There's something about the light in the summer at about seven-thirty in the evening. If I'm working away at a dish near the windows above my sink, I get the most beautiful, moody, light. It's a magical hour. That being said, if I am working on a Sunday night at that hour, I'm probably desperate for one reason or another.
This week, I'm desperate because I have beautiful produce that I picked up this morning at the Newburyport Farmers' Market, and I still have beautiful produce from last week's market in the produce drawer. You've heard me say it before, local produce lasts longer. However, like any fresh vegetable or fruit, it has a shelf life. I hate to waste a thing, but my life has been too busy this week to do much cooking.
So this is where, dear readers, we save face. We go simple. We conquer that produce drawer and we save it all until we can use it. The beauty of local produce, it tastes fantastic even without getting fancy. In fact, most often, simple is best because it's oh-so-fresh. This week's "The Lighter Side of Local" focuses on using it up, even when you're pressed for time.
What I picked up this week for $13:
1 large bag spinach: $3
1 large head boston lettuce: $4
2 pints strawberries (yay!): $6
You may be thinking, heck, that's not a lot. I still have radishes for my salad from last week. The tumbler tomato plant in my backyard is offering up some tomatoes finally. I also still have the beets. I also had rainbow chard and broccoli rabe from last week leftover. Yes, I really hardly cooked this past week. So here's what we're going to do....
Freezing Greens 101
Yes, you can freeze pretty much any kind of green you want. Granted, you're not going to be using them in a salad when you defrost them, but if you're cooking with them, they freeze quite well. This method works great for things like broccoli rabe, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, anything hearty. Lettuces, they just don't freeze well in most cases.
1. Get a large pot of water boiling on the stove. Also prepare an ice bath to put near your pot of boiling water. We're going to blanch these greens, people.
2. Clean your greens well, discard any bad pieces or tough stems. I like to roughly chop my greens before freezing, but you can certainly keep them whole.
3. Take your greens and place them in the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes or so.
4. Using a slotted spoon or large mesh strainer, transfer the greens from the boiling water to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. You may have to add a few more ice cubes if the water ends up too warm. Allow the greens to sit in the ice water for 3-4 minutes.
5. At this point, drain your greens well. Allow them to dry on a large, clean, kitchen towel for a bit, then transfer to a plastic freezer bag. (Yes, for freezing I use plastic bags. I wash and reuse them after. I've found nothing really protects frozen products better than these).
6. You want to get as much air out of those bags as possible. Close them almost entirely, stick a straw in the corner and suck out as much air as you can. Remove the straw while you quickly seal the bag.
7. Label, date, and put in your freezer. Greens, in general, can probably last in there about a month or a month and a half.
If you're not in a freezing mood, and you're like me and have something like beets or turnips on hand. Roast those babies. It's simple and it's amazing. Honestly, I know it's not much of a recipe, but sometimes you just need someone to remind you how to do it and that you can.
Roasted Beets with Balsamic Vinegar
Source: A Veggie Venture
Serves: Depends on how many beets you roast, this works for any amount
Any amount of beets (I had 4 large, about a pound)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Clean your beets well, but leave the skins on. You also want to cut the beet greens off (you can use them in salads or elsewhere, they're edible), but leave about a half inch of the stem.
Place the beets in a large casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You could omit the oil if you're watching calories, but a little bit is good for you, I promise.
Stick in the oven and roast for 60 minutes. Take out of the oven, allow to cool, and then slip the skins off. You can then slice them and serve them or put them in the refrigerator. They're amazing on salads.