In Season: What we’re doing with Tomatoes

In 2014 ¬†we had an amazing crop of tomatoes. I mean, incredible. Literally tons of tomatoes. I made everything you can think of and more that summer. Canned tomatoes, passata, roasted tomato sauce, ketchup, salsa, spaghetti sauce, tomato jam, chutney, frozen tomatoes, dried tomatoes…EVERYTHING.

We haven’t had a bumper crop like that since. What I learned from that year was what I really loved, what I needed, and what could be skipped in upcoming, not so great years.

So, in seasons where we just have a few tomatoes, which is what we’ve had so far this season, I preserve tomatoes in two ways. One, simply canned. I love using them in chili, making salsa, and whatever else calls for canned tomatoes.

Second, I roast them. A simple roasted tomato can go a million different directions.

Remove the skin and toss in any and all pasta dishes. I love them tossed with our pesto, a little cream, and mozzarella pearls for an easy and absolutely delicious meal.

Make these amazing crostini with either of our pesto flavors. I like goat cheese, Basil Kale Pesto, and roasted tomatoes. Or Blue Cheese Walnut Pesto with roasted tomatoes. Either way…crazy good.

If I want to preserve them for a later use, I do one of two things. I’ll simply toss them in a freezer bag and throw them in the freezer. Or, I run them through a food mill, resulting in the most scrumptious roasted tomato sauce you’ve ever tasted. Sometimes I just want to drink it…I don’t, but I could. Ladle into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 35 minutes. Super easy.

Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
  • Fresh herbs: basil, thyme, oregano
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Arrange tomatoes on a foil lined sheet pan.
  3. Place a couple basil leaves, 2 thyme sprigs, and 1 oregano sprig on the tray.
  4. Drizzle generously with olive oil.
  5. Sprinkle with salt & pepper
  6. Roast for 55 minutes and then check. Juices should have released from the tomatoes and they should be very tender to your touch and starting to brown on the edges.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

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In Season: What we’re doing with Eggplant

It took a while for me to find my love for eggplant. We didn’t eat it growing up and I definitely didn’t venture out on my own during the college years. It was actually when Matt and I started dating that I started eating eggplant. Because Matt loves the stuff.

He’s happy with it any sort of way. Simply seasoned and grilled might be his favorite preparation, but he’s also a fan of fried, roasted, you name it. Me, I’m a bit more specific with my likes and I’ve compiled some of them here for you.

This roasted eggplant pasta recipe is an excellent introduction to eggplant. Roasted eggplant tossed with a simple tomato sauce, pasta, basil (although we make ours with a 10oz container of our pesto in place of basil), and fresh mozzarella. What’s not to love?

I made this eggplant parmesan recipe over the weekend. It was delicious and I will make it again. However, this is not a quick recipe. It took me a good part of Sunday to make the sauce, fry the eggplant, assemble, and bake the dish. But, it was amazing!

We also like to season, grill, and freeze eggplant for use during the winter months. It takes minutes to thaw and works great for grilled veggie paninis, used as a pizza topping, or chopped and tossed with a nice sauce and pasta.

But this. This has become a favorite of mine. We were in San Diego last spring, staying at an AirBnB, working with whatever spices they had in the kitchen…along with a few farmers’ market purchases. Matt tossed together this simple marinade which we used for eggplant, shrimp, and halibut. Wow. Total game changer for grilled eggplant right here.

Cilantro Soy Grilled Eggplant
* serves 4-6 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb eggplant, 1/2 in to 3/4 in slices
  • handful chopped cilantro, plus some for sprinkling on top to serve
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • pinch hot pepper flakes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a ziploc bag, mixing to make sure all sides of the eggplant are marinating. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to a couple hours, flipping once or twice to mix the marinade.
  2. Heat a grill over medium high heat. Grill eggplant for a couple minutes. Check for grill marks and flip. Grill for a few minutes longer. The eggplant should be very pliable when removed from the grill.
  3. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
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In Season: What we’re doing with Cucumbers

It’s late August and we are now swimming in cucumbers. I am absolutely fine with this “problem”. If we had tomato and cucumber salad for every meal during the height of summer, I’d be happy as pie. I do realize, however, that not everyone has the same love. Variety is the spice of life, right?

So, when you’re over tomato cucumber salad and you can’t eat another sliced cucumber dipped in ranch dressing, try this unique cucumber recipe.

The first time Matt and I had Sunomono was at Sushi Masa in Sioux Falls. The server suggested the dish. They accent the salad with shrimp, crab, and if you’re lucky, a surf clam. Matt and I generally order two surf clams in ours. So damn delicious.

At home, we either add shrimp or krab, but it’s equally delicious without. Spiralized carrot is also a nice addition. This recipe is super simple and can be ramped up or down depending on how many people…or cucumbers you have.

