Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

CSA Tip—Get your tickets for the Harvest Dinner, Sun Sept 8th!!

I love the Annual Holcomb Harvest Dinner…unpretentious, yet delicious farm fresh, seasonal food prepared by a beloved chef (Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis) served in the incomparable atmosphere of a farm field.  Add great live music, dancing, and farm inspired appetizers made by myself, and you have a truly tempting event.  Now consider that your ticket will benefit the Fresh Access program, providing needed fresh produce to underprivileged Hartford inner-city residents and the decision is a “no brainer”.  Don’t miss out on this wonderful night.  Buy your tickets NOW !! (http://holcombfarm.org/harvest-dinner)

 

IMG_0395Featured Item—Poona Kheera Cucumbers

Until I started writing for the farm, I thought there were two kinds of cucumbers, English and pickling cucumbers.  Who knew there could be so many varieties.  I love discovering new, interesting types of produce.

This week I am highlighting a very special kind of cucumber called the Poona Kheera.  As the name suggests, this is an heirloom variety of cucumber from India.  What makes it so interesting is the changes it goes through as it grows.  The Poona Kheera cucumber starts out whitish-green and then slowly begins to ripen, first to a golden yellow-orange, and finally to a leathery looking brown (many liken it to the appearance of a russet potato).  Yet at any of these stages, this cucumber is edible and super crisp and juicy.  While many choose to peel it, the peel is edible.

In practice, the Poona kheera isn’t any different to use in the kitchen than any other type of cucumber, so don’t let its’ appearance give you pause.  Taste it and decide for yourself whether or not you like the skin on or off, then use it like you would any other type of cucumber.  Seed it if you wish to reduce the amount of water in your preparation, or even salt and set it in a colander…really, treat it like you would any other cuke.  I am confident you will LOVE it!

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Now is the perfect time of year for gazpacho, which uses up those tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.  I love this Andalusian version which uses all fresh ingredients (no processed tomato juice).  This has been my go-to breakfast for a couple of weeks now.  I can’t get enough of it.

This recipe is very forgiving.  Cut the recipe in half or leave out an ingredient or two if you don’t have it all…it always turns out delicious.  I have made it with fewer cucumbers and no red peppers at all and it was still marvelous…you can always sub in more tomatoes if you don’t have all the cucumbers…

Andalusian Gazpacho                                                             Makes 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

– 3/4 cup torn stale bread

– 6 large ripe tomatoes, stemmed and roughly chopped

– 3 small cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped

– 1 small red bell pepper, roughly chopped

– 1 small green bell pepper, roughly chopped

– 3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Spanish, if possible)

– 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

– 1 teaspoon salt

METHOD:

Place bread in the bottom of a blender.  Top with chopped tomatoes and garlic.  Let sit while you chop up and add other ingredients.  Blend all ingredients to desired level of chunkiness using on/off pulses.  Taste for salt level.

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I originally adapted this recipe from Cooks.com for green peppers, but I love this spicy version, which uses a mixture of poblano and hot Hungarian Wax peppers.  I served it recently on regular ground turkey tacos and bison burgers, but it would be a great accompaniment to grilled meats.  It is also wonderful added to chili or served on sandwiches.

Poblano peppers have a moderate spice level, whereas Hungarian wax peppers can be quite hot.  Mix them up according to your desired spice level.

Pickled Roasted Hot Peppers with Toasted Cumin Seeds          makes about 1 cup

INGREDIENTS:

– 12 medium poblano and/or hot Hungarian Wax Peppers

– 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

– 1/4 cup minced onion

– 1/2 cup cider vinegar

– cloves garlic, smashed lightly with a knife

– 1 bay leaf, torn in two

– 1 teaspoon dried oregano

– 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

– 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 400.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Spray or brush foil with oil.  Cut top and bottom ends of peppers.  Make a lengthwise cut from top to bottom of each pepper and then gently open pepper like a book.  Remove seeds and ribs.  Place peppers, skin side up on baking sheet.  Spray or brush peppers with oil.  Bake in upper third of oven until peppers are soft and blistered, but before skins are completely charred.  Remove peppers from oven and immediately place in a plastic baggie to steam for 10 minutes.  Remove peppers from bag and slice into thin strips.

2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat cumin seeds on medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3. Place onion, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Add cooled cumin seeds, olive oil and sliced peppers.  Allow to cool for 1 hour.  Transfer to a jar or small bowl and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving.

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