CSA Week Seventeen:: Pattypan Squash

1262197613_5afd020b1bPattypan squash originates from the region between Mexico and Guatemala, and is a relative of the cucumber and melon, members of the Cucurbitaceae family.

These little guys have a lot going for them.  Pattypan squash is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C and a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A (notably through its concentration of carotenoids, including beta-carotene), fiber, potassium, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. All of pattypan’s nutrients combine to form a heart healthy, disease-preventing food, not to mention extremely diet-friendly fare. One cup of cooked pattypan squash is only 38 calories.  The antioxidants in pattypan work to keep free radicals at bay while its high fiber content helps excrete toxins from the body. Pattypan also contains nutrients that combat inflammation.  Its fiber content helps reduce the risk of colon cancer and reduce dietary cholesterol.  Pattypan squash’s potassium and magnesium content work to lower blood pressure. Magnesium also reduces the risk for heart attack and stroke.


PREP TIME:

You can keep your pattypan in an airtight container in the fridge, but they keep best on the counter.

Begin by washing your pattypan under cool running water and then cutting off both ends. It’s up to you from there how you finagle the cutting of this oddly-shaped veggie.  You can avoid the whole question of how to slice patty pan squash and cook them whole. Whole patty pans can be steamed over boiling water until tender, about 4 – 6 minutes, depending on size.
You can also roast patty pans, although they cook more evenly if you slice them in half first. Place the pieces on a baking sheet and roast on the top rack for about 10 – 15 minutes at 420 degrees until tender. You can coat with olive oil or butter and season to taste before hand, if you wish.
If you want to be brave and slice your patty pans, feel free to slice them anyway you like. You can slice through the diameter, dice them into chunks or simply scoop out the cooked flesh. There’s no right or wrong. You can scoop out its insides and use the pattypan as a decorative container for other foods like a pilaf or couscous. Some people like to slice, coat and fry their pattypans until golden brown. In Polish cuisine they are pickled in sweet vinegar. Pattypan can be prepared in a variety of ways including steaming, baking, sautéing and deep-frying. Generally, anywhere you can use a zucchini, a pattypan will do.


 Corn Stuffed Pattypan Squash

2 pounds pattypan squash
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
Kernels from 2 ears corn
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
2 ounces (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

Cut the pattypan squash in half along the middle. Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds in the middle and discard. Scoop out the flesh to within 1/2 inch of the outside and finely dice. Lightly salt the pattypan shells, and let sit while you prepare the filling.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a baking dish or casserole large enough to accommodate the pattypan shells.   Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes. Add the diced squash and cook, stirring, for four to five minutes until tender. Add the corn, and cook, stirring often, for four minutes until just tender. Remove from the heat, and stir in the Parmesan and the cilantro or parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill the pattypan shells with the corn mixture, and arrange in the baking dish. Beat together the egg and milk, season with a little salt, and carefully spoon a little over the corn mixture in each filled squash. Add a small amount of water to the dish (about 1/4 inch). Cover tightly, and place in the oven. Bake 45 to 50 minutes to an hour until the squash is tender. Remove from the heat, and transfer to a platter. Serve hot or warm, garnished with additional chopped cilantro or parsley.


Pattypan Squash with Pasta

1 pound bow tie pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5-7  small or 2-4 large pattypan squash, tips and stems removed, quartered
4 links of sausage
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus 1 teaspoon grated peel
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups of chopped broccoli
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint (optional)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking water.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sausage until browned. Remove and set aside.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add the squash, broccoli, onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 8-10  minutes. Stir in the garlic, lemon peel and reserved pasta cooking water.  Add the pasta to the squash mixture. Add the sausage to pan. Toss in the mint, if using, and cheese; season with salt and pepper


MORE RECIPES:  Indian-Spiced Grilled Baby Squash, Pickled Pattypan Squash, Pattypan Squash Soup With Pesto, Pattypan Squash Fritters, Stuffed Pattypan Squash, Pattypan Squash Pancakes, Tuscan Pattypans

 

CSA Week Fifteen: Sweet Peppers

prod000839_lgSweet bell peppers are another vegetable in the nightshade family of plants, along with our other peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes.   Bell Peppers are perhaps the most common pepper we see in the grocery store, piled high in the summertime, but truthfully, the green bell peppers you purchase in the grocery may actually be immature, non-ripe versions of the other color varieties. Not all bell peppers start off green, however, nor do green bell peppers always mature into other basic colors.  We can find a variety in our CSA bundles and the joy is whereas in the grocery you usually pay a higher price for the yellow and red peppers, at our wonderful farm, you do not!!

