summer

A no-cook recipe roundup (summer-in-Virginia edition)

Posted by Lisa on August 17, 2012
Frog Bottom Farm recommends, recipes, summer / 2 Comments

Last week at market I brainstormed with one of our CSA members about some no-cook ways to use up her vegetables – her kitchen is being renovated and she doesn’t have access to her stove or oven for more than a month! I joked that she’d chosen a good time of year for the renovation, since the bulk of summer vegetables can be eaten raw and taste wonderful with minimal fuss.

Even if you’ve got a stove these days, it’s probably not roasts and long braises you’re after in the middle of August! Some nights all we need is a bowl of tomatoes, a knife, and a shaker of salt. Maybe a couple melons for dessert. Other nights we’re a little more ambitious — but only a little. Read on for some ideas.

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Frog Bottom Farm No-Cook Recipes

And Some No-Cook Recipes from Elsewhere

belly lope

Nope, not pregnant again! This was from summer 2009.

Other ideas? What essentials are we forgetting? Any great no-cook discoveries in your kitchen this year?

It’s good to be busy.

Posted by Lisa on August 03, 2012
Frog Bottom Farm recommends, summer, the crew, the family, the farm / 2 Comments

Vegetables love the sun and so it’s no coincidence that during the year’s hottest weeks, we really begin to feel the heat as well. It’s good to be busy.

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Lately, we are …

spending lots of time taking water to the chickens and pigs :: eating as many tomatoes as possible (we love them on sandwiches with homemade mayo, slow-roasted and tossed into a frittata, braised with the summer’s first okra, in ratatouille, and eaten out of hand while our ALMOST! THREE! year old digs and digs and digs) :: washing eggs (more and more every week) :: eating outside almost every night (and putting our bug spray to work!) :: happily banging elbows around our ever-messy kitchen island on the nights when the mosquitoes are just too fierce :: honing our pie skills with peaches from our family tree and dreaming of a small orchard for the farm :: hoping it’s not too late to order this year’s batch of Cornish Rocks :: basking in the ease of several weeks now with no poison ivy rash :: absorbed in a new read :: feeling humbled, challenged, and reassured as we learn that even the children of farmers are particular and strong-willed eaters as they stretch and grow :: delighting in all the noises the pigs make, and in how fast they can move :: smiling as our market tables grow more bountiful each week :: watching the pollinators all around us and wishing we’d planted more sunflowers :: bookmarking lots of recipes :: digging just a little deeper in our knowledge of the wild edibles and medicinals on our farm, like purslane and chicory and plantain and chickweed and burdock, and feeling quite in awe of all we have yet to learn :: hoping hard for a bountiful crop of storage vegetables :: picking, washing, sorting, loading, delivering :: sleeping hard :: feeling grateful

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We would love to hear some of the things filling your midsummer days. Leave a note in the comments if you like!

(Turns out we did a similar photo-heavy post around this time last year. Have a look!)

We ♥ homemade mayo (a lot).

Posted by Lisa on July 12, 2012
eggs, recipes, summer, tomatoes / 1 Comment

It’s tomato time, people! We’ve been wolfing down tomato sandwiches over this last week like there’s no tomorrow. It’s really the only proper thing to do. To get everyone in the spirit, we’re reposting Ali’s recipe for homemade mayo. We haven’t bought the store stuff in years.  Give it a try!

Y’all, homemade mayonnaise is so easy, so cheap, and so delicious, you’re going to kick yourself for never having tried it before.

But don’t do that!  Just try making some.  We think you might never go back to store-bought.

This (plus a blender and about five minutes) is all you need:

mustard, canola oil, olive oil, lemons, salt, eggs

Convinced yet?

It’s good on everything.  Is there a more perfect midsummer lunch than a tomato sandwich on a couple slices of multigrain with some basil leaves and a few smears of fresh mayo?  You can add a fried egg or a couple slices of cheese but that’s gilding the lily.

And of course it’s fantastic on summer barbecue salads of all ilk: potato, egg, chicken, tuna.  Last week we made a potato salad with Yukon Gold potatoes, minced scallions, minced parsley, finely chopped sweet pepper, salt, pepper, and homemade mayo.

Quite often we smear it on half a hard-boiled egg for a mid-morning snack, or (ahem) even just sneak a fingerful from the jar.  Arlo loves it too!

