In the peak of summer, meal simplicity is key. Gone are the leisurely cold weather days spent in my kitchen experimenting and whipping up masterpieces. In the height of summer, we want meals that come together quickly in the kitchen or maybe don’t require any time in the kitchen at all.
Our harvest days are full and we’re working around the clock to bring in all the bounty we’ve worked so hard over the last few months to grow. The unyielding rain of the past month has led to a few issues (mainly disease and weed related problems that my Carrot is working hard to remedy) but also it has led to massive quantities of vegetables.
We’re hauling in 300 pounds of cucumbers and another 100 pounds of zucchini and summer squash from our cucurbit field three to four times per week. The peppers are prolific putting three to seven fruits on each plant requiring weekly harvests at a minimum! The broccoli just won’t stop producing and our poor CSA members can’t see an end in sight to this beautiful broccoli season that began in early June. The eggplants are seeming to double in size over night yielding some of the biggest and best eggplant we’ve ever grown. The beans have just started to produce in their true abundance. Yesterday, my Carrot spent six straight hours lugging buckets of beans up from the field.
The onions are swelling, easily reaching over a pound a piece. Week by week we’ll harvest another variety to start curing in the sunshine. The same goes for the 1200 feet of potatoes we’re growing. We’ll harvest the lovely red potatoes this week and then week after week haul in another few hundred pounds until they are all dug. The first ripe tomatoes have just appeared, meaning daily tomato harvests are just around the corner. We tasted a Baby Doll yellow watermelon on Tuesday that still needed a week or two to ripen but tasted like pure sunshine signaling the even heavier harvest days that lie ahead.
So as we keep bringing in truckload after truckload out of the fields and into our cooler, we find ourselves wanting the simplest of meals when we get home at night. Often it’s something that highlights the bounty. Cherry tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic and salt. Fresh cucumbers with onions, avocado and a simple dressing. Grilled zucchini, grilled scallions, grilled cabbage, grilled anything. A kale salad with beets, walnuts, blue cheese and fennel. Simple hashes of eggplant, potatoes and peppers. Huge vats of curries. Noodle bowls and rice bowls with all the veggies leftover in my fridge before the next batch comes in.
Our food life lately tends to consist of a lot of veggies and not much else. It’s wonderful, but every now and then you need simplicity that feels like more. Simplicity that feels elegant and romantic and special whether you’re eating it off a blanket during Concerts on the Square or across the picnic table from your sweetie in the backyard.
This date night cheese board with goodies from Fromagination in Madison, some quickly pickled fennel from our fields and beautiful raspberries from my friend Beth’s farm came together fast last night but made for a lovely start to the weekend. It was also massive so the quantities below are for half of what’s pictured. It easily serves two as a whole dinner but could happily serve four prior to some great grillables. The double portion would be lovely for a crowd.
Here’s hoping your harvests are abundant, your summer is sunny, and you get some time to eat cheese outside with the one you love,
Thank you Fromagination for sponsoring this post!
DATE NIGHT CHEESE BOARD
3 ounces Underground Meats Aahle Worscht
3 ounces Le Delicce de Bourgogne
2 ounces Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue
2 ounces Roelli Haus Select Cheddar
1 ounce La Claref Farms Evalon
1 jar pickled fennel (recipe below)
1 jar Quince & Apple Caramelized Shallot Confit
1/2 pint raspberries
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup honey
1 package Potter’s crackers
Makes 4-1/2 pint jars
Takes 25 minutes
1 large fennel (or 2 small), core removed and very thinly sliced or shaved with a mandolin (see link here for instructions)
1 orange, rind removed with a vegetable peeler, then juiced
1 lemon, rind removed with a vegetable peeler, than juiced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
16 pink peppercorns (black will suffice if you can’t find or don’t have pink)
1/2 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1. Pack fennel into 4 half pint jars evenly.
2. Peel citrus with a vegetable peeler so it comes off in elegant strips. Reserve the fruit. Divide peeled strips among jars. Add 4 pink peppercorns and a pinch of red pepper flakes to each jar.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan along with the juice from bowl the orange and lemon. Bring to a boil over high heat.
4. Pour hot pickling liquid over fennel, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Let sit at room temperature for two days before refrigerating. Store in fridge for a couple months.