Fall harvest time is just about here! The nip in the morning air, and the new crop of greens, lettuces, sweet potatoes and cruciferous vegetables at the farmer's market and in our garden get me thinking about all the good things I want to cook this fall. I'm also getting a bit wistful already thinking about how much I will miss the fresh veggies this winter, and scheming about how to put some veggies up for those thin months.
Last week we got an inspiring email from the wonderful farmer who runs our CSA, Wild Onion Farms, about easy ways to save some of the harvest for winter. Here's what she said:
"Here's a few tips on how to easily put away some real fall food for later, without any special equipment or a lot of long sweaty hours in the kitchen:
- I've cured the sweet potatoes and butternut squash for storage already. If you want to stock up on these, the squash will last another 1-2 months, the potatoes will last 'til spring. Store them in a cool, dry, dark place (50-60 degrees is ideal). A chilly basement or garage is good. If you want to extend the butternut squash, go ahead and bake up a huge batch, put it in freezer bags, and stash it away in your freezer.
- Basil can easily be frozen: chop it up in a food processor and throw in little bags in the freezer, or go ahead and make a big batch of pesto and freeze that in individual portions (omit the cheese, it doesn't freeze well).
- Peppers, hot or sweet, can be chopped up, tossed in freezer bags, and chucked in the freezer. Nothing more. They won't retain their texture, but it won't matter if you're adding them to winter soups, stews, or sauces.
- Okra can be stashed away by cutting it up into slices, dip it into boiling water for a minute, drain, pat dry, and pack into freezer bags or containers.
- Cooking greens of any sort are really easy to freeze as well. Wash, chop, blanch in boiling water for a minute. Drain them, squeeze any excess water out, and pack away into the freezer.
- You can also cook up large batches of any of your favorite dishes, from garlicky greens to grilled eggplant, and tuck extra portions away in the deep freeze to enjoy months from now.
- Most root vegetables (beets, carrots, radishes, turnips), once you've removed the tops and placed them in plastic bags in the fridge, will last for months."
I've been working on some of these easy harvest-extenders, and thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes, too.
Last week I made up a batch of Vietnamese-style hot chili sauce with the hot peppers in our garden, using this recipe. I had plenty to make a jar for us and share a big jar with my sister. This would make a great gift for someone who likes to cook and loves hot food.
Here's a link to my method for making big batches of savory vegetable stock - it's a great way to use up your veggie odds and ends, and makes a delicious, hearty, nutritious broth for winter recipes.
Elizabeth mentioned garlicky greens in her email, and it got me thinking about this wonderful recipe from my dear friend Anne, who loves to have cooking (and eating) parties with friends. If you're not from the Southern U.S., you might not know how wonderful collards can be -- and even if you are from the south, you might have only had them cooked to death with a hamhock. This is a great way to find a new (and vegetarian) appreciation for a humble green leaf:
Ingredients: 1 bunch of collards for 2-3 people
4-6 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
Rinse collards and remove the ribs from the middle of the leaves. Then stack the leaves in a pile and roll them up like a cigar. Then thinly slice them.
Peel the garlic and slice each clove in half long-ways unless really large, then slice into thirds.
Heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook until just getting golden, and remove. Do not let them get brown or they will make the oil a bad (burnt) flavor. Now turn up the heat to medium high and add the collards with whatever liquid clings to the leaves. Stir them with a wooden spoon or tongs, being sure to bring up the ones from the bottom so everything gets cooked. I like them crunchy, but you can cook them to your liking. Just before serving, add the garlic back in and stir them up.
I like to serve these with plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and some apple cider vinegar on the side for purists. Have fun cooking up your harvest this fall!