Ali is the resident mayo maker around here.  He stresses that it’s a very forgiving recipe!  This is how he does it:

Whir together in the blender or food processor for a few seconds two eggs, some dried or jarred mustard, the juice of a lemon or a roughly equivalent amount of vinegar, and a bit of salt. Then, while still blending, add about 1 1/2 cups oil (usually equal parts extra virgin olive oil and a mild oil like canola) in a slow stream, and process until it reaches a consistency you like.  Add a bit more oil if it doesn’t seem thick enough.  You can also stir in more lemon juice, mustard, salt, or pepper at the end to taste.  Refrigerate and use within a week.

A few notes:

This recipe halves easily.

The eggs and oil emulsify best when the eggs are at room temperature.

We love adding flavor to the mayo: a bit of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce is our favorite, and fresh herbs or flavored vinegars are also very good.  Add garlic and it becomes aioli!  We add any extras with everything else in the beginning, before adding the oil.

If you’re so inclined, you can also make mayonnaise with a whisk and some elbow grease!  This will get you started.

You’ve seen the disclaimers on restaurant menus about raw and undercooked eggs and dairy, so here’s ours: raw eggs carry a small risk of salmonella contamination, so read up on the issue and decide whether you feel comfortable using them.  We do.  We use very fresh eggs from our own chickens and recommend that you seek out eggs from healthy pastured birds if at all possible — we sell them at market and also offer egg shares, if you’d like to use our eggs too.  Here are instructions for pasteurizing eggs at home should you want to do that.  Be sure to refrigerate your mayo immediately.

Fridge pickles

Posted by Lisa on July 04, 2012
CSA, cucumbers, preserving, putting food by, recipes, summer / 4 Comments

We’ve mentioned these pickles here before, but boy howdy, have we got some cucumbers for you this week. Wait until you see your CSA share. Wait until you see the market tables. If you love to pickle – or if you’ve been meaning to learn – now is the time!

We’ll share some other great approaches to pickling here soon, but we think these fridge pickles are a great way to begin. Maybe you’ve been curious about making your own pickles for a long time but feel a little intimidated. Or maybe you’re a seasoned pickler, staring at this week’s share, looking at the thermometer, thinking there is no way in heck you’re going to be doing any canning this week. Either way: hie thee to your kitchen! These are very fast, very easy, and very delicious.

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Fridge Pickles
adapted from dlyn

Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, we can’t stop reaching for these. Pour a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days … and voila! Pickles! They aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months in there — if they last that long. Makes 6 pints or 3 quarts.

For the brine:
2 quarts water
1 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt (kosher salt is also fine, but may result in cloudier pickle brine)

For the pickles:
Cucumbers, enough to fit snugly into your jars, washed well and sliced into spears
Garlic, 1-2 cloves per pint jar or 2-3 cloves per quart jar, smashed and peeled
Herbs (dill is classic; we also love thyme), 1-2 sprigs per pint jar or 2-4 sprigs per quart jar, rinsed well

Clean your jars thoroughly with soap and water. They do not need to be sterilized.

Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to be sure the salt dissolves completely. While the mixture is coming to a boil, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place a smashed garlic clove or two in the bottom of each jar. Add the sprigs of your chosen herb.

Fill the jar the rest of the way with cucumber spears. Really cram them in there — otherwise some spears will float above the brine when you add it, and this can lead to premature spoilage.

Add another smashed garlic clove to each jar — wedge it down between some cucumber spears so it won’t float when you add the brine.

Pour the simmering brine over the vegetables, being sure they are completely submerged. If your brine isn’t simmering, bring it back to a simmer before pouring it over the vegetables.

Put a lid on each jar.

Leave at room temperature for 2-3 days (less time when the weather is very hot, more when it’s cold) and then, if you can stand it, put them in the fridge for an additional 1-2 weeks.

We usually break into the first jar right away but give the rest of the jars the additional slow fridge fermentation before eating them.

 

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Squash (or zucchini) fritters!

Posted by Lisa on July 03, 2012
eggs, garlic, onions, recipes, squash, summer, zucchini / 2 Comments

As we ate these outside at the picnic table last night, in a spell of blessed cool after a quick little thunderstorm, I realized it was the fifth time we’d eaten them in under two weeks. I think that means they’re a winner. I think that means y’all need the recipe.

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There’s a very small amount of grating and chopping involved, but really these fritters could not be easier. You grate a summer squash or two – I’ve learned that yellow squash, zephyr, and pattypan work best for our family and for a certain particular two-year old right now, but zucchini fritters are particularly pretty. You squeeze the excess water out of the squash with a dishtowel or paper towels – this is the one picky step, but it only takes a minute, and having tried skipping this step, I think it’s worth doing. You chop an onion – mince it, if you’re living with the same two-year old. Then you mix it all up with some flour, some cornmeal, an egg, some cheese, some salt and pepper, and you shape them into patties, and then you pop them in the oven while you set the table.  Easy peasy!

