Sunday, August 16, 2015

Culinary Corner: From Cucumber Cooler to Sandwiches

Elizabeth is not able to provide us with a post for this week, but she will return next week with a post featuring eggplant!  For this week, we'll share a mix of things.

Basil Lemonade
If you were at distribution the past couple of weeks, you were given the opportunity to try Basil Lemonade.  We had a recipe there for interested persons to take a picture of it, but we thought we'd get it out on the blog in case that didn't work for you!

Making the Syrup
  • 2 cups basil
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
(or you can double this with 4 cups of each)
Boil the syrup ingredients together for about one hour.  Let cool and then strain out the basil.  You can store the syrup in the refrigerator if you do not intend on using it all immediately.

Making the Lemonade
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups basil syrup
  • 5 cups of water
Stir the ingredients together and add ice for a refreshing twist on lemonade!

Cucumber Cooler
We also had this refreshing drink available to taste test at our distributions recently!
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 qt cold water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • pinch of salt
  • ice cubes
  • additional cucumber (sliced in rounds)
Partially peel the cucumber and slice off the ends.  Cut into 1 inch cubes and puree in a blender or food processor for one minute.  Strain the juice into a large pitcher, using a spoon to press out as much juice as possible. Add honey, lime juice and salt to the pitcher and stir well.  Finish with ice & cucumber slices.

We'd like to first refer you to our recent post on dealing with the bounty of the season.  If you've looked at it already - great.  If not, take the word of several of our CSA members who have told us that the post was timely and useful.  And, if you have now read that post, you won't be surprised if we tell you that stir fries and frittatas are not uncommon for us.

Stir Fry to the Rescue

The great thing about stir fries is the ability we have to put wide range of veggies into them and then we have an equally wide range of things we can put the stir fry ON!  We're starting to dig potatoes, so putting the stir fry on a baked potato is something we are known to do.  We also use various types of pasta and rice as bases for our stir fries.

Here is one example of a base for a stir fry that we might do:

Swiss Chard with Garlic

  • 3 pounds Swiss chard (about 2 large bunches)
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Tear Swiss chard leaves from thick white stalks and coarsely chop leaves, reserving stalks. In a large saucepan or kettle of boiling salted water simmer stalks until tender, 5 to 10 minutes, and drain in a colander. Chard may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead, stalks cooled completely and leaves and stalks chilled separately in sealable plastic bags. 

Mince garlic. In a large skillet heat oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook garlic, stirring, 30 seconds. Add leaves in 2 batches, tossing to coat with oil and stirring after each addition, and cook until leaves are wilted. Add stalks and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Season chard with salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings. Gourmet March 1998

We realize that this doesn't use up a whole bunch of produce.  But, it illustrates a couple of things.  First, you could split preparation time for when you are able to do things.  Tammy, in fact, actually does not boil the chard before using it in a stir fry and we have no problem with that.  But, it gives you a way to have the chard ready to go in advance if you want.

What this recipe does is give you a basic start on a stir fry with swiss chard (for example).  It is not hard to cut up some zucchini, onion, summer squash and pepper and put them in the pan with the garlic.  I might suggest cooking the garlic for a little bit first, then add the harder items and finish with the greens.  The more volume you add to the pan, the more you time you might need to cook it. As you add to your stir fry, you will be amazed by how much produce can be used in one dish!

The Foil Packet on the Grill is Grate... er Great.
If you are grilling something for dinner, add a nice big foil packet of veggies to the items on the grill.  Depending on the veggies and amount your are grilling you may want to put them on prior to the meat (assuming you are grilling meat as well) so they have a chance to cook sufficiently.
Touchstone Gold beets

We have had great success with golden beets, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, kohlrabi, cucumbers (yes, cucumbers), carrots, eggplant, peppers, onions and other items in foil packets. 

The really great thing about this?  You could make a foil packet for each person in the family.  Do you have someone who absolutely cannot swallow a carrot?  Well, they can put their selection of cut up produce into their packet.  They can opt to add spicing, olive oil, etc as they wish.  Seal the packet up, put it on the grill and remember which packet belongs to each person.

S stands for Simple and Sandwich
A sandwich does not have to be 75% meat, 15% bread, 5% condiments and one small slice of lettuce.  When you have quality produce available, much of it should be fair game for sandwich making.  The two of us and our crew have been enjoying the ability to add fresh heirloom tomatoes, peppers and lettuce to our sandwiches.  Often, the tomatoes are so good that we find ourselves stacking more tomato than meat on the bread!

If you like a bit more of a crunch on your sandwich than a few chunks of pepper might provide, you can try some slices of cucumber or a thin slice of kohlrabi.  And, don't forget a little onion!  But, if raw onion doesn't do it for you, cut part of an onion up and caramelize it.  This can be a nice treat to add to your sandwiches.  If you want to get a bit more exotic, caramelize the onion with some chunks of eggplant (cut to whatever size seems to work with you and your family).

We have found that a nice leaf or two of chinese cabbage is mild enough that it works very well as a lettuce substitute.  Or, if you like the taste of kale or chard raw, they will work just fine for you on a sandwich.

Enjoy the fresh produce and have a little fun trying some new things!
The most important thing is that you should take a moment and let yourself enjoy the season of fresh produce.  That season is a mere fraction of the entire year, so don't let the bounty detract from the opportunity you have right now to enjoy veggies at their peak!

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