Here’s the longer version of a little guest post I did for the Tucson CSA newsletter for their “A Week At My Table” segment, where CSA members describe how they’ve used their veggies through the week.
From other parts of the country you read phrases like “as the temperature drops”, “packing away my flip-flops” and “now that summer is at an end.” Well, here we’re still in the throes of what most people call Summer and it’ll still be a while before we start indulging in winter squash and (be still my beating heart) mountains of greens. But as we wait for our temperatures to drop, the Tucson sun is giving us lots of seasonal produce to whet our palates now.
Squash – Well, sure of course there’s gonna be squash. But we don’t often get these absolutely adorable baby pattypan squash. They came in a variety pack this time – green globes, grey-green flying saucers, striped ridged tutus. They were almost a shame to eat. Almost. I gazed at them lovingly and then took a knife and carved them into eighths. My favorite thing to do with summer squash is my favorite thing to do with most vegetables: roast them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Since they were so young, they didn’t take too long and their skins were oh-so-brown and carmelized – just delectable with marinated chicken breasts cooked in foil pouches in the same oven.
Basil – No matter how much people might complain about our hot summers, at least we get basil! It’s easy to grow, and when you get even more in your CSA of course you make (all together now) PESTO! But my lesson this year was how flexible the classic recipe is – this time I used walnuts instead of pine nuts and a mix of lime and lemon. I also added more and more olive oil until I had a luscious pesto salad dressing. Which goes on … everything.
Red LaSoda potatoes – These are regular visitors to our CSA bounty so I’m sure you probably know that they’re waxy and better suited to boiling for a potato salad or added to soup (the key here being lotsa liquid). But I was roasting a chicken and if I have potatoes on hand, I can’t help it, they end up in the pot with the chicken. Now normally when you put these babies in the oven, they can get kinda chalky and don’t crisp up like a Yukon Gold. But if you make sure these potatoes are immersed or basted in the chicken drippings, these suckers will sop ’em up and oh-my-goodness – it works.
Lemon cucumbers – I have never seen these anywhere but in our CSA. You would never guess they were cucumbers – though they’re not as sweet as the usual English or Persian varieties. But I like to peel them, seed them, chop them up and let them sit in something acidic (usually lime or lemon juice with some salt and pepper) before adding them to a salad. They have cooling properties we can appreciate this time of the year so I’m always happy to see them.
Black beans + roasted bell peppers + onions – My mother’s from Cuba so I know from black beans. And instead of roasted chilies we got roasted bell peppers! Which means I had most of what I needed for my grandmother’s black bean recipe. In that recipe, you usually soak the beans with a cut up bell peppers – but our black beans came with a dried red chili. So I went with a slightly Mexicanized version. The Cuban way to serve is with some red wine vinegar, olive oil and chopped onions. But cilantro works, too. Que sabroso!
Pistachios – This was really cool – pistachios straight from the tree! I’d never seen them before and was fascinated by all their many layers. The following pictures show them in three states – after harvest, as they’re peeled, and the nuts in their naked little glory:
The CSA newsletter gave us good instructions for using them. I’m sad to report I haven’t roasted them yet (where did the week go!) but I *did* peel them when I first got home and spread them out to dry. There was something so satisfying about pinching the velvety pelt and seeing that familiar pistachio bud emerge that peeling them was actually soothing. Now I want a pistachio tree!
Here’s to that first whiff of cool autumn breezes.