A word on picky eaters: we have one. It’s been humbling. I thought because we have fields and countertops and a fridge and two freezers all full of delicious vegetables, that he’d take to them right away. And in his first six months of exploring solid foods, he did. But then he started having strong opinions, opinions like: white and brown foods like milk, yogurt, butter, bread, cheese, crackers, pasta, oatmeal, and eggs are really quite sufficient when it comes to one’s diet. And you know what? I want him to have opinions. I want him to be able to disagree with me. I want him to figure out what he loves and what he doesn’t love. I think he needs my guidance, but I also think he needs my patience and my trust … trust that he’ll survive toddlerhood just fine, trust that he is doing what most two-year olds since the dawn of two-year olds have done, trust that he is developing just as he should.

When I was pregnant I proclaimed I’d never “hide” vegetables in food, but I’m coming to realize it’s more complicated than that. In addition to all the independent toddler stuff going on, I think little people have a very acute sense of taste and texture. I think maybe we need to take it easy on them sometimes. And if that means choosing yellow squash over zucchini sometimes, or mincing the onions instead of chopping them – well, I can do that.

I’ll add that our son loves to help me make these. “Mama, I want to grate!” he says, and so he does, with some help. “Dad, I can break the egg,” he offers, and so he does, and pretty well at that! “Let me squoosh it up, Mama!” he demands, and so he does.

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And so we make fritters. Sometimes he eats them. Sometimes he just licks the ketchup off his plate. “Like a dog!” he says.

You should make them too.

Baked Squash (or Zucchini) Fritters with Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
adapted just a bit from The Yellow House

Kid-friendly! Quick! And easy too to make gluten-free – the flour in this recipe just serves as a binder, so replace it with your favorite gluten-free flour and you should be good to go. One friend replaces the flour with masa harina – that sounds really good to us! Also, while parmesan is particularly tasty in these, feel free to use another kind of cheese. We used mozzarella the first time we made these because that’s what was in the fridge, and they were still very good.

These are great with ketchup (our son’s favorite), a fried egg (my favorite), tzatziki, or the quick garlicky yogurt sauce below.

2 cups grated summer squash or zucchini, pressed between layers of a clean dishtowel or paper towels to absorb some of the water
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or other flour – see note above)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, toss the squash and onion with the flour, cornmeal, and cheese. Add the beaten egg and some salt and pepper, and mix until everything comes together. Use your hands if you like; it’s fun! It should have the consistency of meatloaf.

Using your hands, gently form the mixture into small balls (about 3 tablespoons of mixture for each fritter). Place them on the baking sheet and use your hand to flatten them into small patties about a half-inch thick.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. (If making the yogurt sauce below, make it now – this will give the flavors time to meld a bit.) Then broil for 2-3 minutes longer. The fritters should be a lovely golden color. Good warm or at room temperature. Serve with ketchup, fried eggs, tzatziki, or the garlicky yogurt sauce below.

Makes 6-8 fritters.

Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

3/4 cup yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste, and add more salt if you think it needs it. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes if possible to allow the flavors to meld.

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Tomato teaser

Posted by Lisa on June 12, 2012
summer, tomatoes / 1 Comment

The other night I left our little guy loading the market trucks with his dad and our crew and headed to our northernmost field with a spring in my step. It was time for dinner, and what’s more, it was time for TOMATOES.

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I’m sorry to taunt y’all like this. For lots of folks, tomatoes are IT – the thing you wait for through three agonizing seasons, the reason you joined a CSA, the summertime siren song that wakes you from your sweet Saturday morning slumber and gets you out the door and to market. Local tomatoes really are that good … but you can’t have any, not just yet.

But soon! We decided to gamble this spring by planting a small early generation of tomatoes and covering the young seedlings with floating row cover. This row cover can protect the plants from light frosts but certainly not a hard freeze. And hard freezes are not uncommon, even in late spring. But you probably recall that spring 2012 was unusually warm. Our plants survived! And now the rows are filled with hard green fruits — so much promise! And the mighty little cherry tomatoes are just beginning to ripen.

What you see above are Sunsugars. They’re incredible. They are also very, very vigorous and prolific. We were pretty set in our “No way are we growing and picking cherry tomatoes! We’ll be picking them until the middle of the night! We won’t have time to irrigate, or to pick squash, or to squoosh potato beetles, or to plant the rest of the tomatoes, or to deliver the CSA shares, or…” ways – until we tasted these. And then it just didn’t seem right not to share them.

