Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

CSA Tip—Using Up Those Brussels Sprout Greens

If you are like me, you have never seen or heard of Brussels sprout greens before.  Who would have ever thought that the greens growing out of those funny-looking sprout stalks are edible!  Yet, not only are they edible, they are delicious!
Brussels sprout greens are a sturdy green that are most frequently compared to collards.  I find them a little more tender than collards but with a mild, faintly cabbage-y flavor not unlike collards or kale.  The only problem I have with these wonderful greens is that you don’t get much to a bunch and greens wilt down so much when cooked.  So I came up with a delicious way to stretch them out by combining them with canned black-eyed peas (see recipe below).
Another way to “stretch” these greens is to combine them with other cooking greens.  Just remember that they will need to cook a little longer than tender greens like spinach or chard (cooking time is more similar to kale leaves).  Or if you need to stretch them out over a longer period, blanch them and add them to other greens as you get them.  They will keep 4-5 days blanched, or can be blanched and frozen for even later use.
As for stems, Brussels sprout stems definitely seem more tender than collard stems.  I cut off the bottom half of the stem (which I will use for veggie broth) and chopped up the rest, including the rib, with the leaves.  I had no problem with them stems getting tender when cooked.

 Featured Item—Heirloom Tomatoes

There is much more to tomatoes than your typical red beefsteak.  Don’t get me wrong; I love the red, juicy tomatoes we have been treated to this year.  But the heirloom varieties that are coming out this week are truly special.  They are often whimsically shaped, boldly colored from mahogany/black to creamy ivory, and are filled with a rich, complex and sometimes fruity taste.
Heirloom tomatoes are basically those varieties whose seeds have been passed down over many years, sometimes as much as a century. They are generally considered to be more delicate and flavorful than traditional types, although that may be a matter of opinion.
Each heirloom variety has its own unique taste and texture. However according to Billy Best in Appalachian Heritage, as color varies, so does acidity and sugar levels. Generally, red varieties are more acidic with more bite, whereas yellow types often have more sugar content and can taste sweeter. Other colors (like black or pink) will have varying levels of acidity and sweetness. BillyBest
Throughout this year’s distribution season we will be able to sample the following heirloom varieties…
Cherokee Green—beefsteak shaped and green or sometimes even orangish with occasional striping when ripe.  Described as “bold”, “complex” and moderately “acidic”.

 

Cherokee Purple –a variant of Cherokee Green, this tomato is also beefsteak-shaped but turns a dusty rose to purplish/red to even a blackish hue when ripe.  It is often described as “dense”, “complex”, somewhat “smoky”, “juicy”, and “sweet”.

 

Japanese Black Trifele—uniquely pear shaped, mahogany to black-colored when ripe.  Often keeps greenish shoulders.  Described as “rich” and “complex”.

 

Zapotec—Pinkish/red with beautiful “fluted” or “pleated” edges that make for lovely slices.  Also contains thick, sturdy walls that make this tomato a great choice for stuffing or grilling.

 

Great White—beefsteak-shaped, ivory to golden color when ripe.  Described as “smooth”, “creamy”, and even “fruity”.

 

Heirloom tomatoes can be prepared like any other type of tomato, but their unique qualities make them great in raw preparations where their colors and shapes can really shine. Showcase them sliced on a platter with salt and pepper and maybe a drizzle of a good olive oil. Try them in your favorite salad or sandwich. One of my favorite snacks is an open-faced sandwich of whole-wheat toast spread with hummus and topped with ripe sliced heirloom tomato.
To store and ripen tomatoes, keep them at room temperature out of direct sunlight (which will soften them). Placing tomatoes in a closed paper bag for a few days can hasten the ripening process. However, once ripe or cut, tomatoes need to be eaten or preserved quickly. Tomatoes should never be refrigerated, as this tends to make them mushy and unappealing.
Many sources I consulted claim that heirloom tomatoes make great sauces and soups.  Again treat them like you would any regular beefsteak tomato.  For information on preserving, freezing, seeding, and peeling tomatoes, see last year’s tomato post (Tomatoes).
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This dish makes a great side dish but is also hearty enough for a meal (just add a slice of garlic bread or a salad).
Use more or less jalapeno, depending upon the heat of your chili or family’s preference.  If you can’t find canned black-eyed peas, you can use

canellini beans instead.

Brussels Sprout Greens w/ Black Eyed Peas         serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS:
– 2 slices center cut bacon, minced
– 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 cup minced onion
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/2 jalapeno, minced
– 1-bunch brussel sprout greens, bottom half of stem trimmed, cut into bite-sized pieces
– 3 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
– 1 15.5 ounce can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
– 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
– salt and pepper to taste
METHOD:
In a medium pot, cook bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Add two teaspoons olive oil to bacon fat in pan.  Place on medium-low heat.  Add onion, garlic, and jalapeño.  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add greens and broth and stir well.  Cover pot and cook for 8 minutes.  (Depending upon the amount of greens you have, you may need to add more broth to keep the greens from sticking as they cook…but add just enough to keep them from sticking).  Add beans and bacon and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, or until beans are warmed through.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cider vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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This is a very easy, fresh tasting pasta dish.  The only thing you have to cook is the pasta!

Fresh Heirloom Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Pasta          Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:
– 2 1/4 pounds Mixed Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, crushed
– 1/3 cup minced fresh basil
– 3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
– 8 ounces Mini Mozzarella balls, chopped into halves or quarters (optional)
– 1-pound Whole Wheat Fusilli
– Freshly grated Parmesan, optional
METHOD:
1. Place tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt, and mozzarella in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Allow to sit for at least 1/2 hour for juices to release and flavor to develop.
2. Meanwhile, place a large pot of well-salted water to boil over medium-high heat.  Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  Drain pasta.  Return pasta to pot and add sauce.  Toss well to coat.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, or until pasta absorbs some of the liquid of the sauce.  Serve at room temperature.  Sprinkle with Parmesan just before serving.
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This dish is just as lovely made into a layered salad with whole pieces of basil and large slices of blue cheese (like your typical layered tomato, basil and mozzarella salad).  I love it this way, with chopped components, to really spread out the flavor.

Heirloom Tomato Salad w/ Blue Cheese         Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:
– 3-4 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
– Good quality extra virgin olive oil
– Good quality balsamic vinegar
– Sea salt
– 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
– 4 ounces crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese
METHOD:
Layer tomatoes on a large platter so that they are partially overlapping.  Sprinkle generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle with sea salt and then basil.  Top evenly with crumbled blue cheese.  Serve at room temperature.

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