in innovative ways, so I timed my trip in order to attend. I’m really glad I did! Particularly inspiring was Craig Schaaf of Golden Rule Farm’s talk on intensive vegetable production. He manages his farm much the way I used to manage my garden beds when I was growing just in my backyard for friends and family and I came home with some great ideas for how we might re-envision our business in order to better care for our soil, produce better food, and also make our workloads a little less overwhelming.
John, Diane, and I have been thinking and talking a lot about our plans for next year as we move towards fall, since part of our tasks include preparing soil for next year’s crops. In the meantime, summer’s bounty continues. Tomatoes and cucumbers are plentiful, so you’ve got lots of them in your shares again. You’ll notice two types of slicing tomatoes—the standard red types and others which are variously colored, sized, and shaped. These odd tomatoes are heirlooms and they are particularly ugly this year, with lots of cracks and splits. We’re putting them in your boxes anyway, since their flavor is usually superior to the firmer red slicers. You’ll probably want to eat your heirlooms first, though, since they will tend to spoil more quickly around the cracked areas.
If we do get some warmer weather this week, perhaps a fresh cold soup will taste good. Here’s a variation on gazpacho from Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two:
Ingredients: 4-6 ripe tomatoes; 3 Tbsp olive oil; 1-2 cucumbers; 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar or 1 ½ Tbsp red wine vinegar & 1 ½ Tbsp lime juice; ½ onion; 2 tsp salt; 1 clove garlic; 2 ½ cups ice water; 1 green pepper. Optional seasonings: basil, dill, tarragon, chipotle powder, whatever sounds good . . .
Peel cucumbers and cut into chunks. Remove seeds from pepper and chunk that as well. Cut tomatoes into wedges and finely chop the onion & garlic. Then puree all of the vegetables in a food processor or blender. Pour puree into a large bowl, then add oil, vinegar (and lime juice, if using), and salt. Blend with a whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust your seasonings as desired. Some people add herbs such as chopped dill, tarragon or basil. If you like a spicy soup, you could sprinkle in some dried chipotle powder. Once you like your seasonings, add your ice water and maybe a couple of ice cubes. Chill in the refrigerator until serving. Garnish with herbs, croutons, green onions, a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream, etc.
John combined all of our different types of eggplant in a variation of Mollie Katzen’s eggplant enchiladas this week. Very yummy and satisfying! This recipe makes a big 9 x 12 inch pan-ful, so you might want to cut the amounts in half if you are only feeding a couple of people.
Mollie Katzen’s Eggplant-Almond Enchiladas
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive oil; 1 medium-sized bell pepper (any color), minced; 1 cup minced onion; 1 cup minced almonds, lightly toasted; 6 cups diced eggplant; 1 packed cup grated jack cheese; 1 teaspoon salt (possibly more, to taste); 12 corn tortillas; black pepper to taste; 2 tablespoons minced garlic; Mexican Red Sauce (recipe follows)
Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven. Add onion, and sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add eggplant, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft. Then add garlic and bell pepper. Stir and cook 5 minutes longer, or until the pepper is tender. Taste to correct salt. Remove from heat; stir in almonds and cheese.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Moisten each tortilla briefly in water then place approximately 1/4 cup filling on one side and roll up. Gently place the filled enchiladas in a baking pan, and pour a full recipe of Mexican Red Sauce over the top. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until heated through.
Mexican Red Sauce
Ingredients: 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil; 1 tablespoon chili powder; 1 cup minced onion; 3 tablespoons minced garlic; 1 Anaheim or poblano chili, minced; 3 cups chopped tomatoes (canned OK); 1/2 teaspoon salt (possibly more, to taste); 1 cup water or tomato juice; 2 teaspoons ground cumin; Black pepper and cayenne to taste (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the onion, chili, and salt, and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion becomes transparent. Add cumin, chili powder and half the garlic, and sauté for about 3 minutes longer. Then add the tomatoes and water or juice. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and turn the heat down as low as possible. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding the remaining garlic, and optional black pepper and cayenne to taste during the last 5 minutes or so. NOTE: You can leave the sauce in chunky form, or smooth it out by puréeing it in a blender.
The long pointy peppers in your boxes this week are Anaheims, a spicy (but not too spicy) type of chili. John put them right inside of the enchiladas and they gave them a nice bit of heat. We all thought that summer squash and mushrooms would be good in the enchiladas too.