Tag Archives: CSA

Image from Zuni Cafe's Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles with Ginger

If you’re like me,  you are probably wondering, “What am I going to do with all this summer squash!?!” Whether it’s yellow zucchini, green zucchini, striped zucchini, Crookneck, Pattypan, Romanesco, Cousa… you’ve probably got a lot of summer squash on your hands and beginning to wonder what else to do with it.  A couple weeks ago, it was exciting to slice one up for an omelet or throw some spears on the grill. However nowadays, the excitement has worn off, and I am just trying to keep up with the abundance that these plants can produce.

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Before you start secretively dropping unwanted squash plants in your friends’ car or on your neighbors’ doorstep, consider this recipe below for zucchini pickles. This recipe was given to me by a good friend, who adamantly doesn’t like “regular pickles.” And, from someone who doesn’t like bread-and-butter pickles, I promise you this isn’t like those mouth puckering, store-bought, bread-and-butter pickles either. These zucchini pickles are tender but firm, slightly sweet and tangy with a hint of cleansing ginger at the end. You’re sure to impress your friends at potlucks, and when the snow flies, you will even find yourself enjoying this essence of summer gardening in a jar.

Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles with Ginger

Image credit: Craving Something Healthy
Image credit: Craving Something Healthy

Makes about 6 pint jars.

Ingredients:

4 pounds of zucchini

1 pound of mini onions (small sweet onions)

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

6 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)

1/2 cup light agave nectar or 3/4 cup mild honey

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder

6 thin rounds of fresh ginger

Directions:

Scrub the zucchini and cut them into 1/4-inch rounds (Emily’s note: I’ve made this recipe with 1/2-inch-wide spears, and that turned out well too). Cut the onions in half-lengthwise and thinly slice them into half-circles. Put the zucchini and onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup salt, tossing to combine. Cover with a layer of ice cubes and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Pick out any unmelted ice, drain well, and rinse under cold-running water. Toss with coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes and set aside.

Prepare for water-bath canning: Wash the jars and place them in the canning pot, fill with water and bring to a  boil. Put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl. (Emily’s note: For more directions about water-bath canning, I recommend you ask your closest “canning guru.” You can also find many resources online or in cookbooks with step by step directions.)

In a nonreactive pot, combine the apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cups water, the agave nectar (or honey), turmeric, mustard powder, and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded kitchen towel. Drain the water off the jar lids. (Reference your personal canning guru or other resources here if needed).

Working quickly, put a slice of ginger in each jar, then pack the zucchini and onion in the jars (not too tightly). Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. Gently swirl a chospstick or butter knife around the inside of each jar to remove air bubbles . Use a damp paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove any residue on the rims of the jars. Then, put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.

Bring to a boil again, and boil for 15 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. You should begin to hear popping sounds as the flat lids seal to the jar. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately and consumed as soon as possible because those that didn’t seal will not keep long-term. Label the sealed jars, store and enjoy during non-zucchini season.

This recipe is borrowed from Liana Krissoff and her book Canning for a New Generation.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower: why I always ask for more (& 5 ways to sub it for carbs)

When I see cauliflower on my CSA’s chalkboard, I am filled with joy. It is one of those vegetables that does so much in place of a starch. Sub it for rice, pizza crust, mashed potatoes, tots (just heard about that one!). . . The list goes on. One of my favorite recipes is mashed cauliflower: a simple, elegant dish that my 16 year old niece always revisits for seconds.

Mashed cauliflower (or as we sometimes say, faux potatoes) can contain a basic three ingredients or get a bit more complicated (but not much. . .like add some garlic and Parmesan, or finish it with some truffle or rosemary salt).

Here’s what I did:

I had about two heads of cauliflower worth (they were smaller than that) of cheddar and regular cauliflower (just because that’s what I had). I chopped them up into flowerettes and put them in my large pot, with a steamer tray at the bottom. I poured in about a cup of water (enough to get a half inch of water in there) and steamed them until they were a little more than fork tender. You don’t want to over cook them, but you want them to be soft enough to mash well. Mine took about 10 minutes.

While they cook, if I have the oven going I might slip some garlic in to roast as well. And slip a few cloves of that in the food processor. Or saute some diced garlic.

