Monday, July 11, 2011

Early Summer Soup with PEAS!

The fields have officially switched from spring to summer. The greens will be tapering off (they certainly won't be gone entirely - what's a CSA share without a few greens?), and the non-leafy vegetables will begin filling up the share bags. This week includes three new to 2011 non-leafy items for members to enjoy, along with lots of greens to keep things interesting.

The share includes: Head Lettuce, Salad Mix with arugula and mustard, Braising Mix, Chard, Green Onions, Snow Peas, Shelling Peas (probably, we might give the Saturday folks shell peas this week and the Tuesday/Wednesday folks shell peas next week), Cauliflower, Mint, and a Green Pepper from the hoophouse. A few of you may get a couple jalapenos, a handful of cherry tomatoes, or a Japanese eggplant if we run low on peppers.

New Ace Peppers in the Hoophouse. On July 11th.
In the Upper Peninsula. Astounding!
First, I gotta say it blows my mind that we have so many peppers ready in the same week that the peas are coming in. The peppers are coming from the plants we planted in the hoophouse on our member work day way back on May 1st. We were actually a little worried about the peppers a few weeks ago because they were kind of slow to take off, but now that they have, they are going strong. A few varieties seem to be exploding with peppers. Season extension is an amazing thing.

An Oregon Giant Snow Pea. These things really do get giant,
but they remain sweet and tender, even when they're huge! 
Second, I have to say Hooray For Peas!!! The peas went in the ground around mid May. If you remember, the spring was cold and wet this year and we had to wait a little longer than we wanted to get our seeds in the ground. Well, the peas didn't mind getting in late. They have grown like gangbusters and they're starting to come on around the same time they have in years past.

As mentioned earlier, all members will receive snow peas this week (and hopefully for the next couple of weeks) but we are not quite sure about the shelling peas. If they plump out enough by tomorrow everyone will get them this week, otherwise the Tuesday/Wednesday members will get them next week. The window of perfection is slim for those little guys and we want to make sure that no one gets teeny or mega giant shelling peas.

Cauliflower and Chard, glowing in the afternoon sun. 
My guess is that no one will have trouble figuring out how to use the new items in the share this week. I wouldn't be too surprised if many of you find your snow peas are all eaten up before you even make it home from pick up.

The only new thing that some of you may not be very familiar with is the chard, which has shown up already in its baby form in the braising mix. Chard is the same plant as the beet, bred for large greens rather than a plump root. When it is tender it can be sliced up and added to salad, but it is generally eaten cooked. Try using it similarly to the braising mix or kale you have received or, if you haven't eaten all of your snow peas yet, make a pasta salad. Slice snow peas, green onions, and chard in bite sized pieces (include the chard stems, sliced into quarter inch pieces). Marinate the vegetables in a dressing made with white wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (thyme, mint, or basil would be good) for about a half an hour. While things are marinating, prepare a box of farfalle, rotini, or macaroni according to the directions on the box. Cool the pasta and toss it with the marinated vegetables.

If you would rather cook your chard, and feel like spending a bit more time in the kitchen, try the following soup recipe.

Early Summer Soup

This is a very light and delicate soup with no cream, or even stock to distract you from the fresh flavors of the vegetables. Paired with toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, it made a perfect dinner for the three of us (with a little soup left over) on this oppressively hot evening.
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups (or more) shelling peas, measured in the shell
  • 1 small bunch green onions (8-10 onions)
  • 4 chard leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  1. First make a vegetable stock by simmering the following ingredients in a covered pan for about 30 minutes: water, the shells from the peas (but not the peas themselves - reserve the peas), the chopped green portions of the green onions, the chopped chard stems (but not the leaves), the pepper, and the salt.
  2. While the stock is simmering, separate the cauliflower into very small florets, slice the white portions of the green onions thinly, and slice the chard leaves into very thin strips. 
  3. When the stock has finished simmering, strain the liquid, and return it to the pan.
  4. Add the cauliflower and onions to the stock and simmer until the cauliflower is just tender, about fifteen minutes.
  5. Add the peas and chard leaves to the soup, stir for one minute.
  6. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped mint.
  7. Taste for salt and pepper before serving.

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