Beach Time

Yes, I know. Who wants to cook when the weather is nice? Not me, that’s for sure! But just like enjoying the summer while we have it, we should take advantage of all the beautifulIMG_3009 local fruits and vegetables that are here now. It’s the Northeast, you know!  I encourage you to OVERDOSE on the produce… remember February?

Here’s what I do: Stop for coffee. Hit the farm stand/ Farmers Market. (20 minutes give or take). Buy 3 lbs of the best looking native fruit or vegetable I can find. Bring it home (no closed up car for these beauties) *note to self: create “veggies on board” bumpersticker. Go to the beach, the pool, your porch. Whatever, your ‘happy place’.

When you get home do this: if its a veggie, wash, slice and dice. You can now sauté, roast or grill in foil later.  Put on music.If you get an invitation or a better offer than being on duty, freeze them in a single layer /in a plastic zippered bag (I’ve been cautioned on using name brands…not that I really believe that Johnson & Johnson will care).

IMG_3018If it’s a fruit : eat some, then macerate the rest with some sugar (not much) and fresh lemon.Cover and refrigerate. Leave 2 hours or 2 days. If it looks too delicious to do anything else but put it on whole grain waffles, brown rice,or yogurt just do it. If you want to eat these in the winter, make a jam, jelly,or compote – and can it! I’ve already made the most gorgeous Strawberry Jam with Aged Balsamic & Black Pepper, Blueberry Lemon Compote, and Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce with Raspberry Liqueur. Just small amounts of each. Probably not for gift giving.Or….. Strain the juice and make a Shrub which is refreshing in a cocktail, or the way I like it…with sparkling water.Now that doesn’t take much time, does it? Here’s the recipe I’m using from the book Shrubs- An Old Fashioned Drink For Modern Times by Michael Dietsch http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/06/cold-processed-berry-shrub-recipe.html

The Daily Beet / The CSA

Do you have a CSA share?  Mine starts on June 3rd! This year I will get both the vegetables from Stoneledge Farm (www.stoneledgefarmny.com), and the fruit that they deliver from surrounding farms in upstate New York. A CSA is short for “community supported agriculture” and who doesn’t want to get on board with that?

I’m pretty busy teaching my canning and preserving classes AND I’m usually cooking for an ever-changing number of people at home. My CSA farm makes it  convenient for me to have the freshest produce available and support the farmers that grow it.  I agree that sometimes it can be  challenging to use the random combinations of veggies at pick up each week, but the contents of my basket with their beautiful colors and earthy goodness seem to beg to be used right away! Sometimes it can feel like pressure…and we don’t want that! If you think that a CSA share may be too much for you, be aware that most farms offer half shares .

To start, I wash everything for the refrigerator very well  under cold running water (especially the lettuces) and store  in produce bags (or a pillowcase) in the crisper drawer. I have  read articles that recommend the reverse (wash just before eating) but judging from the various members of  the natural world that have ended up in my rinse water, I have come to  prefer my method. In addition, there is no hassle with last minute veggie creativity. Even the  kids can join right in if the prewash has already taken place.A washed raw carrot is a beautiful thing.Don’t worry about root veggies and sensitive vine produce, they’ll do great without refrigeration.
I have found that the best technique for CSA survival has been to roast a combination of veggies, sometimes slicing the heartier ones (rutabagas,I’m talking about you) into thin round chips,brushing with olive oil ,and baking in a 400 degree oven until browned and crispy. ANY combination is great, and you’ll them up right away. Make some grains, grill some chicken, and eat your veggies! Oh yes- roasted veggies can be frozen flat in a ziplock bag and used for frittatas,soups,and ratatouille.

Dehydrating is another way to preserve  both fruits AND veggies. There are wonderful recipes for making fruit leathers….and even savory tomato leather . Heres a recipe to try: http://wholefedhomestead.com/preserving-the-harvest-tomato-leather/.Enjoy!