If you are eating locally in the upper Midwest, you’ve probably noticed that the veggies are reaching their peak. This week many of us will enjoy sweet corn for the first time this summer. Heirloom tomatoes are ripening, peppers are taking off and not too far behind are melons and winter squash.
Local Choice shareholders will also find eggplant in their share this week, for which there are many delicious uses. Eggplant is one of those veggies that -depending on what you are making – may take a little preparation to ensure a pleasant texture, but it is divine when cooked properly. Eggplant parmesan, for example, can come out too mushy or too spongy, but it is absolutely delicious with a little extra effort. Skinning, slicing and soaking eggplant in salt water can minimize bitterness and using a fork to poke holes in firmer, less seedy slices will help tenderize them and enable them cook through better. Frying eggplant parmesan in a healthy amount of oil will make it nice and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside without becoming mushy. It also freezes extremely well, and when re-heated in an oven it will taste almost as fresh as when it was made. It’s fun to make a great big batch of eggplant parm and freeze it in batches of 2-4 individual servings. Pull them out later, bake them up and serve with pasta or sautéed veggies for an easy gourmet meal! Babaganoush is also an easy, fun and delicious way to prepare eggplant and can be frozen for enjoying later.
For more ways to get down with eggplant check out this link.
This week in Local Choice CSA
Bifrost Farms – Garlic Dill Chevre
Essence Homestead – Mixed beans, Mixed Peppers, Eggplant
Hexagon Projects Farm – Heirloom Tomatoes, Asian Cucumber, Rainbow Chard, Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini
Towering Heights Farm – Beef Links
Valley Pasture Farm – Potatoes, ½ Chicken
Winnowburrow Farm – Chamomile Tea, Edible Flowers, Eggplant
Edible flowers are fun way to add color to your cuisine. Here are some tips for enjoying edible flowers:
- Toss some into your baked goods to add color or use them to ornament desserts and entrees. (Check out this chamomile shortbread recipe).
- Float them in iced beverages to wow your guests.
- Enjoy them in salads.
- Day lilies make a good tempura and can be battered and fried, (and even stuffed), just like squash blossoms. They have a flavor mildly similar to asparagus.
Nutritional tips and fun food facts by Johnne Smalley of Towering Heights Farm
Asian cucumbers are mild, slender, deep green, and have a bumpy, ridged skin. They can be used for slicing, salads, pickling, etc. Dressed in a tangy vinaigrette, these are the ideal accompaniment to any fried or grilled dish.
Although corn contains carbohydrates, it is good for you. For starters, sweet corn is loaded with carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin which promote healthy vision. Corn is also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, and B vitamins. Corn contains very little fat, less than 1 gram per serving (without toppings), and is a good source of fiber, clocking in around 3 grams per half cup. The insoluble fiber in corn helps with weight loss plus feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which aids in digestion and helps keep you regular.
Sweet corn is a traditional summer food served around the world at family gatherings, community celebrations and backyard barbeques. Besides being “earrisistible”, here are some “corny” pieces of trivia about this grain.
- Corn was first grown by Native Americans more than 7,000 years ago in Central America.
- Sweet corn leaves were used as chewing gum by Native Americans.
- Corn is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
- Corn plants typically grow 7 – 10 feet tall. Sweet corn plants are several feet shorter.
- The tassel borne at the top of the stalk is the male part and the silk of the ear is the female part.
- The tassel releases millions of grains of pollen, and some of them are caught by the silk.
- There is one strand of silk for each kernel on a cob.
- On average there are about 800 kernels on an ear of corn.
- An ear of corn always has even number rows.
- One acre of land can produce 14,000 pounds of sweet corn.
- Depending upon the cultivar type, the crop may be ready for harvesting in 65-90 days.
- Corn is cholesterol free.
- Corn is a 100% whole grain.
- Corn is high in natural sugars/starches.
- One average ear of yellow sweet corn equals 86 calories.
- Sweet corn is a tasty and nutritious addition to any meal.
A nice small sausage with just the right amount of seasoning. These links need to be cooked, but because they are small, cooking doesn’t take long. They go great with fried potatoes and scrambled eggs or rolled in a crepe or biscuit dough as “pigs in a blanket”.
These beef links are made from 100% grassfed beef which have been raised on organic pastures without pesticides or herbicides. No hormones, antibiotics, or feed additives (other than free choice natural salt/minerals) have been fed. And because of the grass they eat, you are gaining these nutritional advantages:
- Less fat
- Fewer calories
- More omega-3 fatty acids (an essential fatty acid that lowers the risk of mental disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer)
- More conjugated linoleic acid or CLA (blocks tumor growth and breaks down fat in cells to be used as fuel by nearby muscle cells)
- More beta-carotene (a vitamin linked with a lower risk of cancer & cardiovascular disease)
This week’s meal plans are provided by Meg Wittnmeyer of Bifrost Farms
Meal #1 – Eggplant Parmigiana w/Warm Tomato Salad
1 large eggplant, or two small/med
2-3 T. grape seed oil or other high flashpoint oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
2 tsps Fairway Extra Virgin Olive Oil
pinch of red flake peppers or chopped hot pepper
1 cup combination of orange and red cherry tomatoes
small basil leaves
2 tbsps seasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsps Fairway Extra Virgin Olive Oil
small garlic cloves thinly sliced
NOTE: Can also use bottled vinaigrette of choice
Preheat your oven to 450°F.
Slice your eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, score your eggplant (make lines from top right to bottom left and then from top left to bottom right, creating a patchwork – don’t slice through!).
On a lined and Pam-sprayed baking sheet, drizzle grape seed oil (you can also use olive oil), covering both the front and back of the eggplant. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Lay the eggplants face down, skin side up on the baking sheet; place in the oven for 20 minutes until roasted.
Meanwhile, in a bowl combine breadcrumbs, grated cheese, pepper flakes, and grape seed or olive oil (I prefer olive oil here and grape seed oil on the eggplant). Mix with your hands until you have what feels like moist sand. Season with salt and pepper.
Halve your cherry and sun-gold tomatoes (or quarter, if they’re bigger), chifonade the basil (cut the basil into thin slices), and combine the tomatoes and basil in one bowl. Mix with seasoned rice vinegar, salt, and pepper.
In a small saucepan over the lowest heat possible, warm the extra virgin olive oil and thinly sliced garlic. The garlic will start to turn golden brown as the olive oil becomes infused.
Flip over the eggplants so the scored side is up; place the breadcrumb mixture on top and bake for another 5 minutes until golden-brown.
Once the eggplants come out of the oven, remove the warm garlic oil from the stove and add to the tomato salad. Drizzle the tomato mixture on top of the eggplant and serve. Optional: grate a little extra Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh basil on top!
Meal #2 – Summer Veggie and Chicken Salad
Dressing of choice
Grill, BBQ or cook chicken your preferred method.
Grill or boil corn and shuck from ears, and grill or roast peppers and chop.
Blanche beans in salt water for five minutes, drain and cool.
Slice cucumbers and zucchini (squash may also be grilled).
Use Rainbow Chard from your box or other greens to make salad bed, arrange all vegetables.
Shred the chicken and top the veggies with it, add dressing and crumble goat cheese over the top.
Serve with baked potato or garlic bread.
Thanks so much for reading! If you have any fun recipe ideas to share or tips for preserving the harvest, leave us a note in the comments!