Bell peppers have been cultivated for more than 9000 years, with the earliest cultivation having taken place in South and Central America. While the name “pepper” was given to this food by European colonizers of North America who first came across it in the 1500-1600’s and then transported it back to Europe, the original name for this food in Spanish was pimiento, you know like those red centers in the jars of olives…peppers.

Because bell peppers can be grown in a variety of climates and are popular in various cuisines they are grown throughout the world, but within the U.S., California and Florida are the largest bell pepper-producing states. (In terms of chili pepper production, however, New Mexico currently stands in first place.) . The average U.S. adult consumes about 16 pounds of peppers per year, including almost 9.5 pounds of bell peppers.

Bell peppers can be eaten at any stage of development. However, recent research has shown that the vitamin C and carotenoid content of bell peppers tends to increase while the pepper is reaching its optimal ripeness. Bell peppers are also typically more flavorful when optimally ripe.  I talked before about our jalapenos being high on the Scoville  hotness scale, well our lovely sweet bell peppers have zero units, so if the jalapenos were too hot for you, here is a pepper for you (and me)!

And a cool FYI :  Paprika is a dried powdered form of bell pepper, and even though we are used to seeing red paprika in the spice section of the grocery, a paprika can be made from any color of bell pepper and it will end up being that same color once dried and ground into powder.


Bell peppers are an outstanding source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. These phytonutrients include flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids, but the hallmark phytonutrient group found in bell peppers is the carotenoid family, with more than 30 different carotenoids being provided by this vegetable. Included in bell pepper carotenoids are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, and vitamin B6. They are a very good source of folate, molybdenum, vitamin E, dietary fiber, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, niacin, and potassium. Additionally, they are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, and magnesium.  Who knew all these great nutrients were stored in this humble summer vegetable?


PREP TIME: Unwashed sweet peppers stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator will keep for approximately 7-10 days. much longer than our recent friends the eggplant. Because bell peppers need to stay well hydrated and are very sensitive to moisture loss, I recommend that you include a damp cloth or paper towel in the vegetable compartment to help the peppers retain their moisture. Do not cut out the bell pepper stem prior to storage in the refrigerator. Bell peppers are especially sensitive to moisture loss through this stem (calyx) portion and are more susceptible to chilling injury if the stem is removed. Sweet peppers can be frozen without first being blanched. It is better to freeze them whole since there will be less exposure to air which can degrade both their nutrient content and flavor.  Yay for no blanching!!

ROASTING PEPPERS:  Put peppers under the broiler or on a grill and broil 2-3 minutes per side.  Rotate until the entire pepper is blistered and slightly charred.  Then quickly place in a paper bag for 10-20 minutes.  Peel charred skins off under cold water and cut into slices.


Corn and Pepper Salad

4 ears sweet corn
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons slivered basil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Husk corn and boil or grill until crisp-tender.  Cool and slice off the kernels.  Place corn in a bowl with sweet peppers, onions and basil.  Whisk balsamic vinegar and mustard in a small bowl, then slowly whisk in olive oil a little at a time.  Toss with the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Stuffed Peppers

1 pound ground beef or sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 cup shredded cheese

Brown meat and onions together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes, water and uncooked rice.  Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Add more water if needed.  Stuff peppers and sprinkle with cheese.  Place upright in a baking dish.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