Mashed Cauli

Once the cauliflower is cooked, take out your food processor (a hearty blender would probably work, too) and add the cauliflower to it. I had to do this in two or three shifts. I used a total of 1/3 cup olive oil, but poured some in each batch. And then a little extra at the end. . . Cause it’s so good. I added a 1/2 tsp of salt as well, distributed in each. And then another pinch at the end.

I let the food processor run for a good two to three minutes to really get the cauliflower into

a pureed mash.

And then I served it up.

You can use this to top a farmer’s/cottage/shepherd’s pie. You can serve it with steak. You can do so many things with this little side dish.

RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2-1 tsp salt (I like Redmond Salt — localish, filled with minerals)

2 heads (or the equivalent) of cauliflower

HOW TO

1. Chop the cauliflower into flourettes. No need to be pretty about it, these will eventually be mashed. But don’t hack them so badly that much of the cauliflower turns to crumbs.

2. Steam in a large pot (you can boil them too). Takes about 10 minutes. Cook them well, until they are very fork tender.

3. In batches that work for your food processor, add the cauliflower, some of the olive oil, and some of the salt. Stick your finger in to see if you like the taste. Add more salt or oil if you don’t! Here is when you would add a clove or two of roasted garlic, some rosemary salt or just rosemary, or other herb combination. This is a very flexible recipe.

4. Process the ingredients for 1-3 minutes, until smooth.

5. Add some finishing salt if you feel like it (I really liked truffle salt, took away some of the cauliflower flavor).

Here are a few other ideas that will make this little, sometimes smelly, nondescript, unassuming veggie something that will get your blood pumping as well:

Featured image is by Mike Mozart.

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Roasted veggies up close

Roasting Radishes: the best way to win over a radish hater

Radishes and Turnips
Some of the ingredients: salad turnips and chopped radishes.

This is the raddest radish recipe. Or should we call it a technique? Either way, roasting radishes is a fresh take on these spicy beauties.

Flavor sweetens: Roasting the radish takes some of the spice out of the radish, and some of the flavor that many radish haters hate fades. They become a little sweeter and don’t bite back as much.

Super quick: Roasting radishes takes maybe 10 – 15 minutes. So quick!

Beautiful: Mix these in with any of your favorites (last night I chose cauliflower, carrots, and salad turnips) and they will make your dish look fabulous.

The Recipe: Roasted Radishes

Roasted veggies
Just out of the oven! Gave them lots of room to crisp and cook quickly.

Ingredients:

1 bunch radishes (or more!)

Mix of other veggies, enough to fill two baking sheets (that way you have leftovers). I used 1 head of cauliflower, 5 carrots, and a bunch of salad turnips

2 tablespoons fat of your choice, I used duck fat. Make sure it is something that will cook at high heat (coconut oil, animal fat, BUTTER)

How to:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Chop your vegetables to equal sizes, about 1 – 2 inch chunks. Toss them together with melted oil, salt and pepper. Feel free to add in some spices or herbs or even a bit of lemon.

I roasted my veggies for around 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. I added the radishes and turnips in after the rest had been roasting for about 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

3 Freezer Meals for the Cold Dark Nights Ahead

The nights are cooling off. The days are getting shorter. My little is back in school. It’s labor day weekend, again. As I put away my white pants and shoes (haha), I brush off my Carrot Cardamom Soup recipe from Michelle Tam and shine up my soup pot to make some of my favorite freezer meals for those times when we need a quick meal that reminds us summer is waiting for us in a few months. While this weekend I am heading to the Helmville Rodeo (a Montana institution), I will be making or have made many of these meals in the next few weeks.

1. The Soup: Carrot Cardamom Soup, by Michelle Tam

Austen eats carrot soup
There she is, loving on the carrots and cardamom!

I love this soup. What’s even better: my four year old Austen loves it too. It is a bowl full of carrots and apples and homemade bone broth. Nutrients abound. She has no idea. Moo ha ha ha.

When we’re talking soups and freezing them, however, what I often do while I have fresh carrots, celery, and onions, is make a mirepoix — a french term for the flavor base to many dishes — from a pan of beans to a meat skillet to a pot of soup. Because it is the base to so many dishes I make, having some frozen and on hand in the winter months saves time. So, if you don’t want to make the whole cha bang, just saute two parts onion, to one part carrots, and one part celery in a pan with your favorite cooking oil (butter is GREAT, bacon or duck fat work as do olive or coconut oil).

