Summer may be over for the kiddies, but it is still in high gear at the farm. Today I took the time to pick a large bouquet of gorgeous flowers. It never ceases to amaze me how fresh flowers brighten up my kitchen and bring summer to even the longest work day. If you have been too busy or too hot to pick the flowers, do yourself a favor and commit to getting yourself at least one bunch before the summer is over. I promise you that you won’t regret it. I do recommend bringing a bucket or pitcher of water in which to place the flowers immediately upon picking….these wildflowers droop awfully quickly once picked.
CSA TIP—Make a note of the harvest
I don’t know why it has taken me so many years to figure out this simple organizational trick, but alas, sometimes middle age can make us stubbornly set in our ways. I recently had the brilliant idea of making a list of the type and amount of produce I brought home each week from the farm and displaying the list on my refrigerator, crossing items off as I use them. I used to think that I would always remember the harvest from week to week. However in reality I have found that the farther I get from pick-up day, the less I remember what I brought home, especially in high summer when the harvest is so plentiful and my fridge overflows. Further, when it comes to dinner time and I try to start picking my brain about what’s available to use up, I tend to gravitate towards remembering the more common items (eggplant, cucumber etc..), forgetting about the small bundle of chard, the handful of jalapenos, or the small bunch of celery that also needs to be used. Since I started keeping the list on my fridge, not only can I remember everything I have to work with, I can better see potential combinations that might work well together in a dish, thus the list helps me to be more creative. Another thing that is helpful is to carry over any unused produce that is still viable from week to week on your list. This helps avoid the miserable discovery weeks later of weeping, decomposed items discovered at the bottom of your produce drawers. It also helps keep the volume down in your fridge. Finally, you probably already do this but it helps to keep track of any vegetables or dishes you freeze. I keep a running list of items on my freezer and cross them out when I use them. I also make sure to label everything I freeze with the name of the item and the date.
Featured Item—Fresh Soybeans (Edamame)
When I was young I lived in Japan and experienced a number of great culinary adventures. My favorite experience, by far, was tasting edamame, the fresh boiled soybean dish flaked with pure sea salt—divine. I loved the surprising “pop” of the bean as I squeezed them out of the shell and the wonderful nuttiness of the crisp-tender bean itself.
When we returned to the States we looked everywhere for soybeans but couldn’t find them fresh or frozen, except prepared in certain Japanese restaurants. It wasn’t until I was in college that I was able to find these gems, and then only in frozen form under the name edamame. Little did I know that in the interim years, soybeans were becoming a huge cash crop in our country, produced mainly for soy oil and protein meal used as feed or in thousands of processed foods. But how frustrating it was that I couldn’t find the fresh soybeans anywhere, even though millions of acres were being grown in this country every year. I was thrilled when I joined Holcomb Farm and learned that I could pick my own FRESH soybeans. Even better, Holcomb’s soybeans are organic and non-GMO, which is particularly hard to find. What a treat!!
Soybeans are a legume. There are many varieties, affecting aspects such as size, color, and nutritional ratios. But in general, soybeans are very high in protein (about 35-40%, or about 17 g per cup). Amazingly, soybeans contain all eight amino acids and thus are a complete protein food. They also contain significant amounts of fat, carbohydrates, and fiber, as well as various phytochemicals that are thought to treat and/or prevent many chronic diseases. There is much research on the supposed health benefits of soy; however, there are some who claim these results are overstated and some who claim that soy can actually be harmful to health. Soybeans do contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with nutrient absorption. There is also some question whether the phyto-estrogens in soybeans can be harmful, especially for women at risk for certain types of breast cancer. Other evidence suggests that phytoestrogens are actually beneficial for health. Most authorities agree, however, that fresh, organic, non-GMO soybeans in small to moderate amounts are undoubtedly quite healthful for most of us. It is when folks begin consuming large quantities of GMO soy in processed foods that health concerns are much more valid. Whether you believe soybeans to be a superfood or not, there is no doubt that they are delicious and an excellent source of nutrition in moderation.
