BLT Salad with Eggplant Bacon

Eggplant BLT Salad

It’s tomato and eggplant season, one of my favorite times of  the year! Local, fresh tomatoes are so flavorful on their own,  I like to keep my preparations pretty simple. This salad combines some CSA lettuce and kale with avocado, tomatoes and an awesome secret ingredient – eggplant bacon! Okay, so maybe calling this “bacon” is a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly smoky and salty and chewy and adds great texture and flavor to any salad, pasta dish or sandwich. It’s just another amazing creation by my cooking hero, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and she has generously posted the recipe on her blog. You can keep this salad vegan by dressing it with Isa’s Classic Vegan Caesar, or use any dressing you have on hand. If you have an eggplant hater in your life, this salad just might change their tune!

We Love Our CSA!

Intervale Farm

Greenhouse at Intervale Farm

For the past seven years, we have purchased a Summer CSA share from Intervale Family Farm. Each Thursday from June – October, we stop at the farm on our way home from work and come home with the freshest, tastiest, most beautiful produce you can imagine. If you’re unfamiliar with the CSA (Community Supporting Agriculture) concept, the basic idea is that a farm offers seasonal “shares” of their harvest that are purchased ahead of time by individuals.  This provides farmers with more financial resources to work with early in the season and the reassurance of already having regular customers lined up. For the consumer, buying a share guarantees a regular supply of quality local produce, usually at a fraction of grocery store prices.

csa-week2

An early season weekly share from our CSA.

CSAs come in all shapes and sizes, and the details of what you get and how you get it (some CSAs will deliver to your door!) can vary greatly. Check out the Local Harvest website for more information about CSAs in general and how to go about finding one that meets your needs.

Lemon Garlic Pickled Asparagus

asparagus-pickledWe have thoroughly enjoyed asparagus season this year. We roasted bunch after bunch of it on the grill and added those deeply flavorful, smoky spears to pasta dishes, salads, sandwiches and anything else we could think of. We also devoured a fair bit of it straight off the grill, delaying only long enough to avoid burning our fingers and tongues.

Now that the season is winding down, I wanted to try putting up a little bit of that summery goodness to enjoy this winter. I used a recipe from The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman. This book has a great chapter of recipes that were developed to be made “by the pint”. So you can use up that last little bit of produce you have on hand, or you can scale the recipe up as needed if you have a larger harvest.

This method worked well, as I had earmarked two bunches of asparagus for this little canning project, not enough for some of the larger batch recipes I had seen. The asparagus was very easy to process, as there was no chopping, peeling or salt soaking involved. I added some whole garlic and lemon peel to each jar, as directed in the recipe, and ended up with three pints of beautiful pickled asparagus.

With pickles, I always like to wait at least six weeks before opening a jar, to let the flavors fully develop, so stay tuned for a taste test down the road!

Moskowitz Mocha Madness

mocha mamas

mocha mamas from vegan cookies invade your cookie jar

When I’m in the mood for a fancy coffee, I always choose a cafe mocha. Coffee and chocolate were meant for each other, and that goes for baked goods as well as hot beverages. This is illustrated by two great recipes from my cooking hero, Isa Chanda Moskowitz.

Mocha Mamas are one of my favorites from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I first made these at the last minute for a work celebration, and they were a big hit. Light and fluffy, with a nice coffee flavor and a simple but impressive icing drizzle, these can take your coffee break to a whole new level.

mocha chip muffins

mocha chip muffins from vegan brunch

If you’re more of a muffin person, try the Mocha Chip Muffins from Vegan Brunch. Chocolate Chip muffins have always been my favorite, and this is a solid basic recipe, with the addition of a coffee kick. Perfect for warming you up on a wintry morning.

Pumpkin Baked Ziti & Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Pumpkin Baked Mac & Roasted Brussel SproutsThis time of year, I want to put pumpkin in everything, so I’d been craving Pumpkin Baked Ziti from Veganomicon. (I didn’t have ziti, so I used elbows  – pumpkin mac!) This creamy, comforting casserole with caramelized onions and a savory crunchy topping is always a winner. I’ve taken it to church suppers, given it to friends recovering from surgery and served it for Christmas dinner. It’s that good. Paired with some roasted brussels sprouts from the CSA, it was a highly satisfying fall meal.