If I am feeling ambitious, I will cook the base, leaving out the apples and cardamom in case I get tired of this soup (it happens occasionally, but not often) and feel more like Curried Carrot Soup.

Or I’ll just go for it and make the recipe, cool it, and most importantly, put it a bag or mason jar that is the appropriate size for what my family would want in one sitting.

I once put all my carrot soup in gallon sized bags in the freezer. Two things happened: one, I put them on the door, and the bags leaned into the bar on the freezer door and froze, forever molded into place. One pinning the other in place as well. I think I had to break the bar to the the damn things out. It’s best to lay them out flat, let them freeze, and then stack them either like library books or in a big stack. Two, I had to thaw the whole bag to get about 1/3 of it for all of us to eat. Then I had to eat carrot soup for a week because I couldn’t bare to re-freeze it. Then, I didn’t want to see carrot soup for the rest of the winter. I use quart sized bags now.

2. The Main Event: Shepherd’s Pie by Elana’s Pantry

This is technically a cottage pie, because it is made with beef rather than lamb. However, it

Shepherds pie
That’s the shepherds pie I made — complete with creamy mashed cauliflower topping.

sneaks extra veggies (this one has a mirepoix base, too!) in the topping: it is made of cauliflower. You can use your lovely potatoes from this week too, if you’d prefer.

The last time I served this, we were hosting my 16 year old niece. She is a pretty typical teenager, sweet enough to eat anything I put in front of her, but only enthusiastic about a few things. This she loved. She was seen later in the evening spooning up the faux mashed potatoes and eating them all by themselves.

This makes a lot, so you could serve half and then freeze the other half. Make it soon! Cauliflower is on its way out.

3. Breakfast: Breakfast Cookies!

Seriously! Adapted by the Kitchn from 101 Cookbooks (two of my favorites)

Photo by the Kitchn
Photo by the Kitchn

These are filled with carrots and lots of other yummy dried fruits. The only sweetener is maple syrup. And they freeze beautifully. They are there for you when you are short on time and need breakfast. You can also freeze and put a cookie or two in a kid’s lunch when you are trying to stretch to the next grocery trip.

 

 

Midsummer Madness: a recipe roundup

KateCooper2009 (2)August. It’s August. And not just the beginning — it’s mid August. Bittersweet: I think that is the word for this month. The slow letting go of lots of sun, swimming holes, and unstructured days. Deep breath.

But we don’t have to say goodbye to vegetables too soon — we are just hitting the peak. From now until mid to late September our gardens and farms will be plumping up, ripening and sweetening our vegetables for your tables. This summer has been relatively cool, so tomatoes and eggplants and peppers may be slow, but the rest of the high summer veggies are coming on strong.

So pack it in while you can, friends.

Here are 9 recipes that make the most out of our last month of summer.

Summer Chicken Stew from BBC Good Food

This recipe has two steps. Really. It’s that easy. Great for a weeknight, has lots of seasonal veggies.

Vegetable Hakka Noodles (AKA Chow Mein) from Manjulas Kitchen

Simple sauce and noodle base that allows you to build whatever veggies you can in there. This recipe happens to include only veggies you’ll find in your CSA.

Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous with roasted chickpeas from Andrea Bemis of The Kitchn

(hint: the cauliflower is riced, so it takes the place of the couscous — sneaky!).

Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower Steaks from The Kitchn

Apparently, this is a thing. Popping up on restaurant menus all over the place. I didn’t know. But it sounds easy and amazing, so put it on your menu this week! Great for vegetarians and those looking to give the cauliflower main stage.

Zucchini with Chorizo and Lime from The Kitchn

An easy one pot meal. There’s a lot of parsley in my CSA, so I’d sub that in for the cilantro in this recipe, and maybe add a little coriander (since that’s the seed of the cilantro plant).

Green Bean Potato and Corn Salad from Love and Lemons
love and lemons green bean and potato salad
Love and Lemons’ green bean, potato & corn salad.

This could be a side, or add your favorite meat or seafood and make it dinner. It even has basil, which I have a lot of. Making this tonight!

Summer Squash Vegetable Pizza from Love and Lemons

What a great way to use up veggies: grab a Le Petit crust, roll it out, and load on the veggies and herbs and a little tomato sauce or olive oil. Done and done. This one from Love and Lemons is a great mixture of seasonal veggies.

