What’s In the Box

After I picked up the box last night, I was too swamped with cooking and work to get to this then, so here it is on Thursday lunchtime.

We have in the box this week:

Red Roasting Potatoes (Wonder if these will be as incredibly sweet as the Yukon Golds from last week?)
Sweet 100s Cherry Tomatoes
Nakata’s August Red Nectarine (These will probably be the last nectarines I’ll eat this year. Where did the season go?)
Soghomonian’s (Three Sisters) Ribier Grapes (big, black, seedy and sweet)
Genovese Basil
Romaine Lettuce
Roma Tomatoes
Fair Hills’ Gala Apples (I’ve resigned myself to the fact that apple season is here – I don’t like it yet, but I’ve at least accepted it.)
Baby Leek (Not “leeks” but “leek” – as you can see, there’s one diminutive leek in the box. I tucked it into the bag of shallots and onions I have in the fridge because when I went to wrap it up all by itself it looked so lonely. I guess it’s because it so resembles a scallion, and both they and leeks usually come in bunches with all their friends…)
White Garlic
Italian Frying Peppers
Italian Zucchini

When I was driving over to get the box I was absolutely exhausted from the day’s several long phone calls for work. I had some dal in the fridge, but I’d already had that for lunch, and I was trying to think of what I could possibly manage to make for dinner, considering that at that moment I could hardly stand up.

Once I opened the box I was relieved to see its contents. Summer vegetables are so easy to work with. I knew I had some cooked chickpeas in the fridge – this is like having cooked chicken breasts for an omnivore, I think, in that they can go any which way. I minced some garlic, chopped up some plum tomatoes I’d gotten from Michele on Saturday, a zucchini and some basil from the box, started some water boiling, and in no time was enjoying a little tomato and zucchini stew with chickpeas over whole-wheat pasta.

“A good dinner doesn’t have to be complicated,” I thought.

Looking at what was in the box, I also decided to whip up some whole-wheat pizza dough, making another iteration, with another small change, to the food processor-kneaded recipe I’ve been working on perfecting all summer (it’s almost there, I swear). By the time I was done with dinner, feeling refreshed and had put the food away, the dough was ready to be made into crusts.

I topped the pizzas with sliced plum tomatoes and frying peppers from the box plus some onions, and a nice layer of fresh mozzarella and Dry Jack cheeses. (I had to photograph this pizza under a mix of incandescent and florescent light, which is not very flattering…I tried the “night portrait” mode on my camera too, but it made the pizza look like a deer in the headlights somehow.)

Sometimes I surprise myself. I thought I was going to come back with the box and be forced to collapse for the evening, but a little dinner and a little rest really helped. When I went to bed last night, I was feeling some of the feeling of tiredness after an active day, which is so pleasant as compared to the all-encompassing exhaustion that I constantly carry around to varying degrees. I can tell today that I pushed myself a little too much, but I’ll take it easy and hopefully I’ll stay on an even keel tomorrow.

When Chimp came home from work late in the evening, I said, “You only have two choices for dinner. I made a chickpea stew with tomatoes and zucchini, or there’s pizza.”

“Pizza?!” he said, dropping his bag and heading for the kitchen.

“I knew all you’d do was complain,” I told him.

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What’s In the Box

In a moment, a note from the CSA newsletter about how Alice Waters says we’re awesome. This should help Fresno’s inferiority complex some.

Denesse said in this week’s newsletter that the heat wave we just had did a number on the crops – they lost entire plantings of beets, carrots, beans and chard, she related. It meant they had to bring in some outside crops to help fill the box this week. So we have:

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Vine-Ripe Table Tomatoes
Full Belly Farms’ Hosui Pears (an Asian pear type, from the Capay Valley west of Sacramento)
Soghomonian’s Muscat Italia Grapes (Three Sisters, Fowler)
Red Leaf Lettuce
Roma Tomatoes
Fair Hills’ Gala Apples (Paso Robles)
Mendrin’s Yellow Onions
Easter Egg Radishes

Tom has a wonderful note in the newsletter (PDF file) about his friend Alice Waters’ visit to Fresno on the occasion of the Slow Food meeting and Fig Fest. I’ll excerpt some of it here:

“What most stirred my friend’s emotion on this recent visit was the affecting beauty of Richard Erganian’s arched arbor pavilion, which so elegantly shelters the Vineyard Farmers’ Market. Alice maintains this is the only structure she has witnessed that sufficiently honors the sacrament of fresh food beneath it. Alice is above all else a visionary who conceives of food and fellowship at table as hallowed art and culture. Her recognition and blessing of our efforts to raise this kind of consciousness across the California ‘heartland’ are welcome and appreciated.”