MORE SWEET PEPPER RECIPES: Bell Pepper Egg In a Nest, Potato Hash with Bell Peppers and Onions, Bell Pepper Slaw, Greek Style Bell Pepper Salad, Easy Stuffed Bell Peppers, Marinated Roasted Red Bell Peppers, Roasted Garlic and Red Sweet Pepper Soup, Bell Pepper Scoops, Mini Frittatas with Spinach and Red Pepper

CSA Week Fourteen: Tomatoes

heirloom-tomatoesThe tomato is the fruit of the plant Lycopersicon esculentum. (Botanically speaking, tomato is not only a fruit, but also a berry since it is formed from a single ovary.) Originally, tomato was named after the food family to which it belongs – the Solanaceae (sometimes called “solanoid” or “nightshade”) family.  Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don’t have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich sweetness.

Although tomatoes are often closely associated with Italian cuisine, they are actually originally native to the western side of South America, in the region occupied by Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and the western half of Bolivia. The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are also believed to be part of tomatoes’ native area. The first type of tomato grown is thought to have more resembled the smaller-sized cherry tomato than the larger varieties.   The word “tomato” may actually originate from the Nahautl (Aztecan) word “tomatl ” meaning “the swelling fruit.” It wasn’t until the 1500’s that Spanish explorers and colonizers brought tomato seeds from Mexico back to Spain and introduced this food to European populations.  Although the use of tomatoes spread throughout Europe (including Italy) over the course of the 1500’s, tomatoes did not enjoy full popularity then and were seen by many people as unfit to eat. Part of this “food inappropriateness” was associated with the status of the tomato plant as a nightshade plant and its potential poisonousness in this regard.

The French sometimes refer to the tomato as pomme d’amour, meaning “love apple,” and in Italy, tomato is sometimes referred to as “pomodoro” or “golden apple,” probably referring to tomato varieties that were yellow/orange/tangerine in color.


Tomatoes are a treasure of riches when it comes to their antioxidant benefits. In terms of conventional antioxidants, tomatoes provide an excellent amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene; a very good amount of the mineral manganese; and a good amount of vitamin E. In terms of phytonutrients, tomatoes are basically off the chart, and include: flavonones, hydroxycinnamic acids, carotenoids, and glycosides.  Tomatoes are most often associated with lycopene (a carotenoid phytonutrient widely recognized for its antioxidant properties) but are also an excellent source vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus. Additionally, they are a good source of chromium, pantothenic acid, protein, choline, zinc, and iron.


PREP TIME: Since tomatoes are sensitive to cold, and it will impede their ripening process, store them at room temperature and out of direct exposure to sunlight. They will keep for up to a week, depending upon how ripe they are when picked. To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will help speed up the tomato’s maturation. If the tomatoes begin to become overripe, but you are not yet ready to eat them, place them in the refrigerator (if possible, in the butter compartment which is a warmer area), where they will keep for one or two more days. Removing them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before using will help them to regain their maximum flavor and juiciness. Whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce freeze well for future use in cooked dishes. Sun-dried tomatoes should be stored in an airtight container, with or without olive oil, in a cool dry place.

Before serving, wash tomatoes under cool running water and pat dry.

If your recipe requires seeded tomatoes, cut the fruit in half horizontally and gently squeeze out the seeds and the juice. However, think about the recipe and consider whether the tomato could be incorporated with seeds intact. There are simply too many valuable nutrients in the seeds that you would not want to lose unnecessarily.

When cooking tomatoes, avoid aluminum cookware since the high acid content of the tomatoes may interact with the metal in the cookware. As a result, there may be migration of aluminum into the food, which may not only impart an unpleasant taste, but more importantly, may have a potentially unwanted impact on your health.

Whenever possible, try to develop recipes that make use of the whole tomato. Research shows higher lycopene content in whole tomato products. For example, when the skins of tomatoes are included in the making of the tomato paste, the lycopene and beta-carotene content of the paste is significant higher according to research studies.


