Archive for August, 2011

August 27, 2011

Dry Beans: We win! (a little)

So, here are the results of our August 8th drying beans experiment:

We have some dry beans.  Admittedly, we probably only got 1/2-2/3 of what we dried, the rest was weird.  But here they are.  Now we just need to see how they taste in the winter.

August 27, 2011

Veggie List August 27

A combined list from market and CSA (and joy) (and abundance):

French string beans
Red bell peppers
Fingerling potatoes
Cipolini onions
Sweet Corn

To be clear, we’re not going to manage to eat all of this in the next few days.  Most of it we got last week in CSA and a little we got today at market.  Now we’ve got to the time of year when we can just plan a meal, picka  recipe, and find whatever we need for it when we want it. Hurray!

August 25, 2011

Experiments with Side Dishes

As a way to eat more of our veggies, we’re trying out making side dishes every now and then.  It feels weirdly grown up.  But maybe once you have a car and pay rent every month and have bills you pay and jobs and can tomatoes, you also cook and eat healthy side dishes.

I guess the real challenge is, can you guess which is the side dish – the butter steamed green beans (well, purple beans) or the chickpea and tomato stew?  The answer is the beans.  We’ve been cooking our green beans in a delicious and simple way:  wash them, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the beans.  For one of these we also added some broccoli.  Add a few tablespoons of water and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

And of course, the lovely thing about using purple beans is watching they turn green as you cook them.  If you can get them off the heat while they’re still a little undercooked and crunchy you can enjoy them warm and multi-colored:

As for the chickpeas: 1 can chickpeas, 1 pint of cherry tomatoes cut in half, 1/2 a white onion cut into small squares, 3-4 cloves garlic.  Cook all of these together in a sauce pan and season with a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

August 25, 2011

Departure of the Closet Dweller (and canning tomatoes)

At last the sad day has come (and gone by now) and our dear closet dweller has moved out of her garret.  Not only that, but she has left the state entirely and moved on to more populace places.  We miss her every night.

And we manically fill the time with projects.  In the past seven days since her leaving, we have re-organized the kitchen, re-arranged the living room, re-categorized our books, moved various pieces of furniture, conquered the long-standing Box Mountain from when we moved here a year ago, and most importantly, canned lots of tomatoes.  I think it’s fair to say that the canning has been a welcome distraction from the odd quietness at the edges of our little apartment.  When three people share a three-room apartment for this long, it takes some adjusting to get used to the space being used by only two.  In addition we’ve been working on our winter’s frozen food supply over the last week:  we now have cilantro, peppers, and parsley put away for the winter as well as the tomato extravaganza, which is mostly what I’m here to talk about.  Well that and a goodbye to the Closet Dweller.

What you need:

Lots of clean bowls and counter-tops
White vinegar
Lots and lots of tomato seconds, or nice tomatoes if you want to spring for them
Clean mason jars
New lids with bands.  Canning lids can seal only once, so make sure they are new.
1 pair of canning tongs
1 wide-mouth funnel.  It really is worth it.
A pot large enough to cover your jars in at least 1-2 inches of water without spilling over and putting out your pilot light. (In fact, a water bath canner is really probably worth it.  It costs about $25 and comes with a rack to hold the jars).

It’s important to stay really clean about everything.  Work with a clean kitchen, wash everything very well before using it, and wash your hands often.

The whole processes goes like this:









1. Bring home a huge box of tomato seconds from the farm.

2. Spend a day or two cleaning and chopping and sorting.  Cut off any parts that seem even slightly suspect.

3. Cook the tomatoes for 1-5 hours depending on how many pieces of furniture you are moving at the same time.  You want the volume to reduce somewhat, or a lot.  Cooking the tomatoes for about 3 hours, you get a ration sort of like this: for every two cups of fresh tomatoes, about 1 1/2 cups canned.

4. Wash mason jars, lids, and  bands in hot soapy water.  Set aside for sterilizing.  Also wash your wide mouth funnel and tongs and any other tools you might find yourself using.  If you have hotdog tongs (which we don’t) they are very helpful, wash them too.

5. Fill the canning pot with water and put on high heat to boil.  Once the water is boiling, lower the clean and empty jars, lids, and bands into the water, cover, and boil for 10 minutes.  This is the sterilize them.  You can also boil your funnel, canning tongs, and hotdog tongs.