Here here.

And speaking of Alice’s visit to Fig Fest, here is a picture of two people at Fig Fest. One of them is Alice Waters. I am the person in the picture who is not Alice Waters and who is looking absolutely delighted to be standing next to Alice Waters.

What’s In the Box

I’ve been promising myself to get back to doing my thinly veiled commercials for T&D Willey Farms putting up what’s in our CSA box from T&D Willey from week to week, so here is the first installment back in that long-interrupted series.

We have this week:

Russet Potatoes
Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes
Nakata’s Royal Diamond Plums
Perry’s Broccoli (from Fremont, CA, north of San Jose – broccoli is not well adapted to summer in the San Joaquin Valley)
Red Leaf Lettuce
Sweet Spanish Peppers
Soghomonian’s (Three Sisters) Flame Seedless Grapes
Italian Sweet Red Onions

CSA Box #9

Here’s our first corn of the season. I’m pretty excited to see it. It’s an appropriate time to be eating it too – though this isn’t feed corn, of course, I’m in the middle of reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and enjoying it immensely.

We have:

Foster’s Bicolor Sweet Corn
Red Leaf Lettuce
Italian Sweet Red Onions
Roma Tomatoes
Zucchini Squash (I think they were hiding under the potatoes)
Red LaSoda Potatoes
Mediterranean Cucumbers
Cantaloupe
Cuyama Pink Lady Apples
Foster’s White Garlic
Peterson’s Diamond Princess Peaches

CSA Box #8

I’m getting into a bad habit. By the time I pick up my box after work, I’m too tired to stop and examine it. I just want to get it in the car and start driving the 30 miles home. However, I can’t stand not to know what’s in there, so the last few weeks I’ve found myself reaching down, pulling the top of the box open and extracting the What’s Growin’ On newsletter that’s included on top of the produce each week.

No eggplant this week…the pressure’s off, for seven days at least. (I did make baba ganoush this week – there’ll be a post on that, hopefully, as soon as I can figure out how to photograph baba ganoush. Talk about stuff that lies there – there’s no fun like photographing a purée.)

I can’t wait to tear into these yellow beans and this melon, and the first tomatoes – three big ones, absolutely gorgeous. Summer really is here.

Here’s what we have:

Yellow Snap Beans
Red Summercrisp Lettuce
Italian Sweet Red Onions
Vine-Ripened Tomatoes
Genovese Basil
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Mediterranean Cucumbers
Sugar Baby Watermelon

CSA Box #7

I knew this week would come eventually: the week that eggplant would show up in the box.

I love vegetables – almost irrationally so – but I have never loved eggplant. I’ve always found it almost intolerably bitter, frequently stringy, occasionally mushy, from time to time bland, and once in a while tough as shoe leather. None of these characteristics are endearing to me.

I am hoping that eggplant straight off the farm will be different. I mean, sure, there are eggplant recipes I love. Okay, there’s one – but I have a feeling, based on the extent of the eggplant crop we saw during the farm tour, that I am going to have to learn to like (or at least tolerate-to-a-greater-degree) eggplant. I’ll keep you posted. I’m genuinely hoping for a conversion.

Besides the dreaded eggplant, we have the world’s cutest little melon in the foreground, my squeal at which caused one nearby cat to take off running and another to flatten her ears.

And green beans, one of my favorite things to eat too many of while they’re in season. I love green bean time. I never get tired of stir-fried green beans with hot peppers and roasted tofu, or fasoulakia, which for those of you who haven’t had the great pleasure, is green beans with tomatoes and herbs. We have a holiday potluck at work at lunch today – fasoulakia will be my healthy contribution to the spread.

