Chili and Okra Season

weekly CSA share
More okra! And what are those funny egg-shaped things in the front? Lemon cucumbers!

Out here in the desert, the produce that does well is sometimes obvious, as with the chili peppers — think of Hatch Chilies, which come from just over the state line in New Mexico. Some, however, is not so obvious, such as those little Lemon Cucumbers you see right up front. We generally start getting those right at the peak of summer. The time when tomatoes stop producing because it’s too hot (they won’t set fruit when triple digits arrive), these refreshing and juicy cucumbers are right there to make a cool salad or side.

So, this week’s share included:

  • Okra (1 basket)
  • Lemon Cucumbers (3)
  • Sweet Potato (1 huge)
  • Gold potatoes (3)
  • Summer Squash (2)
  • Basil (1 bag)
  • Yellow onions (5)
  • Green Chilies (5)

We already made a small salad with a lemon cucumber and some basil, topped with just a few drops of Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It made a perfect side to a batch of fried okra and some baked potatoes — done in the microwave. A bit more basil went into an omelet for breakfast, and the rest of the basil will make a small batch of pesto for pizza sauce — pizza night is almost upon us. Everything else? We’ll update this in a week.

Update 7 August: We made a nice (but spicy) Chile Relleno Casserole with the chilies, some of the potatoes, and one summer squash. The rest of the basil went into a batch of delicious pesto that we used as a pizza sauce — pesto, mozzarella, mushrooms, and olives on half — Oh, was that good. Two of the cucumbers worked just perfect as a topping for sandwiches through the week, and the remaining summer squash and a potato went into a batch of tomato vegetable soup — we used a can of tomatoes and a fresh frozen tomato for that just picked taste.

Potato Soup

potato soup
Fancy! Potato soup drizzled with cream.

If you follow the produce we get in our weekly share (and if not, you should), you’ll have noticed that potatoes show up on a regular basis. And onions. A lot. Fortunately, they both keep well, and, of course, they’re both really versatile, appearing in many dishes. But, we’d had trouble keeping up with the ‘taters & onions, and knew we had to start making a dent in our overflowing shelf (potatoes were dropping off the shelf every time we took take out the tin of granola for breakfast). It was time to start using them.

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Worth the trouble?

Gumbo

gumbo with rice
Gumbo means okra!

We picked up our food from the CSA, then had to make a mad dash off to the car repair place (our car was in the shop…), and quickly return a rental (…for several days), so, by the time we did that, we really, really, wanted something quick and easy. Like a take-out pizza. We decided against it, since our produce was as fresh as possible, and we knew we had okra. Lots of okra.

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Worth the trouble?

Fresh Tomato Vegetable Soup

tomato vegetable soup
Soup, the perfect comfort food!

We’re still working on finishing off our second flat (15 pounds) of fresh tomatoes that we picked up through our CSA. Yeah, we know, that’s a problem everyone would like to have. And, just the other day, we made up a quick and easy soup from some of those tomatoes. At the time, we thought that, while it would be okay, it wouldn’t really knock our socks off, so we didn’t bother doing the legwork for a post. We were wrong. So, we had to make it again to share with you.

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Worth the trouble?

Thomas Keller’s Soup Crackers

plate of crackers
Yes, we ate them all during our lunch. They were that good.

Most likely, we will never eat at The French Laundry, nor Ad Hoc. Both are far away from us, and out of our price range. But, thanks to Thomas Keller’s book, Ad Hoc at Home, we can try making something that might be served in one of his restaurants. We’re pretty excited to be trying out his Soup Crackers; we had such a hit with Pappardelle with Mushrooms, and these seemed so simple to make up and perfect to go along with a big bowl of steaming tomato vegetable soup (see tomorrow’s post).

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Broiled Indian Tomatoes

Broiled Indian tomatoes
A different way to have tomatoes!

Are you suffering from a surfeit of fresh, ripe tomatoes from your garden, and can’t figure out a new way to eat them before they go bad? Try this recipe for a nice tomato-based side dish, or, along with some naan or pita breads, a tasty light lunch. It takes all of 5 minutes to prepare the tomatoes, and, at most, 10 minutes under the broiler, so it’s easy and fast. And, what could be better when your tomatoes are ripening faster than you can eat them?

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Worth the trouble?

Three, count ’em, three baskets of okra

CSA produce share
White bell peppers! Who ever heard of such a thing?

Yep, look at that! Yesterday, through the fortuitous benevolence of the trading baskets we were able to increase the amount of okra we brought home from one to three baskets. We revel in the apparent dislike that some people have for okra. It always means more for us! Yay!

Other items in this weeks share include:

  • Big Jim Anaheim Peppers (5)
  • Mixed bell peppers (green and white)
  • Tomatoes (1 basket)
  • Gold potatoes (3)
  • Sweet potato (1 huge)

The items we traded for the extra okra were a basket of tomatillos and six red onions (we have lots of onions at home already).

So far, we’ve made our first batch of gumbo with the okra and tomatoes. It’s quick and easy; we’ll show you. Everything else, well….

Update 31 July: The huge sweet potato came a large batch of rosemary-sage oven fries, and yes, we did make the cheese sauce to go with. The okra, other than what we used for the gumbo, we turned into fried okra. The Anaheim peppers went into a batch of Chili Relleno Casserole, which is probably our favorite way of using chili peppers. And finally, we made some risotto stuffed peppers with the remaining green and white peppers.