Darla’s Delicious Frittata from Epicurious

I’ve starting making a frittata over the weekend when I have a bit more time and serving it for breakfast (or dinner) throughout the week. I recently read a frittata recipe that, instead of listing what vegetables, just said “vegetables.” As in, as long as you have some veggies, cheese, and maybe a little cream or meat (totally optional, though I do argue bacon is always a good idea) along with eggs, you’ll be good to go.

Easiest Refrigerator Pickles from Smitten Kitchen
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Easy refrigerator pickles by Smitten Kitchen.

And a little nod to what’s coming down the pike: storing veggies. Pickling! Cucumbers, they are great for snacking, salading, and some great Greek food. But when in doubt, pickle them!

We’ll be taking a break next week. Because #peasfarmparty. Hope you all will join us for our 20th anniversary get down Thursday, August 18th.

I’ll be writing about going back to school (gasp!) next time around. Until then, eat well.

 

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kamut salad

Kamut® Salad: the newest addition to the Farm Party lineup

The Farm Party is in a little over a week from now. If you haven’t been, it is a big old party up at the PEAS Farm celebrating this great community, and the harvest that abounds this time of year. We cook everyone a big meal, and host some live music (Shakewell and Local Yokel this year!). It’s really fun. This year, we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary, which means we’ll have cake and a photo booth and a few other fun things.

One of the longstanding traditions around this party (we’ve been doing the party for 14 years, so we’ve got some serious traditions going) is that Josh (PEAS Farm Director) and the PEAS Farm student crew make the food. They harvest it in the fields, truck it over the First Presbyterian Church’s commercial grade kitchen, and get to work. The party has gotten so big that UM Catering has now taken over cooking the burgers, so we can focus on what’s most important: the veggies.

Chopping onions for Farm Party
Chopping onions for the Farm Party Kamut Salad. Real chefs wear onion eye protection. Photo by Tom Bauer/The Missoulian

This wonderful group makes six salads (green salad, cole slaw, carrot, cuke, roasted beet, and Kamut Brand Khorasan Wheat). It’s a treat for them to show Missoula what they’ve been up to all summer. All their harvesting, weeding, moving pipe, tractoring, educating, more weeding, seeding and re-seeding, and harvesting again, and sweating and sometimes freezing — it all adds up to a rich and new experience. So it is a special thing to be able to invite all of you up to the farm to see a little piece of it in action.

In the spirit of sharing, I asked Kali, an EVST grad student who is one of the group’s leaders this year, if she’d share a recipe. She did some calculating (these recipes are sized for making food for around 1,000) to make it for around 6 servings, and gave me this year’s version of the Kamut® Salad recipe. Grain salads are great because you can stick all sorts of things in them and they taste great with a little dressing. This year, the crew is adding peaches (that’s right!) to the savory salad. It’s a great way tie many seasonal ingredients into one dish. Eat it as a meal, or as a hearty side. To make this gluten free, sub rice.

Recipe

Ingredients

Dressing
1/4 cup safflower oil or olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
A few sprigs of basil
1-2 tsp raw honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Salad
1 cup Kamut® berries, cooked and cooled (shorten the cooking time if you soak the berries overnight — see here for simple cooking instructions — mine cooked for almost 60 min)
3 – 5 kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
1/2 sweet onion, diced small
1-2 peaches, chopped
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions

Prep all your ingredients.
Ingredients
Emulsify the dressing with an immersion blender.
immersion blender and dressing
Massage the chopped kale with a small amount of the dressing to tenderize it. Then combine all the ingredients in a bowl!
Combine together ingredients
We hope you’ll make this, and come to the Farm Party on August 18th, 5:30 pm at the PEAS Farm to try ours! Come find me and we’ll compare recipes, will you?

The Perfect Summer Dish for (Almost) Everyone & (Almost) Any Vegetable

FriendsI’m having a few friends over for the fourth of July. The group has some diverse food restrictions, between my gluten allergy, a few vegetarians, a dairy allergy and a mess of kids. Plus, I want to show off my amazing River Road veggies. These limitations can actually be helpful, since the internet is infinite and time is short.