So here’s the list of the box’s contents:

Green Snap Beans
Classic Globe Eggplant
Summer Crisp Lettuce
Pungent Fresh Red Onion
Foster’s Garlic
Zucchini Squash
Green Forest Parsley
Fresh Red La Soda Potatoes
Mediterranean Cucumbers
Orange Sherbert Melon
Peterson’s Flavorcrest Peaches

CSA Box #6

I had to grab my box on the way out to a business dinner this week at Jonathan’s in Kingsburg. We have group dinners there every so often, and he closes the restaurant for us for the evening.

When I walked in on Thursday evening, he said a gracious hello, and leaning into the pass-through to the kitchen, said, “Do you buy at the farmer’s market at Shaw and Blackstone?”

“I do,” I said. “And I’m also getting a box from T&D Willey now.”

“I thought I saw you at the market a couple weeks ago, but I wasn’t certain. You had a hat and sunglasses on, I think.”

“Probably a scarf – I don’t bother with my hair on Saturday mornings.”

“Ah, that was it. It looked sort of Caribbean, the way you had it tied up.”

“Yep, that was me. And in fact, I have my box from T&D with me – could I please put it in the fridge? Is there room?”

“Of course!”

I fetched it from the car.

“Wow – you must do some serious snacking on that commute of yours! I’ll put this in the walk-in.”

Jonathan is a character – a confirmed, dedicated meat-eater, he never fails to rib me a little bit about my herbivorism, but he always makes something good for me as well. His offerings for the evening, he described to the group, were a choice of a grain-fed 24 ounce porterhouse or a lobster tail, both with saffron orzo and summer squash.

“And something special for you,” he said, motioning in my direction.

I’m not usually much on eggs, but he’s made me a caramelized onion-and-goat cheese custard before that’s been the envy of the rest of the table. I had that, and beautifully grilled and seasoned zucchini and tomato.

About dessert: “We were originally going to have poached peaches tonight,” he said to the group, folding his hands together a little apologetically. “I was here at 5:30 this morning, trying to get the fruit off the pits, and swearing, and…well…there were peaches thrown in the kitchen.”

We all laughed. At this time most years, the freestone fruit would have begun already, but with the late start that the wet spring gave us, we haven’t moved into those varieties. Everything is still clingstone, and there’s no clean, aesthetically pleasing way to liberate the flesh of a clingstone peach from its pit. It’s a shame, as I’ve had Jonathan’s poached pears before, and I can imagine how good a peach would be given the same treatment.

We didn’t suffer, though. Dessert was house-made boysenberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream with fresh local blueberries and crème anglaise. It was wonderful. One of my tablemates was away when the dessert orders were taken, and when he came back, I said, “Would you like dessert? We ordered while you were gone.”

“I’m not usually a dessert eater. Just some coffee would be fine.”

“I’m not sharing,” I said.

“It’s okay.”

When mine arrived, he changed his mind and asked for one – and finished it.

It’s about half an hour back from Kingsburg to Fresno. It had been a hot day – over 100 – but it was getting to be dusk and bearably balmy when I left, my box carried back to the car by one of Jonathan’s staff. Once I was out on 99, I opened the sunroof for the first time since the winter and cranked up the music. The travel to San Francisco had worn me out pretty well, but with pleasant company enjoyed and a good meal eaten, I felt better than I had most of the week.

Maybe it was the eggs, I thought.

Here’s what I found when I opened the box:

Green Snap Beans
Red Leaf Lettuce
Pungent Fresh Red Onions
Cuyama Pink Lady Apples
Fresh Yukon Gold Potatoes
Mediterranean Cucumbers
Foster’s Cabbage
Peterson’s Fiesta Gem Peaches

I was very happy to see the cabbage – I had something I’ve wanted to make with cabbage, and I thought I wouldn’t see it in the box for a while because it’s summer, and it’s too hot for cabbage in the Valley. This cabbage came from Phil Foster in San Benito County, where it’s cool.