I confess, I am kind of freaking out after this week’s CSA delivery. Between last week’s CSA delivery, which I pretty much ignored except to gobble down cherry tomatoes for “lunch,” and this week’s delivery that consisted of pounds and pounds of melons and tomatoes to the near exclusion of all us, I am wondering how I am going to get all this produce turned into meals. I have the usual pressure of a toddler at my elbow wanting to stand on the stool and cut whatever I am cutting, wash whatever I am washing, stir whatever I am stirring: you get the point. In addition, I am committed to a birthday dinner this Saturday, which has the potential to use up vegetables and also allow us to eat cake, IFF I am able to make the time to make the cake and cook the vegetables.
So. The biggest challenge is the sheer volume of plum tomatoes. I have five quarts of them (three red, two yellow), plus another quart of large red tomatoes from last week, plus another quart of large-ish red cherry tomatoes from this week. There are still several quarts of tomato sauce in the freezer from last summer, as well as several quarts of ratatouille from last summer, so both of those standbys are off the table. (Canning is like a fruit tree, there are boom years and light years and last year was a boom year for the freezer.) I am planning to make these beans (which will use the bag of beans, one onion, and painfully few tomatoes), this lentil dish (more tomatoes and two onions), baba ghanouj (bag of baby eggplants), several batches of zucchini muffins (not nearly enough zucchini), stuffed peppers (peppers and ratatouille from the freezer), cabbage soup despite still having some in the freezer (cabbage and a few more tomatoes), and then I’m stymied. Oh, and of course I’m trying to make all this in the next three days plus a gluten-free birthday cake. And what I’d really like to do in my copious spare time is try to adapt this tart recipe to use a gluten-free crust, hemp milk, and yellow plum tomatoes. Yup.
As long as I am resigned to the kitchen being a tomatoey mess and all of the sprout’s naps from here on out being used to bake, I might have a fighting chance. Several of these we’ll have for dinner, and we have to eat dinner. The real issue is that even after I make all of this, I still have a farmstand’s worth of produce to deal with. However, a moment’s reflection on the glories of the turnip is enough to make me grateful that it’s still the summer season. Just don’t ask me to do any of your dishes or eat any of your melons. (Not a euphemism.)
This is the time of year when my to-do list starts to be mostly recipes centered around using up the vegetables and fruits that are flowing in our house. (Most of the other items on the list are some subset or variation of “clean house.”) When I have the time and energy, I find myself trying to knock out three or four items at once to stay on top of things: something baked, some kind of salad, and something for dinner are pretty typical. Earlier this week I tackled about half of the zucchini, turning it into muffins and fritters. I also used the cabbage to start homemade sauerkraut for the first time; I just couldn’t face more cabbage soup, as we are still working our way through last year’s freezer stash. The sauerkraut is still fermenting on the counter and won’t be ready for a few more days at the earliest, so I have no sense of whether it’s a success or not. Or rather, whether it’s edible: it’s a success either way since there is no longer a cabbage in my fridge! Yesterday I made two salads and yellow beans (with savory from our garden) for dinner. That was only a qualified success, since I had to buy tomatoes for one of the salads (it’s hard to find recipes using up cucumber that don’t also require tomatoes).
This is the crux of the challenge: using the vegetables you get without either too much supplementation or endless days of eating sliced cucumbers for lunch. There are some things I don’t mind getting, like the leek I use in the beet salad recipe. My partner is not a huge fan of the beet and we eat them only one of two ways, in the salad that requires a leek or roasted, the latter way not being really appropriate for the longest heat wave in local history. It pains me to buy tomatoes, though, since I know we’ll be getting more soon and I know the local heirloom ones that will start to appear at the market are vastly superior in all ways to what’s currently available, even at the local organic store. However, it also pains me to continually throw away food and we are coming off the second winter of doing so with the majority of our winter CSA. We just haven’t been able to stay on top of it since the sprout joined our family. Also, the types of vegetables we get in the winter are delicious when prepared well but not the sort that are easy or good raw; a large part of their appeal is the satisfaction of turning something bitter and kind of unappealing into a tasty meal. Which requires the creativity, energy, and time to turn something bitter and kind of unappealing into a tasty meal.
Now that the more amenable vegetables of summer are here, I’m determined to use them. This weekend’s list includes a blueberry pie (with gluten-free crust and lemon verbena from the garden), refrigerator pickles, another batch of beet salad, another batch of zucchini muffins, and possibly some rhubarb muffins if I haven’t left the rhubarb too long already. Probably also roasted potatoes one night, although there’s less time pressure to use the potatoes. Then on Tuesday it will be time to start the process over again.
