Green Bean Celebration

This being July (!), we’re now seeing the incredible bounty of summer, especially the fresh version of our favorites that we wait for all year long. I HAVE IT ON GOOD WORD that green beans will arrive at this Saturday’s market just in time for your 4th of July celebrations.

Green beans have got to be one of our most familiar veggies – but if you’re feeling a little stuck for something new, they are also extremely versatile. Here are some ideas for new twists on this crowd-pleasing veggie:

Enjoy!

Week 9 Market Menu: Cookout Time!

It is the height(heat!) of summer, and the market is going to burst with produce this weekend!!!  Check out this list:

Seasonal: Basil, Beans, Beets, BLUEBERRIES (limited!), Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Chard, Collards, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Green Beans, Greens, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mint, Onions, Oregano, PEACHES, PEPPERS, Potatoes, Radishes, Scallions, Spinach, Summer Squash, TOMATOES (limited!), Turnips, Zucchini!!  And lots of flowers, herbs, and other items!

 

 

This week, we have lots of suggestions for your barbecue, cookout, or staycation.  We’ve gathered recipes into four groups:  grilling, Side dishes, Condiments, and Desserts. Mix and Match, and have a happy and safe Fourth!

Grilling:

Brats – There are several local farms that have brats made from their pork, including Destiny Meats and Triple S Farms. You can find brats and other sausage at the market, Green Top Grocery, Common Ground and even perhaps at some other local groceries.  My tip for cooking brats:  Boil them first!  I like to use 1/2 water, 1/2 beer. This helps ensure that they cook evenly throughout, before you put them on the grill or in a pan. It also helps the casing to cook slowly as the brat swells, making them thin and snappy, rather than tough and chewy.  Enjoy with mustard, chopped onion, or even some homemade relish!

Burgers

If you like some heat, Bobby Flay has an awesome recipe for a green chili burger.  He also has a flavor-packed turkey burger recipe that I’m anxious to try soon!

Whatever you’re grilling, consider local farms when you select meats!!

 

Sides

Slow. Cooker. Baked. Beans. Right? Right. This is going in my crock pot first thing tomorrow morning.

Potato Salad, anyone? This list of 50 potato salad recipes should work!!

And coleslaw, of course. There’s no shortage of cabbage in my fridge right now, and coleslaw will do just the trick in helping me use it up.

 

Condiments

Why not make some relish to go with those hot dogs and hamburgers?

Homemade dill pickle relish sounds pretty great about now — and it’s simple! This one is a little bit more involved, and has a few more ingredients, but it’s still pretty easy.

For something a little different, why not try pickling some zucchini slices instead of cucumber? This recipe looks fantastic, and it’s always good to have things to do with zucchini this time of year.

For something a little more mustard-y, why not try a quick Piccalilli?

 

Desserts:

Slab Pie – a template for use with any fruit. Anything at all, they’re all delicious.

Grilled Peaches. Try with some vanilla ice cream. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake – a perfect application for those fresh berries up at the Food Forest!

For no fuss at all, try a cobbler. Amazing with peaches!

Crushed Ice / Granitas – another great application for those berries!!

Summer Fizzy Drinks: Non-Alcoholic Version

There’s almost nothing I like better on a hot summer day than a refreshing fizzy beverage. With only a little bit of work, you can make a variety of syrups to add to club soda for refreshing drinks all summer long!

 

Syrups

Ever tried making your own soda/pop/flavored fizzy water at home? Instead of buying syrups at the store, you can make them from just about any fruit you choose! Then, just add to club soda or water or iced tea, or the beverage of your choice. The post linked above uses a ratio of roughly 1 part fruit, 1 part water, 1 part sugar. There are variations of this, depending on the tartness or sweetness desired, but keep in mind that traditional simple syrup is 1 part sugar to 1 part water. You can simply squeeze & strain fruit and add to a simple syrup, or boil fruit down (strain if you want to remove seeds). With berries like blackberries, you’ll notice a change in flavor as the juice cooks down, but it’s worth trying it both ways to see what you like best.

The sky is the limit here, in terms of fruit:

Use what you love! It’s an excellent thing to do with fruit that you’re afraid will spoil before you have a chance to eat it all. Berries, peaches, plums, take your pick.

You don’t even have to use fruit! You can make your own flavored syrups for adding to coffee and other drinks, too. I’ve been making an almond rich simple for my iced coffee this summer, and it’s delicious. Saveur has ideas for everything from rose to thai spice. And as they note, you can use these syrups in club soda, in coffee or cocktails, or on ice cream, pancakes, and other dishes.

Shrubs

Shrubs are a drink that’s making a comeback! They’re a vinegar-based drink, making them the perfect thirst-quenching refreshment for hot midwestern summer days (not that we get any of those here). Historically, it’s been a non-alcoholic drink, thriving during the temperance movement in the U.S., but leave it to the college students to add liquor. Today, shrubs are making a comeback both as bar novelty and alternative to alcoholic drinks. But you can make your own, so easily! And by incorporating some of the bounty of the summer’s berry bushes into your shrub syrups, you can preserve local fruit and enjoy them, too!

Basic Proportions:

2 c. Fruit
2 c. Vinegar (anything with a 5% acidity content or more)
2 c. Sugar

Feel free to play around with the types of fruit, vinegar and sugars you choose; I’ve loved peach and honey with apple cider vinegar and a touch of vanilla;  strawberries with balsamic and white vinegar; blackberries with turbinado and red wine vinegar.

The best part, perhaps, is that you can use “seconds” from the market or field. Local farms will often sell #2 or seconds for preserving, where the fruit doesn’t have to look perfect. You don’t have to fuss over the trimming of your fruit when making shrub syrups; just clean and trim anything that doesn’t taste good. The only downside is that you have to wait about a month for them to hit peak deliciousness. The fruit stays in the vinegar during this time, infusing it with flavor.

