Peppers Becoming Peppers

IMG_0469 - Version 2Our peppers are ripening slowly but surely, coming into their own fully-peppered selves.

But meanwhile, a complaint. NYC’s scent gets a particularly bum rap for a city that contains upwards of eight million peeps. But come mid-July even I can’t contest that a haze smelling distinctly of diapers, feet, and way-past-its-sell-by-date milk looms in a fog around our fair town, making almost cartoony wafting shapes above piles of trash.

And thus! Evan and I will be merely in and out of the city for the next few weeks, avoiding the Oscar the Grouch smell and seizing the opportunity to take some time off before Evan starts his PhD (whoot!  Go bunny!) and I start my Master’s in Food Studies, Nutrition and Public Health (for real, I’ll be legit).

So over the next few weeks we’ll be helping out on my sister-in-law’s farm in Vermont, visiting both sets of our folks in Northwest CT, and even going to a wedding in Curaçao! As such we will be dropping into the city every few days, instead of every-every day. Hopefully our little window bounty will survive the lack of attention – although as things are looking a leetle shabby as is, perhaps not.

But! We do have some fine looking peppers turning appropriate pepper-shades coming along, and some very exciting eggplants, which neither of us are sure when to cave and pick. Suggestions?

IMG_0473 IMG_0472 - Version 2 IMG_0470(Oh, and it’s a metaphor. We’re the peppers. Obviously we’re the peppers, pay attention.)

 

Tequila-Tofu Taco Night

Taco NightAfter debating the merits of Chipotle earlier this week, all we could think about was Mexican food.  It might not be the most sustainable meal, but one of our favorite vegan dinners when we need a light cooking night is tequila tofu tacos. It’s freakishly easy, and a stellar backup for nights when spending long hours in the kitchen feels foreboding.

We sauté up some firm tofu in olive oil with:

  • lime
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • a splash of tequila
  • garlic
  • and sea salt

Then we chop up whatever came in our share that week – preferably tomatoes (love cherry), sometimes corn, or occasionally cabbage for some crunch. And we cut up some avocado. (Sorry fellow locavores, I simply can’t help eating avocados… like, all the time.) Er, and occasionally the addition of pineapple is just about the best thing ever.

Tofu TacosPan-fry some soft taco shells, stuff them with goodies, add some chile sauce. And enjoy.

Taco DonezoAnd just for good measure: a little tequila on the side never hurts.

Dabbled with Apples

Apple!Rumor has it that this year’s apple crop is going to be the biggest in years. So it may have been a little shortsighted of us to go apple picking. Surely our CSA will be throwing more apples our way than we could possibly know what to do with in mere weeks time, but oh well: a-picking we shall go.

New York state puts us in a stellar place to take advantage of apple season. NY is second to Washington state in apple production, and we have literally hundreds of variations to choose from. So we, tra-la-la, took the Metro-North upwards a bit, met a loved one, and made a day of it.

Paige and Evan Promenade

Paige and Evan Reeaaach

Up iN that tree.

Maggie+Apple+Paige=<3.

Evan will tell you that no trip to an apple orchard is complete without (at least) one apple cider donut.

Cider Donuts

Hello Autumn

Hello big pumpkin.Back home, we contemplated what to do with our big ol’ bag of apples. A few years back we wrote Appletopia with a few good ideas, but this year, what with the apple palooza ahead, we might have to get creative.

If you caught our recent post on canning, this might not seem like such a shocker, but we decided to kick off the apple season by making and canning apple butter. We cut up all the apples (at least the ones that didn’t get snarfed down with crunchy peanut butter) and put them in a dutch oven.

IMG_6761

Ok, so here’s where apple butter gets really tricky. Put the apples in a pot, walk away, and leave them on low heat for several hours.

No, seriously, that’s how you make apple butter. A chimp could do it.

IMG_6765

Exiting Appleland

Disclaimer: No offense to chimps intended. They’re actually very intelligent animals. Like the majestic platypus.

Canned Laughter

Canning!Our CSA share has been positively monumental lately. So much so, that we’ve had too many tomatoes and peaches than we know what to do with. Winter, however, will not be quite so flush. Thus, we recently decided to start canning.

We’ve fantasized about canning our CSA share extras for the last few years, but the combination of our small kitchen and the daunting prospects of sterilization have always scared us off. This year we got the canning-mojo, and have since been canning up a storm. We mentioned in our post Ten Things To Do With Tomatoes that we’ve begun these procedures and that we’ve been tom-loaded, so we started with tomatoes, and have yet to stop.

Though we’ll go over some basics, if you need a more in-depth primer on how to proceed, check here.

Step 1. Sterilization

The number-one rule is to keep everything clean.  Start by cleaning your jars and lids well and then put them in a pot of boiling water.  We just leave them there until it’s time to fill them. They clank around a lot to let you know they’re getting nice and sterile.