6. Meanwhile, turn the heat up on your tomatoes so they are close to a boil.

7. After the jars have been sterilized, lift one of them out of the water, pouring out the water from the inside.

8. Use the wide mouth funnel to fill the jar, leaving 1 inch of headroom.  Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar per pint jar to raise the acidity and help preserve it..

9.  Carefully wipe the rim and threads of the jar so there is no tomato outside the jar at all.  Now go back to you pot of boiling water with jars, lids, and bands.  Lift out a lid and carefully place it on top of the jar.  Get a band and screw it on, again, carefully.  You don’t need to tighten too much, but you don’t want it to be loose.

10. Repeat this process until you have as many jars full of tomato as you can fit in your canner at a time.  Using the tongs, lower the jars back into the boiling water, again, making sure that the water covers them by 1-2 inches.

11. Bring the pot back to a boil with all the jars in it.  Boil the jars for 10 minutes, starting after the pot has reached a full boil.

12.  When the ten minutes of boiling are up, lift the jars one by one from the canner, being sure not to tilt them to on their sides.  Set them down and listen carefully for the pops of the lids sealing.  A jar is only safe if the lid pops.

Keep the jars out of light.  Store in the dark emptiness of where your Closet Dweller used to live (or in a cabinet).

August 14, 2011

Bottom of the Week Stew/Stir Fry

So, it’s Sunday evening, and we’re hungry, and we’ve eaten all the meals we planned out.  So, this:
1 red onion, chopped medium-small
1/2 white onion, chopped medium-small
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, chopped small
1 eggplant, cubed
5 small carrots, cut into coins
1/2 small head red cabbage
1 handful fresh cilantro


Tomato Cilantro sauce (yes, we did cheat with this one, it’s a lovely Indian tomato and cilantro sauce.)

1. Cook the onion,s garlic, and leek, for 5 minutes with pepper and olive oil on medium-low heat.

2. Add the carrots, tomatoes, and  eggplant, turn down the heat a little.  Add a tablespoon of the tomato cilantro sauce.  Cook for 10 minutes.

3. Add the cabbage, cover, cook for 10 minutes or until everything is cooked.

4. Add a few more spoonfuls of the tomato cilantro sauce.  Stir in the fresh cilantro and let sit, covered, off heat for 5-10 minutes.

Eat with yogurt and bread or rice.  We baked some bread (I know it may not sound like a quick dinner when it involves making fresh bread, but we had our no-knead bread dough in the oven, so it was easy to pull some out)

August 11, 2011

Salad with a ton of veggies and beans (kind of like taco salad)

If you’ve got a lot of veggies in the fridge, or you want a chance to enjoy the maximum number of fresh veggies in one meal, try this awesome salad.  It really is an efficient and delicious way to eat a lot of different veggies.  Maybe it’s sad to think about food in terms of how to efficiently eat a lot of veggies, but really, when you get down to it, and when you have as many excess veggies as we do just now with the CSA, it’s a good way to come up with creative ways to eat your food and enjoy it.  Really, I promise.  And, in fact, since it’s summer, this is the time to eat excesses of certain veggies and to cram as many as possible into each mean.  In six months we’ll be eating onions, potatoes, and mushrooms every other meal.

1 can black beans, rinsed
1 small-midsized red onion, chopped
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1/3-1/2 a jalapeno pepper, minced
4 small carrots, grated
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut from cob but uncooked
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
2-3 tablespoons salsa
olive oil
1/2-3/4 lb romaine lettuce, about 1/2 a head, chopped
salt & pepper

1. Put all the veggies and most of the cilantro in a pan with the salsa and a small amount of olive oil.  Add some salt and pepper

2. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions and garlic start to soften and the tomatoes fall apart.

3.  Add the can of black beans and stir to mix.  Turn heat down low and cook for 10-15 minutes on very low heat, stirring frequently.

4. Meanwhile wash and cut the lettuce.  You can use any kind you like, but romaine is best.

5. Pour the beans and veggies over the lettuce and add the last of the cilantro, mixing.  Eat immediately.  Top with grated cheese if you like.  I like it, but not everyone does and there is, admittedly, a lot going on with this salad already.