To make your own basic tomato sauce, simply sauté a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and/or 1 or 2 large chopped onions for a couple of minutes until they are translucent. Add 8 to 10 chopped whole tomatoes and a teaspoon of dried—or several teaspoons of fresh chopped—oregano, basil, and any other herbs you enjoy (such as parsley or rosemary). Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the heat, drizzle with olive oil, and add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. For a fancier version, sauté chopped olives and/or mushrooms along with the garlic and onions.


Late Summer Bruschetta

2-3 large tomatoes
1 crunchy sweet pepper
1 medium sweet onion
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
small handful of fresh basil, chopped
crusty bread (like a baguette)
shredded mozzarella or grated Parmesan

Chop the vegetables into a mid-size dice.  Combine with garlic, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and basil.  Slice baguette down the middle and lay the 2 sides cut side up.  Brush with additional 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle on cheese.  Broil bread for several minutes until bread or cheese browns a bit.  Top the sections with some of the vegetable mixture.

Tomato Gravy

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons flour

Prepare tomatoes.  Heat oil and saute onions 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add sugar, salt and pepper.  Combine water and flour.  Stir into tomatoes.  Cook and stir until thickened.


MORE TOMATO RECIPES:  Stuffed Tomatoes, Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce, Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Baked Parmesan Tomatoes,  Tomato Pie,  Three Cheese Tomato Tart, Oven Roasted Tomatoes,  Seashells with Basil, Tomatoes and Garlic , Easy Garden Gazpacho, Roasted Tomatoes with Fontina and Thyme

CSA Week Thirteen: More Eggplant

eggplant1I had to laugh when I read “eggplants are nutritionally challenged” in my produce book.  It follows (and redeems itself) by saying ” but is valued in vegetarian dishes for their meaty flavor and texture” which I find to be true.  The best meat substitutes I’ve found are eggplant and portabella mushrooms!  Eggplants are high in water content, low in calories and high in fiber which also makes it a great vegetable for those looking to lose a few pounds.

Eggplant is believed to have originated in India or Burma and then made its way to popularity in Northern Africa and Arab countries.  Funny enough, when eggplant appeared in Europe, it was believed to be poisonous and was grown for ornamental purposes.  There are many types of eggplant, and we are seeing several of them this growing season, but luckily they are pretty well interchangeable in recipes.

Your eggplant is best used fresh, and because of its high water content will go spongy pretty quickly.  Store your eggplant at cool room temperature or in the drawer of your refrigerator for up to one week.  Probably not one of the better vegetables to freeze, but you can if you want.  Simply soak five minutes in a solution of 4 Tablespoons salt per gallon of water and blanch for two minutes in steam.  Cool immediately in cold water, dry and package in layers.

Some more tips about your eggplant….

More thin-skinned eggplant like our Asian eggplant can be eaten whole, but you may want to peel any larger eggplants.  To remove any acrid flavors and excess moisture before cooking, lightly salt slices of eggplant and allow them to sit in a colander for 10-15 minutes.  Gently squeeze out any liquid.  If you are using oil in your recipe this method will also allow the eggplant to soak up less oil.

To bake, prick eggplant all over with a fork and bake at 400 degrees until flesh is tender, about 30 minutes.

To stuff, bake about 20 minutes, scoop out the seeds, replace with stuffing mixture, return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

To fry, dip in favorite batter and lightly fry in vegetable oil.

To saute, dip slices or chunks in flour, or eggs and bread crumbs before sauteing.  Saute in hot oil until light brown, season with herbs, garlic or grated cheese.


BAKED EGGPLANT SLICES

1 medium eggplant
salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup minced green onion
1 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Peel eggplant and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Sprinkle with salt, let drain about 30 minutes then pat dry.  Combine mayonnaise and onion.  Spread on both sides of eggplant slices.  Mix crumbs with cheese.  Dip coated eggplant into crumb mixture.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees  for approximately 20 minutes.


