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.)
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.
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.
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!
I can hardly believe the sprout is a year old, and yet he’s definitely turning into a toddler. He’s been practicing his tantrums, perfecting the art of going boneless and throwing himself onto the ground to sob when frustrated. Not very often, just frequently enough to let you know there’s no going back to the compliant baby stage. He’s also nearly
walking running, standing well on his own and launching himself toward you as long as you’re within about 10 quick little steps. He finds something new to get into every day, although he has not yet turned out to be a climber *knock wood*.
Most notably, he’s starting to show distinctly toddleresque food preferences. Banana imported from Peru? Yes. Delicious chicken chili made from scratch with love and local organic veggies? No. Avocado imported from Mexico? Yes. Delicious homemade organic mushroom and barley stew with fresh thyme from the garden? Not so much. Applesauce? Yes. Brown rice and lentil stew? A few bites on a good day. Instant oatmeal? Definitely. Zucchini and millet with fresh basil? Haven’t tried it yet, but I’m pretty sure I know where this is heading. Hummus, peaches, enormous bites of apple just like Daddy takes that lead to mouth sweeps? Yup. Delicious and nutritious sweet potato in all its forms? Apparently a babyish delight that he gave up just in time for Rosh Hashanah.
I am trying to be a good sport and chalk this up to teething, taking time to warm up to new tastes, a renewed preference for nursing following a cold, and the desire to feed himself whenever possible. We are still working on finding appropriate finger foods while avoiding dairy and wheat, and that’s presenting a bit of a challenge; while we don’t seem to be dealing with true allergies, an intolerance that keeps us up all night with a writhing crying baby is not something we can ignore in good conscience. Still, I fear I am staring down the tunnel to fish fingers, and I’m not liking it. That won’t be happening any time soon, though, as there remains a whole mess of veggies to chop, dice, steam, roast, mash, and purée before we even consider throwing in the towel.
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!