I’ve found a good solution. Inspired by Sarah Britton’s Best Lentil Salad, Ever, I’ll be making a beluga lentil salad along with my grilled tri-tip roast (mine’s from Jamie’s Naturally Raised Grassfed Beef — tri-tip roasts, as opposed to steaks, are amazing and somewhat hard to find. You can special order at a meat counter, or ask for them at the Farmers’ Market). A great source of protein, it’s also gluten free. It’s cold — who wants a hot dish on a day like today?  And it has lots of room for vegetable additions — I love when recipes, like Sarah’s, include optional extras to add to a dish. I’m pretty sure that my 4 year old will even eat this, or at least she’ll negotiate to just “take four bites ’cause I’m four,” rather than flat out, tight-lipped refusal.

All you need is lentils + a good basic vinaigrette + roasted/grilled veggies to get an amazing salad.

Let’s start with roasted/grilled veggies

roasted veggies
This is pretty, but don’t put your veggies this close together when roasting/grilling. Use two baking sheets or two shifts in the grill basket!

Who doesn’t love a roasted vegetable? You can roast almost any vegetable, save the greens, following these guidelines. Great roasting veggies are ripening up right about now — carrots, radishes, garlic scapes, zucchini, maybe even scallions. Plus, you can do almost the same thing (and I would argue it tastes even better) when you grill your veggies. If you want step by step grilling instructions, check out my grilled carrots post. I use a grill basket, but skewers are great, too.

Putting it all together

beluga lentilsWhile you’re roasting or grilling your veggies, cook the lentils. (Or, make it a grain salad instead by cooking gluten free millet, rice, or quinoa, the latter of which has a complete protein — bonus for vegetarians! For a gluten-full grain salad, use kamut, farro, or macaroni. . . whatever floats your boat.) Cool the veggies and lentils (or grains) in the fridge until they are just slightly warm, then mix them together and add the vinaigrette. Save any delicate ingredients — like herbs, greens, or cheese — to add right before you serve. Serve cold!

Sarah Britton’s vinaigrette has a pretty long list of ingredients. If you’d rather try something basic, go with Nora Ephron’s 3-ingredient vinaigrette. I just finished reading the honest and laugh out loud funny Heartburn by Ephron for the third time. It is filled with good food, including this vinaigrette, which is so good it factors into her divorce negotiations.  I’m guessing Ephron’s vinaigrette is what I will use for my lentil salad — I love cooking, but I love spending time with my friends more. Keep it simple, and leave time for wine on the back porch while the kids shriek their way in and out of the sprinkler.

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My friend Ali at a lazy Sunday dinner. She’s raising the roof for yummy food!

Updates coming soon on how these plans turn out!

How did you eat your way through the fourth? Share your favorite recipes and suggestions below — think of this blog as a way to exchange recipes with your CSA friends and interweb neighbors!

 

 

Curing onions by Jacinda Davis

How to: putting up veggies for the winter

The changing weather signals that it is time for putting up food for the coming winter months. Since each crop prefers different storage conditions, I wanted to share some storage information that has helped me to stretch my local food long into winter (and even spring!).

The Crop Run Down

Potatoes

  • The key to good potato storage is to keep them away from light, at temperatures around 42- 55°F, with a relatively high humidity.
  • Try storing your potatoes in places like an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage. Choose a place that is insulated to protect the potatoes from freezing temperatures.
  • Since potatoes like a bit of humidity store them in a perforated plastic bag, but do not tightly seal the bag — air flow is crucial to preventing mold and decay.   Bringing home the goods.

Winter squash and pumpkins

  • This crop stores best at 50 -60°F with a low humidity.
  • Good places to keep your squash are similar to potatoes (see above) with a bit less humidity. Just think cool and dry.
  • Winter Squash and pumpkins are a relatively easy storage crop. That said, their typical storage life is anywhere between 8-12 weeks. Hubbard and spaghetti varieties store a bit longer, acorns a bit shorter.
Pumpkins in the Youth Farm fields by Jacinda Davis
Pumpkins ready to be picked in the Youth Farm fields. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

Onions, Shallots, and Garlic

  • The important factors of good storage for onions, garlic, and shallots are low humidity, good air circulation, and cool temperatures.
  • The mesh bags you took these crops home in are great for storage. Try hanging the bags in a closet, or in an unheated room of your house.  It is as easy as that, and you will have these jewels to spice up your meals all winter long.   A few more storage tips…
  • Be sure to check your vegetables frequently and remove any crops that are starting to go bad.
  • Always protect your crops from freezing temperatures.

Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Kale and Kohlrabi

  • Carrots, beets, kale, and the monster kohlrabi do best with near freezing temperatures, a.k.a. the refrigerator.
  • High humidity is also critical for long term storage of these crops, so keep them in a perforated bag. Watch humidity, if the bag is full of condensation open it up a bit to let some moisture out. If your crops are drying out close the bag up tight.
  • If you are willing and able to give up some space in your refrigerator for these winter crops they will easily last you till the spring!
Greens by Jacinda Davis
Chard, collard greens and curly kale. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

 

 

Experiment with storage locations, new recipes, and most importantly enjoy!

To Share or Not To Share, Is that the Question?

Molly Bradford This week we have a guest blog from Molly Bradford – a grubshed winter share member at River Road Farm and a master food preserver.  This woman knows how to keep eating locally all winter long. She also is the co-owner of GatherBoard, one of the makers of MissoulaEvents.net and Missoula Indoor Ads. She is a connector of people, products and ideas and a self-taught marketer who finds inspiration where art and business intersect. In her spare time, Molly is an avid yet amateur gardener, cook, skier, and hunter. Oh, yeah… add: busy mom and wife.

This summer is my first CSA.  For those of you who know me, this might seem unbelievable.

The fact is, I’ve had a winter share, or Grubshed, at Garden City Harvest’s River Road Farm since our oldest was an infant.  However, this summer is indeed my first weekly summer CSA.  As with our Grubshed, we share our share with another family. Both this sharing of shares, and the amount of food preservation I’ve learned over the past 9-years has made this a fairly fun summer CSA.

I’ll admit it, though, there have been times this summer where I have been intimidated by the amount of food I was getting on my “on” weeks.  And sometimes I’ve shared my share of the share with a neighbor or used it as an excuse to invite friends for dinner.  Mostly we’ve had more mornings of the best green smoothies ever, my kids (now 2 and 9) have eaten more vegetables both hidden and obvious than ever before, and my toddler’s garden variety identification and vocabulary are certainly voracious.

By looking at my Summer Share with Grubshed glasses, things quickly became less intimidating and more manageable.  Last week Genevieve shared about soup, stew, bone broth, aromatics, and mirepoix.  She must have had Grubshed lenses in her onion glasses when she told you about cooking up a bunch of mirepoix, letting it cool to room temp and freezing in ice cube trays for later. This is where you and I are going – preserving summer’s share for winter.  Get out your vacuum sealers, clear some space in your freezer and start your stove top.  What follows are the most common things I do to freeze summer.

In most cases I find a recipe I like, and then I start substituting with items from my CSA or Grubshed that seem similar, sound good, or just have to get used up STAT.

BLANCHING

I really like blanching.  It’s not nearly as time or resource consuming as canning.  And it tends to start happening when the days are a bit cooler and shorter, so having a pot of boiling water going for a while doesn’t seem oppressive. Don’t get me wrong, this mama likes to can and pickle like a mad-woman. But sometimes I prefer a quicker option for food preservation with what I have on hand.

The basic concept of blanching is to plunge fresh vegetables into boiling water, scalding them for a short period of time, then shock them in a bath of ice water until cool. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.  The length of time is key – under-blanching doesn’t stop the enzyme.  Over-blanching causes loss of color, flavor and texture.  A simple internet search for “vegetable blanching chart” will bring up many great sites from home food preservation to extension services.   (NOTE: as I’ve learned about putting up mass quantities of food for winter, I always read two or three sites through to determine consistency of message and technique before I begin.  And to make sure I have all the equipment on hand.)

Before you begin, make sure you have at least a few big bags of cubed ice – you’re going to need it. (Thankfully this can be attained at nearly any hour from a gas station.) Also, some sort of blanching set up is preferred to scooping veggies from boiling water with a slotted spoon or wire basket spoon.  For water blanching I do large batches with my pasta insert in my stock pot. For steam blanching I go with smaller batches with a metal colander balanced over my stock pot.

Here are the basics:

Chop stuff up into manageable pieces. (Corn is the exception, I keep it on the cob.)  I normally err on the side of mid-chunky, assuming I’ll be cooking them into stew, soup, potpie, pizza topping, pureeing, quiche, etc… later in winter.

Get water boiling.  Follow the blanching chart from above.  Blanch.  Ice bath.  Spin dry in a salad spinner or roll in an absorbent towel (wet veggies = freezer burn).