EGGPLANT PARMESAN

2 small eggplants
salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
4 cups peeled and sliced tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano or basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.  Sprinkle with salt and let drain at least 30 minutes.  Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet.  Saute onion and garlic about three minutes.  Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, herbs and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.  Pat eggplants dry.  Dust with flour.  Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a skillet and lightly brown eggplants on both sides.  Place half of the slices in a 13×9 baking dish.  Cover with half of the tomato sauce and  half of the mozzarella.  Repeat the layers and sprinkle Parmesan over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


MORE EGGPLANT RECIPES:  Eggplant Pizzas, Simple Roasted Eggplant, Layered Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Casserole,  Eggplant Stuffed With Ricotta, Spinach and Artichokes, Stuffed Eggplant with Beef, Eggplant Fries, Eggplant Sliders, Grilled Eggplant Sandwich


 

 

 

CSA Week Twelve: Jalapenos

mammoth-Jalapeno-mBotanically, jalapenos are fruit pods from the nightshade family in the genus, capsicum.  Jalapenos are mostly available green, turning red as they mature, but sometimes waiting for them to turn red is the hard part, either because you are afraid they will crack or you just want to go ahead and pick them!

Jalapenos  have a strong spicy taste that comes from the active alkaloid compounds; capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin. On the Scoville  hotness scale, jalapeños fall in medium-hot range  at 2,500-4,000 “Scoville heat units” (SHU).  An easy way to compare: sweet bell peppers have zero units, and Mexican habañeros have 200,000 to 500,000 units.  I warn you not to just take a huge bite out of one as my daughter did when I wasn’t home.  Tolerance level of peppers,  including jalapenos, may have wide individual variations. Wherever feasible, they should be consumed in moderation.  Instead of biting them whole, slice them and use them sparingly or scoop out the spicy seeds and membrane to stuff and roast them.   And be careful when cutting fresh jalapenos because the capsaicin can burn your skin and eyes.  Wear gloves while handling jalapenos, or wash your hands when finished.

That capsaicin does have it’s benefits though.  It has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, and anti-diabetic properties, at least in some early laboratory studies on experimental mammals. It also found to reduce LDL-cholesterol levels in obese individuals.  Capsaicin has also shown promise for weight loss, especially of hard-to-lose belly fat, by increasing energy expenditure after consumption

Jalapenos are also  a rich source of vitamin C, with almost 17 milligrams in a small pepper. That is equal to 18 percent of the recommended daily allowance for men and 23 percent for women. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent damage from free radicals,  molecules that can cause cell damage in your body. Jalapenos also supply a good amount of vitamin A which supports skin and eye health; one pepper offers 17 percent of the RDA for men and 22 percent for women.

To round it out,  they contain other valuable antioxidants such as vitamin A, and flavonoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, zea xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help to protect the body from injurious effects of free-radicals generated from stress and disease conditions.  Jalapeno chillies characteristically contain more pyridoxine, vitamin E, vitamin K than other varieties of peppers. Vitamin K increases bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has the beneficial effect in Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.


Cooking reduces the heat of jalapeno peppers. While it would be rare to eat a whole jalapeno pepper, sliced and diced jalapenos make a spicy addition to tomato and mango salsas, nachos, black and pinto beans and corn-based dishes. If you like your food hot, leave more of the inner white membrane on the chopped pepper, as that is where most of the capsaicin is concentrated. You can also roast jalapenos and other chili peppers, which imparts a smoky flavor.   And if you want to keep some for later try pickling or preserving them.


JALAPENO SALSA

5 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
10 green onions
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded if desired
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a blender or food processor, pulse the tomatoes, green onions, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the lime juice, hot pepper sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt.


SWEET JALAPENO CORNBREAD

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup chopped fresh jalapeno peppers, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Beat margarine and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl. Stir eggs and milk in a third bowl. Pour 1/3 milk mixture and 1/3 flour mixture alternately into margarine mixture; whisk until just mixed. Repeat with remaining ingredients and stir in jalapeno peppers. Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 26 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before slicing.


