Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

It is one of those delightful weeks where the bounty is plentiful ….plenty of zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, lettuce, and eggplant but the tomatoes are not yet in full swing. Time to get creative and avoid the dreaded food ruts. This is where I turn to my print and internet media for ideas. The August edition of Bon Appetit had many suggestions relevant for our current harvest. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Grilled Eggplant with Fresh Hot Sauce and Crispy Eggs (click here)
  • Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Lemon Cream (click here)
  • Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime (click here)
  • Shaved Zucchini Salad with Macadamia Nuts (click here)
  • Lemon Chile Green Bean Pickles (click here)
  • Classic Dill Pickles (click here)

Between the farm and my own garden I have an excess of zucchini and summer squash on hand. Here are some of my current ideas for using them:

  • Zucchini Crisp (yes, it tastes like fruit!)(click here)
  • Indian Spiced Summer Squash Pickles (click here)
  • Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna (click here)
  • Healthier Triple Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Summer Squash Hummus, PLUS tons of other ideas and recipes for using summer squash (click here)

Here are some of my current favorite recipes for eggplant:

Featured Item—String Beans

I love the Pick-Your-Own green beans. They are so easy to harvest (although it is a bit hard on the back) and string beans are one vegetable that I can actually get my son to eat, so they have become a CSA family favorite. I also the love the colorful varieties that we have at the farm. They look great together in a dish.

String or bush beans belong to the same general family as shell beans. We have the exciting opportunity to try several variety of string beans this year so look for them all in the picking patch so you can try each variety. They include:

  • Maxibel—a French style long ( 7”), slender green bean . Tender and bright green.
  • Provider—your standard plump green bean maturing at about 5 ½”
  • Amethyst—beautiful dark purple, long, slender French style snap bean. Great raw or cooked but don’t be alarmed…they turn green once cooked—like magic!
  • Indy Gold—tender, yellow bean with green tips.

I was delighted to discover that string beans are very rich in nutrition. They are a great source of dietary fiber (something us Americans don’t get enough of in our diet) and are quite low in calories. They contain high levels of several minerals, as well as vitamins (A, C, K, B-6, and B-1), and carotenoids (even though they are green!).

String beans, especially when young and tender, are delicious raw. I like to put them on crudité platters or simply snack on them.   They are also great slivered into thin bits and put in salads. If they are just a bit too tough for you to eat this way, try blanching them first (just plunge them into an ice water bath after they blanch so you can keep their beautiful color).

Of course, cooked beans are great too. My family loves them simply steamed or roasted with salt and pepper. We also love them in stir-fries, soups/stews, and casseroles. See my recipe below for green beans braised with tomatoes and Mexican spices.

Choose beans that are smooth to the touch and that appear crisp. They should “snap” when broken in half. Avoid bumpy and/or overly mature beans as the skins will be tough thing new we do get to experience this week are pick your own green beans.

Here are a few green bean recipes I have come across recently that look interesting:

  • Green Beans with Bacon Dressing (click here)
  • Roasted Green Beans and Fingerling Potatoes with Tarragon Dressing (click here)
  • Lemony Green Beans with Almond Breadcrumbs (click here)
  • Tempura Fried Green Beans with Mustard Dipping Sauce (click here)(or here)
  • Green Beans with Parsley and Sesame Tahini Sauce (click here)
  • Grilled Green Beans (click here)

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I decided to reprint this recipe again this year because I heard we will receive a few full sized tomatoes this week. This dish is a great way to use both string beans and tomatoes.

Mexican Seasoning                                                              makes 3 tablespoons

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 tablespoon chili powder

– 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, heaping

– 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, heaping

– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or less, according to desired degree of heat

– 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

– 1/2 teaspoon paprika

– 2 teaspoons ground cumin

– 1 teaspoon coarse salt

– 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

METHOD:

Mix well and store in airtight container. I like to grind in a mortar and pestle to release flavors. Makes about 3 tablespoons.

You can certainly use canned diced tomatoes for this recipe if you don’t have fresh, ripe tomatoes. I had to do half and half because I only had one ripe tomato from the garden.

Use one or two jalapenos depending upon your desired level of heat in the finished dish.

 

Mexican Braised String Beans                                                                  Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 1/2 pounds string beans, ends snipped, cut in thirds

– 1 teaspoon coconut oil

– 1/2 large onion, minced

– 1-2 jalapeno, seeded, de-ribbed, and minced

– 2-3 large tomatoes, about 2 cups chopped

– 2 teaspoons Mexican seasoning (see recipe above)

– 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley

– salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil on medium heat until hot. Add onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until tomatoes soften and begin to give up their juices, about 3-5 minutes. Add string beans and stir well. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 10-12 minutes. If mixture seems a bit dry, add a little water. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Add cilantro and serve.

