Saturday, August 22, 2009

Week 11: Three Easy Steps for a New Hue

green tomatoes
Step One: Receive a couple of nice green tomatoes in your CSA bag. (That's green as in unripe, not a green tomato variety).

Step Two: Peruse the Web for recipes that don't include the word "fried" before the words "green tomatoes."

Step Three: Make this recipe for a Green Tomato and Zucchini Gratin and enjoy the accolades of your family. Or the accolades of my family. We'll be over at 6.

Green Tomato and Zucchini Gratin

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Week 10: Cool as a ... Well, You Know ...

THIS WEEK'S HIT: Raita and Tomato-Vegetable Curry

  • Outside air temperature: 88 degrees
  • Kitchen temperature, with AC on: 78 degrees
  • Internal temperature of cucumber, pulled from refrigerator into air-conditioned kitchen: 40 degrees
cucumber with thermometerHey, these babies really are cool!

This week's farm share held the antidote to a sudden stretch of hot weather: a dozen cucumbers and seven tomatoes. We took the remedy in the form of pickles, gazpacho, Greek salad, Indian raita, and vegetarian curry. Mmmmm, cool (except for the curry, which was mmmmm, spicy hot). We also received blueberries (eaten out of hand), cherry tomatoes (sauteed with garlic, basil, and sage, and served over pasta), kale (went into the curry), carrots (steamed), eggplant (grilled), green bell peppers (added to the pickles and gazpacho), and a bunch of flowers (vase).

I know tomatoes are hard to find in some locations, but our farm is not organic and the crop hasn't succumbed to blight. Enjoy them if you have them.


Adjust the proportions of yogurt, cucumber, and spices to your liking.

Mix together the following:

1 tsp cumin, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute
1 cup plain yogurt (non-fat is okay)
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with curry or similar spicy food.

Tomato-Vegetable Curry

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seed (yellow mustard seed also works)
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 onion, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 small bunch kale, chopped (can substitute other greens or cabbage)
6 ounces tomato juice
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cardamom

tomato-vegetable curryIn a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil until hot. Add the mustard seeds, cover the pot, and let the seeds pop. Add the cloves and cinnamon stick, cover, and cook until the spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

Carefully remove the cloves and cinnamon (you may want to do this off-heat), then add the onion and tomatoes to the pot. Cook them covered, about 5 minutes or until they soften. Add the ginger and cook one minute more. Then add the kale and all of the remaining spices and cook, covered, about 5 minutes or until the kale begins to wilt.

Add the tomato juice and cauliflower. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 to 45 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft. (Watch the level of liquid and add a bit of tomato juice or water if the mixture becomes too dry.) Serve with raita and warm naan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Week 9: We're All Ears

THIS WEEK'S HIT: Seaside Corn and Bean Salad

ear of cornYou really should try the corn here. It's been ... a-maize-ing. (Sorry.)

We are at the halfway point of our CSA season, and this week brought us corn, carrots, tomatoes, summer squash, pickling cucumbers, bell pepper, an Italian eggplant, and a bouquet of "pick your own" flowers. The flowers were a bit of a pain to gather, but they looked kinda nice in our family room.

We made good use of the eggplant, squash, bell pepper, and some of the tomatoes in a "south-of-the-border" ratatouille. (Following a suggestion in the Moosewood Cookbook, I subbed cumin and chili powder for the more conventional basil and oregano.) We served the ratatouille with grilled corn, spiced up with chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and/or lime.

More corn (not grilled) was sauteed with native green beans, red onion, and scallions for a quick summer succotash. And I borrowed liberally from an old magazine recipe to put together a corn and bean salad that was perfect for a picnic at the beach.

Seaside Corn and Bean Salad


1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 cups corn kernels, cooked (cut from 2 ears of corn)
1/2 cup diced cucumber (seeded)
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp powdered mustard
1/4 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste


Mix together the beans, corn, cucumber, pepper, onion, parsley, and garlic in a medium bowl. Whisk the olive oil with vinegar and spices. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix gently to combine. Chill for a couple of hours for flavors to blend. Serves 4.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bonus Post: Easy as Pie

The Programmer and I have this thing about blueberry pie. It was the dessert that I made for our first anniversary dinner -- the one that came exactly a year before our wedding -- and we have celebrated each year with pie ever since. Lucky for us, our anniversary falls in July, at the height of the local blueberry season.

