Monday, July 26, 2010

CSA Share Week 9

There’s something triumphant about seeing the season’s first mature eggplant-- glossy, rich, vibrant—dangling purple under a canopy of large felt-like, green leaves. We’re glad to see this crop looking healthy and abundant. A nod must go to Ken and our 5-year-daughter Alis who spent many an evening hand picking Colorado potato beetles and their larvae from the plants’ leaves, so that these predatory insects didn’t decimate the crop. (As mentioned in a previous note: having planted our potato crop about ¼ mile away from our main veggie field, the beetles chose to hammer in on the eggplant this year instead.) Sometimes Ken & Alis would squish the yellow and black striped beetles between their fingers or pinch the red-orange grubs until they popped like berries. Other times they’d collect the beetles in a coffee cup, so Alis could proudly bring her found treasure back to the house to show everyone before incinerating in our wood-burning furnace.
It’s the end of July, and we’re moving plants, such as Brussels sprouts and collards, out of the greenhouse and into the fields. In the past week we also planted a 2nd crop of tomato plants, hoping to stretch the tomato season, which we’re now just beginning. These late plants will hopefully yield through September, and, if we're lucky, into October.

We'd like to encourage everyone to use their veggies for snacks in addition to using for dinner. We were chomping on the purple carrots this morning while packing up members’ shares. The yellow wax beans, too, make a great snack. Last night we wanted to test the cooking time on the “lower-fat” roasting method for eggplant (recipe in this week’s newsletter) and couldn’t help but graze off the cooled roasting pan every time we passed by. One of our beloved farmers’ market supporters swears by a steady diet of swiss chard smoothies, which we’re tempted to try. In case anyone is choking at the thought, he says adding banana and avocado are key. (Owning a deluxe blender, like a VitaMix, is essential for "juicing" greens too. We're not purists. We like sweets. But we never regret when we grab something like a carrot for a snack instead.


1 large eggplant
1 bunch purple carrots
1 bunch beets
1 head of Romaine lettuce
6 ounces spicy baby greens (see note)
1 large, sweet onion
12 ounces yellow wax beans
1 bunch Swiss chard



Grilled Eggplant
Grilling eggplant is simple and delicious. Serve it as a side as is or topped with any of the following individually or in combination: crumbled feta or goat cheese, chopped olives, toasted pine nuts, minced garlic and/or a fresh herb, such as parsley, basil, mint or oregano. Or add it to a pasta dish or layered in lasagna.

1 large eggplant
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
Kosher salt

Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire. Trim the ends off the eggplant and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Just before grilling, brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt. Grill (covered on a gas grill; uncovered on a charcoal grill) until golden-brown grill marks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the eggplant and grill until tender and well marked on the second sides, 3 to 4 minutes more. The interior should be soft and grayish in color.

Spaghetti with (Lower-Fat) Eggplant and Basil
Adapted from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman (Macmillan, 1998)

Eggplant soaks up a startling amount of olive oil, especially if you sauté it in a skillet. Roasting does turn the flesh a tasty golden brown without requiring quite so much oil.

1 Italian globe eggplant, stem end trimmed
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups canned (drained) plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
¼ cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or other long pasta

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Cut the eggplant into ½-inch cubes/chunks. Once the oven is heated, pile the eggplant in a roasting pan or heavy-duty baking sheet, drizzle with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and toss. Cook on the middle or lower-middle rack, until the eggplant cubes have turned golden brown, after about 10 minutes. Flip a metal spatula over so its underside faces up, and push the spatula’s edge through the eggplant to turn it over. Continue to roast until golden brown on 2 sides and tender, about 5 to 7 minutes more.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

As the pot of water is heating, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to a 12-inch skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they break up and the mixture becomes saucy, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt. Add the roasted eggplant and ¼ cup shredded basil leaves (or a tablespoon of pesto—especially if you’d made some from this season’s past shares and stored in the freezer). Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente—tender but firm, not mushy. Drain.

Add the spaghetti to the pan of sauce. Using tongs, toss to gently coat the noodles with the sauce. Serve.



This week’s baby greens are spicy a mix of arugula, baby mustard and baby Asian greens. Use them to make a salad, wilt with a warm dressing or briefly in a pan of hot oil with minced garlic, or stuff in a crusty sandwich with grilled eggplant and a soft, melty cheese, like Taleggio, with a slice from this week’s mild onion and a drizzling of balsamic vinegar.

Store this week’s large, white onion in the refrigerator. It’s mild in flavor. Slice and eat raw in salads or sandwiches or cook gently in a fry pan with butter and/or oil as it caramelizes nicely.

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