After they are dry enough, I like to seal my veggies with the vacuum sealer in 2 to 4-serving sized pouches.  Too small, waste of plastic.  Too big, won’t use them after I thaw them, what a waste.

Veggies I like to water blanch and freeze:

  • Corn on the cob
  • Beans – like string, wax, green
  • Greens – hearty types like kale, chard, collards
  • Peas – in edible pods

BUTTER BLANCHING

I’m not sure if this is even a real term… basically, it’s the same technique Genevieve used with the mirepoix. (After a quick internet search for “butter blanching,” I could not find anything of the sort. I learned this term and technique from an old foodie friend, Chef Boy Ari.)

The goal is the same as water blanching: stop the enzymatic process of breaking down the food so it will last longer – and preserve some color and texture in the process – but with butter! (I’m sure you could substitute an oil of your choice that stands up to sauteing – canola, olive, coconut.)

Here are the basics: chop up the stuff you want to butter blanch into bite sized pieces.  Melt some butter in a pan until the foaming subsides.  Add in some onion and saute at least until translucent — I like a deeper flavor and go for golden and starting to caramelize. Add in the things you want to preserve.  Saute until al dente – not mushy, a little under cooked.

Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet to cool more quickly.

Then freeze in one of these options:

  • ice cube trays – pop frozen cubes in a ziplock – suck the air out before finishing sealing;
  • little reusable plastic baggies – suck the air out before sealing; make tiny vacuum sealed pouches;
  • I like to freeze on the cookie sheet – break or cut into cubes – put in ziplock – suck air out.

When you’re ready to make soup or quiche or pizza or stew, pull out a few cubes, let stand on the counter to thaw or throw in the pan to thaw, and go!  No chopping and sauteing needed.

Foods I like to butter blanch:

  • Morel mushrooms with onion, garlic and sage
  • Mushroom mixes w/ herbs, onion, garlic
  • Mixed bell peppers
  • Mirepoix Caramelized onions
  • Shredded potatoes (potato pancakes- yum!)

FREEZER PESTO

One of the easiest and most satisfying things to do with excessive greens is make pesto or a pesto alternative. The basic pesto recipe calls for basil, olive oil, salt & pepper, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

The substitution possibilities here are endless.  Want a smear for sandwiches, substitute butter for oil.  Looking for more of a spicy, green herb type sauce, think chimichurri.  Not sure about pine nuts? Try toasted walnuts, pecans or cashews.  Allergic to nuts? Go with seeds like sunflower or pumpkin, or skip it.  Same for cheese – Parm, Asiago, and Romano are the Italian trio but any hard cheese will do.  Experiment with oils, herbs, seasonings.

My mother-in-law recommended adding a little lemon juice and grated lemon peel to classic pesto to preserve the green color and fresh flavor.  Since I like to freeze mine in blocks, this was an especially great step.

Just tonight our toddler and I picked the leaves from 2-huge basil bushes from our Grubshed. Right now the leaves are plumping in a bath of cold water over night.  Tomorrow, after I dry the leaves, we’ll make pesto.  We have about 8-cups of leaves, so I expect to have about 10-cups of pesto when it’s all said and done.

Pesto kids -- these are my two kiddos after last year's pesto making extraveganza.
Pesto kids — these are my two kiddos after last year’s pesto making extravaganza.

For large batches I go with tried and true recipes like the one I linked to above, plus the aforementioned lemon addition.  After it’s done I’ll line a brownie pan with parchment in both directions and pour in all the pesto.  Set it in the freezer overnight with another sheet pressed on top. The next day, pull out the parchment sling or flip over the pan.  If you let it sit a moment the oil on the sides will loosen up and it slides out.  Moving quickly, cut this big slab into small cubes – about 2” by 2” by the height of your slab.  Put all the cubes in a ziplock freezer bag, seal 90% of the way, suck out the air and finish sealing.  Making pasta, pizza, soup, quiche, sandwiches, dip, etc… pull out a cube per 2-servings.  Yum.

