In the Groove

CSA Basket - Week #12

CSA Basket – Week #12

If a farming season is like a marathon, then I believe we’re somewhere around mile 19.  Yes we, as the runner may say in third person…. ”Come on legs, we can do it!”  Here on the farm it truly is a we, the soil and elemental unfoldings, the bellies and pocketbooks, the seeds and leaves and fruits, the calloused farmer hands and worn farmer feet.  “Come on gloves, (which look like they’ve already reached the finish line, but have been begged to keep on going) we can do it!” It’s at this mile where you’re pooped, but also very much in the groove. I’ve never run a full marathon, but after a few farm seasons you get the true sense of stamina, pace and drive. To know how hard you’ve worked and know, that now in August, you’ll be asked to pick up the pace, to get up at the same time you did in July, even though the sun is getting to sleep in, to maintain and even, accelerate. You pick up the pace, kick a little harder, because it’s harvest time and the bounty has arrived. Volume! You may think you’re a giving person; now, consider the humble zucchini! They say that wood warms you six times. I feel the same about zucchini: the bed prepping, planting, weeding, nurturing, harvesting and harvesting, hauling out of the field, and warmth of the kitchen as one zips around finding many yummy ways of getting it into your belly.

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It’s mile 19, the BEST part of the season! The beginning of the season opens with jaw-dropping -color-centerfolds. Oh yeah, seed catalogs baby! Now, in the heart of abundance, it’s a succulent recipe treasure hunt of salivating salvation. It’s finding gems like Sweet and Sour pickled Red Onions and Zucchini Bread with Lemon and Thyme.

It’s the time to honor and identify the season too. This year will be marked with eggplant dishes and okra. Last year there were tomatoes abound, salsas and sauces. Moving the abundance into bags and jars, extending the season, you encapsulate the year, define it, and give thanks.

Rolling up my sleeves to clean yet another squash, to reach tongs into a boiling bath of water, to spend extended hours on tired feet (tapping around a kitchen floor), long after the work day is done, in the name of preservation is exhausting. But it’s fuel, it’s drawing out the abundance to have lasagna in the winter months, pickles as the snows thaw and sweet fruit as spring arrives. Another season’s work ahead, one of beauty and paced rhythmic breaths. Feeling out the cadence and getting excited for mile 19 and zucchini! As you lace up your shoes and stretch,  a whisper from the fields, ”On your marks, get set, go” and you’re off!

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Pickles!

Pickles!

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Oh my gosh, it’s squash!

Oh my gosh, it’s squash!

It’s the gorilla, gripping innocent female bystanders like pieces of chalk. It’s the monster in the water, circling, lurking, waiting for … that…. moment….                       It’s SQUASH!

Oh, it’s not as horrible, harry knuckled and crazy eyed as I’ve made it out to be, but squash is not the dainty heroine either. If squash were a nutritionally complete meal, we could scatter their white papery seeds out of airplanes and have them sprout throughout every corner of the globe. With the way these plants produce, there’s the potential to put Malthus’ theory slightly at bay. To ensure that you don’t get fruit the size of your entire arm, squash has to be harvested every other day at a minimum. And what do you do with those every other day yields? – As the saying goes, “Don’t leave your car window down at church in the summer, or you’ll find a bag of zucchini on your seat.”

Ok, enough of this villanizing, really. What a gift to have such a fantastic veggie able to produce in abundance. I’m not being facetious here, even if I am slightly exhausted by the constant harvesting of those prickly plants. The wonderful characteristic of summer squash is that it is immensely versatile. I can be a purest with veggies. I love squash simply grilled with salt and pepper. With this wealth of squashy abundance however, thinking outside of the recipe box is a must! Here are some recipes for you, dear CSA members, who every week probably state out loud “Oh my gosh, more squash!”

Hot off the grill!

Summer Squash Ribbons –

This concept hails from the time when my mom was a devotee of Susan Summers. In this recipe you make ribbons of squash by peeling a whole squash down with a potato peeler. You then steam the ribbons and use them instead of pasta in a pasta-like meal.

Step 1 – Take 3 large, 5-6 small summer squash and make ribbons by peeling the squash down with a potato peeler. This step takes a bit of time, love and labor. You can see my mom here ‘making ribbons’ and having them land into a large steaming pot. I’m now saying peeling, but when we were in the process of doing this we called it whittling and we whittled away, taking Appalachian accents and conjuring up stories about the good ‘ol days when grandpappy would sit on the porch and make whittled squash. Never a dull moment in this household.

Step 2-  Hunt in the fridge for everything you love to include in a nice bowl of pasta. In our fridge we found beet greens, onions, broccoli, tomatoes and, well, more squash (we’ll save those to make fritters)! I cut all the beautiful Homeward Bounty veggies into small pieces and compiled them all on a plate. I also uncovered some sausage and cooked the links up in a pan. The squash steams up quickly, so it’s nice to have all these steps done first. Steam the squash in a big steaming pot or use a steamer and cook until veggie al dente. Squash holds a lot of water, so I would pour the finished steamed squash into a colander and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Place steamed squash in a large bowl and mix in either pesto or tomato marinara. We used pesto and it was so fantastic that it would be hard to experiment with anything else, but I’m sure a tomato sauce would bring its own pizzaz to the meal. After mixing in your sauce of choice, add in your cut up veggies and meat.                                                                    -Enjoy this one with friends, a bottle of wine and a relaxing summer afternoon out on the porch!

Friends – Wine – Setting Sun – Yum!

Summer Squash Fritters – 

If this recipe was worthless and unpalatable (which it IS not), it would still hold value in the fact that saying the word fritter is down right fun!

Ingredients –

4 medium zucchini or any type of summer squash

1 onion, chopped

1 bunch parsley or cilantro, or both

2 eggs

1/2 flour or cornmeal

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp lemon zest

oil for high heat –  safflower or grapeseed

Directions –

1. Grate squash with a cheese grater. Place grated squash in a colander and sprinkle a little salt over it to draw some of the water out. Let sit while you cut up vegetables  – chop onions and herbs. Put in a bowl, mix in eggs, spices, and lemon zest. Add squash and flour/cornmeal. The batter should be thick enough to be able to make patties in your hands, but not too dense and they’re not moist.

2. In a skillet heat up a layer of cooking oil. Grab a bit of mixture in your hand and shape into a patty and place into oil. Cook on both sides until golden brown. You can place finished fritters on a paper towel to absorb some of the oil.

– Different chutneys go great with fritters. They’re also quite tasty with sour cream or plain yogurt on top!