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Preparation

Produce the Produce

Homemade Pesto Frozen in ice cube trays and bagged

Homemade Pesto
Frozen in ice cube trays and bagged

So, as you can see I haven’t posted in quite a while. Things have been kind of crazy around here and I haven’t done much cooking. To re-enter the blog world I’m not going to post a recipe or a restaurant review, but I’m just going to make some suggestions about cooking some of the fresh vegetables some of are lucky to have access to in the summer.

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Defrosting Pesto

For two years I belonged to a CSA (Community Support Agriculture) in Riverhead, on the east end of Long Island. This summer I joined a CSA much closer to my home and work. The farm is located on the grounds of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Oakdale, NY. It has been a much different experience than the one in Riverhead. There is so much more of a connection to where and how the produce is being grown that you can’t help but enjoy the taste of everything!

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Fresh Summer Squash

The Bayard Cutting Arboretum does not require volunteerism, but boy does it make for a much nicer experience. Some people weed, some plant, some harvest, some, like me, offer their knowledge by teaching children various classes having something to do with the farm. And, thanks to the women who run the children’s program, I was able to teach a cooking class. Not being a teacher, I had no idea what to expect. I prepared myself as well as I could, but nothing could prepare me for the excitement and thrill at seeing the children’s faces when they tried a new food. We started out the class by harvesting some vegetables from the farm. We picked zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, carrots, cucumbers, and a heap of basil. Then we set out, walking to the kitchen area. Once we arrived, I had two of the students help me make pesto while one student (there were only three in the class) began peeling and slicing our vegetables for the crudite.

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The two boys were so facsinated with the food processor that I was afraid they weren’t going to be interested in the pesto. Well, one of the boys was willing to try it right out of the gate, the other was a little reluctant because it was green! Let me tell you, when the second boy saw and tasted the cheese and walnuts and realized they were going to be made into a sauce – he was ready to try it. So once we finished the pesto, the boys combined it with some bowtie pasta I cooked earlier. I couldn’t dish it out fast enough – they gobbled it up! Saying things like, “I never knew what that green stuff was on pasta,” and, “Wow, this tastes great!” I couldn’t wait for them to share the recipe and knowledge with their families.

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Sauteed Squash

Once my little friend was finished slicing the crudite we laid it on a platter and served homemade ranch dressing. They went nuts over that too. The little girl even tried a fresh tomato for the first time, her eyes lighting up when she realized how good it tasted!

You can imagine how “cool” it is to have a plethora of fresh, locally grown produce presented to you each week. Today, I decided to make something with yellow squash, red onion, grape tomatoes, homemade pesto (from fresh picked basil) and garlic – all from the CSA pickup. I sauteed the sliced squash, medium shrimp, and sliced red onion in a little bit of butter and olive oil until just tender. Meanwhile I boiled some whole grain pasta. Once the pasta was done, I drained it and added that to the pan of squash and tossed in my defrosted pesto until it was well combined.

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Warm Garlicky Bread with Fresh Grape Tomatoes

Then, for a little accompaniment, I toasted a slice of sourdough bread, rubbed it with a peeled garlic clove and sprinkled it lightly with olive oil. Then, I sliced up some grape tomatoes and put them on top of the bread. Yummy! Such simple, but tasty food and a nice summertime dinner.  Hope you’re inspired to try some of your own fresh produce ideas!

Peachy Peaches

Peach Puree

Yummy Peach Puree

Today’s task is to get the fresh, white peaches I bought this weekend, blanched, peeled and ready for freezing.  I decided, since the peaches were less than perfect, to actually puree them after I peeled and pitted them.

I added a small pinch of salt and a drizzle of agave to the puree.  It was really yummy, sweet, and slightly tart.The plan is to use the puree for *bellinis (my favorite), fruit smoothies, ice cream or sorbet. Yummy!

*For those who might not know, to make a bellini you add about 2 Tbsp. of peach puree to the bottom of a champagne class and pour Proseco (italian sparking wine) over top.  Stir and enjoy!

Bounty of Beautiful “Begetables”

Look at these beautiful vegetables!  We picked these up on our trip to Eastern Long Island.  There’s bright zucchini, sweet summer squash, crisp cubanelle peppers and luscious purple eggplant.  We are so lucky to have such a bounty of beautiful vegetables grown so close to home!

Now, on to the roasting.  I decided to roast some of these gorgeous veggies.  I especially love roasted eggplant.  Here are my recipes for roasting vegetables:

Fresh Vegetables

Farm Fresh Vegetables

Roasted Eggplant with Peppers:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cube 3 small purple eggplant, seed and slice 2 light green cubanelle peppers, toss with salt and pepper and 1/4 cup garlic infused canola oil in a bowl and place in a roasting pan or pyrex pan.

Roasted Zucchini and Summer Squash with Onions: Slice 3 small zucchini and 2 small summer or yellow squash.  Then peel and slice 1/4 of a yellow onion (or red onion), toss with salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and place in a roasting pan or pyrex pan.

Roast both pans at the same time for about 30 minutes.  Be sure to toss half way through the cooking time.  Each recipe serves 4.  The eggplant comes out to 170 calories per serving and the squash comes to 148 calories per serving.  Enjoy!!

Next is the gorgeous sweet corn:  I husked all dozen and put aside 2 ears for dinner that night.  They were so juicy and plump while I was husking them, that I had to remind myself to hold back from taking a bite.  The remaining 10 ears I washed and dried completely and placed in double strength freezer bags to have all winter long!!

Roasted Vegetables

Vegetables ready for the oven.

Last chore for the night was to make homemade pesto with the giant bundle of basil I picked up: I make a very simple pesto (you can google basil pesto and get hundreds of recipes).  Then I place the mixture in ice cube trays and freeze for a few hours.  Then, I pop them out and place them in a double strength freezer bag to enjoy over pasta, baked on fish, spread on vegetable pizza or even spread on a sandwich.  I can’t wait to gobble it up…

So tomorrow it’s PEACHES!!!!