Posts Tagged With: CSA

Removing Bitterness from Eggplant without Salt

Some years are corn years and some are melon years.  This year is the year of the eggplant.  I keep seeing pictures of beautiful aubergines all over Facebook, from the West coast all the way to New York.  Local Kitchen has called it “Eggplantocalypse 2012,” a term which totally cracks me up.

It seems like eggplant is either a love-it or hate-it fruit.  I think a lot of people want to love it, because lets face it, eggplant is beautiful.

I received this amazing Nubia eggplant in my CSA share last week.

The problem is eggplant tends – heavily – toward the bitter.  Coupled with its weird texture, it just becomes hard to palate.

Eggplant also has a thick, rubbery skin.  Unless I really feel sentimental about its pretty color, I usually peel it completely.  I will at the very least peel half.  In general, the skin is a bit too tough to really enjoy.

I’ve heard all about salting eggplant to help remove the bitterness, but honestly, I don’t like this process.  I’ve never felt it helped all that much, plus it takes too long.

I recently read a novel in which a French man taught a young South American boy to cut and cook an eggplant.  The Frenchman told the boy to remove the seeds.  The boy forgot, but cut the eggplant so beautifully, the man did not care.

This got me thinking, “How would one remove the seeds from an eggplant?  Why would you, since they are totally edible.”  But then I remembered that eggplant is a member of the nightshade family.  It’s the same plant family as tomatoes and peppers.  The pith and seeds of bell peppers are bitter.

I decided to try it.  I sliced my eggplant length-wise and used a spoon to scrape out as many seeds as I could.

Then I chopped it and cooked it up in some ratatouille.

It was sweet and delicious.

Could it have been a fluke!?  Rick suggested I try it again to prove my theory.  So I did, again and again.

All summer long, we’ve been enjoying sweet eggplant… without salting it.

Suddenly I’m hearing my three-year-old say, “I love eggplant.”

I felt like I discovered a whole new way to get kids to eat eggplant!  Wait, no…  I know how to get people to eat eggplant!

It’s magic!!  I know how to remove the bitterness from eggplant!

I searched online to see if anyone else knew about this.  There wasn’t much, although I did discover that eggplant is also related to tobacco and that is why the seeds are so bitter.

There are a few applications when seeding an eggplant is not really desirable, like eggplant parmesan or for a pizza.  For those recipes I use a Japanese eggplant instead, as they tend to be less bitter to start with.

For everything else, seeding is the way to go for me.

Easy Lunch-Time Summer Pasta with Eggplant

1 eggplant
1/2 small zucchini
1 bell pepper, any color
1 large heirloom tomato
olive oil, salt and pepper
pasta, any shape

Slice, peel and seed eggplant.  Seed and chop pepper, halve and slice zucchini and chop tomato.  Combine and toss all with olive oil, salt and pepper in a shallow pan.  Roast in a medium-hot oven (375-400°) for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, being careful not to over cook.  If the eggplant roasts too long it will become mushy.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water until al dente.  Reserve 1/3- to ½-cup pasta water and drain.  Toss cooked pasta with roasted vegetables and reserved pasta water.  Enjoy.

And, here’s the proof…

About these ads
Categories: CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

What I Made This Week: Turnip, Pea & Kohlrabi Stir-Fry

I published a post today on our CSA’s blog, Monroe Organic Farms.  Just a quick one with a stir-fry recipe at the end.

If you’re here from the Monroe blog for the first time, feel free to look around and see what crazy farm-style hijinks we are up to here in the city… bees and chickens and garden, and a few other odd projects.  Plus green cleaning, clothes lines and other green-style stuff.  Welcome.

Also – there are a couple of days left to vote on this… Pick me!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Making the Most of Your CSA Share

CSA season is around the corner and I am very excited to start receiving a share again.  We have a month (plus or minus) until asparagus comes on!!  I would ideally love to grow everything we eat ourselves, but we just don’t have enough space.  And our CSA grows such beautiful, delicious food, I can’t resist signing up year after year. They take good care of their members, using a blog, Yahoo group and Facebook to help foster community.  They’ve even put together a cookbook full of recipes submitted by CSA members over the years.