Oh, and let’s not forget the effort to use up last year’s stores from the freezer, too!
Not only is it already March, but the month is nearly half over. Yikes! I got sucked into a black hole of sick household members and even less sleep than before that led me to not be able to type anything coherent but instead simply stare at the computer screen and try not to drool whenever I’ve had a couple of free moments to myself. I’ll try to do better.
What have you missed? I took the lazy man’s path and stopped doing the Dark Days Challenge when the host became unable to keep up with the round-ups due to circumstances in her own life. We continue to eat locally, I just am not making any effort to be creative or branch out from our regular recipes. I did plan to post about the soup I made in the summer that we recently ate from the freezer, and the recipe is this: make leek and potato soup, dilute with a bit more water, add pre-cooked chopped kale and a can of white beans at the end (and probably more salt; I use the mushroom seasoned salt that we get from our farmer). It’s good, and makes for more of a meal than regular leek and potato soup. I also made macaroons, since I was craving the ones I’d had in Portland with dried apricots, pecans, and a dark chocolate bottom. The macaroons were delicious, and I managed to make them last a whole week (!) by putting them in the freezer. I need to remember that option for future cookie cravings, because I love to make them but really don’t need to eat quite so many at a time.
What else? I managed to get outside and clean out the garden beds in the front of the house, so now the daffodil sprouts can actually see the sun. The crocuses are up, and I’m looking forward to seeing which daffodils bloom; you never know which ones will survive both the replanting and the hungry squirrels. I’ve been working on my garden plans for this year, but they really deserve their own post. (Stay tuned!)
Finally, politics are driving me a little nuts these days. On the local level, I was heartened by the way our surrounding neighborhoods embraced a rally in opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church (my favorite sign said, “Thanks for bringing the community together!). On the national and state level things are pretty sucktastic, as I don’t need to tell you because you’re an educated person who reads the news, right? Local delegates tried to play politics and sank Maryland’s equal marriage bill: I hope no one votes for anything those two people support for at least a decade (because I’m sleep-deprived, and that makes me surprisingly petty). All the money we have left after donating to NPR, Planned Parenthood, and the unions is being squirreled away so that we can live during the impending (Freudian slip: I nearly typed “impeding”) government shut-down. After using my energy taking care of the sprout, I have absolutely none left for filtering or using polite language: it’s gotten a little sailor-ish around these parts. Thank mother nature for oxytocin, I cannot imagine how much crabbier I would be about all of this without the mama hormones. (Of course, I’d have orders of magnitude more uninterrupted sleep, so maybe it would balance.)
And now: back to thinking about spring and daydreaming about the garden!
I’m not sure who else is still cooking in the Dark Days Challenge, but I am sticking with it and hoping to be more creative again in the second half. My Week 10 meal was another one from the freezer: we had bhindi masala that I made in the summer with the okra from our CSA. I am not a big fan of okra; this is the only thing I make with it and it barely makes the “not so slimy” cut. We had it with brown rice and roasted sweet potatoes. The pictures in the linked post are old (they show our old plates!) but it does (sort of) include the recipe for a change. And yes, it’s another thing I made in my dutch oven, although nowadays I just make it in my second favorite pan (the 4-quart sauté pan) because it really is not that voluminous.
Lately, we have everything with roasted sweet potatoes because we have a cupboard (still) full of sweet potatoes. I’m thinking that pretty soon here I’m going to cook and purée some for the freezer, which will allow us to have sweet potato pie in the future. I’m sure there are other things I could make with sweet potatoes, and once I find out what they are you’ll be the first to know.
This challenge is getting challenging! Having used up my go-to recipes, I am now having to get creative and I just didn’t have it in me last week. So, I went to the freezer for our Week 9 meal. We had red lentil coconut curry, which sounds like it has nothing local in it at all, right? Wrong! It is the best recipe I’ve found for using the end-of-season CSA vegetables, and another favorite from Simply In Season: it’s chock full of onions, garlic, cauliflower, cabbage, and sweet potato. Throw in some frozen peas at the end and you’re done; preferably ones you set aside in spring, but fresh peas never make it to the freezer in our house so commercial organic ones will do. The tomato paste and coconut milk are clearly non-local, but I give them a pass since the recipe uses up such a whopping pile of veg as a whole. Since this was the from the freezer, there was little to document but I dug out some photos that I never posted (because of the poor quality, as you can see) of a batch in 2007. Good enough for freezer cooking!
The cabbage and sweet potato for the stew.
Pile o’ cauliflower.
Everything in the pot.
All cooked up and about to get peas.