The Ball Blue Book is full of vinegars — blueberry-basil, cranberry-orange, lemon-mint, loganberry, blackberry, and sweet cherry. They’re all canning recipes, so they’re shelf-stable!

 

Kombucha

If patience is a virtue you cherish, and you’re still with me on the sour drinks, then perhaps you’d like to move on to kombucha? As a fermented drink, kombucha takes some time to, well, ferment! Like when making sourdough bread, you’ll keep a starter (called a SCOBY, in kombucha-making) going from batch to batch.

For your first batch, you can get start from a friend who has been making kombucha long enough that their SCOBY has babies (they tend to separate into two over time), or you can actually purchase a dehydrated starter. Common Ground in downtown Bloomington carries dehydrated starter, shown at left, as well as starter for kefir (for another day!).

 

The kombucha-making process is relatively simple — very simple, if you’re used to making sourdough bread.

Each time you make kombucha, you’ll be keeping a small amount of your previous batch, along with the SCOBY, and you’ll feed it so that it continues growing.

Brew some tea, let it cool to room temperature, add sugar, vinegar, and the scoby. Wait 1-4 weeks, and bottle or otherwise transfer into a container for drinking — retaining a small amount of the finished kombucha and the SCOBY for the next batch.

So what are you waiting for?! Go get your fizzy drinks made before the next heat wave!

p.s. As always, be sure to follow a recipe if you plan to preserve these for shelf-stability. Or, freeze them (be sure to leave enough head space for expansion), and avoid the boiling water baths.

p.p.s. For the fizzy part, I highly recommend the SodaStream. It’s not cheap, but it’s more than paid for itself in savings on soda pop alone. Plus, I find that I drink more water when I have a fizzy option.I have the $99 base model, but I’m starting to see them on sale as people trade up for larger quantities, so keep your eyes open!

Week 8: Market Menu

Are we really two months into market season? It’s been a great one so far: beautiful spring greens are about to give way to the veggies that come with the heat of mid-summer. Are you ready? Yeah – we are, too!

So what’s new this week at the market? TOMATOES! We should start seeing early-season tomatoes coming, though getting some is probably going to require your showing up in time for the starting bell. I heard a rumor that, last week, one farmer brought a small number of her first tomatoes to the market and (thoughtfully) rationed them to one per customer to an eager line of tomato-lovers. That’s the kind of pent-up demand for “real” tomatoes you see in June at the market!

Here’s a question that farmers at the market get a lot: what makes a vegetable an “heirloom” variety?

Commercial tomatoes sold in most grocery stores have been grown from plants that were developed to withstand cross-country shipping and distribution. In short, they are bred for durability rather than taste. Heirloom tomatoes are often very delicate, come in a range of colors (even striped!) and have distinctive flavor profiles.

In season in June: Green beans, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, cucumber, spinach, squash, potatoes...

Breakfast Ideas:

Hot outside? A cucumber-pineapple smoothie is going to be a nice way to keep cool.

If you’re one of the lucky shoppers who got the prized early tomatoes, slice one up and enjoy it with a crispy egg and whole grain toast from one of our market bakers. (What? You’re not doing the crispy egg? My friend, we have to talk.)

Enjoy some berries from Normal’s amazing Refuge Food Forest over yogurt and homemade granola (way easier than you think!). (Feeling adventurous? Consider making your own yogurt – both Common Ground Grocery and Green Top Grocery carry Kilgus Farms dairy milk. It is way easier than you think!)

Lunch Ideas:

This is the time of year when I start to keep a bowl of cucumber salad in the fridge at all times. I keep making it, and we keep eating it. I usually don’t do much beyond slicing cucs, putting them in a bowl with enough water to cover, and add a bit of vinegar and sugar (a teaspoon or two each) until I like the balance (here is a recipe for something very similar). My grandmother made them this way, and also sometimes with sour cream. Like many salads, there are wonderful variations on this theme across a world of cuisines, which should keep you from getting bored of cucumbers for quite some time.

You might pair this with a healthy and hearty lentil salad or chick pea salad. In our household, we try to cook extra proteins over the weekend if we are grilling so we can add leftovers to salads, too.

Caprese salads have become a summer standby – grab some basil and fresh mozzarella to go with your farm fresh tomatoes and you’re in business.

Other salad ideas for lunch or dinner: broccoli salad (again, so many variations here). My version includes a slightly sweet dressing (yogurt, vinegar or lemon juice, a teaspoon of sugar) and sometimes raisins, apples, and/or carrots.

And I adore this lemon tahini kale salad from the Good Health Gourmet (gluten-free friends, check out this blog – wonderful recipes and gorgeous photos!).

Dinner Ideas:

Summer can mean that meals get a lot simpler. I’m always looking for shortcuts because I’m not eager to spend too much time on cooking (but I still want to eat well!). So…

Rotisserie chicken. Grilled hot dogs with chowchow, a southern condiment staple. We love our bratwurst in the midwest – how about some homemade sauerkraut? (Here is one thing I don’t mind spending time on: a good meatless burger. Impress your vegetarian friends this summer.)

Here’s a great tip: get some really great bread and grill it when it starts to get a little stale and you need to use it up.

I had some great local bread from Chad at The Garlic Press and it was a few days old. My parents were visiting and my mom sliced it, and grilled it in a pan with a bit of canola oil (olive oil is too delicate for this) and sprinkled sea salt. It was phenomenal. (Evidence is to your left.) We ate it with pasta and a salad and it might have been the best part of a fantastic meal.

Happy marketing and bon appetit! – J.S