Market Menu: July 29!

What to make when you have EVERYTHING available at the market? It’s almost hard to choose!!

Breakfasts:

I’m partial to toast and jam or steel-cut oats and peanut butter, but eggs are always a delicious breakfast option.

How to Poach an Egg, by a self-described terrible egg poacher – Smitten kitchen
Worth a read/try. I won’t swear by any method, as I am also a terrible egg poacher, but when you get it right, it’s so rewarding.

Muesli / Refrigerator Oats – Epicurious
I know this has been going around Pinterest for a while, but I can’t think of a better time of year to give it a try. No need to put anything on the stove, not even a pot of water. Check out the Ackermans at the market for local oats, and the Food Forest in Normal is bursting with berries that you can add as-is, or make into preserves.

Radish and Turnip Hash – The Kitchn
If you still have turnips taking up space in your produce drawer, (I do!), here’s a good and tasty way to use them up.

Lunches:

I found these at the grocery store last week while shopping for lunches and snacks for my office while absolutely HANGRY.

I was intrigued! Veggies I hadn’t thought to put together, chopped and raw, with just a small packet of salsa and some cheese, and you microwave them to soften and mix. They weren’t bad! But there’s no reason I can’t make these at home, since they involve no pre-cooking at all.

 

My version of the southwest nourish bowls is below. This made 7 portions, and I plan to add some chicken to them for lunches.

Ingredients:
1 sweet potato, diced
1 kohlrabi, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 bunch kale, chopped medium-fine
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 jar (about 2 c.) corn & black bean salsa

You could also add egg or meat or tvp, for more protein (I brought some cheese to add to this one).

 

Other easy, packable lunches include:

Smashed Chickpea Salad – from ‘wichcraft, via Smitten Kitchen
Great on toasted bread, but untoasted would also work in a pinch, especially if you have something crusty like a baguette.

Hummus with Tomato and Cucumber – Smitten Kitchen
If you’re in the market for some pita bread to go with the hummus (and the dip below), check out local baker Chad Sanders’ pita at the Garlic Press or the Downtown Bloomington market — delicious!!

Smoky Eggplant dip – from David Liebovitz, via Smitten Kitchen
I like to do the eggplant on the grill, whole but with slots cut in the outside to stuff whole cloves of garlic into. Throw it on the grill after your meal has cooked, but before you turn the gas off. Leave it while you’re eating, just check on it before you reach for that second bratwurst. When it’s all wrinkly like this, blackened in a few areas, you’ll know it’s done. Set aside until it’s cool. Really — don’t try to handle it until at least after dessert and you’ve played a couple board games or watched a good movie. Scoop out the insides, and proceed with the recipe as written. I feel pretty confident you’ll thank me for the grill+garlic tip. It’s that good — and a totally different way to enjoy eggplant.

Add grilled chicken to any or all of the above, and you have a pretty flavorful lunchbox!

 

Dinners:

I’ve been making a lot of zoodles lately. Well, they’re almost zoodles… but really just thin-sliced zucchini, since I don’t own a spiralizer. Just saute them in a pan with some olive oil and pesto or tomato sauce (or even just some small tomatoes!) until they’re softened, then add some parmesan cheese on top when serving. Cook them like vegetables, but flavor-wise, treat them like pasta. Very tasty, one-pot, and not too time-consuming.

There’s another zucchini-reliant dish I’ve been meaning to try for literally YEARS. I don’t know why I keep putting it off, but as soon as I get my hands on more squash, I’m making New Mexico-style Calabacitas. It’s a summer squash-corn saute with a little tomato, green chiles, cream and cheese. It’s mostly veg; the recipe above calls for 2# of squash and 2 c. of corn, and just 2 T butter, 1/4 c. half and half, and 1 c. grated cheese (both of which are optional).

With all the giant heirloom tomatoes available now, I’m planning to try this caprese quinoa casserole from Delish very soon. It makes use of lots of tomatoes and basil, garlic and shallots, and only takes a few more ingredients (quinoa, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar). I grew up on cheeseburger pies, and I like that this is a sort of refined version of that. Though now I’m thinking about cheeseburger pie, and if you want to try it, here’s one from Chowhound that looks easy; and one from Food.com that looks like what my mom made (though we used shelf-stable pie crust sticks, which maybe don’t exist anymore? I haven’t seen them in ages). With all the local beef available here, and the broad customizability of this recipe, I should put these recipes into more of a regular rotation, I think!

