Before I moved to Northeast Minneapolis, The Wedge was my co-op. Every Saturday, I'd walk into produce area and ask the staff what they recommended. One memorable August day, in response to my question, one employee threw up his hands and exclaimed, "It's all good this week!" Since then, I've believed there's a brief moment in August when all local produce is at its peak. Judging by last week's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmshare box, that moment is now.
This past week, my vegetable bin contained leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, basil, corn, cucumber, green and yellow summer squash, purple kale, and garlic. I flirted with the idea of creating a kitchen-sink soup, but I decided to highlight each item's individual strengths instead. I also wanted to play fast and loose with recipes and not fret too much about amounts.
I started with the corn. My four- and six-year-old sons had a great time shucking the ears, which I then placed in a large pot with a small amount of water, brought to a boil, and steamed for seven minutes. In the meantime, I made a U.S. version of the Mexican street food elote (check out this version from the Homesick Texan). The corn is traditionally slathered with mayonnaise, then sprinkled with cotija cheese, lime juice, and cayenne. Instead, my husband and I used a sour-cream slather sprinkled with Sarvecchio Parmesan from Sartori Foods.
The bunch of basil from my CSA box was perfectly pesto-sized, so I pureed it in my food processor and froze it. I planned to make spaghetti and add the pesto, tossing it with two lightly boiled and sliced potatoes, two chopped fresh tomatoes, and a handful of the steamed string beans I froze earlier in the season.
My vegetable bin was still disconcertingly full, but a meal plan began to come together in my mind. I'd make a chilled soup with the leeks, potatoes, and cucumber, and a grain salad with the tomatoes and summer squash. I could even roast the kale, now that the temperature had dropped from the oh-so-humid 90's of the week before.
The pesto and three-course supper took a lot of time to prepare and cook, but my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our filling, local, vegetable-based meal, and our sons even ate some of it.
The best part of all was my empty vegetable bin.
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Slathered Corn (Elote)
4 to 8 ears corn, shucked
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
generous pinches of cayenne or chili powder, and salt
1/2 cup grated Wisconsin parmesan
additional cayenne, chili powder, salt
1. Steam corn for 5 to 10 minutes in a large pot with a little water.
2. Thin sour cream with lime juice. Use more or less lime juice to taste. Stir in the spice and salt.
3. Sprinkle corn with cheese and additional spice and salt to taste.
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(for 1 pound of pasta)
leaves from 1 bunch basil, rinsed of grit and dried
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons pine nuts (traditional) or other nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
generous pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated Wisconsin Parmesan
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1. Combine first five ingredients in food processor. Chop to desired consistency.
2. Stir in Parmesan and softened butter by hand. If you are freezing, omit the Parmesan and butter, then add after thawing when ready to use.
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Chilled Potato Soup with Cucumber and Smoked Trout
(serves 4 to 6)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 leeks, thoroughly rinsed and chopped
6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed with skin on, cut into chunks
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
generous pinches salt and pepper
4 cups water or broth
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup plain yogurt
finely chopped fresh herbs (dill, basil, parsley), to taste
salt and freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup flaked Star Prairie smoked trout
1. In large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped leeks and saute, stirring occasionally until soft, about five minutes. If the bottom of the pan becomes brown, add a bit of water or broth and scrape up. This adds flavor and makes the pot easier to clean. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
2. In large bowl, combine potato chunks with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring once. Carefully remove plastic wrap to avoid steam burns, and let cool to room temperature.
3. Add potatoes, broth, and cucumber to pot with leeks. Puree with immersion blender, or transfer mixture in batches to regular blender. Chill for at least two and up to eight hours.
4. Stir in buttermilk, yogurt, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish individual bowls with smoked trout.
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Barley Salad with Summer Squash and Tomatoes
(serves 6 to 8)
1 cup pearled barley
2 small summer squash, green or yellow, skin on, thinly sliced
2 to 3 medium tomatoes, cored and seeded, chopped medium
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons finely chopped chives
pinch salt and black or white pepper
1. Bring four cups water to a boil. Add barley and salt, lower heat to simmer and cover. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until barley is tender. Drain and cool.
2. Add vegetables to barley, toss with dressing. Can be served at room temperature or chilled.
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1 bunch curly kale, washed and stemmed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
2. Place kale leaves on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt. Toss well.
3. Bake for five minutes. Remove pan. If you're a perfectionist, flip over each piece of kale. (Since I'm not, I give a generous stir and pop the pan back into the oven for another five to seven minutes.) Serve immediately.
Kristin Boldon is a frequent contributor for Simple, Good and Tasty, who also writes for the Eastside Food Cooperative's newsletter on health and wellness, and for her own blog Girl Detective. Her last post for us was "This Week's CSA: Summer Comfort Foods."