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When I saw the beautiful fingerling potatoes and all the lettuce in our share this week, I couldn’t shake the idea of a bistro steak salad with grilled potatoes.  For variety, I added summer squash, eggplant, and string beans and made a slightly fiery curry vinaigrette to go with it.  If you prefer a more traditional style bistro steak salad, simply swap out the curry vinaigrette with a basic Dijon vinaigrette.

Bistro Curry Steak Salad with Fingerling Potatoes, Eggplant and String Beans

 INGREDIENTS:

– Curry Vinaigrette

– 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

– 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

– 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

– 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

– 2 tablespoons mild curry powder

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

– Salad

– 1 flank steak

– 1 quart fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

– 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/3″ slices

– 1 small summer squash or zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4″ slices

– 1/2 quart string beans, trimmed

– 1 head of lettuce, chopped, washed, and dried

– 1/4 cup golden raisins

METHOD:

  1. Place vinaigrette ingredients in a blender and blend until emulsified. Season to taste if needed with salt and pepper. Place 1/3 cup vinaigrette in a shallow dish or a large re-sealable plastic baggie. Add flank and coat well with vinaigrette. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook for about 6 minutes or until just barely tender. Using a spider or slotted spoon, remove potatoes and drain. Add zucchini slices and cook for 3 minutes. Remove to a colander to drain. Add the string beans to the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes, just until barely tender. Remove to a colander to drain. Add eggplant slices to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Remove to a colander to drain.
  3. Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Place potatoes and green beans in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place eggplant (dry first with paper towels) and zucchini on a large cookie sheet. Brush both sides of each piece with vinaigrette and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook flank steak to desired level of doneness, about 7 minutes on the first side and 5 on the second. Remove from grill and allow to sit for 10 minutes while you grill the vegetables. Add eggplant and zucchini to the grill and grill just until heated through and you have nice grill marks. Remove from grill. Place a grill buddy sheet or grill pan on the grill and add the potatoes and green beans. Cook just until warmed through and you have nice grill marks. Remove from grill.
  5. Thinly slice meat. Roughly chop eggplant and place in a bowl. Add potatoes and green beans. Toss to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place lettuce on plates. Top with sliced meat and vegetable mixture. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette and sprinkle with raisins. Serve immediately.

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I had such fun and success last week making eggplant chips I decided to try making zucchini chips this week.  I developed a ranch spice mix to go with them because it reminds me of a favorite fast food dish I loved as a kid–fried zucchini with ranch dressing!  Thankfully for my waistline, these are a much healthier version.

Dry Ranch Seasoning

INGREDIENTS:

– 2 tablespoons dry buttermilk powder

– 1 teaspoon dried parsley

– 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

– 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

– 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

– 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

– 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

METHOD:

Place all ingredients in a mortar and grind with a pestle until parsley is broken up fine. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

Ranch Flavored Zucchini Chips

INGREDIENTS:

-One large zucchini

-One recipe dry ranch mix

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 250℉ (if you have two ovens, use them both). Place racks in center most positions. Line four un-rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spray paper with coconut oil spray.
  2. Using a mandolin, thinly slice zucchini. Thinner slices will cook faster and yield a lighter, crispier chip. Lay two layers of paper towel down on a work surface. Place some zucchini in a single layer on top of paper towel. Top with another two layers of papers towels and press down on zucchini to remove some of the water. Place pressed zucchini slices on prepared baking sheets in a single layer. Repeat with remaining zucchini slices. Spray tops of zucchini slices with more coconut oil spray. Using dry fingers, lightly sprinkle each slice with the spice mixture. You will not quite need all of the spice mixture for four cookie sheets so be careful not to use too much on the slices or chips will become too salty. If desired, rub mixture into and around the surface of each chip.
  3. Place cookie sheets on racks in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and turn each zucchini piece over. Replace cookie sheets to oven, changing the position of each cookie sheet on the racks to assure more even cooking/browning. Cook for an additional 30-40 minutes or until slices are lightly browned throughout and crispy (they will crisp up a bit more once they cool). Chips may cook at different rates depending upon size and thickness, so watch carefully toward the end of cooking and frequently remove finished chips to a cooling rack while replacing the unfinished ones back into the oven. Cool chips on a cooling rack and enjoy. Chips will tend to absorb moisture from the air and are best eaten right away, but will last a couple of days kept in an airtight container.

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