Cooking from the Farms: Kitchen Update

Posted on August 1, 2010

Well, this was a busy week, one that started off hot with humidity and haze and ended up cooler with breezes and sunshine.  The new air refreshed everything: the wilting plants on our deck, my poor fur coat-wearing dog, and me.  I finally felt ready to tackle picking the four quarts of blueberries I had been banking over the past four weeks of the Heron Pond Farm CSA.

Berry Picking Weather

We set out for the farm after lunch yesterday, collected our buckets at the farm stand, and got to work.  Blueberries are on the wane – this was an early and quick season.  The berries left were clustered high up and in the center of each bush, that brushy and branchy place where others fear to tread.  Not me.  I climbed right inside.  Lucky for me, I fit in there perfectly.  Picking is peaceful rote work.  If one is lucky the only noise heard is the drone of pollinating bees.

Our Cull

This is almost four full quarts of washed, dried, and frozen berries.

Freeze the washed and dried blues in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.  When they feel hard and sound like shooter marbles knocking together, funnel them into freezer bags.  When you want to use them down the road in recipes, you are guaranteed to have separately frozen berries and not a big block of blueberry ice.

Two cups of the fresh berries escaped the freezer and went instead into Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins along with the corn kernels from one ear of that pesky dozen I have been working my way through.  Delicious muffins, tart and moist with juicy berries but a little toothsome too with the polenta grade cornmeal and fresh kernels.

Why “pesky” corn?

Corn is delicious, but twelve ears this week, two people?  Enough said.

Corn went next door to a neighbor.  Corn became ragout and polenta and muffins.  The last three ears will be folded into fritter batter today to accompany the afternoon’s lobster dinner on the deck.

Speaking of Corn Ragout…

Here’s a little photo demo of making cucumber ribbons (someone asked).  The process is a cinch as long as you have a vegetable peeler.

Start with an unwaxed cucumber.  Cut four strips of dark green peel off at evenly spaced intervals around the cucumber.

Beginning at one peeled spot, slowly scrape the peeler down the length of the cuke.  Keep peeling in that spot until you reach the core of seeds and then stop.  Move around the cuke to the next peeled spot and repeat the same process.  Four peeled starter strips, four sides to get through, et voila: a pile of ribbons.

Remember Tuesday’s Dinner?

This might jog the old memory: Chicken and Radicchio Lasagna.

I brought some to a friend and her family on Wednesday.  Later that night, her 10 year old son, Harry, sent me an email:

Subject: Good lasagna

Hi Jane,

I loved the lasagna! Thanks for bringing it. See you soon!

Sincerely, Harry

That note made my week.

This and That in the Kitchen

There were a good many other vegetables to take care of this week, chief among them a tomato, my old favorite eggplant, and some sweet banana peppers.

The peppers became simple stuffed peppers.

Garlicky breads crumbs stuffed into cored and cleaned cavities.  Peppers placed into a little baking dish along with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Dish covered tightly with foil and baked.  Simple, flavorful food.

For the eggplant, I wanted to do a little play on one of our favorite dinner dishes, Marcella Hazan’s baked eggplant risotto.  Marcella’s original requires making a tomato sauce, a risotto, and fried eggplant slices, plus a labor intensive layering of all of those together with two cheeses.  The finished dish is well worth the work but probably better suited to the cooler days at the end of eggplant season than the hotter ones at its start.

For this time of year I devised something a little lighter, capturing the flavors and the idea of the risotto.  This is how:

I cut an eggplant in half lengthwise, salted and drained it.

I steamed the halves until tender and let them cool.

Instead of a risotto, I made a much quicker orzo pilaf with onion, orzo, vegetable stock, chopped tomato, and some fresh basil.  When this cooled, I stirred in pieces of the Cricket Creek Farm Tobasi purchased at last Sunday’s Vermont Cheesemakers Festival.

The Tobasi, pictured below, is similar to Taleggio, and melts similarly into a gooey, creamy deliciousness.

I filled the steamed, cooled eggplant halves with the orzo filling and put the halves into a baking dish.

I then poured a little olive oil into the bottom of the dish and baked the halves until golden.

Produce Picks of the Week

Heron Pond Farm Blueberries

Heron Pond Farm Red Cippollini

Cider Hill Farm Onion

Cider Hill Farm Eggplant

And Finally

I and my fellow North Shore Bloggers –  Mary Reilly, Abigail Cahill O’Brien, Kim Bingham – along with Tracy Miller of Brentwood, NH, were featured in today’s Boston Globe, Globe North section, in an article by Newburyport reporter Joel Brown.  Click on the Globe link here, take a look at the article, and I promise you’ll meet some fantastic food writers and cooks.

©2010  Jane Ward