 

First Home Canned Food

Left to Right: Salsa Verde, Dill Spears, Spicy Pickled Carrots, Marinara, Bread & Butter Chips and Onion Yellow Squash Relish

We spent some serious time in the late summer putting up a portion of the harvest from our garden and the bounty of our CSA. We had never done water-bath canning before and relied on the excellent recipes in Put ’em Up! by Sherry Brooks Vinton. It’s an encouraging and upbeat beginners guide, full of step by step details and fun recipes that aren’t too complicated. Everything we made came out great, and not a single jar failed to seal – even though we weren’t actually using a canner, just a big metal pot we had gotten at a tag sale. And best of all, the results have all been delicious. Once we started doing it, it got kind of addictive. (We ended up with 22 pints of pickles!) I already can’t wait until next year.

Homegrown Potato Hash

We wanted to do something special with the first Yukon Gold potatoes we harvested from the garden, so we decided to cook up an outdoor brunch on the deck with our camp stove. (I don’t know why, but cooking outside just makes everything taste better).

action shot!

I fried the potatoes into a simple hash with onions, fennel and red pepper flakes and paired it with some fresh eggs from our CSA. I have to say, breakfast doesn’t get much better than this.

Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies

Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownie

You know I like to eat blueberries in their simplest state, but I also love putting them in baked goods. So I was psyched to finally try the recipe for Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies from Veganomicon, which I have been eyeing for some time.

Well, let me just say, these brownies are crazy. In a good way. They contain two different forms of blueberry (fresh berries and blueberry spreadable fruit) and THREE different forms of chocolate (cocoa, melted chocolate and chocolate chips). The batter was a little unwieldy at times, but it all came out deliciously in the end. They were rich and quite fudgy, and the blueberries and chocolate were a perfect pairing.

Whole Grilled Spring Peas

Grilled Spring Peas

Vegetarian Times recently featured a recipe for shell peas grilled whole in the pod and eaten like edamame – a genius idea that I immediately wanted to try. Luckily I had a mess of peas from the CSA sitting in the crisper, and I had been feeling kind of lazy about shelling them.

So instead, I blanched them whole in boiling water for about two minutes, drained, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, wrapped them in a foil packet and put them on the grill on medium for about 20 minutes, pulling back the foil to toss them occasionally.

When all the peas looked shriveled and some were starting to brown and caramelize, I took them off the grill and let them cool a bit. We sat on the porch and feasted on them, pulling each pod through our teeth to scrape out the peas and then tossing the empty pods in a bowl bound for the compost. It was a fun and tasty snack that would be a great cookout appetizer alongside chips and salsa.

Beet Burgers & Pesto Potato Salad

beet burger & pesto potato saladBeets seem to be the new darlings of the veggie burger world, and since we’ve been getting a supply of them every week in our CSA, I figured it was time to give beet burgers a try. I made these for lunch when our friends Lori and Chad were in town, using this recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen.

I’ll admit when I was mixing together all the seemingly incompatible ingredients (lentils and almond butter!), I wondered if the flavors would really work together. But somehow everything magically melded, and they were a huge hit. They tasted great, held together no problem and got nice and charred in my cast iron skillet. With ketchup, mustard, pickles and lettuce, they were a highly satisfying burger experience.

beets

thanks beets!

I served this with a potato salad that I made up using what I had around. The night before our lunch, I roasted some red potatoes and green beans from the garden, then tossed them with chopped fennel and onion, capers and some garlic scape pesto I had in the freezer from a few weeks ago.  (Here’s a secret: pesto makes everything delicious).

First Green Bean Harvest

green (and purple) bean harvest

It was an excellent lunch, and I’ll definitely be making these burgers again.

A couple notes on the burger recipe: Isa says this recipe makes four burgers, but I made six smaller ones instead. They were very filling, so I think I’ll stick with the smaller patties when making these in the future. Also, I used ground up pretzels in place of breadcrumbs and they worked just fine.