Summer is finally getting into swing here so there’s a lot of wonderful local produce to choose from. Last night was proof of that. We started with Tomato Toast made with local tomatoes, local bread and garlic we harvested last week from our garden (we grew 18 kinds!). Then we had grilled local zucchini and squash marinated in a dressing made with olive oil, red wine vinegar and herbs from our garden. We served that with a few slices of a local cheese called Cumberland. Dinner was grilled local peaches that we basted with homemade butter and honey. I also finished up our last batch of cherry sorbet. Mark and I then spent 3 hours pitting two huge buckets of sour cherries – how wild and crazy our Saturday nights are now! We turned several cups into sweetened dried cherries and the rest we froze to use in cobblers and pies.
June 2008 archive
This morning, we went to our local farmer's market and were thrilled to see some ripe tomatoes there! Yes – they looked kind of puny and No – there was no way they'd be as good as late season heirlooms but they would still taste better than anything we could find at the grocery store. Even our famed Grainger County tomatoes aren't anything like they used to be. They're the standard Celebrity variety that is hard as heck but ships well. And they're never picked ripe so they're tasteless. So our puny looking tomatoes were a treat indeed.
Bruschetta is the meal we always make when the first heirloom tomatoes are ripe – it wasn't time for that yet. But we could make another one of our favorite summer foods – Tomato Toast. This is easy as can be. Take a nice, artisanal bread – we either use peasant bread or Ciabatta. Rub slices with olive oil and grill. When they're nice and grill-marked, take a clove of garlic and rub it into each slice, right before you eat it. Then take a tomato half, hold it with the cut side toward the bread and rub the tomato until most of it has dissolved onto the bread. Sprinkle with kosher salt or sea salt and eat. Summer's here!
I love this time of the year. Eating locally is so easy and we often find that we’ve eaten a meal that’s entirely local without even thinking about it. We had an abundance of shelling peas in our garden as well as more radishes. Most of our spring crops are done so we’ve spent most of the time this week planting more tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers.
One of my favorite spring treats is from a recipe in Local Flavors. Combine unsalted butter with diced radishes. Spread on bread and sprinkle with sea salt. This is so good! We’ve had several of these sandwiches this past week. We’ve also made Peas with pasta and cream a couple of times. One night we made a ground pork stir fry with snowpeas, side shoots of broccoli and garlic scapes, all from our garden. I made goat cheese from local goat milk and some butter from the cream we skimmed off the top of our Cruze Farm milk.
Today was one of those days where we realized we had eaten completely local without even trying. We split a white chocolate and cherry scone from VG’s Bakery. We ate this with a smoothie made from homegrown frozen strawberries, yogurt and honey. Only the yogurt wasn’t local. I plan to try my hand making yogurt later this summer.
Lunch was sauteed spinach from A Place from the Heart Farm with a hamburger patty. The ground beef was from Laurel Creek Farm. It was pretty hot out today so we had a snack of homemade cherry sorbet. Supper tonight was a grilled sirloin steak from Laurel Creek Farm and grilled marinated summer squash from A Place from the Heart Farm. The only nonlocal ingredients were the olive oil and red wine vinegar in the marinade – the herbs and garlic were from our garden. An hour ago, we split the first ripe peach of the year from The Fruit and Berry Patch.
Tomorrow we’re on our way to check out our reception area for our wedding. Instead of fast food, we’re taking sandwiches, cherries and a peach. The first sandwich will be made with bread from VG’s Bakery, leftover grilled squash and my homemade goat cheese. The other sandwich will be store bought cream cheese mixed with chives and green garlic and topped with local cucumbers. Mickey D’s cant touch that!
This past week, we’ve picked over 20 pounds of cherries. Picking them in the easy part. I never remember in my zeal for picking them that we will have to process all of them which is not quite as much fun. I try very hard not to buy too many specialized gadgets but I will be buying a cherry pitter for next year. If you don’t have a cherry pitter, you can make due with a paper clip that’s been bent into a ‘S’ shape. Bend the botton curve up a tiny bit and insert it into a cherry at the stem end. Pie cherries are much easier to pit but do this outside in old clothes. Once pit, you can freeze the cherries, can them or dry them. It was so hot this past week that the thought of spending a couple of hours over a hot, steamy stove made me feel faint. So we froze most of the cherries. We did dry some of the pie cherries and I really liked how they turned out. I think they’ll be amazing in muffins and recipes this fall. We use a dehydrator – it gets rather humid here so this is the easiest way to dry stuff for us. We dried several pie cherries plain and they’re tasty. Very tart but still good. The other recipe was more like the Craisins you buy in the store. We’re going to pick a few more pounds next week to dry this way.
2 cups pitted pie cherries
1/2 cup sugar
Combine in saucepan and let sit for ten minutes. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain and dry cherries.
Do NOT throw the leftover cherry juice out. It makes the most amazing cherry limeades ever – we froze it ice cube trays to use later this summer. I also plan to experiment with the amounts of sugar. I think we could use a little bit more in the recipe.
I am now so in love with pie cherries that I’m going to figure out a way to put one in on my city lot. Cherry juice is so amazingly wonderful but it gets a little pricey when it’s made from cherries that are $2 a pound!
We froze the rest for canning later. I plan on making several different kinds of jams and there’s a chutney recipe that looks yummy.
This is wonderful tossed with pasta. You can also use it in place of garlic butter to make some yummy garlic bread. Thin it out with sour cream and it makes a great salad dressing or dip. Use it as a base for pizza. I freeze pesto to use all year for my version of "fast food". Boil some pasta, add pesto and sundried tomatoes. Mix in any leftover vegetables.
Garlic Scape Pesto:
½ lb. scapes (chopped into 1" pieces)
1½ cups olive oil
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
In a blender, combine the scapes and olive oil. Pour mixture into bowl and blend the cheese in by hand. I freeze this in ice cube trays – the cubes get put in a freezer bag.
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