Unloved Veggies: Eggplant

At the market yesterday I spotted a riot of beautiful, colorful, almost chocolate-hued eggplants and brought home…several. My husband took one look at this (artfully arranged) aubergine convention on the counter and said, “I will eat one meal with that.”

A lot of people feel this way about eggplant. In fact, we’ve had more requests for eggplant help than any other veggie. Many vow that this is the one item in the CSA share that will always be left on the “trade” table. Far be it for me to tell people what they should like, but I’ll try to suggest some preparations that might pique your interest in this very versatile vegetable.

Eggplants come in many varieties. At the market you may spot them in shades of the deepest purple or edging closer to lavender; you can find shapes that are akin to that of zucchini squash and also squat, stout ones. (Ask your farmers to tell you about the ones they grow!) You, like me, might buy them for their sheer aesthetic qualities, and then wonder what you could possibly make with it that your family members will actually eat.

Eggplant’s meaty texture adds great volume and depth to a dish. (Having said that, I think one complaint is the eggplant is mushy – solve that problem by cooking it briefly or gently or just not too much.) I like it best with strong flavors – smoky or garlicky and especially anything that includes tomatoes and tomato sauce. (You’ll find endless ideas for eggplant by exploring Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.)

Eggplant easily adapts to any flavor profile – to me it’s one of those “canvas” veggies that you can project anything onto.

A friend who has spent a good deal of time in Spain suggests grilling eggplant whole and unpeeled on top of smoldering coals (not on the grill grates – right on the coals! You need to use hardwood lump charcoal for this – not regular charcoal). I love this because it involves no actual prep work – no slicing or oiling or anything. My kind of prep.

You could also grill-roast the eggplant for baba ganoush.

Where I grew up, lots of Greek families run family-style restaurants (“Coney Islands,”) where you can find homemade moussaka on the menu alongside Coney dogs (“coneys”), Greek salads, burgers and all-day breakfast. Greek cuisine is also known for vegetarian variations like this one.

We had big plans to grill a bunch of things tonight in preparation for weeknight meals, including eggplant – and we plumb ran out of time and energy. (True story: we went out for gyros.) But I wanted to prep this pile o’aubergines on the counter for use later. I like adding roasted eggplant chunks in a quick pasta meal, for instance, and if it’s already cooked that’s a bonus. Also, if I didn’t roast them tonight (remember, my kitchen counter held enough to feed a family of 12) I might not make them at all. Worst case, I can roast and freeze them, because in the middle of January I love being able to pull summer veggies out of the freezer for lasagna.

Before roasting, I like to pull out some of the moisture in the eggplant by sprinkling it with salt (let it sit for 30-60 minutes before roasting – the photo above shows just how much water gets pulled to the surface when you do that). Right now, I have a casserole dish of roasted eggplant slices ready to go into a quick weekday dinner

Eggplant is a fantastic vegetable to layer in lasagna; you could also make a beautiful eggplant terrine with zucchini and feta (that’s late summer in a dish, right there). It is a team player in any kind of casserole.

I tend to get a bit myopic when it comes to eggplant, focusing on the westernized menus. But eggplant actually came from the east, and there are no shortage of options when you look for uses in Asian cuisines. This stir-fry is on my list to try. The food writer Mark Bittman intriguingly suggests that you microwave (quick and easy! Not soggy!) eggplant in this south Indian curry.  Since we are in the quick-and-easy vein, try this 30-minute curry from Rachael Ray.

Let’s hope I managed to make this unloved veggie a little more enticing.

Enjoy!

Market Menu: July 22!

What’s available this week at the Bloomington market?

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING.

Tomatoes, jalapenos, cucumbers, beans, onions, potatoes…

This is the point in the year where the cooler-weather crops like greens begin to drop out for a while, the hens might stop laying for a bit, and the turnips get a nice spicy bite to them. HEAT!

I don’t know why, but I’ve started stir-frying everything I can get my hands on. Even kohlrabi, which I’ve only recently started enjoying. It’s fast and flexible, and if you add potatoes you can even skip the rice (and the second burner). So this week’s menu includes some easy stir-fry sauces and veg combos, along with a selection of cold salads and sandwich spreads. Enjoy all that local produce, and remember your farmers! Their workplace isn’t air-conditioned, and the rain has been hard to come by (though sweat is plentiful, in this weather!).