MORE JALAPENO RECIPES: Preserved Pickled Jalapenos, Cornbread Chorizo Stuffing, Tomato Salad,  Chicken with Tex-Mex Salsa,  Grilled Jalapeno Poppers, Slow Cooker Corn and Jalapeno Dip, Jalapeno Jelly, Jalapeno Popper Pull Apart Bread, Cheddar Jalapeno Chicken Burgers with Guacamole


 

 

CSA Week Eleven: Japanese Eggplant

ggg ASIAN EGGPLANT:  Eggplant is actually a fruit (it’s part of the same nightshade family that includes the other confusing is-it-a-fruit-or-a-vegetable plant, the tomato). In the U.S., eggplant tends to appear mostly in Italian or Mediterranean dishes, but Southern and Southeast Asian cuisines have long incorporated the fruit as well. Japanese eggplant is noticeably less plump than its more familiar pear-shaped cousin   Japanese eggplant is even more versatile because it has a much thinner skin and is practically seedless. The sponginess of its fleshy inside drinks in seasonings like soy sauce, miso and ginger.  Japanese eggplant is milder and less bitter than other varieties. Since it’s extra spongy, don’t overdo the marinades — a little goes a long way

Eggplant is native to Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Unlike other members of the Solanaceae family, which are native to the New World, eggplant varieties are native to the Old world.  In Modern Japan, eggplant is the third most important vegetable for culinary use.  In France, eggplants are called  “aubergine”  which you may have used to describe that deep purple color in other areas of life.

Raw eggplant is very low in calories, saturated fat and sodium, with only 20 calories per cup. It’s a high source of dietary fiber and is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese. By leaving the thin skin on, Japanese eggplant  will add fiber to your diet, causing you to remain full for longer periods of time while regulating your digestive system.  Along with other nightshade plants like bell peppers and potatoes, Japanese eggplants also contain antioxidants like nasunin, which is thought to protect cell membranes in the brain.


PREP TIME:  Eggplant is quite perishable and will not store long. They may be refrigerated for up to seven days; however, it is best to use them as soon as possible.  Handle eggplants gingerly, as they bruise easily. When storing them in the refrigerator, wrap in a paper towel, and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the veggie drawer.

If you want to freeze your eggplant for future use :
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large container of ice and water to fit the eggplant ready.
Slice eggplant about 1/3-inch thick. Work quickly or the peeled eggplant will begin to brown. Place slices into boiling water and cover for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the slices to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, thoroughly drain slices and pat dry. Separate slices with plastic wrap, place into freezer bags, squeeze out all the air, and seal tightly.


ASIAN EGGPLANT

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed
5 tablespoons canned low-salt chicken broth
2 green onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1 small jalapeño chili, chopped
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1 1/4-pound eggplant, cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide slices and slices cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide-strips
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Combine cilantro, 1 tablespoon broth, green onions, garlic, chili and ginger in processor and puree until paste forms.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add half of eggplant. Cover skillet and cook until eggplant is tender and beginning to brown, turning once, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Repeat with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining eggplant.

Add cilantro paste and soy sauce to skillet and stir over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Return eggplant to skillet and add remaining 4 tablespoons broth. Stir until sauce thickens and boils and eggplant is heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


EGGPLANT IN GARLIC SAUCE

2 asian eggplants
1 tbsp soy sauce
cooking oil
1/2 tbsp of minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, finely chopped

Cut eggplants into chunks and soak them in saltwater.  Let soak  about 15 minutes.
Mince garlic and ginger and chop scallion.

Heat a skillet up with hot water.  Add a bit of oil and salt to the hot water.  When it starts boiling, throw the eggplants in the hot water for just a minute or until you see the purple skin start turning slightly brown.  This step will prevent your eggplants from absorbing too much oil and getting all greasy.

In another pan, add cooking oil and set at high heat.  Add your minced ginger and garlic.

Add the eggplants and soy sauce, (and optional: sprinkle some sugar) and stir about 5 minutes or until eggplants are cooked thoroughly.  At the very end, add the chopped scallions, stir and turn off the heat.