All CSA’s are as different as the members and farmers who run them.  Since we are heading into our fifth year with Monroe Organic Farms, our CSA, I thought I’d offer up some of my best tips on making the most of your share.

1.  Open the bag and figure out what you have.  Most people get their share home after a long day at work.  It might be tempting to leave the bag sit until tomorrow, but it’s best to open your bag right away.  You will want to store some things right off the bat, and if there is anything delicate in there like lettuce or basil, you’ll want to get it in cool water or the fridge right away.  There’s nothing worse than waiting a day or two to get to your share and finding you let your green beans wither and die in the summer heat.

2.  Wait to plan your weekly menu until you get your share.  I pick up my share on Tuesdays, so I wait until Wednesday to go to the grocery store or market.  I spend a lot less this way, and I can plan meals around what we received in our share.

3.  Wash and store everything the day you get it.  I do my washing outside.  The potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and onions all have a lot of dirt on them.  I used to do it in the kitchen, but then I had to sweep, mop and clean the sink too.  Instead, I dump my share on the lawn, hose it off and then sort it into what I want to eat right away this week and what I’m going to freeze for later.  Freeze what you’re going to save right away so it’s frozen at it’s peak.  It’ll be just as fresh when you go to use it this winter.

4.  Read the newsletter!  Every week you’ll get a run down of everything included in the share, plus important updates on upcoming distributions and events with the farm.  If you read it you’ll know just what that odd looking vegetable is, and you might even get a recipe on how to use it!

5.  Use the cookbook.  Don’t know what to do with a celeriac?  How should you freeze your extra beans?  It’s in the cookbook.  What to do with all those potatoes?  Not sure you like beets?  Try a new recipe.  All the recipes in the Monroe cookbook are from farm members.  They’ve all been tested by real people here in your community.  You might just get a new favorite dish.

6.  Get involved.  Read the farm’s blog and Facebook page.  Contribute to the yahoo group or the calls for recipes.  Come to the Harvest Festival.  This is the community in community supported agriculture.

7.  Understand that some things are out of our hands.  Some years will be bountiful pepper years, some will be tomatoes, some will be melons.  Usually never all three at once.  You might have been dreaming all winter of your strawberries only to have them hailed out (please no!!), or you might feel like you can’t shuck one more ear of corn.  But such is life when you are relying on the weather to bring you the freshest local food.  Enjoy your melon now, for in November it will be gone.

8.  Visit the farm.  See where things grow.  Check out the chickens, help load the shares onto the truck.  Connect with what you’ve invested in on every level.  Take advantage of the U-pick crops and the harvest festival.  It’s fun, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll go home with even more delicious fresh food.

9.  Be gracious:  Be on time, return your bags, call ahead if you can’t make it.  Remember that your farmers and the volunteers at your distribution center are people too.

Do you participate in a CSA?  What are your best tips for making the most of your share?  If you’ve arrived here from the Monroe blog, share with us your experiences, favorite part of the CSA and what you are looking forward to most this year!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

UH Budgeting Boot Camp: Building a (Food) Budget

Seeds, plants and soil all cost money, building a coop does too and those canning jars don’t come cheap.  But we urban homesteaders feel it’s worth it.  We are in it for the food.  So we have to find a way to make it work.  How do we eat well without breaking the bank?

This week we’re going to talk about budgeting, particularly budgeting for food and how to eat sustainably.  It’s not the funnest skill for me, but it is an essential one.  We could not do the things we do around our urban homestead without it.

When Rick and I started this journey, we had just had a baby and I decided to stay home with him, cutting our income in half.  We thought we’d be ok financially, but I had to get my appendix removed three weeks after H was born and medical bills ate through our savings.  Soon we were using a credit card to make ends meet.  And then one month we couldn’t pay off the balance.  And the debt racked up faster than we could have imagined.

