Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

CSA Tip–Read, Read, Read

I once took a fun and informative cooking class with Chef Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis.  I distinctly remember him telling the class that to become good cooks, one must “read, read, read”.  Cooking magazines, cookbooks, online recipes, blogspots…there is so much food-related information out there these days.  I have taken Chef Prosperi’s advice to heart and have found that this habit has made me a much more successful CSA member.  The more I read about food and food preparation, the more new and interesting ideas I am exposed to.  For example, I recently read an interesting recipe in this September’s Bon Appetit, that uniquely uses kale chips as a crunchy topping to a salad.  My husband went bonkers for it.  The recipe also included a very easy Thai lime vinaigrette that I have been using all week to help me use up my cabbage supply that was starting to spot and soften in the fridge (Sadly, the recipe is not available yet online…if you are interested in it, keep checking on Epicurious.  The recipe is called Crispy Kale Salad with Lime Vinaigrette).
We all know that reading expands the mind and exposes you to ideas you might never come up with on your own.  So I challenge you, CSA members, “Read, read, read”.  You might find yourself starting to think like a chef!

Tips for Tomatillos

Tomatillo harvest will be in full swing this week.  Check out my blog post from last year to learn how to pick and utilize this wonderful item.  For some reason I could not link that particular post to this one. To locate it, simply search for the August 15, 2011 posts on the blogspot (CSAblog)


Featured Item—Husk Cherries

Imagine thick vine-y bushes dotted with hundreds of small, parchment-like Chinese paper lanterns.  Imagine peeling back the slightly translucent, vein-y papery husk of one of these lanterns to reveal plump berries that look like miniature orange tomatillos.  Imagine, now, biting into that berry and discovering a sweet yet acidic, slightly floral burst of musky strawberry-pineapple goodness.  If you can imagine such a unique range of images and flavors, you have successfully conjured the strange but wonderful husk cherry.  But if such a combination seems outside of your imaginative prowess, do not despair, for we are fortunate enough to be able to sample these cherries now at the farm.
Husk cherries, also called ground cherries or Cape gooseberries, are from the Nightshade family, and are closely related to the tomatillo.  They are called ground cherries because they fall from the vine when they are ripe, thus requiring that they be harvested from the ground.  Besides falling from the vine, the husks turn yellowish-brown and the berry from green to yellowish-orange when they fully ripen.  The best way to know you have good berries is to gather them from the ground, carefully lifting up the growing vines to get at the fallen fruit underneath.  Gather cherries with a yellowish-brown husk that feel plump under the papery exterior.  Avoid cherries that are too brown or seem mushy or deflated (these are old and have started to dry out).  Also, avoid eating unripe green husk cherries.
To store your husk cherries, keep them in their husks, uncovered and well ventilated, at cool temperatures (preferably around 50 degrees).  They will last at least a couple of weeks.  To freeze husk cherries, remove husks before freezing.
Husk cherries are low in calories, fat, and cholesterol and are a very good source of vitamin C.  They also contain good amounts of niacin and vitamin A.  Apparently, they are also filled with natural pectin, so they are great cooked and made into jams or marmalade, into pies and tarts (if you can get enough of them), or even into cooked salsa.  Try  adding them to muffins or quick breads.  They can even be dried, like raisins.
Husk cherries are also delicious raw.  Try chopping raw husk cherries up into a relish or salsa, or add them to salads (see recipes below).  Of course, you can simply eat them as is, which is truly a special treat.
But whatever you do, don’t skip out on trying these unusual but delectable treats, lest you be forced to conjure them up in your imagination, like the rest of us will, once their short season is over!
Husk cherries and goat cheese are a natural combination.  Maple syrup also complements the musky, exotic sweetness of the cherries.  We really enjoyed this salad mixture.

Husk Cherry & Goat Cheese Salad with Maple Poppy Seed Vinaigrette  Serves 4

– For Vinaigrette:
– 1 ½ tablespoons minced red onion
– 2 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon maple syrup
– 5 tablespoons canola oil
– ½ tablespoon poppy seeds
– For Salad:
– 6 cups mixed baby greens or spinach
– ¼ very thinly sliced sweet red onion
– 3 ounces goat cheese
– about 28 husk cherries, dehusked and rinsed, halved
– 2 tablespoons toasted slivered or sliced almonds
1. For vinaigrette:  In a container high enough to contain the stick of a hand blender (like a large used ricotta container), place red onion, maple syrup, white wine vinegar, and canola oil.  Blend until onion is pureed and mixture is emulsified.  Alternatively, puree mixture in a blender.  Mix in poppy seeds.
2. For salad:  Divide lettuce among 4 salad plates.  Sprinkle with red onion, then husk cherries and goat cheese.  Drizzle generously with dressing.  Then top with toasted almonds.  Serve immediately.
This relish is really great with grilled pork tenderloin….

Husk Cherry & Walnut Relish        Makes about ½ cups

– 1 cup husk cherries
– ½ cup toasted walnuts
– 1 teaspoon canola oil
– 1 teaspoon champagne or white wine vinegar
– salt to taste
In a mini food processor, chop walnuts until chunky but not fine.  Add husk cherries and pulse until partially chopped.  Transfer to a bowl.  Mix in oil and vinegar.  Salt to taste.
We are enjoying a glut of jalapeno peppers right now at the farm.  Here is a super popular popper recipe that will bring tears of joy (and heat) to your eyes.  They make a great starter for a BBQ with friends.
If you can’t find Spanish chorizo (they carry it locally at Whole Foods and Fresh Market), you can substitute Mexican chorizo or your favorite sausage.

Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon              makes 24

– ½ tablespoon olive oil
– 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
– 8 oz Spanish chorizo, casings removed and chopped small
– 12 large jalapeno peppers, washed, halved lengthwise, core and seeds removed
– 2 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded
– 8 slices bacon, cut into thirds
1. Saute chorizo over medium high heat until chorizo is crisp and fat has rendered.  Using a slotted spoon, remove chorizo to a plate lined with a paper towel.  Pat chorizo with another paper towel to remove excess oil.  Remove all but 1 teaspoon fat in pan.
2. Replace pan to burner.  On medium-low heat, cook onion until soft.  Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl.  Add cooled chorizo and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.  Mix with a fork.  Can use filling immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
3. Preheat oven to 350.  While oven is heating, boil large pot of water on stove.  Also, set aside a bowl of ice water.  Add jalapenos in batches to boiling water and blanch for about 3-5 minutes, or until crisp tender.  Remove with slotted spoon to ice water bath and allow to cool, then drain.  Can be made several hours ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.
4. Place cooled, blanched jalapeno halves on baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.  Using a small spoon mound filling in each jalapeno.  Roll 1/3 of a bacon slice around middle of jalapeno, like a belt.  Bake until bacon is crisp and filling is hot, about 10-15 minutes.
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