SALSAS, SLAWS & KRAUT

Have just a few too many tomatoes, tomatillos and jimmy nardello peppers? Or what about that third head of cabbage, those huge carrots and another round of brightly colored cauliflower? Bottom line on salsa: it can be with tomatoes, tomatillos, fruits, beans, corn, onion, garlic, cilantro, peppers sweet and spicy, citrus, zucchini, cucumber, etc… And slaw is great with cabbage, kale, chard, leeks, shredded carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers sweet and spicy, citrus, apples, pear, onion, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cucumber, etc…

Wait just a second – most of the items on both lists are the same – how can that be?  It’s all in the sauce.  Find a recipe you like, get the basics of the seasonings/sauce down, and then completely mix it up with the fruits and veggies. But for me, the finale is the sauerkraut, or in my case, it’s more of a süβkraut – a sweet apple cider braised cabbage.  This time of year I make a huge batch from this recipe my mom gave me a decade ago.  I expand it enough to accommodate 3-5 heads of cabbage, and I use green and purple for color.

After braising all afternoon, we put some in a separate put to enjoy with delicious sausages — the recipe calls for Knockwurst.  The rest I put in sterilized jars and give a 15-min water bath.  Your mouth will say Danke all winter long.

———

By thinking ahead just a bit, trial and error, and a little bit of reckless abandon corralled with a recipe here and there for good measure, managing the weekly CSA and/or a Grubshed are not just doable, they are edible all winter long.  Freezing tomatoes, braiding onions, packing root vegetables in damp sawdust… I’ll get to that another time.  For now – pick a few things that taste so much better now than they do in January and prepare them for a revival in winter. Then share.

Falling for Autumn

Rachel Mockler 2015This week we have a treat (both literally and figuratively) in store. Rachel Mockler is a home chef who creates masterpieces to feast your eyes on (she takes a lot of photos of her food) and those lucky enough to share her table get to feast with their mouths, too. While getting her Masters’ from U of M’s Environmental Studies Program, she worked at the Buttercup Market and Cafe, creating seasonal fare for Missoula. She also interned a summer at the PEAS Farm, and wrote many a blog post for the Real Dirt in her grad days as well. Plus, she is punny. Really really punny. Enjoy, friends.  I’ll be back next week with more on the upcoming fall vegetables. . . A weighty and wonderful time of year.

There is a little dusting of snow on the mountains surrounding Missoula and there is a crispness in the air heralding the approach of fall…But, there is also a warmth in the breeze reminding us that summer is still here at least until September 20th…

There is also a mix of produce at the farmers market, in your CSA, or (and?) in your garden, marking the final days of hot weather crops such as peppers, cucumbers, melons, and basil.  Yes, apples, winter squash, potatoes, are creeping into the mix, and making us think of the days ahead — I’m trying to get into the idea of of making a hearty soup and bundling up indoors. However,  I myself am a true summer lover — my friends will tell you, I crave warmth and sun.  So I’m paying tribute to this summer bounty with this easy recipe. It’s been an incredibly productive summer.  This recipe makes use of the remaining Dixon melons, heirloom tomatoes, and basil, before we have to wait an entire year for this taste of summer.

Watermelon Gazpacho

Watermelon Gazpacho

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 small sugar baby watermelon (or 5 c. watermelon puree)
  • 3 medium heirloom tomatoes (or 4 c. tomato puree)
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil
  • 1 c. lime juice
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper, to taste

How to:

1. Roughly chop the watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and basil and add to blender.

2. Add lime juice to fruits and vegetables in blender and whir to desired consistency.

3. Garnish with fresh cracked pepper, to taste.

4. Enjoy the last taste of summer!

Even though I am not looking forward to winter, I am quite excited about the excellent fruit year we are having in this cool weather — all of it that is available right now.  One of my favorite cakes to bake is this not-so-terrible sweet lemon almond cake. What takes it to the next level is a garnishing of juicy pears baked atop of it.  Although almonds are perhaps not the best nut to be eating right now because of California’s drought crisis, this recipe only uses a few almonds.  This cake is best served warm, perhaps with a scoop of ice cream, a dusting of powdered sugar, or a lemony glaze, if you so desire.

RachelMockler_AlmondCake (6)

Lemon Almond Cake with Pears

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ c soy milk or other milk alternative
  • 2 Tbsp flax meal
  • ¾ c oil
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
  • 1-2 pears, sliced
  • Sliced almonds (optional)

How to:

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2) Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

3) In another large bowl, mix together soy milk, apple cider vinegar, and flax meal.  Mix well.  Add oil, sugar, vanilla, almond extract, lemon zest.

4) Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

5) Pour batter into a greased and floured 9” round cake pan.

6) Garnish with sliced pears and almonds.

7) Bake cake for approximately 35 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

8) Enjoy!