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Friday
Jul232010

Green and Gold

We've been receiving quite a few of these Zephyr squash in our CSA as of late. Their two-toned skin is striking, and it's amazing to me how perfect the transition really is - a seamless jump from green into yellow, as if the plant simply ran out of one color and picked up another. The internal palette of vegetables is remarkable, and I often wonder if Nature's attention to color is more than just a ploy to ensure the proper dose of vitamins and minerals. I think she rather likes experimenting with hues, and like any other proper interior decorator, knows that color is key! Vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables can really dress up your secondary living space - just look and see how those Zephyrs bring out the color of the grass! And since I tend to spend a lot of time outdoors these days, I appreciate how these little gems of color have enlivened my landscape.

Coincidentally, even when their tenure outside has come to an end, I can still enjoy their colors on my dinner plate. Paired with other vegetables that share it's color - yellow pear tomatoes and a golden zucchini - the Zephyr squash is transformed into this beautiful and sumptuous pasta dish.

Green and Gold Squash and Zucchini Pasta (modified from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison)

1 cup goat cheese, more or less to taste (or ricotta)
2 lbs golden zucchini and zephyr squash, cut into small strips or wedges
2-3 T olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
3 T coarsely torn basil
1 lb penne or rigatoni pasta
handful or more of yellow pear tomatoes (or other type cherry tomato)
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino

 

Warm the goat cheese to room temperature. Set large saute pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add olive oil. Saute zucchini and squash until golden - about 5-10 minutes. You want the squash to be al dente - not mushy. Increase the heat to high if necessary, to keep the squash from steaming. When squash is done, add garlic and basil and toss to combine. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta according to package directions. When al dente, drain, and combine with squash mixture. Toss to coat and add a little more olive oil if desired. Drop spoonfuls of goat cheese over surface pasta - you may also choose to mix it in (we did this). Add freshly Parmesan or Pecorino to taste. Top with halved yellow pear tomatoes.

 

Friday
Jul162010

Fig Skillet Cake

It happens all at once. The figs stay green forever it seems - taunting the birds and those of us who have been waiting somewhat impatiently to partake in the season's first crop - until finally, one day their skins soften and bear the color of purple. Suddenly, you find yourself underneath the tree, looking under foliage, and spotting ripe ones here, there, and everywhere. And if you wait too long to notice their metamorphosis (or go to the shed to get the ladder), they'll be gone - stolen away in the beak of some bird, or worse shriveled and unfit to eat.

Yesterday, we picked figs. Lots and lots of ripe, beautiful, plump figs. And since they only keep for about a day, I sent Andy straight to the kitchen to whip something up. My trees are getting so big now that it's gotten a little easier to cook something with a day's harvest. In the past, we'd pick a few figs here and there, and eat them plain or with goat cheese and a little drizzle of honey. Last year, I made a couple of loaves of fig bread. I anticipate many more fig-based desserts in the weeks to come, and if anything a welcome reprieve from all those peaches! (see yesterday's post).

 


Fig Skillet Cake
(modified from Martha Stewart Living)

4 T unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for skillet
1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for skillet
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
coarse salt
3/4 cup plus 2 T sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk)
about 2 cups figs, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375. Butter an 8 inch ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron); dust with flour. Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk.

Pour batter into prepared skillet, and smooth top with spatula. Put figs on top, and sprinkle with remaining 2 T sugar. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Enjoy! It's delicious!

 

Thursday
Jul152010

A Mid-Summer Beet

It's the peak of summertime here in Alabama, so as you might imagine our meals have been filled with lots of prized summer vegetables like tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, okra, and eggplant. We've taken to eating big tomato sandwiches for lunch, with handfuls of fresh basil and a slice of whatever cheese we have on hand. I've eaten so many peaches I'm starting to feel like Winfield in the Grapes of Wrath. But occasionally this summer, in the midst of all those tomatoes, we've been surprised to see a beet or two in our CSA share or at the farmer's market. Beets in July? I always thought that beets were strictly a fall and spring crop, but turns out they're in seasonal limbo, and are happy to steal some of the limelight away from all those traditional summer favorites. Though there are many ways to prepare beets, we found that for a summer dish, they are great raw, thinly sliced, with a little dressing - very refreshing, and more importantly, you don't have to turn the oven on to roast them! They also pair wonderfully with citrus and goat cheese. We prepared the following simple beet salad using the last of the season's escarole back in June. 

 

Raw Beet Salad with Fresh Dill and Mustard Vinaigrette (modified from Farmer John's Cookbook)

4 medium beets, peeled, cut into strips
1/2 cup olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
1 T finely chopped shallot
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
1-2 T fresh dill, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch escarole (lettuce or arugula)

Combine olive oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, and garlic in a large jar. With the lid tightly screwed on, shake the jar vigorously until the oil and vinegar are thickened. Pour the dressing over the cut beets and toss until well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the beet mixture to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 1 hour. Add the fresh dill and toss again. Serve over a bed of escarole.

Yesterday, we received some golden beets in our CSA share, so we'll be thinking of ways to prepare these! (right now I have my eye on this recipe).