Our newsletter from August 24:
Dear CSA members,
It rained, it rained, it rained, it rained! Just in time too, as plants were definitely showing stress. We were especially glad that the winter squashes we’ve got growing over at John’s place got a good drenching, since they are setting some nice-looking fruit. We put John’s old house well out of commission for a few days by trying to run water to them with a hose a couple of weeks ago so we’re a little reluctant to try that again.
Of course, fungal diseases like the moisture too. I’m afraid that the downy mildew has pretty much done in the cucumbers. We’ve got a few for you today but these may be the last of them. There is mildew in the melons too, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that they are going to ripen before the vines totally go down. Maybe if we get some good warm sun this week they’ll sweeten up.
The eggplants responded to last week’s heat by setting a bunch of fruit, so we’ve got some good ones for you today. I love eggplant. I love that it’s purple (okay, some eggplants aren’t purple, but those aren’t my favorites), I love its creamy texture, and I love how it soaks up the rich flavors of spices. I often just sauté it with zucchini and tomatoes for a quick ratatouille. Grilled eggplant and zucchini is another fast and delicious meal. When I want to make a special dinner, though, this is my go-to eggplant recipe. I’ve adapted it only very slightly from www.manjulaskitchen.com and it is the only Indian dish that I can reliably make successfully. In this recipe you really do need to follow directions and fry the vegetables separately in hot oil, though I’ve used less oil in my pan than is recommended here.
Aloo Baingan (Potato and Eggplant) from http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2008/09/28/aloo-baingan-potato-and-eggplant/.
Ingredients: 1 medium purple eggplant (baingan), un-peeled, cut into 1/2″ cubes; 2 medium russet potatoes (aloo), peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes; 4 medium tomatoes (tamatar) cut into 1/2″ cubes; 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (hara dhania) or parsley; 1 tablespoon oil; 1 teaspoon cumin seed; 1 chopped green chili adjust to taste; 1 teaspoon ginger or ginger paste (adrek); 1 tablespoon coriander powder (dhania powder); 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (haldi); 1/2 teaspoon paprika (dagi mirch); 1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste; 2 tablespoons water; Oil for frying
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Frying pan should have at least 1 1/2 inch of oil. To check if the oil is ready, put one piece of potato in the oil. The potato should sizzle right away. If vegetables are fried in low heat they will be very oily. Fry the potatoes till they are cooked through, turning the potatoes few times while frying. Take out potatoes with a slotted spoon (this allows excess oil to drip back into the frying pan) and place on a paper towel. Test the oil again with a piece of eggplant. Fry the eggplant pieces same way.
In a small bowl, mix the shredded ginger, green pepper, coriander powder, paprika, turmeric, and 2 tablespoons of water to make a paste. Then heat the 1-tablespoon of oil in a pan. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if seed cracks right away oil is ready. Add cumin seeds and after seeds crack, add the spice mixture and stir-fry for a minute until you see the oil start to separate from the spice mixture. Add chopped tomatoes and stir-fry for a minute. Then add fried potatoes and eggplant and mix gently. Let simmer for three to four minutes on medium low heat. Turn off the heat, then add cilantro or parsley. Serve hot.
I made this with the Adirondack blue potatoes last week and it turned out great, if a little monochromatic. Speaking of blue potatoes, I’m really having fun experimenting with them this year. I had a salad with blue potatoes at a friend’s house last winter and liked them so much that I immediately put them on our to-grow list. So far I’ve fried them, baked them, and steamed them. I’ve liked them done each way. Their color fades a bit when you cook them, gets paler and duskier. John says that if you boil them they may lose more color but one way to prevent that is to add a little vinegar or lemon juice to the cooking water.
Another new vegetable for me is tomatillos. Yes, I’d had them in salsa verde in restaurants, but I hadn’t tried them otherwise until last year. I was surprised to find that they have a sweet, smoky flavor when they are ripe. When they are green they are sweet and tangy. I’ve been chopping them into salsa and guacamole and slicing them onto sandwiches. John made a wonderful egg scramble last night with chopped tomatillos, jalapenos, sweet peppers, onion, kale, and cheddar cheese.
Here’s an approximation of the guacamole I made the other day:
Ingredients: 1 jalapeno; 2 avocados; 1 small tomato; ½ cippolini onion; lemon or lime juice; garlic; 1 large tomatillo or 2-3 small ones. Adjust all of these things to taste.
Mash avocado in a bowl with lime or lemon juice. Add minced garlic, chopped onion, chopped tomatillo, and chopped tomato to taste. De-seed jalapeno and finely chop. Roast over medium-high heat in a sauté pan until the jalapeno pieces start to char. Add to avocado mixture. Mix it all together and salt to taste. I’ve subsequently found guacamole recipes that call for charring the jalapeno, garlic, onion, tomatoes and tomatillos under the broiler before adding them to the avocado so I might try that next time.
Mustard greens. I confess, I mostly planted these for myself. I discovered mustard greens years ago when I was looking for something besides lettuce to grow to go on my tomato sandwiches since lettuce generally doesn’t do well in August’s heat. Now my tomato sandwiches just aren’t right without the spicy bite of mustard greens. Let’s be honest though—some of you are not going to like these at all. Eating them raw by themselves is a little like putting a spoonful of wasabi in your mouth. You probably don’t want to. But try them on a cheese sandwich, burger, or BLT instead of mustard paste—if you like mustard on your sandwiches, you’ll probably like mustard greens. You can use them as a cooked green too, as cooking takes their spiciness down a notch. I like them sautéd in olive oil with a dash of tamari and sesame seeds.
Have a delicious week! -Amy & John
P.S.: We made a visit to the beehives this morning just to see what we could learn. The capped cells on this frame contain worker bee larva that are metamorphosing into adult bees. So our queen must be alive and well somewhere in there!