June into July

Q: Is it time for ‘maters yet?
A: Not quite, but they’re coming!!!

And when they do, I’ll be slicing up a bowl, sprinkling a little sugar and pepper (try it!) on them, and eating them just like that, with a cold beverage.

If you have cherry tomato plants, you may start seeing those ripen — we’ve had a few orange ones in our garden already! And a handful of green tomatoes have appeared on the larger plants, still growing and still quite green. Now, it’s just a matter of keeping the squirrels from taste testing the produce!

 

 

In the meantime, the variety at the market has ramped up considerably since opening. You should expect to see all of the following from at least one of the farmers at the market:

  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Chard
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggs
  • Fennel
  • Greens
  • Herbs
  • Kale
  • Meat
  • Potatoes
  • Summer Squash
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini

At home, I’ve been enjoying lots of “make ’em up” salads, using whatever we have from the garden/market/csa basket. I’ve been experimenting with a buttermilk salad dressing (it uses jam, which is a perfect way to use up some of my jam experiments as well!), and it brings everything together nicely, as does a lemony tahini dressing.

I tried a quick-pickle of some haukerei turnips and radishes (just 1:1 cider vinegar and sugar), and tiny cucumbers from the garden as well, plus some herbs and cheese. I’d happily toss roasted carrots or beets on this salad, along with beans and/or grains, or even a scoop of hummus.

 

The other thing we’ve been enjoying lately has been some combo of soup, salad, and open-face sandwiches. The other night, we got this curried red lentil from Green Top, brought them home and added more veggies to stretch them a bit, and put salads together to go with them. Two of the large containers at Green Top ($4.99 ea) fed three adults very well!

I wish I could bring myself to bake in the summer, but the availability of freshly-baked bread from Common Ground and Green Top, as well as the market, makes it more than ok. This Paesano from Central IL Bakehouse in Champaign is my go-to for toast, all summer long.

 

Other salad dressings we LOVE:

Don’t be afraid to put things together and taste! If you roast a few things at once, you can enjoy them throughout the week. Sweet potato rounds, beets, carrots, etc. keep well in the fridge for a few days. Add a bit of good cheese, and you have a great bowl!

Sister Time and Little Green Caterpillars in the Broccoli

I bet you’re wondering where I’m going with this.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about perfection/imperfection, in the context of this blog and local food.

Fairly often during the summer, my sister and I spend part of the weekend cooking most of our meals for the coming week. Nothing fancy, just egg/meat/grain or egg/potato bowls for breakfasts, meat/veg bowls for lunches, and sometimes we add some favorite childhood recipes to put away in the deep freezer for winter. It can seem like a lot of work while we’re doing it, but it saves a lot of time and energy during the coming weeks and provides quality grownup sister time. We share many fond memories of food from our childhood, and time spent in the kitchens of our mom and grandmothers. Now that we’re both in our 40s, and living as geographically near each other as we have since our 20s, it’s fun to see what we remember and enjoy making.

One of the things that came to mind as we were prepping broccoli last year (and drowning a bunch of those ubiquitous green caterpillars!): prioritizing local food has meant broadening or changing our expectations about the food we buy.

Produce in the grocery store tends to be brightly-colored, shiny, uniform, unblemished. They’re visually appealing, right? I’m sure marketing agencies have done studies about what most appeals to consumers, and what they’re likely to buy — even what sizes and packaging are most attractive. And as consumers, I think maybe we’ve come to prize so many surface qualities without necessarily thinking about whether they’re the qualities that matter most to us.

On the flip side, I think we’ve been conditioned to expect the lack of anything else living in our food.

I’ve been dealing with these little green caterpillars in the garden for so long, it doesn’t bother me at all to find them in our locally-grown market broccoli. I bring it home from the market with an awareness that it was cut only yesterday, cut from a plant still growing in the ground just down the road. It’s just from a bigger garden, and whatever I expect from garden produce pretty much translates to farmers’ market produce. At worst, it’s an extra step to dunk the broccoli and dispatch the green guys when they float up. At best, it’s a fun sort of game to find them all. Regardless, the rewards of the richer, fresher, sweeter broccoli are so worth it.

If I brought home a head of broccoli from the grocery store and found caterpillars, it would probably be quite a shock. As much as I love to garden and cook and eat vegetables, I don’t think about the living plant in the ground when I shop at the grocery store. And that’s bad for farmers because it means that as a grocery store consumer, I’m probably a pretty typical consumer, with typical “it’s so shiny!” expectations.

After a year of ruminating on the little green caterpillars, I’d hoped to organize my thoughts into something more profound, but this is all I’ve got: buy the less-shiny, less-perfect produce, and don’t be afraid of the little green caterpillars!

All About Beets!

 

It’s time for summer beets!! Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, or maybe just haven’t met the right preparation yet, we’re going to try to find something for everyone here!

To me, beets are sweet and rich, iron-y in the best way, like a rare steak. My favorite way to enjoy them is roasted with a little onion and olive oil, in foil over the grill or on a sheet pan in the oven. Be sure to cut them into pieces that are no more than 1/2″ thick, and that the pieces are as uniform as you can, so that they cook evenly. I like to toss the cut beets in a bowl with olive oil, so that they’re all coated, then dump on sheet pan and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast at 400°F for 45 minutes or until tender. Serve as is, or with a little fresh goat cheese, build a salad w/ marcona almonds, or blue cheese and walnuts, or mint.

Now, I can’t do a post on beets without throwing you a little curve ball… beet juice. (that’s beet on the left)

You have questions? I have a few answers.

Q: What do you do with beet juice?
A: Drink it! Diluted, of course (it’s quite intense). I like it with apple cider or just water. Or use in your beet pickling!

Q: What do you do with the pulp?
A: Add to carrot cake or quickbreads, or freeze for use later.

 

Pickling recipes:

Wms Sonoma: https://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/pickled-beets.html

Ball Blue Book: https://www.freshpreserving.com/pickled-beets—ball-auto-canner-recipes-br1448.html