Soybeans grow an inedible, tough outer shell that has a soft, yet hairy texture to it. If you have never tried soybeans, don’t be put off by the shell….you don’t eat it anyway. The bean is what you are after, and it is worth a little trouble. Typically the whole beans are quickly boiled/blanched. The beans then come out with a little squeeze and a very satisfying pop (when they aren’t overcooked, that is). I think the beans are best when crisp tender, but if you plan to puree or mash them, cook them longer.
Soybeans can be used like peas or beans in many different culinary preparations. They are great just boiled and salted (edamame); or blanched and then shelled. Shelled beans are wonderful in salads, in soups/stews, mashed or pureed for dips or side-dishes, added to pasta dishes, etc.. Try pureeing them and preparing them as you would hummus, or mashing them like you would potatoes. Add to Asian stir-fry for interest. Soybeans are a great way to add protein to any vegetarian dish or to increase the protein content of non-vegetarian dishes.
Fresh soybeans have a short picking season, but whole pods or beans can be frozen. Soybeans should be harvested when pods are plump. Note that the variety the farm has grown are much smaller than typical store bought frozen edamame. Look for pods that appear the plumpest next to their pals on the vine. Store in airtight containers or plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Use quickly to maintain nutritional advantages, or freeze for later use.
This week we are limited to a pint of edamame. Simply cut this recipe in half to cook that amount.
Basic Edamame Serves 4
– 2 1/2 cups fresh soybeans
– 1/2 tablespoon table salt
– 1/2 teaspoon course grain sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
Place 6 cups water in a large stock pot and add table salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, rinse soybeans well, rubbing with hands under water to remove any loose dirt. Place soybeans carefully in salted boiling water and boil for 3-5 minutes or until soybeans float to the top, beans are crisp tender and come easily out of the pods with a nice “pop”. Pour out into a colander and drain. Sprinkle with sea or kosher salt and serve immediately.
For interesting variations, try sprinkling specialty sea salts or flavored salts on the finished edamame. I love using smoked salt, or tea salt (especially Lapsong Souchong–place tea leaves and salt in a coffee grinder and grind until smooth. Sprinkle on hot edamame).
Puttanesca means “loose woman” in Italian. It is a traditional fiery tomato sauce dotted with capers and olives. I decided to try a version that includes tender chunks of eggplant. This sauce is great as a stand alone side dish, or served over pasta.
Eggplant Puttanesca Sauce Serves 4
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
– 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, or 2 minced anchovy fillets
– 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
– 1 large eggplant, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
– 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to your desired heat level
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons capers
– 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained and sliced
– 2 teaspoons honey
– 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add anchovy paste or minced anchovies, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, eggplant and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is tender. Remove lid and turn up heat to medium. Add capers and olives. Boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens to desired level. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Taste and add additional salt or honey as needed.
Much to my delight, the canteloupes are still coming on strong. I was also excited to see lemon basil in the distribution this week as well. I thought the two would make an interesting combination and came up this cold soup recipe.
Chilled Canteloupe and Lemon Basil Soup Serves 2
– 1 med/large ripe canteloupe
– 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt
– 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
– 1 tablespoon lemon basil leaves
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
Cut ends off of melon and discard. Stand melon up, one cut side down. Using a sharp knife, cut strip of peel off melon from top to bottom being careful not to cut off too much of the melon flesh. Continue cutting off peel all the way around the perimeter of the melon until peel is removed. Trim any leftover green or missed peel. Cut in half widthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut melon into pieces and place in a blender. Add yogurt, vinegar, basil and salt. Blend just until basil is well incorporated but do not over blend in order to reduce the amount of foam in the finished soup. Pour into a bowl and cover and refrigerate until cold. Serve soup cold, topped with cucumber pieces.