Summer Cucumber Sunomono
* serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large slicing cucumber peeled or an English cucumber unpeeled
  • Kosher salt
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Soy sauce or Tamari
  • Cooked shrimp or krab, optional
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Slice the cucumber as thinly as you can. The thinner the better. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 5 minutes or so. Squeeze out all the liquid. Place cucumbers in a serving bowl.
  2. Mix 2 parts rice wine vinegar to 1 part sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add a splash of soy sauce or Tamari. Taste the mixture and add more vinegar or soy/Tamari to taste.
  3. Stir into cucumbers. Add shrimp or krab, if using. Let sit for 5 minutes, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.
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In Season: What we’re doing with Zucchini, Summer Squash, & Eggplant

Mondays and Thursdays are long. To be honest, most days are long this time of year. But on Thursday, we get up at 4:30am to bake granola and biscuits, make hummus and pesto, and roast coffee beans. Then, we head to the farm to work. We always hit the wall. Or, as Matt said today, the wall hit him. Sometimes we squeeze in a nap. Generally, Matt squeezes in the nap. He can lie down and be asleep within a couple minutes. I have to coax my brain to shut down before I can sleep, which usually takes a good half hour. So, today Matt napped, but I have not.

Having time for a tasty lunch is also something tough to accomplish on Thursdays because we’ve been cooking all day and just…don’t…want….to. Matt, the sweetheart he is, offered to make lunch today and I’m so glad he did. He whipped up this pretty amazing Panzanella Salad fairly quickly and with minimal prep. Heating the grill took the most time.

As we head into mid-August, our fridge tends to be bursting with fresh produce. Today was no exception. He pulled out a handful of colorful vegetables and went to work. The result was a salad with subtle smokey flavors, sweet tomatoes, crunchy garlic rubbed bread, amazing feta cheese, and just a hint of tang from the white wine vinegar.

One quick note about cheese. I absolutely believe good quality cheese is worth spending a little extra money. The feta we used today is one I order because it’s so darn amazing. Dakotamart has a pretty diverse specialty cheese section. They have a blue cheese from Faribault, MN that is one the best I’ve had…and trust me, I’ve had a lot of cheese from all over the world. It’s fascinating for me. We also really love to splurge and order from Murray’s Cheese. They have so many different varieties from a number of countries. Treat yourself and order a little something sometime.

Ok, onto the recipe. This is great because it uses up a bunch of vegetables at one time. Great way to empty the fridge!! Plus, the vegetables truly shine because there are minimal seasonings added.

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella Salad
* serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices B&G Produce Rustic Wheat Bread (I also think Six Seed, Rosemary Gruyere, Bacon Blue Cheese, or any of our savory breads would work well here.)
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 2-3 tomatoes, rough chopped
  • a couple springs of parsley, leaves chopped
  • Feta cheese, a couple ounces crumbled
  • 2 small or 1 large bell pepper (green, orange, red, or yellow), stem and seeds removed
  • 1 Japanese eggplant or small oval eggplant, sliced lengthwise somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 Zucchini or Summer Squash (we used a green and yellow zucchini), sliced lengthwise somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 small or 1 medium red onion, quartered (leave on the root end to help hold the onion together when grilling)
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Olive oil, generous glug
  • White wine vinegar, splash

Directions:

  1. Heat your grill until it’s nice and hot.
  2. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, parsley, and Feta cheese. Add Kosher salt and pepper to taste. Stir together and set aside to let flavors meld.
  3. Season the vegetables with Kosher salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil.
  4. When grill is hot, add bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini/summer squash, and red onion. Once they have nice grill marks and are cooked, remove and cool slightly. Chop into inch pieces. Toss into a large bowl.
  5. Add bread to grill. Once the bread has nice grill marks, remove. Rub both sides with garlic. Slice into inch pieces. Add to the bowl with grilled vegetables.
  6. Stir in the tomato mixture.
  7. Add a nice glug of olive oil and a splash of white wine vinegar.
  8. Stir everything together and taste. Season with Kosher salt and pepper. Enjoy!
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In Season: What we’re doing with Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is one of the most beautiful plants we grow. The stalks vary from white to yellow to pink to red to striped and the large green leaves are accented by veins of matching colors. Swiss chard is a relative of beets and the leaves have a similar flavor. So, if you like beet greens, you will most likely enjoy chard as well.

My first love of Swiss chard was in Turkey Chard Chili and it still is one of my favorite chili recipes. Plus, it freezes incredibly well. I know a few families who got their kids to eat greens because of this chili. It’s that good. Make a double or triple batch and freeze it for super easy Winter dinners. When you’re heating it up, try cooking it for a bit to reduce the liquid. Then, top tortilla chips for some tasty nachos!

We are often asked about the stems of Swiss chard. Can you eat them? Yes, of course! But, they take longer to cook than the greens. And how? Well, until recently, I had simply talked about the possibility of a Swiss chard gratin and a recipe I had seen in Nigel Slater’s book, Tender. (Which, by the way, is an excellent book full of simple recipes for nearly every vegetable you can imagine.)

Matt looked at the recipe the other night and then did what he usually does. He put the book away, went into the kitchen, and started to prep. So, this recipe is a loose interpretation of Nigel’s recipe. We served ours with homemade white pepper pork sausages and roasted tomatoes. So good.