Since they’ve just started producing, there aren’t enough for the CSA or market quite yet. But it won’t be long now.

What about you? What vegetable or season in the farm year do you most look forward to?

In the meantime (photos from late summer and early autumn)

It’s been way too long since we posted here. We hope to get some good stuff up quite soon. In the meantime, have a peek – or a long leisurely look, really! – at late summer and early autumn here at Frog Bottom. Click on any photo to see it bigger, if you like.

A sip to drink

Maternal instinct

Green stuff for the fall

Okra

Happy pollinator

Squash pick

Potluck tents

Farm tour

Meeting and feeding the pigs

Layers on pasture

How to hold a chicken

Eat these eggs!

Cabbage and crew

Washing kale

Beets to the truck

Coming soon: Soup! A cookbook giveaway! Our plans for 2012! Thanks for your patience.

Weekend Links (on a weekend!)

beet seedlings

We’re still mad for summer vegetables, but these tiny beet seedlings in the greenhouse also have us daydreaming about early fall.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

It’s a Can-a-Rama! The folks at Canning Across America hope you’ll keep the momentum from National Can-It-Forward Day going all week long with home canning parties.

Simple Bites has a slew of great posts on food preserving. Canning 101: The Basics is a great place to start.

We’ve been on a lacto-fermentation kick here in the Frog Bottom kitchen – lately, with vegetables.  Famous lacto-fermented foods include yogurt, sourdough, sauerkraut, and kimchi.  Lacto-fermented vegetables use a simple brine of water and salt (and sometimes whey) – no vinegar – to encourage good bacteria to preserve the food.  We may write more about this at some point, so for now I’ll just say I love how fast and easy this is! A few minutes chopping, a few minutes stuffing a jar, and then just a few days of waiting for all that good bacteria to do its work.  No giant pots of boiling water, no hours at the stove – the salsa you see below took me about 20 minutes to prepare, and that was mainly because of all the chopping.  Cucumber pickles and okra pickles each took under 10 minutes.  Read a bit more, and find the salsa recipe we used, at Lacto-Fermentation: an Easier, Healthier, and More Sustainable Way to Preserve.

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Check out this fun infographic on home gardening!

Tired of pesto and Caprese salads? Wait — not possible.  But, we think you should try these basil cookies anyway.

Here are five awesome tomato soup recipes.  Make ‘em now or freeze some of the incredible tomato bounty and try them when the first fall chill creeps in.

(Did you know freezing tomatoes can be as simple as waiting until they’re dead ripe and then throwing them whole into a Ziploc bag and stashing them in the freezer? A quick blanching/peeling/seeding will make them a bit easier to work with come thawing time, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, seriously, just throw them into the freezer whole.)

From the pen and kitchen of the ever-reliable Mark Bittman: 101 Simple Salads for the Season.  More fantastic and fast summer fare!

Umm, how fun does Lucky Peach look? It’s a new food journal published by the McSweeney’s folks. Have a look here.

And finally, we loved this essay about processing peaches and the way the long slog through a bushel of seconds can be a kind of meditation.

More to come later in the week! We’ve heard from a number of you that you need some help with okra, and with the mad bounty of eggplant, so that’s where we’ll start.

planting mei qing choi

later, ladies

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Weekend Links is a regular feature here on the farm blog: a weekly(ish) list of articles, recipes, and other resources that have been inspiring and amusing us of late. A tasty smorgasbord for brain and belly!

(These were nearly) Weekend Links

Eggplant pick

Heather picks okra while some of the new chickens have a look.

Our fields and fridge are full of vegetables – and eggs! – and we’re feeling mighty inspired these days!  Just a taste of what we’ve been reading and cooking:

Did you know this coming Saturday, August 13, is the first annual National Can-It-Forward Day? The folks at Canning Across America, along with Jarden Home Brands (they’re the ones who make Ball jars and other canning products), are encouraging everyone to gather with family and friends at home canning parties to learn the basics of canning.  One of the coolest resources they’re offering is a day-long live stream of several how-to canning demos (mixed berry jam, kosher dills, tomatoes in their own juice, more!) happening at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  See the live stream schedule and find the link here.

The August 2011 Bon Appétit had a fun article about an LA canning party. The recipes for dilly beans, pickled beets with star anise, tomato jam, and zucchini dill pickles are all on our list to try this summer!

And this recipe for onion jam has been tempting us for weeks.  Just onions, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and butter!  I could do that today!  We think it would be especially delicious on pizza, topped with just about anything else that’s in season right now.

