Windham Gardens CSA Week Two

In the bag this week: Green Garlic, English Peas, Snap Peas, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Kale

Like most people, when its hot, even I can’t stand the thought of cooking. Our house, while it is shaded under some enormous pine trees, still heats up. We don’t have central air, so cooling down the house inevitably means hauling the ancient found-on-craigslist air conditioner, installing it in the bedroom, and blowing the cool air through the rest of the house with a fan. Once that process is done, it takes a while, but the house eventually cools down to a normal temperature. And as you can imagine, the whole process ensures you will spend the first half an hour post-installation in the bedroom standing nearly naked in front of the AC vent. You know those days – when even heatwave carnitas or crockpot roasted chicken are too much to bear.

So most of the time I retreat to our in-ground basement – where it is always 15-20º cooler – with an icy beverage and dinner hummus. Mostly because two people cant stand in front of the AC at the same time, and rather than stand there and sweat, its easier to sit on the couch and watch the news where I am semi-comfortable.

I have one confession, though. Hummus is great, but after a while I totally get sick of tahini. It goes the way of most of my eating – its great, its delicious, I binge on it and eat way too much, and then I can’t stand the thought of it for a while. So when I am craving nothing but a cold dinner involving beans and bread, I need to mix it up a little. This recipe not only accomplishes that, but uses up multiple CSA ingredients. Win-win.

Cannelini Bean & Pea “Hummus”
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed well
1 quart Windham Gardens English Peas
3 cloves green garlic
Olive oil – anywhere from 1/2-1 cup
As much Kale as you need to use up/as much as you can stuff in your food processor
Fresh Thyme, Black Pepper and Salt to taste

Shell your English peas. You can probably avoid heating up the stove at all, and throw them in raw. I find that they are too starchy for me when raw, and that a quick 1 minute blanch in boiling water makes a world of difference. Check the forecast and blanch ahead on the coolest day you’ll get, and you can have your hummus chilled when you can’t stand to cook. Add garlic to the food processor first, and pulse until minced. Then add peas, beans, thyme and kale. Blend on medium speed, while adding in olive oil until it comes together. It may take a while, and more olive oil than you think to blend it all. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth – blend it to the consistency you like. Smear on fresh bread, eat with crackers – who cares. Just be thankful its good for you, uses CSA ingredients, is somewhat filling and nutritious, and that you don’t have to sweat over the stove or grill tonight.

Oh, and can someone come pull me out of my basement when the heat wave is over?


Double Duty: Rhubarb (Syrup + Preserve)

I preserve for different reasons. To support local farmers and focus my dollars on local eating year round. To give as gifts throughout the year. And my personal favorite, to sit back and enjoy a small taste of summer when I am housebound during the middle of a Nor’easter. But preserving in the height of the season brings its own set of challenges. Getting all of the rhubarb possible into jars before moving onto strawberries for example. Or trying to get anything into jars during the week while working ye olde dayjob. Or getting everything into jars in preparation for the upcoming heatwave.

But like almost everyone, I am on a tight budget these days. A endless to do list, meticulous list keeping, down to the dollar budget. So I stretch. I make batches of jam and chutney with what I have on hand – if I am missing an ingredient or a spice, I am not making a special trip. I make do. I also look for ways for my produce to do double duty. If I have to buy scallions for kimchi, then I guess I am also going to throw them into some rhubarbbq because I am out of onions – who runs out of onions?! And you better believe I am going to stretch those scallions into three or four batches and THEN plant them in the ground. So when it comes to fruit I don’t just want jam, I want a syrup AND a preserve. And maybe an infusion or two. This way, I can sort of justify those $4.99/lb local cherries.

Rhubarb is usually the first fruit of the season that carries double duty around here. (“Fruit” for the incredulous rhubarb haters, wherever you may be). This method though, of a light syrup and then a preserve can be applied to most fruits. So if the thought of rhubarb in all its stalky glory makes you want to hurl, try a berry, peach or citrus version.

First Tour: Rhubeena

I made rhubeena exactly as Tigress suggests, but with her later suggestion of less sugar. I used 2ish cups. I like that its more tart, and can stand up to some lime and tequila in Kaela’s rhubarbaritas. Yes THOSE rhubarbaritas, of which I have become obsessed. I may have made rhubeena exclusively for this purpose. Ahem.

Second Tour: Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

So you make your rhubeena, and you are left with all of this sweetened rhubarb pulp. I don’t let it drain overnight – only until the pulp is mostly dry, so it still has some moisture. This is not your traditional jam texture people – its between a fruit butter and a jam. That said – who cares? It’s crazy delicious. Like cant stop sneaking bites with a spoon delicious. Serve with granola & yogurt, over ice cream – heck, blend it INTO ice cream.

Rhubarb Vanilla Jam
Leftover sweetened rhubarb pulp from Rhubeena (approximately 5 cups)
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Zest and juice of one lemon

Begin heating the pulp over medium heat. Add the vanilla, vanilla bean and lemon and heat until bubbly at 220°. If your rhubarb becomes too dry, add a little more water or vanilla extract as needed. This will be a thicker jam, so be sure to bubble your jars.  Spoon hot rhubarby goodness into hot jars, bubble as needed, top with hot wet lids and place into the waterbath. Process for 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Windham Gardens CSA Week One

This growing season, I am going to be writing a weekly update on my CSA share. A half share – one full grocery bag – of produce will be featured from Windham Gardens in Granby, CT every week for the next 20 weeks. I plan on both preserving and eating the harvest fresh. Windham’s CSA is different from most, as the CSA member gets to fill their own bag.

In the Bag this week: Zucchini, Snap Peas, Yellow Squash, Broccoli, Green Garlic, Garlic Scapes

When my dad was growing up, his mom made stew. The little bit of leftovers from each meal went into a pot at the end of the week. Stew. Steak? Goes in the stew. Veggies? In the stew.  Pasta, rice, potatoes? Guess. Now that I barter for a dozen fresh eggs every week, frittatas have become my stew. Anything from pasta to potatoes to… you name it, it tends to go into frittata. So this week, lest my new CSA produce spoil, I turned it into a week’s worth of lunches.

CSA Frittata, Spring Style
9-12 eggs, scrambled
2 small zuchinni & yellow squash, chopped
3 garlic scapes, chopped
1 clove green garlic, minced
2 slices applewood smoked bacon
1 cup grated sharp, salty cheese (cheddar, parmesan, asiago, a combination thereof)
smoked paprika, salt & pepper to taste

Cook the bacon until crisp, chop into small pieces. Cook chopped veg in bacon fat or olive oil, as preferred. Cook until just fork tender, remove from pan. Pour in the eggs, add the filling and cheese over the top. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350° until the eggs set OR cook over the stovetop over medium-low heat, covered with a lid until set.

Frittata tips:
1. Pour the eggs in a very well greased pan, then sprinkle the fillings in. Otherwise, if you pour the eggs over, all of the fillings will be on the bottom of the frittata. Before it sets, feel free to swirl and adjust accordingly.
2. Cook the fillings beforehand to your liking.
3. Finish in the oven just until set – keep an eye on it.

If frittata doesn’t suit your fancy this week, try: pea hummus, squash pickles, fridge scapes, grilled veggies