I Never Promised You A Clean Kitchen

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.)

I Never Promised You A Clean Kitchen

food : gluten-free peach-blueberry crisp

Gluten-free peach-blueberry crisp.

Yesterday we went up to visit friends outside of Frederick, to take a walk through the woods and enjoy their kitchen garden. Usually I bring a pie, but in the new world of gluten-free dairy-free living I wanted to try something simpler. Peaches from our CSA, blueberries from the freezer, and a pretty nice crumb considering it was made with vegetable shortening were just right. I’m pretty sure the sprout had more sugar in one sitting than he’s probably had in his entire life up until now (“Nummy! More peaches!”) so I’d call that a success. Recipe from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook.


Tossed with blueberries and sugar.

Covered in crumb and ready to go.

food : gluten-free peach-blueberry crisp

food : zucchini!

In a moment of enthusiasm or weakness, I accepted hand-me-down enormo-zucchinis from a neighbor’s friend’s garden. Thankfully, it coincided with a zucchini-free week in the CSA and I was able to make it all go away with a little bit of concerted effort. First, I made stuffed zucchini from one of the squashes, using ground pork and ratatouille from the freezer, plus some rice. The result was edible but suffered typical mistakes: didn’t precook the rice and left the walls of the zucchini boat too thick so it was all a bit undercooked. But we still ate it for two days.

Another batch of zucchini muffins.

Next up: some of our favorite Moosewood muffins. With the ability to stock them in the freezer I can make as many batches as I like without feeling compelled to just eat them all at once. Each batch takes two cups of shredded zucchini, so I just shredded the entire second squash and dove in. Three dozen muffins later, I’d passed them along to friends, had a freezer full, and had used half the squash. It was a start.

Zucchini brownies.

A few years ago I tried to make zucchini brownies from the recipe in Simply In Season and failed miserably. Failed to actually follow the recipe, that is, which resulted in a hot mess. This time around I used properly shredded zucchini and yogurt, which turns out to be key to making the brownies rise rather than remaining a dish of flat goopy gunk. The chocolate chips on top made the whole thing much more brownie-like; without them the dish is more like chocolate zucchini cake (still good). Out of deference to the sprout’s ongoing dairy intolerance, I did use sheep milk’s yogurt and figure this will be a good way to test the assertion that it’s easier to digest.

Gluten-free zucchini fritters.

Finally, I used the last four cups (!) of shredded zucchini to make fritters, which are tasty but soft and not really ery fritter-ish at all. Zucchini and minced garlic or onion, 1/3 cup of flour (or gluten-free pancake mix as the case might be), and two eggs makes it a super easy addition to dinner. Which I’m sure we’ll revisit the next time we have cups and cups of zucchini to eat.

food : zucchini!

food : exciting blueberry pie

The finished product straight from the oven.

A couple of weeks ago, upon our return from vacation in the Great White North, I made a blueberry pie. The pie was exciting for a few reasons: it had a gluten-free crust (I’d say the best one so far, but the most recent always seems like the best); it was made with blueberries both from the ancestral homestead and from our CSA; and it used lemon verbena from our garden (the first use I’ve found for it, since “muddle it into a fruity drink containing hard alcohol” is great advice but only works when you are actually consuming fruity drinks containing hard alcohol). I combined the filling from this recipe with the gluten-free crust from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook that I’ve previously used for apple pies, and it was not a bad pie at all. (I don’t even feel the need to qualify that with “for a dairy-free gluten-free one.”)

The assembly of the pie was pretty standard, now that I’m used to working with the sticky tart-like dough that results when you are using starches held together by egg to make a crust. The filling smelled very lemony, as I just tossed the berries with the juice and zest, not seeing any instructions otherwise in the recipe. I remembered the shortening inside the pie (which I often don’t) but did forget the rice milk wash for the top. That turned out to be a lucky mistake, as I preferred the flakier drier crust and it didn’t have the overly-ricey taste that some of the other versions have had. When I took the pie out of the oven curiosity got the better of me and I spooned up a taste of the filling that had overflowed onto the cookie sheet. I then became very nervous as the filling tasted like nothing more than a blueberry Lemon Drop, a “martini” that I hadn’t had in years because of the cloying sweetness. In the end—where the end is the next day after the pie had cooled completely overnight—the lemon was not overbearing and the pie was quite good. I will definitely chop the verbena more finely next time, but I’d make it again. Blueberry is a good combination with the gluten-free crust, too, as the color and flavor permeate the lower crust and the tart berries stand out against the bland backdrop.

The filled shell. Mmm, blueberries.

After blueberry, the next seasonal pie is usually sour cherry. Well, sour cherry is usually first (here in DC) and blueberry usually follows (after we return from our summer trip in early August). This year we missed sour cherry season entirely and the blueberries were a few weeks early so we had barely cleared Canada Day when we had blueberry pie. Which means that next up is most likely peach, as those are already rolling in to our CSA. After a banner year of plums two summers ago I suspect that the one little bag I have in the fridge might be all I have to work with, so a peach-plum (dairy-free gluten-free) crisp might be in the making. What could possibly go wrong?

food : exciting blueberry pie

deep in the land of the CSA

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!

deep in the land of the CSA