(We should point out the turn-the-jar-upside-down method of sealing is no longer recommended; we’ll probably just make one jar for the fridge and another for the freezer, but here are two good resources for safe canning guidelines.)

We’ve made this heavenly tomato & cheddar pie twice in as many weeks. It does require a little planning: the biscuit dough for the crust needs to chill for an hour, and the tomatoes need to drain for 30 minutes.  But otherwise it comes together quite easily.  And the crust is quite forgiving.  The second time we made it we didn’t use quite enough flour, and the dough seemed a sticky and hopeless mess as we eased it into the pie pan.  But it baked up beautifully, and didn’t get soggy even after a day in the fridge.   And seriously: tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheese, biscuit crust? Do we need to say more?  Make it! Any of the tomatoes you’ve been getting in your shares or at market will work great.

We haven’t tried it yet, but CSA members Yajaira and Domenick independently told us we also had to make this heirloom tomato pie.

And while we’re on the subject of tomatoes: how delicious does Tyler Florence’s Roasted Tomato Soup look?  Thanks to CSA member Tracy for this one.

We’re longtime fans of Mark Bittman.  We pull his How to Cook Everything down from the kitchen bookshelf at least weekly, often more.  The How to Cook Everything app is pretty great too!  For close to fifteen years he wrote a cooking column for the New York Times called The Minimalist.  We’ll admit to feeling a twinge of disappointment this winter when he decided to write less about cooking and more about food politics.  Certainly the systems of food production and distribution in this country are damaged, and we appreciate compelling writing from folks who can help us think about how we might begin to fix things.  But there are many people writing eloquently about these issues; fewer writers have Bittman’s skill for making home cooking seem simple, fun, and approachable.  So we were really delighted by one recent op-ed: “Make Food Choices Simple: Cook.”  In it, he argues we should cook more and eat out less – because it’s cheaper, because we have more control where the food comes from, and because it tastes better.  He writes:

When I cook, though, everything seems to go right. I shop an average of every two weeks in a supermarket, and make a couple of trips a week to smaller stores. I’m aware that my choices are mostly imperfect, but I rarely conclude that I should make a burger and fries for dinner or provide a pound per person of prison-raised pork served with fruit from 10,000 miles away, followed by a cake full of sugar and artificial ingredients. Yet, for the most part, that describes restaurant food.

Also fantastic?  “101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less,” a Minimalist column from 2007.  Loaded with awesome ideas for no-fuss summer cooking.

Oh! We’ve posted our favorite ratatouille recipe before, but it bears reminding — early August is definitely ratatouille time in Central Virginia!

That does it for this week!  We’ll be back this weekend with more tasty links.  And we hope to post later this week about two delicious vegetables that we know can be intimidating: okra and eggplant.

We’ll wrap things up with some more recent images from the farm. (Click on any to see ’em big!)

Howdy

Curing onions

Bean blossom

Planting collards and kale

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Still no name

Harvesting okra

Nest boxes

Okra blossom

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Weekend Links is a (soon-to-be!) regular feature here on the farm blog: a weekly(ish) list of articles, recipes, and other resources that have been inspiring and amusing us of late. A tasty smorgasbord for brain and belly!

It happens every year

Posted by Lisa on July 29, 2011
autumn, broccoli, cabbage, collards, CSA, greenhouse, greens, kale, summer, the crew, the farm / Comments Off on It happens every year

planting collards
On days like this one, when our shirts are soaked through by 9am, it’s a real challenge to remember what it feels like to pull on socks, to see our breath in the morning air while we pick cabbage, to frost-proof the outdoor spigots before going to bed.

But it happens every year, and yesterday we started preparing. It was a long, hot, deeply satisfying afternoon: Ali and the crew filled thirty-two 300-foot rows with 2000 collard plants, 3000 kale plants, and 4000 broccoli plants.  As the sun dipped below the horizon we watered them well, to prepare them for today’s triple digits.  Tomorrow: 3000 cabbage plants.

We’ll do it all again in late August for generation two.

We’ll tend to them all with sweat and care, and we hope all these numbers translate into bountiful autumn CSA shares and market tables, with enough remaining for a possible winter CSA or winter market.

Ali often remarks that getting in a full planting is one of the most exciting things that happens on the farm. You start with long expanses of bare ground, a greenhouse full of seedlings, and a hefty dose of determination. You spend a whole bunch of hours moving back and forth, back and forth, planting, sweating, joking, planting, stopping for water, planting some more.  And then you slowly uncurl and stretch your back and shoulders and there it is in the setting sun: a field full of promise.