Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inspiration - Week #12

In this week's grande box:  Summer squash (yellow and zucchini), fresh basil, tomatoes, corn, watermelon, broccoli, purple beans (they turn green when cooked), peppers (2 hot, one sweet)

I had a great time last Friday afternoon at the Ridgedale library drop site.  It was a pleasure to meet some of you in person and hear how you are doing with your CSA challenges.  When someone tells me that they tried eggplant for the first time and my recipe worked for them, I feel like I hit a home run.  Thanks to those of you who were able to take the extra time to say hello.

You will be able to make lots of special - but easy -  meals this week with the items in your boxes.   If you don't have any onion or garlic around the house, you will need to get some.  Some potatoes too if you decide to try the Salade Nicoise.    Have you checked your olive oil supply lately?   You don't want to run out just when you need to make a vinaigrette. 

Before we get to menu ideas and recipes for this week - a few projects to consider. 

DEALING WITH THE BASIL  You will probably have a nice bunch of fresh basil in your box.   I am planning on turning some of mine into pesto tonight.  I will use some fresh in a saute and a zucchini salad and add the rest to a vinaigrette.   Basil is pretty perishable, as you may have learned the hard way.  Avoid procrastination.  This project really goes fast if you have a food processor.    And while you are at it, make a simple vinaigrette with oil, vinegar, a little Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and some finely sliced basil.  Maybe just a teaspoon of honey, too.  The dressing will keep well and be very nice on a simple tomato salad. You can use the same food processor you used to make the pesto.  Two projects and you only need to wash the processor once!  (Pesto recipe - see blog post for June 23)

DEALING WITH THE CUCUMBERS.  I will be telling you all about how to make refrigerator bread and butter pickles in my Hands On post on Thursday.  The cukes should be just fine in the refrigerator until then.  If you don't like refrigerator pickles all that much, here are several very nice cucumber recipe ideas.  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/13/cool-summer-cucumber-dishes/

CANNING TOMATOES ON HOLD -  I am NOT going to talk about canning tomatoes this week, like I promised I would.  (sorry) I think it would be better if I waited until next week, for lots of reasons.  But don't worry - I will get to it.  Tomato season is not over yet.

TOO MUCH BROCCOLI? - I have to say that the amount of broccoli in my grande box was quite impressive.  If you just can't deal with all your broccoli -- then blanch some and freeze it for later.  It will take only a few minutes.   Don't wait too long to decide.  You want to freeze fresh broccoli, not tired or pathetic broccoli.

Meal ideas for this week (recipes below for items marked with an asterisk)

More Than a Hot Dish
Minnesota Summer Saute with pasta*; Chilled watermelon

Ooh la la 
Classic French Salade Nicoise with basil vinaigrette* (Julia Child's version with a few comments from yours truly) ; French bread; Grapes or summer soft fruit like peach or nectarine
There are only a few times a year when tomatoes and green (or purple that will turn green when you cook them) beans are fresh and in season.  For me - that means Salade Nicoise.  Use nice plates and cloth napkins.  Have a glass of wine.  Pretend you are in Provence.  You will feel refreshed.

Stir Fry of the Week
Broccoli with oyster sauce*, rice; Melon slushie*

Lazy Sunday Brunch
Broccoli quiche; Broiled tomato halves (spread a little pesto on half tomatoes - broil til bubbly); Cornbread (add a cup of cooked corn kernels if you have some extra corn around)  See July 3 post for
cornbread recipe.

Meat and Three (Corn, Zucchini, Melon)
Prepare your meat or protein of choice - even a ham sandwich if that suits you.  Or a creamy cucumber salad with cottage cheese and yogurt (see the link above in the cucumber paragraph)  Serve with corn on the cob, zucchini ribbon salad* and cold melon for dessert.


Summer Saute with Pasta
Bring pasta water to a boil and cook the pasta while you are working on the vegetables. 
Saute the following in olive oil: onion or garlic; summer squash, cut into little sticks (batons if you want to be swanky); sweet bell pepper (diced or sliced); corn kernels.  Stir in a spoonful or two of pesto if you have it or else just add a generous handful of sliced basil.  Cover for a few minutes until all vegetables are soft.  Add a little pasta cooking water if too dry.  Serve over cooked pasta (linguine is nice)

Salade Nicoise
This version from Julia Child is authentic.   If you cannot abide anchovies, leave them out.  Plain vinaigrette is called for but I think basil vinaigrette would be excellent.  Or use plain and snip some fresh basil over the salad.  I like to make individual servings of the salad - or you can make one big salad for sharing if you can count on your fellow eaters to be good at sharing.  There is a little prep time involved - cooking the potatoes, the beans, washing the lettuce - but it comes together quickly.  You can even prep the veggies ahead.  You can use any type of lettuce, though the butter lettuce is very nice.  By all means try to find the special small French Nicoise olives.  (As a Fillmore County girl I can admit that I am a bit envious of those of you who can find Nicoise olives within 40 miles of your home.  But then I only have one stoplight in my county and no traffic, so I guess that almost makes up for olive deficits.)

Broccoli with oyster sauce
This is just a simple stir fry, using oyster sauce in addition to soy sauce.  Oyster sauce can be found in Asian groceries and many "mainstream" groceries.  The link below will bring you to a good version of this popular dish.  You could add mushrooms or meat - beef is especially nice - or peppers.  http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=226240

Melon slushie
This is my invention -- try it and see what you think.  Freeze chunks of melon - about two cups per serving.  Make a simple sugar syrup (1 cup sugar to 2 cups water) by heating sugar and water and boiling about a minute.  When syrup is cool, add juice and grated rind from one or two limes or lemons or mixture of the two.  Add a little fresh mint too if you have some.  Put frozen melon and syrup into a blender - about 2 cups melon to 1/2 cup syrup.  Add a few extra ice cubes if desired.  Blend until drink is slushy.  Serve.  (You could add sparkling water or gingerale if you want a carbonated drink.)

Zucchini ribbon salad
This is a fun way to use a lot of raw zucchini.  I usually find raw zucchini boring.  But something about shaving the zucchini into thin slices (with a peeler) really makes a difference. I used hazelnuts instead of the pine nuts because that is what I had on hand.  You could use walnuts too.   I didn't have any Parmesan, so I used some blue cheese.  Feta would be excellent, as well.  The fresh lemon juice is important in this salad.   http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Shaved-Zucchini-Salad-with-Parmesan-Pine-Nuts-360251

Broccoli Quiche
There are quiche recipes all over the internet and in many cookbooks.  All you really need to do is blanch cut up broccoli until just tender and drain well.  Put the broccoli in the bottom of an unbaked pie crust along with a cup or two of grated cheddar cheese.   Maybe add a little grated onion or chopped and drained tomatoes.  Add some diced ham or cooked sausage if you have some and want a heartier dish.  Make a custard with milk and egg - 4 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of milk. Or 5 eggs and 2 cups milk if you are using a large pie pan or baking dish.   Lowfat milk is fine but whole milk adds a richer taste and texture.  Add 1 t.  of salt and some pepper to the egg mixture and  pour over cheese and vegetables.  Bake about about 375 degrees until firm in the middle - about 30 minutes.  You could make this in a buttered baking dish without a crust - here in Fillmore County we just call this "egg bake".  If you do it this way I would turn oven down to 350 degrees.

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