CSA Wednesday (& remembering Montana)

This past Friday we returned from a (wonderful) week spent in Montana; about an hour north of Great Falls, two or so hours south of Glacier National Park, on the Eastern side of the Rocky Mountains is a small town called Choteau, which is where we spent our vacation. Twenty-two years ago my paternal grandparents moved to the land which had been homesteaded by my grandfather’s grandfather, and has been called home by someone in my family ever since. It’s a modest home on about 80 acres of ranch land (which my grandmother is paid to keep fallow) about 7 miles from town. It sits atop a small hill, providing an outstanding view of the expanse that surrounds it, especially of Priests’ and Rattlesnake Butte, which are iconic.
Saturday was hard for me; I felt unsettled and a little lost and a little lonely. But then Sunday came; that evening we had the privilege and honor of joining Ken Dawson, his wife Libby, the farm workers and a group of fellow CSA members for a walking tour and potluck dinner at Maple Spring Gardens. It was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable evenings I’ve spent in NC in a long, long while.

We toured the farm, walking past the asparagus patch, through fields and greenhouses of tomatoes, pulled potatoes from their hiding spots deep underground and paused, for a long time, at the rows of blueberry bushes. The sun was brutal, but the berries so sweet and the company so good that few people seemed to mind. It was inspiring to listen to Ken describe his life farming- and to learn of the thought and care that goes into planting and caring for the land and all that grows there. I wish everyone had the opportunity, at least once, to see first hand where their food comes from. And Ken said something that night which has stayed with me; quoting Wendell Berry he said “How you eat is a political act. It determines, to a large extent, how the land {world} is used.” I should have joined a CSA years ago.

Ken recently sent me an email requesting any recipes I had to share in our weekly CSA newsletter. “July produce will be: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, onions, cantaloupe, basil, and did I mention tomatoes?” he wrote. So for the next several weeks it might seem like I’m not changing up the menu much, but trust me, I am. And, for those of you living near me in the South, although you may be tempted to moan about having to eat more (delicious) heirloom tomatoes, please remember how much you longed for this just a few months ago…and how much you’ll miss it a few months from now.

So, given our box tonight (tomatoes [three kinds], onions, eggplant, potatoes, blueberries, and a cantaloupe) here’s my (tentative) menu this week:

  • Tomato, onion, and baked chicken pizza (to make use of the leftover baked chicken and mozzarella we had in the fridge)
  • Tomato jam, Eggplant Caviar (recipe below), french bread and a cheese (or two or three)
  • Tomato & goat cheese tart with green beans
  • Fish (I’m not getting enough these days) with Watermelon Tomato & Feta Salad (recipe below)

And for lunch, I’m thinking about making use of those blueberries and making a simple salad from Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for Summer: shredded carrots, blueberries, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, and S&P. (and this week, we’re going blueberry picking and I’m going to make a killer Blueberry Pie. And this little guy cooking inside me is going to be doing somersaults from all the sugar. And it’ll be awesome.)

Eggplant Caviar (Alice waters)

serves 4

From Alice Waters, Chez Penisse Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 large globe eggplant (or roughly the equivalent)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 shallots
  • Balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ c chopped parsley or cilantro

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Peel the eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. Put the eggplant in a baking dish, season liberally with S&P and toss with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with a few Tbs water, cpover tightly, and bake for 30-40 minutes- until very soft.
  3. While the eggplant is baking, peel and dice the shallots very fine. Let them macerate for about 10 minutes in about 2 Tbs of the vinegar. Peel and mash the garlic and add it to the vinegar/shallot mixture. When the eggplant is done, add it to the shallot and garlic mixture, mashing it with a fork (for a more course texture) or put everything in a food processor and process until smooth (for a finer, more even texture). Let cool to room temperature.
  4. Once cool, stir in the chopped herbs and adjust the seasoning, adding additional olive oil and/or vinegar to taste.
  5. Crisp toasts, crackers, or pita triangles are good accompaniments.

Watermelon, Tomato & Feta Salad

serves 4

{Note: This salad should be assembled just before serving. Serve as is or over a bed of arugula or your favorite salad mix}

Ingredients

  • 4 c cubed seedless watermelon
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved (or any other tomatoes you have on hand)
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh basil (or mint if you prefer)
  • 1 t salt
  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 c crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 c arugula or other salad mix (if desired)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine watermelon, tomatoes and basil. Sprinkle with salt, and toss. Add olive oil, vinegar and pepper, and toss until well combined. Top with feta cheese.
  2. Serve over arugula or other greens if using.
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