In the first few weeks of the Fresh Fork Market Summer season we can be pleasantly overwhelmed by the contents of the weekly bag. After a very challenging winter in Northeast Ohio and a three week pause between the end of the winter season and the debut of summer we are ready to embrace the bounty.
Start with a short review and reminder of how to handle the contents of the bag. First, remove all the products from the bag and arrange them on the kitchen counter. Repackage items. Lettuces and leafy greens should be stored in a zip lock bag.
Grains are best stored in the refrigerator. Unlike commercial grains that are milled for flour, Fresh Fork Market grains are not “fumigated.” You might say, these grains still have life.
Looking at the products displayed on your kitchen counter think about when and how they will be used in your cooking. Use the most perishable first. Most fruit should not be refrigerated. This is especially true for peaches and berries.
The flavor and juiciness of tomatoes are loss when the tomatoes are condemned to the refrigerator.
Here are some suggested uses and combinations of the ingredients that you may find in your bag in these first weeks of the season: chicken, kale, eggs, lettuce, black beans, whole wheat flour pea shoots, asparagus, spinach, parsnips Swiss chard, radishes, beets, broccoli Italian sausage, cornmeal and rhubarb.
Careful preparation of asparagus and spinach and broccoli is worth the time.
Cut the root-ends from the asparagus. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the skin from the stalk, leaving the tips and two or three inches at the top of the stalk. Drop the asparagus into boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the boiling water to ice water. Wrap in a towel until ready to use.
A head of broccoli includes two parts—the stalk and the florettes. Remove about one inch from the bottom of the stalk. Then remove the florettes or tops from the broccoli stalks. Blanch the florettes for 1-2 minutes and refresh in ice water. Blanche the stalks for about five minutes. Reheat the broccoli in butter or in the blanching water.
Wash spinach very well in two or three batches of clean water. Shake the water from the leaves and place the leaves in a heavy bottom pan and cover with a lid. Set the pan over very low heat until the spinach wilts and is heated through…6-8 minutes. If stems of spinach leaves are thick and appear fibrous, remove them when washing the spinach.
Three very useful books, which I’ve mentioned before are once again worth your attention when thinking about summer cooking ideas.
Soffritto by Benedetta Vitale, Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison and The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther
Wash the kale and remove the stems. Shake the water from the leaves. It is not necessary to dry the leaves.
Use a heavy bottom pan with a lid. Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Add ½ of a medium onion peeled and very thinly sliced into half circles. Place the kale leaves on top of the onion. Cover the pan and set over very low heat.
Check from time to time to make sure the onion and kale are wilting and softening slowly. As more liquid appears in the bottom of the pan, raise the heat slightly. The leaves are cooked when they can be torn apart easily.
Season the kale with salt and pepper and serve.
Mix the kale with past and add some cheese.
Cook a bag of beans and use them for a variety of dishes. Freeze some of the cooked beans for later use. See the FFM website for details procedure for cooking beans.
Cooked beans can be reheated quickly by plunging them into boiling water for about three minutes. Drain the beans and place on top of lettuce. Add hard cooked eggs, some fresh herbs, salt and pepper and then drizzle with olive oil.
Remove the leaves from the tendrils. Chop the tendrils into one inch pieces. Add to salad or combine with thinly sliced radishes as a salad.
As we enter into this time of summer cooking keep in mind that nearly all vegetables can be used to create a salad or cold dish, not cooked. Salads are much more than and arrangement of lettuce leaves.
Beets, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes are carrots are examples. Shredding these vegetables using the food processor or a grater will make them ready for a simple vinaigrette dressing.