Blueberries were plentiful at the farm last week when we went to pick our own (yeah for that CSA voucher from earlier in the season!). We picked 3.14 pounds -- just enough, The Programmer astutely noted, to make pi. (Honestly, I'm not making that weight up; it was on the receipt.)

Our anniversary pie recipe comes from The Union Leader newspaper, which in those days ran a column featuring home cooks. It's a ridiculously easy pie. It's the kind of pie to make if you are a bit intimidated by the idea of making a pie. It's the kind of pie that can be made without turning on your oven. For me, it's the pie that launched a marriage, which is reason enough to make it every year.

Nita-Nee's Anniversary Blueberry Pie

Filling Ingredients

3 cups blueberries
juice of one lemon
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 9-inch pie crust, baked (not deep dish); graham cracker crust preferred (see note below)
whipped cream


Wash and drain the berries. Measure 1 cup berries, 2 Tbsp water, lemon juice, and sugar into a medium saucepan. Heat to boiling, then cook and stir 3 minutes. Blend together the cornstarch and 3 Tbsp water. Stir mixture into berries and bring back to a boil. Heat and stir until the mixture thickens and clears (consistency will be like jam). Remove from heat. Stir in remaining berries. Turn filling into pie shell and chill until set. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.


The original recipe called for a 9-inch baked pie crust, and you can certainly use any kind of tart or pie dough here. I have always used a graham cracker crust (remember what I said about intimidation). You can buy a prepared graham cracker crust -- I won't tell -- but it's easy (tastier!) to make your own.

Graham Cracker Crust

1.5 cup crumbs (20 to 22 graham crackers, or use the crushed crumbs from a box)
1 tsp flour
1/2 cup melted butter
2 Tbsp (scant) sugar
[3/4 tsp cinnamon -- I leave this out when I'm making blueberry pie, but it's good in other recipes]

Mix the crumbs with the flour and sugar (and the cinnamon, if using); blend with the melted butter. Press the crumb mixture firmly onto the bottom and sides of a lightly buttered 9-inch pie plate, to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Chill crust 45 minutes to an hour before filling OR bake in a 375 degree oven for 7 minutes, then cool completely before filling.

Sugar-Free Variation

You can make the pie filling and crust with Splenda instead of sugar. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers, as Splenda does not have the same preservative qualities as sugar.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Week 8: A Little Corny

THIS WEEK'S HIT: Tomato-Corn Soup

When you think of corn do you think of Iowa? I often do, but when I pass corn fields here I'm reminded that the crop has been cultivated in Massachusetts for centuries.

The local corn plants are beginning to show some height, so it was no surprise to find another dozen ears in this week's CSA share, along with basil, carrots, peaches, pickling cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, and a head of cabbage. The peaches were great eaten out of hand; the cucumbers became quick pickles; and I combined some of the cabbage and zucchini with boiled potatoes for Bubble and Squeak (more on this another time).

But the highlight of the week was corn. We boiled some shortly after picking it up at the farm, and blanched and froze some more for another day. A gift of tomatoes put us in the mood for the soup recipe below, which makes good use of this week's produce.

Tomato-Corn Soup


1 T olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups diced tomatoes, seeds removed (2 to 2.5 pounds)
2 cups water
1.5 cups corn kernels (2 to 3 ears), either raw or cooked
1 tsp salt
Fresh herbs of your choice – a good combination is 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil and 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Coarse ground black pepper, to taste


In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and celery for 7 to 8 minutes, until they begin to soften. Remove one-third cup of the mixture and set it aside.

Add garlic to the pot and sauté 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, water, and salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer the vegetables until they are tender, about 15 minutes.

Let the mixture cool a bit, then puree it in a food processor and return it to the pot. Stir in the reserved celery and onion, the corn, and the herbs. Simmer until the corn is tender, 10 to 15 minutes if the corn is raw, or 5 minutes if the corn is already cooked. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Serves 3 to 4

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Think Ahead!

Connors Farm has a waiting list going for shares in 2010. Current members do not need to sign up -- we get a priority listing -- but if you are considering joining the CSA next year, now's the time to get on the list. (If you are outside of the Danvers area, you might want to check in with your preferred program.)

In other farm news, I had a nice conversation with Bob Connors on Friday when I picked up this week's share. He says crops are looking good for August and September. Some other Massachusetts farms have reported problems due to weather and late blight, so this is especially good news for us.