Tag Archives: summer squash

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.

SBortis_20100720_49small

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.

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
easiest-fridge-dill-pickles1
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.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Enjoy the fruits of your labor – Harvesting basics

In order to enjoy the fruits of all that labor you put into your garden you’ll have to  harvest, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when something is ready to go. As gardeners we know our food is good even when it doesn’t look perfect, so the good news is that it’s not absolutely necessary that we have our harvesting techniques down to a science (like many of our fellow farmer friends do).  So go ahead and give yourself a break, but read on for some harvesting tips.

IMG_0272

I would argue that as gardeners we are mainly concerned with harvesting crops before it is too late…… Too late generally means the plant has started to flower, which means it is putting more energy into growing seed rather than its various parts that we like to eat. And this generally results in a bitter-tasting veggie that is starting to lose its nutritional punch. But even when it’s “too late,” it’s often not really too late. You’ll see.

On the other hand, many things actually taste a little sweeter when harvested on the early side, for example, carrots, beets, and pretty much any kind of green. We miss out on some growth potential if we harvest our crops early, but they’ll still pack plenty of nutrients! (and look cute too…?) This also comes in handy when you are thinning your rows — big or small, they are still edible.

Carrots and Beets and Greens – oh my!

Crops like the aforementioned carrots, beets, and greens are fairly straightforward. You can tell just by looking at their size if they are ready. In general, if your veggies look like something you could get at the grocery store, they are ready to go! Carrots are typically at their peak around 1″ – 2″ in thickness, while beets are typically at their peak around 2″ – 3″ in thickness. You can poke your finger in the ground to feel how big your carrots and beets or other root veggies are, and of course you can just admire those beautiful leafy greens from afar to figure out if they’re ready for pickin’.

Note that regular, timely harvest of greens (including kale, lettuces, swiss chard, etc.) usually increases the length of harvest. And if you’re not going to eat them right away, it’s best to pick greens in the early morning or evening when the sun isn’t so hot – it helps to keep the greens from wilting.

A few other common crops are harder to determine – like squash, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and broccoli and cauliflower. Here’s a little more info on those:

Squash – summer and winter varieties

Summer squashes are best harvested when young and tender, when their skin is easily penetrated by a fingernail.  Zucchinis grow a ton in a day, so these guys require a careful eye. If you run late harvesting one it will probably taste better shredded in zucchini bread than used fresh. Or, hollow out the seeds, stuff it with a yummy filling, and bake!

Unlike with your zukes, you don’t want to watch winter squash so closely every day – at least not for awhile (unless you enjoy watching water boil). The hard skin of winter squash develops over time and is what helps it store so well, so you don’t want to rush on harvesting these gems. Mature winter squash will be hard and impervious to scratching. Once that thick skin has developed and you perform the fingernail test (press a thumbnail against the skin; your nail shouldn’t leave a visible dent) harvest your squash,  leaving at least 1” of stem attached. It’s also best to harvest before a frost comes, which could decrease their storage time.

Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumbers

These also can grow a lot in a short amount of time and so require a watchful eye. Cucumbers are best when slightly immature. Most varieties will be 1.5”- 2.5” in diameter and 5”- 8” long, except for pickling cucumbers, which will be blocky and not as long. Immature cukes are spiky, but will become less spiky as they mature. You can easily wash off the rest of the cucumber spikes after harvesting by running your hand over the cucumber under water. If you get to a cuke too late, it will still taste pretty good pickled!

These cukes will be ready in no time!
These cukes will be ready in no time!

Potatoes

You can harvest potatoes early or late, depending on your preference or what you plan to use the potato for. New potatoes, or earlies, can be harvested soon after the plants start blooming their beautiful flowers. Early potatoes are generally smaller and don’t store well so you want to eat them right away.

Or you can wait to harvest a crop of potatoes later – after the tops have died down and when the ground is dry. These potatoes will store much better, as long as they are cured for 10-14 days in a dark, well-ventilated location at 45 F to 60 F.

Onions

Onions can be harvested at different times according to what you’ll be using them for. If using them fresh, harvest at ¼”- 1” in diameter (basically, when they look big enough to be useful for whatever you need them for). If harvesting onions for storage, wait until they are bigger, their tops have fallen over, and their necks are shriveled. A mature bulb will not be dented if you push your finger into it.  To cure onions, place them in a single layer or mesh bag in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks. Remove their tops when fully dry.

An onion ready for some pickin'
An onion ready for some pickin’

Cabbage

A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest
A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest

Cabbage is ready to harvest when the leaves surrounding the head start to open up a bit, and when the heads are solid. If cabbage heads become over mature they may split. If your head splits, it’s still edible. It just won’t last as long and you’ll likely have to cut out the parts around the split.

 

 

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower may be the trickiest plants in regards to timing their harvest. Broccoli is best harvested while heads are a deep green, still compact, and before buds start to open into flowers. If the buds start to separate and the yellow petals inside start to show, harvest immediately. I often get to my broccoli a little too late (oops), but I still eat it, flowers and all!

This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!
This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!

When harvesting, cut the stem at a slant about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) below the head. Removing the head on some varieties will produce side-shoots in the axils of leaves and you can get 4 to 6 additional cuttings of shoots per plant over several weeks.

A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested
A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested

Follow the same rule of thumb for cauliflower, but when the curds are about 1”-2” in diameter fold some of the outer leaves over the cauliflower heads. This helps prevent the head from becoming yellow and/or blemished. Once you cover the heads they should be ready for harvest in 1-2 weeks.

Broccoli buds starting to open and flower
Broccoli buds starting to open and flower