New this week are some freshly dug carrots, which always taste sweet and crunchy fresh out of the earth. You will also find some Red Ace beets, cabbage, onions, chard, kale, epazote, and basil. Last week, the Bitterroot Valley came very close to having a frost, which, fortunately, did not happen since there are still so many tasty veggies to come during the dog days of summer. So yeah for the fresh basil, since this sensitive plant can succumb to the slightest breath of cold air.
While they have an obscure origin, carrots have become a mainstay vegetable for many of us. Naturally high in sugar these orange carrots also become a great source of vitamin A (due to the presence of carotene). Carrots are best stored in a plastic bag in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. Remove any tops before storage so the carrot stays crisp and sweet. Carrots should last a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Carrots are great both raw and cooked. If scrubbed well, you won’t even need to peel them. If cooking carrots, try to cut into even sized pieces so they cook at the same rate. Carrots pair well with thyme, chervil, dill, cumin, ginger, mint, sesame seeds, chili, mustard, honey, butter, olive oil, and sesame oils.
For notes on epazote, please refer to the week of July 9 newsletter. If you won’t be drying the herb, it is great used fresh in rice and bean dishes. Roughly chop the leaves and add fresh to your burritos, quesadillas or enchiladas. Or try adding some fresh leaves to salsa verde.
As mentioned before, basil is sensitive so you need to be aware of how you store it. Keep it well-wrapped in paper towels inside a plastic bag in the vegetable bin. Unless well-protected it will blacken and wilt. Basil can also be stored upright at room temperature in a glass with a little water; freshly trim the ends before putting in water.
Pesto (makes about ¾ cup)
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
4-5 garlic cloves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup olive oil
Combine the basil, cheese, nuts, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and process briefly. With the motor running, add ½ cup olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Continue processing until the pesto is the texture you prefer. If you plan on keeping this for a while in the refrigerator, float a tablespoon or so of oil across the surface to keep the top from turning brown, then cap tightly. It should keep until all used up. Serve at room temperature.
Coleslaw (makes enough to serve 6-8)
This recipe comes from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s The Gift of Southern Cooking, which showcases Southern food. Squeezing the cabbage adds an extra step, but it is key to the texture and a great way to reduce excess liquid. You can make the slaw just a few hours before serving or you can start a few days ahead; the salted cabbage can drain over night and then steep in the sweet-sour dressing before mixing in the creams.
1 large head of green cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced/shredded
2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
2-3 carrots, washed and grated
3 tablespoons kosher salt
Mix together the shredded cabbage, cucumber, and carrots in a large colander. Toss well with kosher salt, and leave to wilt for at least 30 minutes. Squeeze the slaw firmly by handfuls to extract as much liquid as possible, and then use your fingers to toss and loosed the squeezed slaw. Toss it in to a large bowl.
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sour cream
Freshly ground pepper
Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes, and whisk in Dijon mustard and oil. Pour the hot dressing over the reserved slaw and stir well to combine. Allow to cool slightly before stirring in the heavy cream and sour cream. Taste carefully for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Serve cold.