Swiss Chard Gratin
* serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • Butter (to butter the baking dish)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 Tablespoon creamy Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • Generous handful of freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat pot of lightly salted water over high heat.
  3. Butter a small gratin dish (our is a rounded 6×10)
  4. Remove stems from leaves. Rough chop leaves. Chop stems into inch pieces.
  5. When water is boiling, add stems. Cook until crisp tender, a couple minutes. Remove stems and place in a bowl. Add leaves and cook for about 30 seconds, just until leaves turn bright green. Remove and add to bowl with stems.
  6. Put whipping cream into a bowl. Stir in Dijon mustard. Season with Kosher salt & pepper.
  7. Pour mixture over Swiss chard stems and leaves. Mix well and put into your buttered gratin dish, leveling the top slightly.
  8. Cover with Parmesan cheese and bake until bubbly and the top starts to turn golden, about 35 minutes.

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In Season: What we’re doing with Padron Peppers

Padron Peppers are a Spanish tapas treat and you are lucky enough to get them in small, remote, middle of the state South Dakota. You will find these throughout Spain, but they originated in the northwestern region. Typically they are pan-fried in very hot oil and sprinkled generously with salt before being served, hopefully, with a cold beer.

They are quirky, which Matt and I enjoy. How can a vegetable be quirky, you ask? Although most padron peppers are mild, about 10%-25% are spicy. Not jalapeno spicy, but they have a nice kick. We love this aspect of the peppers, because you never know what to expect. We’ve tried to establish what makes some peppers hot and others not. It doesn’t seem to be their size. I’ve read that it depends on how much sunlight each pepper receives, the amount of water the plant gets, as well as the temperature.

We all know the temperatures have been extreme this summer, so we expected a lot of hot peppers when we ate our first batch this year. But, that really wasn’t the case. Out of probably 25 peppers, we had 3, a measly 12%. So, what about the other factors? An interesting tidbit I just read says that if the plants receive most of their water via the ground, i.e. drip tape irrigation, they will probably produce more mild peppers. But if the entire plan is watered, the peppers will have more spice. Considering we barely received a drop of rain in July and we water with drip tape, this theory seems plausible. Now that we’ve been lucky enough to have some rain, I’m curious if we’ll see an increase in spicy Padron Peppers.

The big question for Matt and I is what came first, the Padron Pepper or our trips to Spain? I honestly don’t remember, but I think the pepper came into our lives before the lovely vacations to Spain.

So, making these is so simple…you really don’t need a recipe. Heat some oil (we’ve used both Canola and Olive Oil) over high heat. Once a piece of bread sizzles when you drop it in the oil, you’re ready. We like to do a shallow fry, so we need to flip them part way through, but you can use more oil so they are completely covered. Once the peppers blister, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. While they are draining, sprinkle generously with salt. By that I mean, if it looks like a lot of salt, add a little more for measure. Then, sit down with cold beer and a couple friends to enjoy.

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In Season: What else we’re doing with Kale

I know I just wrote about kale. I know I just wrote about kale salad. But, hear me out. You need this salad. You need this salad on your dinner table tonight. This is a Caesar kale salad to cherish.

This is not a bottled Caesar, sort of meh tasting salad dressing. This is a real, make it yourself, loaded with all the good stuff Caesar. First things first. This dressing needs the anchovies. Do not skip them. This is hugely important. Let it sink in. Buy the anchovies. Put them in this salad dressing. Please trust me on this.

Ok, now we can move on. Matt made this dressing about a week ago for romaine. It was absolutely delicious. It made us wonder what it might be like with kale, a more robust flavored and firmer textured green. We tried it two ways this week. Once, we simply tossed the dressing with the kale. It was good, but need too much dressing to make it work. Then we tried massaging the dressing into the kale and letting it sit for about 10 minutes. This was amazing, definitely the way to go for this salad. Enjoy!

Must Have Caesar Dressing
* makes 1 quart, use within 5 days

Ingredients:

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • two 2oz cans anchovies with oil
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 c lemon juice
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • olive oil, to your choice consistency
  • 3 oz freshly grated Parmesan
  • Kale, stemmed and torn into small pieces
  • Homemade croutons, recipe here, 5-10 per person (depends on how much you like croutons…we love them, so right about 11 for us)

Directions:

  1. Using your food processor, pulse the garlic until very minced
  2. Add anchovies and their oil, Dijon, black pepper, Kosher salt, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
  3. Drop in egg yolks, one at a time, and process until smooth.
  4. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, while food processor is running, until you get the consistency you like. We prefer a thick dressing, just loose enough to pour. It will thicken once you refrigerate.
  5. Remove from food processor and stir in Parmesan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  6. Add some dressing to kale and massage so each piece is covered with dressing. Taste and see if you like it. Add more dressing, if desired. Toss croutons into salad. Let sit for 10 minutes. Top with additional shaved Parmesan, if desired. Enjoy!
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