Eventually, we cancelled the credit cards and started trying to get it under control.  But there were months where we were looking at choosing between gas and groceries.  Now, when I hear people talk about being “broke,” I think about those times.  The only way we made it through, all the while feeding ourselves, was budgeting.

Budget is a four letter word for many people (often those four letters are D-E-B-T).  But I have really come to understand that a workable budget is the only way to survive.  I’m not a natural budgeter.  I’m much more of an instant gratification person.  And people like me often have a hard time sticking to a budget.  I have a really hard time keeping the willpower up for an entire month (or few months), and tend to want to reward myself for being so good all month long by blowing my money on something silly.  I know I’m not alone.  It really helps me to trick my brain into doing some sort of project or challenge that is a budget in disguise.

One things that really helped me during that dark time of choosing between food and fuel was Crunchy Chicken’s Sustainable Food Budget Challenge in 2009.  The idea was to see if it was possible to eat sustainably on a food stamp budget.  I was successful at the challenge, but at the end of it I noted that,

I don’t know if this would actually be possible on food stamps because the majority of our savings came from food saved from the CSA last summer, the hog we bought whole last fall, things we saved our money up for so that we could have a year of sustainable eating on our tight budget. That and two years of practice at cutting the grocery bill each week a bit more, while still making fresh meals for my family.  Things like eating out, coffee shops, and convenience foods have not been in the budget for a long time.

That’s right I had already been at it for two years, and I had some secret weapons up my sleeve; a whole hog and a CSA membership.  So in talking about budgets, I’m also going to tout the benefits of joining a community supported agriculture farm.  I am not exaggerating when I say that this one thing saved us.  Seriously.

More on that in soon, but first, how do you make a budget?  There’s a lot of places online you can learn to do this.  Just find something that works for you without too much brain damage.

I am NOT an expert, this is just what we do.  I start by writing down on a piece of paper our income and all of our expenses.  My husband gets paid weekly, so I do the math and figure his income for the month.  Then I list out each bill we have.  I know financial experty people tell you to save money and pay yourself first.  That’s all good and fine, if you can do it;  if you can, you should, but for about five years, we couldn’t.  Anyway, I deduct the expenses from the income.  The rest of the money that is not going to a bill is what we have left to split between food, gas and whatever else you like to spend your money on.  Hopefully, you can save a bit too.

I try to be realistic about what we need to spend for each category.  Using a computer program for this really helps (like Quicken or Quick Books or whatever) that allows you to see how you’ve been spending in the past.  I might try to trim down certain things, like eating out, but I’ve learned that I need to leave us a little wiggle room.  A budget is not a diet.  You can’t go into it thinking about what you are depriving yourself from or you surely won’t stick to it.  Also, it is not permanent.  It can change month-to-month until you figure out what works for you and your family.  Lately, I’ve been using Erica’s Budget Fun Cards, because I like checking boxes.

The savings is key for us.  We don’t have much cushion built up yet as we’re fresh off of paying off those rotten credit cards and still are working on knocking out Rick’s student loans.  But we try to set aside a little every month to pay for some seemingly big-ticket items, which in reality save us lots of money.  Once we have a number for what we want to spend on food every month, we have a starting point.  I don’t follow all the experts that say your food should only be 5% of your budget.  Honestly, that is ridiculous.

Our food is easily our largest expenditure after our mortgage.  But we have ways of keeping the month-to-month food bill manageable.  Things like buying meat in bulk, the CSA membership and buying 300 pounds of peaches are financially tough to swallow all at once, but saves big time in the long run.  Those bulk items pay off in spades, particularly in lean financial times.

Tomorrow, I’m talking money savings in the food budget department.  In the mean time, do you budget?  Do you buy in bulk or have tips for saving on the food bill?  What questions do you have about eating well on a budget?

Categories: CSA, Food, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Proudly powered by WordPress Theme: Adventure Journal by Contexture International.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: