Thursday, June 25, 2009

Overflow

Over the past week, the summer has arrived, and for once New England seems in line with whatever powers set the markers for those kinds of moments. Remember when I was writing about the few and far between little local treasures? When I scanned the garden and the grocery store for whatever might be in? I didn’t get all the way through the first veggie CSA share before the second came in, then yesterday our local farmer’s market opened, and my garden is starting to offer some serious pickins: lettuce by the bagfull, parsley and cilantro and all of the herbs in nice volume, and flowers all over the pea plants.

I vaguely remember all those posts I made in the winter about wishing I had canned and frozen more, but how do I convince myself to buy more when my fridge is already overflowing? How much will I really use over the winter? What’s best to freeze and how? I’m sure I could find good sources offering meal planning, freezing, and canning advice. I’ll check any links or references that are sent my way, but I spend a great majority of my working hours doing research—kitchen and garden time are where I just dig in, follow my instincts without finding supporting material for the footnote, and enjoy the mess along the way as much as the tidy packages at the end.

Yesterday, I used parsley and mint from my herb garden
to replicate a magnificent tabouli salad I had at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Jamaica a few weeks ago. This serves four as a main dish.

2/3 cup couscous
1 1/3 cup water
2 large bunches parsley (about 4 cups freshly picked)
About 6 3-inch mint sprigs
2 cucumbers
1 can of garbanzo beans
6 green onions
Juice of 8 limes
Salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil

Bring the water to a boil, then remove from stove, add couscous, cover, and let sit while you chop the veggies (about 15 minutes). Finely chop the parsley and mint, thinly slice the green onions, and peel and cut the cucumber into garbanzo-sized squares. Use a fork to fluff the couscous, then toss everything together in a large bowl. It tastes quite good right away, and even better after a few hours, even overnight, in the fridge.

My mom and her friend Pam used the spinach in a wonderful spinach salad that served four for lunch

1 pound fresh spinach
1/4 pound bacon
6 oz blue cheese
2 cups snap peas
1 cup strawberries

The bacon was from the farmer’s market, nice and chunky but with a lot of fat. Pam carefully cut off the big pieces of fat, then sautéed the bacon, removed it from the pan with a slotted spoon and let it drain on a few paper towels. Meanwhile, my mom washed the spinach, cut the snap peas into ½-inch pieces, and roughly sliced the strawberries. Then they tossed everything together, leaving the spinach leaves whole and crumbling the blue cheese over the top. Finally, they drizzled a vinaigrette over the top.

At the CSA last week and this, we have gotten beets and turnips and kohlrabi with wonderful greens. The greens sauté up just like kale or collard, but we’ve also been getting so very much lettuce that I’m quite uninterested in sautéed greens at the moment. So I undertook my first act of putting things aside for the winter.

Blanching and Freezing Greens
This works for the greens from any root vegetable as well as for spinach, kale, collard, and the like.
Bring a large pot of water to boil.
I love mixing different kinds of greens together for a complex, ever-changing side of sautéed greens. This has the added advantage of letting you pile together whatever you happen to have that week rather than needing to save up till you have enough of something for a full side, but purists can of course separate out. Wash the greens, if they have very hard stems that reach up the leaf, you can cut out the stems (the kohlrabi did this week), and roughly chop. If some of the greens are more tender than others (the turnips and spinach, this week), set them aside. Once the water is at a rapid boil, drop the greens in. Give more sturdy greens 2-3 minutes, then add in more tender greens for about 1 more minute at the end. A big pot of water takes about 6 cups of chopped greens at once, so if you have more work in batches. Drain into a colander or scoop out with a slotted spoon and set into a colander to drain. Save the green water and make a stock next. Let the greens drain well and cool, then drop them into freezer bags. They should keep 3-6 months in a chest freezer. We’ll give recipes for how to use them in the fall and winter!