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’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.
Today is National Pie Day. To celebrate, we baked a cherry pie from the freezer (made in the summer with fresh sour cherries from Harris Orchards). It didn’t look as pretty as the lattice-top one I made a couple of years ago, but it was delicious. The end.
All that’s missing is Agent Cooper.
Postscript: I am not clear on how pie is going to become more trendy than cupcakes this year, but I suppose marketing will do that for you. Not that I’m a cupcake fan, it’s just that pie is harder to systematize or individualize. Also nearly impossible to eat on the street on your way back to your fourth-story walk-up after Sunday brunch (yes, I’m talking to you, New Yorkers!), unless Hostess “pies” are what’s becoming trendy. And they’re just gross. [Upon further web-browsing, it appears that what are becoming trendy are tartlets, which makes sense. I foresee many laughing Europeans as this pastry of long-standing sweeps the nation.]
For Week 7 of the Dark Days Challenge, I relied once again on the venison in our freezer. I made chili for our meal, which was a first for me. I used: tomatoes from the freezer (grown by the wife of the person who provided the venison and processed and frozen by my mother on her early autumn visit); the sweet Italian peppers from our CSA that I packed in oil and stored in the fridge during the first week of this challenge; and some of the Garlic Fire Sauce that comes in our CSA every winter (we have an open bottle in the fridge and two in the cupboard as we are not big hot sauce people). I supplemented that local foundation with organic onions and garlic from the store, Frontier chili powder, some local honey, and two cans of Eden organic black beans. (I drooled over the beans article in the most recent issue of Organic Gardening, and am definitely going to seek out sources for local dried beans this year. In the meantime, I rely on the Michigan company that uses BPA-free cans.)
The tomatoes and peppers.
The chili was really tasty: we had it for dinner and I froze a couple of containers for later. Just pretend (again) that I made cornbread to go with it.