August 9, 2011

Veggie List August 9



This picture more or less says it all.  In here we have:

Sauce tomatoes
Slicing tomatoes
Salad greens
Garlic (cured!)
Red cabbage

August 9, 2011

Beet salad with goat cheese & green beans

This salad is complicated, but worth the trouble.  Not only was it completely delicious, it felt pretty righteous what with the amaranth, beets, beans, and greens.

So, you kind of have to do this one in steps but here are all the ingredients:

  • 5 medium/small beets, grated
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped small
  • 1 leek, white part only, minced
  • 2 cups green beans, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped small
  • a mixture of salad greens, arugula, and amaranth greens.
  • goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • walnuts (optional)

Amaranth is actually the same plant as pigweed, a common farm weed. Cultivated amaranth is yummy and fairly spinach-like. It is nutrient dense and a nice purple and green color. It's also sometimes called Chinese spinach.

So, first, combine the grated beets with the leek and onion in a baking dish with a teaspoon of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 for about 25 minutes.  Check and stir every so often.

Meanwhile, clean and prep the green beans and garlic.  Melt a tablespoon of butter and 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a frying pan with a light sprinkle of dried oregano, salt, and pepper.  Add the garlic and cook on low heat until it starts to turn transparent.  Add the green beans and stir constantly on slightly higher heat.  after five minutes add a few handfuls of water (probably 2-2 1/2 tablespoons) of water.  Stir to combine then turn the heat down a little bit and cover so the beans will steam.  It should take about seven minutes, stirring every few minutes.  Be sure the garlic and olive oil mix doesn’t burn-check often.

Combine all your wonderful salad greens in a big bowl.  You can splash a little balsamic vinegar on them if you like.

Now, the green beans and the beets should both be done.  Either combine them with the salad greens in the larger bowl, or mix them in your bowl individually.  Top with crumbled goat cheese and crushed walnuts.

In the end: wonderful slightly warm beets and green beans on salad with walnuts and goat cheese

in the beginning: grated beets waiting for onions and leeks

August 8, 2011

Dry beans!

(or at least we hope they will be).

Today, I brought home from the farm a nice big bag of beans.  They were pretty nasty looking and I’ve spared you all a picture of them. Instead, a few brief and descriptive words: shriveled, brown, pink, and white, molded, slightly damp, and crusty.  But, inside these weird looking semi-dry bean pods were these lovely lovely beans.  When you leave shell beans on the bush too long they mature and dry right there on the plant.  Then you just pop the beans out of the shells and let them finish drying.  When they are fully dry, they’re just like other dry beans.  So, we sat down and shelled the whole bag and laid them out in this basket to dry.  The hope is this: if they get enough even and free air circulation and dry well, we’ll have at jar or two or our very own home-dried beans.

They should last well for the winter and won’t take up freezer space.  Of course, the downside is that we will need to get better about actually using the dry beans, but at least we’ll have them.  And it’s worth having some variety for the winter.

August 2, 2011

Turning the Corner

So here we are, the first week of August, and finally, finally, the summer bounty is in.  In the last week or so we finally turned the corner from green garlic back to cured garlic; we picked parsley from our own potted plant; we ate fresh tomatoes from the farm where we have a CSA.  There is fresh, not frozen, corn in our fridge.

  The past few weeks have been something of a blur here with unexpected family commitments taking us out of town three weekends in a row.  It seems like July was  utterly lost to us and before I had realized it, August had come.  And with it, all the summer goodness we waited the winter for.  Today, our veggie list is really something to marvel at:

Tomatoes & cherry tomatoes
Jalapeno peppers
Red and white onions
Amaranth greens

It is also nearly a year since we moved to this area: this time last year, living further south, I had already frozen most of the peppers, corn, kale, and zucchini that got us through the winter.  And here we are again, ready to start freezing for next winter.  We’ve already got some pesto and peas.  Next to come is corn, peppers, zucchini, kale, and more.  As always, the year turns around and we face again the seasons and tasks of the year before.  There is something gratifying in turning this corner.  We not only made it through the winter, we’re back to freezing for next year, while enjoying the fruits and veggies of the summer.  We’ve moved from the hopeful looking-forward of green garlic to the real thing, the cured garlic which, when stored well, can last up to eight months.