Sterilizing Cans

Step 2. Prepare food

Doing tomatoes is really straightforward, and it’s the same for peaches. You don’t want the skins of either fruit, so drop them in boiling water for about a minute, then put them in an ice bath, after which the peels just fall away when you rub on them a little. Do this a few at a time and then place them in a colander above a bowl to save the juice. Once they’re all peeled, remove the core and cut into quarters.

Step 3. Can

Stuffing Those Toms InCarefully remove the sterilized jars and start adding the tomatoes, leaving about 1/2″ at the top (the “head space”). Use the reserved juices to cover the tomatoes, and remove as much air as possible by prodding with a chopstick or wood spoon.  Screw on the lids and “process” by placing the closed jars back in the boiling water for about 45 minutes to one hour (depending a bit on the size of the jar). Then just take out the jars and let stand for a few hours without moving them. The lids should make a very satisfying pop to let you know they’ve fully sealed.

Boiling CansThose are the basics!

We got a little fancy and roasted some tomatoes with garlic for some (mid-winter) summery sauces, which smelled heavenly.

Tomatoes with Garlic and Basil and Rosemary

Roasted Tomatoes

IMG_6429As we all know, peaches – much like tomatoes – become a sad-hybrid-pretend-fruit in the supermarket come late fall/early winter. Seriously, they taste like mealy soap. To combat this conundrum, we (mere days after tomato canning) canned a combination of yellow, white and donut peaches, which promises to be a heavenly treat come the frost.

Canning Peaches

And now we’re ready! We can pack up away and hibernate, not to be seen again until April or so. Our pantry (aka NYC closet) is stacked.

Canned Tomatoes

Canned Peaches

NYC Pantries (Closets)

Next up, apples.

Even Audrey Baked in the Summertime

Picture borrowed from www.twistedsifter.com, colored by Dana Keller.

Picture borrowed from http://www.twistedsifter.com, colored by Dana Keller.

It may be past Labor Day, but if you hovered around New York City last week you’d be hard pressed to find someone who believed it. It was very sticky, impressively hazy, and just a little bit smelly. It made everyone who had packed away their AC units rethink doing so, and I saw more than one adult run through an open fire hydrant.

Zucchini Polaroid

So we took the opportunity to bake. (No, really. We’re not that bright.)

Zucchini bread is a harvest season favorite because of all the unruly zukes that manage to get away from you and take a turn towards plus size. People literally beg you to take zucchinis off their hands, and really, who am I to deny them?

The comically enormous zucchinis tend not to have as much flavor as the smaller ones – which is too bad because so many of them seem to get away from their gardeners – but they make a perfect foil for a sweet bread. And just one can often yield a healthy sized zucchini bread, a handful of zucchini muffins, and still a bit leftover for zucchini fritters.

In the Zucchini Battle of 2011 we gave a good list of things to make when the harvest explodes, one of which was zucchini bread. But as the recipe has been asked for, I’ve decided to elaborate. It’s so easy there’s almost no reason not to take 15 min and use the bartering system to take someone’s garden veggies (including some uberzukes) and return a bread back after.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 1/4 cups of white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp cinnnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 sticks of butter (or 1 cup vegetable oil)
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups of grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

(I found a vegan recipe here! So when I’m not baking for others, I can chow down too.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease two 8X4 inch pans. Sometimes the mixture fills one 9×5 just as well and is a fatter more luscious bread. But play it by ear with how much mixture you have and whatever kinds of loaf pans.

Start by shredding up the zucchini with a grater: and prepare to get jacked. Or if you prefer spaghetti-arms and you have one near, a food processor with a grating attachment will work just as well.

Shredded Zucchini (sans food processor)Stir up all your dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon), while melting your butter on the stove. Keep a watchful eye so your butter doesn’t brown.

In a separate bowl blend sugar and melted butter, and then add eggs one by one.

Zucchini Bread Wet IngredientsAdd dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stir up altogether, and then add zucchini and chopped nuts. Feel free to add dried cranberries, chocolate, and other nuts and dried fruit depending on your tastebuds.

Zucchini BreadsPour mixture into buttered pan (or pans). Bake for 45-60 min. You’ll know your bread is ready by the smell, and if a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy plain, or if you’re feeling crazy fry it in a pan for breakfast and enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Zucchini Bread

Then share with neighbors.

The smell of baking zucchini bread is a classic sign of fall in our household. While Audrey might have enjoyed a sweltering bake day with us last week, this week she’d be back in sweatpants (ha, a likely story) as the weather has dropped an ominous 30 degrees. But at least, like us, she’d have some comfort food to mourn the passing of summer with. Fare thee well, lovely summertime.