Sweet and Sour stir-fry sauce:

This is one I grew up with, and it’s so simple I’ve never forgotten.  1 part red or white wine vinegar, 1 part sugar. Mix and add to stir-fry when everything is just a little bit under-done. Stir to mix (and make sure that the sugar is dissolved). Separately, mix about 1 Tbs of cornstarch with about 1/2 c. COLD water. Bring your stir-fry up in temp so that the liquid is boiling (if it isn’t already), and add the cornstarch mixture. Stir and keep the heat on, until it thickens. Reduce heat to low and let stand (covered or uncovered) for about 10 minutes.

Thai Green Curry sauce:

This one makes use of green curry paste, which can be found at asian supermarkets and Meijers, and maybe soon at local groceries? I’ll keep an eye out, but let me know if you see it! This is the stuff in the small short can or small jar, not the large jars meant for simmering as-is. Again, once your mix of vegetables and protein are just under-done, mix about 2 Tbs curry paste and a can of coconut milk or about 1 c. yogurt, and add to the pan. If you’re using yogurt, it will break — but keep stirring, and it will start looking better (and it doesn’t affect the taste at all). Let simmer for 5-10 minutes on medium.

And, from Sweet Peas and Saffron, recipes for 7 sauces that you can make ahead, and even FREEZE!!

Pesky Veg?

Here are a few ideas for what to do with some of the less obvious seasonal vegetables:

Kohlrabi – you can eat them raw! Peel and cube, and keep in the fridge for snacks. Or blanch and freeze for later. I also hear you can sub or add them into any dish that calls for carrots or potatoes.

Eggplant – my favorite way to enjoy them is grilled or baked with lots of garlic. Slice them in half lengthwise, cut several slits in the skin and stuff a clove of garlic in, and roast at around 400F. When they’re soft inside (maybe 30 minutes?), remove from oven, let cool, scoop out the middle (including that garlic!) and puree in the blender or food processor with olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Delicious. Or use this recipe from Smitten Kitchen 🙂

By the way, Smitten Kitchen,  101 Cookbooks and Food52 are pretty much my first go-to sites for recipe ideas. Especially the first two, when dealing w/ seasonal vegetables.  Check them out if you’re ever in a pinch!

I Can Grill That?

Last week I found out that one could grill green beans. My first thought was, “don’t they fall between the grates?” (HAHAHA.) (No, really, that really was my first thought.) It turns out that beans do very nicely with a bit of char – you can use a grill basket or heavy duty aluminum foil. But it made me wonder: what other vegetables can I grill? Here is a short list of recipes with veggies that you’re sure to see at the market this week.

Corn. (Corn!) Everyone’s favorite. If you make this, you can also make this. And this. (Trust me, elote is going to be your new obsession.) Grilled corn is beautiful with grilled sweet peppers, too.

So…PEPPERS. Are you a fan of jalapeño poppers? Well, here you go. (No need to go out for this anymore – make it at home with truly excellent, local peppers.) And if you’re a fan of spicy dishes, try a grilled jalapeño potato salad. 

Squashes and zucchini are a popular choice, and you can add any range of flavor profiles – even just a bit of sea salt. Here is one with basil (definitely in season!), and it’s also great with mint. Oh heck – here’s one more. It’s just all so good.

Eggplant is another veggie that loves the heat. This recipe might just make an eggplant lover out of a skeptic (I know you’re out there!). I love that this dish has an easy, flavorful yogurt sauce. Looks fancy; very easy.

Panzanella (bread and vegetable salad): another summer classic.

Fruit! Grilled peaches can pair with a main course as a side, shine in a salad, or as a super-easy dessert.

Lettuce! (Yes, lettuce!) Romaine lettuce, in particular, holds up just fine to a hot grill.  (At the market, you might try another variety – ask a farmer which varieties are sturdy like Romaine.) Lots of flavor options with this, too.

And while we are on the subject of lettuce, we should consider how salads don’t just come in the cold and raw variety (or even include lettuce, of course). Great salads often combine both hot and cold elements, cooked (or grilled) and raw ingredients, salty/sweet/crunchy, etc. It’s all about having a combination of flavors and textures – and using local, fresh veggies means that the flavor is going to be just that much better (and will need very little dressing up!). Check out this grilled corn and nectarine salad (you could easily sub peaches).

Lastly…BEER CAN CABBAGE. (Seriously!) Why let the chickens have all the fun? (And you can grill cabbage without a beer can, too.)

We are in the heyday of summer vegetables. I can’t stop smiling. You, too?

Happy summer, and enjoy.