MORE ASIAN EGGPLANT RECIPES: Stuffed Miso Eggplant, Eggplant Chips with Cilantro DressingEggplant and Tofu Curry, Ratatouille Spirals, Spicy Eggplant Stir Fry, Spicy Eggplant with Pork,  Japanese Eggplant Salad, Roasted Eggplant with Artichoke Hearts and Salsa Verde

 

 

 

 

CSA Week Nine: Leeks

leeksLEEKS:    Another of those foods with a lot of green leaf.  This one though you aren’t eating the tops of.  I think they would make a nice fan though on a hot summer’s day or a good flyswatter.  The nice thing about getting your leeks through the CSA is that you don’t pay for all the extra green tops you are discarding, as you would at a grocery store. So the scoop on leeks?  They are a good source of dietary fiber, and contain folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Leeks are a part of the “allium” family along with garlic and onions.  Leeks are milder and easier to digest than standard onions and have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties.

Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.

The Romans are thought to have introduced leeks to the United Kingdom, where they were able to flourish because they could withstand cold weather. Leeks have attained an esteemed status in Wales, where they serve as this country’s national emblem. The Welsh regard for leeks can be traced back to a battle that they successfully won against that Saxons in 1620, during which the Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from their opponents. Today, leeks are an important vegetable in many northern European cuisines and are grown in many European countries.


PREP TIME: Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture. Cooked leeks are highly perishable, and even when kept in the refrigerator, will only stay fresh for about two days.

Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, slicing until you reach the green portion.


This is my favorite leek recipe….ever.  It is from Jamie Oliver’s Family Dinners cookbook and I’ve made it so many times I basically know it by heart.  I’ve made it without the wine when I didn’t have it, but prefer the taste with wine.  Also you can make it without the sausage, but again it adds another layer of flavor.  Do use puff pastry for the topping though, it makes the dish. 

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Leek Pie
2 knobs (pats) butter
2 pounds  boned and skinned chicken legs, cut into pieces
2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
Small handful thyme sprigs, leaves picked
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 wineglass white wine
1 1/4 cups milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
9 ounces good pork sausages
1 16-ounce package all-butter puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

chicken-leek-pie

Take a large casserole pot and add a glug of olive oil and your butter. Add the chicken, leeks, carrots, celery, and thyme and cook slowly over medium heat for 15 minutes. Turn the heat right up, add the flour, and keep stirring for a couple of minutes before stirring in the wine, then a wineglass of water, and then the milk. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer very slowly on the stove, stirring and scraping the pan every so often, until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. The sauce should be quite thick. If it’s a little too liquidy, just continue to simmer it with the lid off until it thickens slightly. (At this point you can let it cool and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days if you want to before assembling the pot pie—or it can also be eaten as a stew.) Pour the chicken mixture into an appropriately sized pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.

Squeeze the pork sausage out of the casings, roll it into little balls, and brown them with a little olive oil in a clean skillet over medium heat. Place them over the stew.

Roll out your pastry to about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully drape the pastry over the dish, using a knife to trim any pastry hanging over the edge of the dish. Lightly brush the top of the pastry with the egg to make it turn golden while baking. If desired, pinch the pastry to crimp it round the edge of the dish (there’s no need to do this, but I like to as my mum always does it and it makes it look pretty. I also use the back of a knife to lightly crisscross the top of the pastry—this makes the pastry crisp and flaky.) Bake the chicken pot pie in the center of the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, until golden on top.


CREAMY ONE POT SPAGHETTI WITH LEEKS
{courtesy of Food & Wine}

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 anchovy fillet, drained
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 pound spaghetti, noodles broken in half
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream

201404-r-creamy-one-pot-spaghetti-with-leeks

In a pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, scallions, leeks and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, 6 minutes. Add the anchovy, crushed red pepper, spaghetti, stock, cream and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the pasta is tender and a sauce forms, 11 minutes. Stir in the chives and 1/4 cup of cheese; season with salt. Serve the pasta with extra cheese on the side.


MORE LEEK RECIPES:  Potato Leek Soup, Pasta With Bacon and Leeks, Scalloped Potatoes With Leeks, Mushroom and Leek Quiche, Bacon and Leek Quiche, Breakfast Casserole With Leeks, Brie Leek Tarts, Quinoa Salad With Leeks and Feta