By Camille Cody
When the height of summer hits (a little late this year, albeit) the amount of produce one can procure can be a bit overwhelming. Filling the market stalls are staple greens like chard and kale, first flush root veggies like turnips, carrots, beets and rutabagas, crunchy and tender broccoli and cauliflower, new season potatoes and those sweet summer and fall crops that may tend to have a bit of overlap in their all-too-short seasons like corn, tomatoes, peas and green beans. And that’s not to mention zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, Asian greens, fresh onions, kohlrabi, celery, summer squash, fennel and a multitude of fresh herbs.
Aside from canning, dehydrating, freezing and other methods of preserving this bounty, there are a few ways to include a number of veggies into one meal, thus getting the most bang out of your local veggie buck (and subsequently deposit numerous vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients into your body bank.)
Here are a few ideas to help you put away all of that local produce and keep the stock of vegetables in the refrigerator in good rotation:
Originating in the southern region of Spain known as Andalusia, this cold, tomato-based soup was a staple of field workers in need of some cooling off during the mid-day heat. Traditionally it consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, garlic, onions and herbs and spices, but many ingredients can be added to this raw concoction and you may find you prefer a specific combination of flavors and colors.
Choose from a variety of fresh vegetables: broccoli, fennel, peas (shelled), cucumber, summer squash, zucchini, herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil and oregano, carrots, cabbage, celery, scallions, shallots or onions.
Combine (in batches, if necessary) in a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or red wine vinegar, soy sauce or tamari, a dash of hot pepper sauce, salt, pepper, a teaspoon of miso and some chopped fresh garlic. Process the mixture until well blended and smooth.
Some regions of Spain like to serve this dish over a bed of croutons – a great way to use up day-old bread. Simply dice or cube a stale loaf, or toss some cubed fresh bread in the toaster till crisp, and make a bed of croutons in the bottom of your bowl before pouring the gazpacho over top. Garnish with some fresh herbs and a couple of croutons.
Begin by making your dough, using a recipe like this one: “Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust”. This is a perfect opportunity to use the local wheat grown by Nash in Sequim and sold in bulk at the Corner. It’s grittiness works well to keep the dough from sticking to your stone and adds good rustic flavor.
Now to gather your veggies – really the sky is the limit, especially when you consider all of the local cheeses available (like Mt. Townsend Creamery and Mystery Bay) and a few favorite combinations of mine include:
Potato, broccoli, pepper, tomato (pre-cook the potatoes by roasting or boiling till tender and lightly steam the broccoli before assembling.)
Fennel, carrot, zucchini, onion (grate the carrot and slice the zucchini paper-thin.) Cilantro, summer squash, shredded, cooked chicken, tomato (save the cilantro till the end and generously sprinkle over the hot pie as it comes out of the oven.)
Basil and tomato (don’t skip the fresh mozzarella on this one, and try a drizzle of balsamic just before serving.)
Cabbage, broccoli, ground beef, onion.
It’s the same principle as the pizza – consider all the local whole grains we have to choose from: spelt, wheat, rye, kamut and triticale. Simply cooking the whole grains and adding a cooked and assembled assortment of vegetables and herbs gives you an easy one-dish meal that can be made in large quantities to last for quite a few.
Soaking the whole grains before cooking is recommended – usually a few hours to overnight is sufficient – then just toss them in a pot with twice their measured amount of water and allow to gently boil till all the liquid is soaked up and you can fluff the grains with a fork (depending on the grain and its density, this will be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.)
Finely chop or grate your vegetables (carrots, beets, rhubarb, celery, turnips, peppers, broccoli, fennel, summer squash, zucchini, cucumber and onion all work really well – either in specific combinations or all together!
Saute your vegetables of choice in about a tablespoon of olive oil (start with the denser, root vegetables first and save the watery ones like squash or cucumbers till the end.) And add soy sauce or tamari, a dash of vinegar (red or white wine vinegars work well here), perhaps a drizzle of honey, especially if you’re going heavier on the beets, carrots or fennel. Cook until just softened and combine with the cooked grains, adding nuts, fresh herbs and dried fruit if you wish.
Take the opportunity to try new combinations, flavors and recipes to test your taste buds and find your personal preference – then share it with us here at the Corner! We’d love to know what you’re doing with your abundance of broccoli, turnips, or zucchini!
Don’t have a clue what to do with a vegetable? If it looks more like an alien spaceship or a gnarly version of a balloon animal than something edible, let us know and we’ll offer advice, tips and recipes on how to prepare and make the most of our local produce and help it get from the neighborhood grower to your dinner plate in tasty fashion.
Food photos for this post were borrowed from anonymous bloggers (sorry, try not to do this!)