Chopped Caprese 

These Sungold Cherry Tomatoes, tucked inside my CSA box,  were the inspiration for today’s post.  I love little tiny tomatoes, and these ones deliver huge flavor in a vibrant, exciting color.  

One of the best ways to highlight the flavor and texture of a great tomato is a simple Caprese salad.  Usually a larger tomato is used, one similar in size to a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, but this time we are going to make a chopped Caprese so that we can utilize these cherry tomatoes and feature their awesome flavor in a more accessible and portable way!img_2806
In this recipe you also get to enjoy the aromatic goodness of fresh organically grown basil from Sage Mountain Farm.  I think that the smell of basil is the perfect smell of summer.  If you love basil check out our Strawberry Basil Lemonade!  it’s great for a change from the traditional.

Speaking of breaking with tradition, this salad not only is chopped, but it also uses firm tofu instead of mozzarella cheese.  Now if you are a purist, please use the cheese, but if you’re up for something different or just prefer to keep dairy at arm’s length, then read on farm blog followers…

I followed the method for “curing” the tofu from the Vegan Caprese Salad recipe on the Whole Foods Website.  So to deal with your tofu, please visit that link and then come back here to continue.  A note: the Whole Foods recipe calls for white balsamic, and I used regular (you know, the dark-brown-almost-black-deliciousness that can be used on many treats, both savory and sweet).

So once you have your tofu (or mozzarella if you really couldn’t help yourself, lol) ready, then simply cube it up into pieces roughly similar to the size of the cherry tomatoes when halved.

Halve your cherry tomatoes, all of them that are left after snacking on them straight from the container…yes, I saw you eat them…

Pull basil leaves off their stems until you are tired of doing it, or you’ve got a big ‘ole pile.  Stack several leaves together then roll ’em up like a tiny log.  Use a knife to slice them narrowly into strips, it’s called chiffonade, or simply give them a good choppy-chop.

Toss all of the components in a big bowl; halved tomatoes, cured tofu cubes, and chopped or “chiffonaded” basil.  Then I added salt and pepper to taste and a little more balsamic love, also to taste.

Stir, serve, eat!

This can be a great picinic/potluck bring along item and it staysjust fine in the fridge overnight.  Caution, while awesomely delicious, if left for more than a day in the fridge the basil begins to oxidize and will not be vibrantly green.  Nothing to worry about though, because it never lasts that long anyhow…

Yes, it’s that good.

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Swimming Cucumbers

This is a family recipe for refrigerator pickles that, in my family, we like to call “swimming cucumbers”.  It is simple and basic, but the tartness from the vinegar and the chilled cucumbery goodness are so refreshing in the heat of summer.  I can remember eating these all the time when I was a kid, and now with fresh organic cucumbers from Sage Mountain Farm, I make them for my kids and they love ’em as much as I did.

Start by washing the cucumbers and slicing the ends off.  Then using a vegetable peeler, I like to give my cucumbers some stripes.  I peel a strip of skin from one end to the other and then I rotate the cucumber before peeling another strip (leaving alternating strips of skin on and skin off).  This is just personal preference.  My kids would prefer not to have any skin on and, as a mom I would prefer them to eat the skins.  So we have found a happy medium with striped cucumber rounds, everybody’s happy.  Do what you like here…but, fair warning, stripes are fun!

Next slice the cucumbers into rounds about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick, depending on your preference.  Also, if you like you can make these into half rounds.  Whatever floats yer boat!

Put all of your slices into a lidded container that has a bit of extra room for liquid.  Using a mixture of equal parts water and apple cider vinegar, cover all of the cucumbers.  Finally sprinkle the top of the liquid with a generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper, course grind works best.  Place the lid on the container and tuck these babies away overnight in the fridge.  Next day, enjoy!

For another tasty summer treat, revisit this recipe from last summer- Strawberry Basil Lemonade!

Give us a comment below if you tried either of these recipes!  We’d love to have a conversation with you!

 

Summer Ratatouille

Sage Mountain Farm
Summer’s Bounty, Beautifully Layered!

When I saw the gorgeous purple and white Japanese eggplant this week in my CSA box, I was filled with longing and dread.  Let me explain… My favorite color is purple, so naturally I love the eggplant with it’s deeply purple skin.  A vegetable that’s purple, what could be better? (perhaps a purple cookie…I digress) So of course, this explains the longing.  I want to love the flavor of such a beauty as well.  Which leads to the dread.  I have NEVER been able to prepare eggplant myself that tasted any good.  It had become such a problem that I had been banned from ever buying an eggplant again.  Sometimes you just gotta cut and run.  Let things lie…you know, quit while you’re ahead and such.

Since this eggplant came to me via my weekly farm box, I didn’t feel like I was violating the eggplant ban because I didn’t choose it, it chose me, so to speak.  I knew that I had to try again to catch my unicorn…decent homemade eggplant.  This time I nailed it!  But what was different this time you might ask?  Two things were different, and both contributed to my new-found success.  First I had never tried Japanese eggplant before, always the big fatties.  This was a good change because one of the problems that I usually encounter with home cooked eggplant is the chewiness and I think eggplant texture is a good example of a little being good and too much being not so good.  Second, I finally took the time to prepare the eggplant ahead of time.  It is usually listed as optional in eggplant recipes, but I have found it to be completely mandatory!  You must salt, drain, squeeze, rinse and pat dry.  You must.  I promise that it makes a huge difference.

All of the summery goodness that I needed for ratatouille was at hand, thanks to Sage Mountain Farm.  I had eggplant, leeks, tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and zucchini.  This dinner went over well with the fam and I have to say that the smell coming from my oven when this was baking was A. MAZE. ING!  Try it and you’ll see for yourself!

Summer Ratatouille

4-5 Japanese eggplant, sliced and prepared ahead of time (NOT OPTIONAL)

3 zucchini, sliced

5-6 small tomatoes, sliced

8-10 cloves of garlic, minced

2 leeks, sliced

1/2 c vegetable broth, divided (or olive oil, or a combination of both)

fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

First thing to do is to prepare your eggplant.

Sage Mountain Farm
Eggplant slices

Get out a colander and place a layer of eggplant slices in the bottom.  Salt this layer liberally.  Another layer of sliced eggplant, more salt.  Lots of salt.  The purpose of this is to draw out the excess moisture, which can give eggplant a slimy mouth-feel, and any bitterness that may be present.  You will end up rinsing this salt off so don’t worry about how much to use.  Continue to layer eggplant slices and salt until you have sliced and salted it all.  Let this drain in your sink, and walk past occasionally to press the whole thing lightly.  I put a bowl on top of the eggplant that fit inside my colander to do my pressing for me.

While this is going on slice up everything else.  Get out a glass casserole dish and put a little olive oil or broth in the bottom and then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once everything is prepared and your eggplant has been draining for between 30 minutes and two hours you are ready!

Start your ratatouille with a layer of leeks.  Next, for the eggplant layer, you need to grab a handful of eggplant slices and squeeze hard under running water.  Pat these slices dryish and build your eggplant layer.  This will take several handfuls in my experience.  After the eggplant layer, put on zucchini slices followed by tomato slices.  Then salt, pepper, garlic and basil all over the tomatoes.  Continue making these layers until all of your ingredients are used up.  When that happens take the rest of your broth (or olive oil) and drizzle it all over the top.  Bake for about one hour and enjoy the smells coming from your oven!

Sage Mountain Farm
Another veggie packed meal!

We served this over brown rice with almond Parmesan on the top!  Try it out and let me know how you liked it!

Strawberry Basil Lemonade 

 This summery fresh recipe will knock your socks off!  Really!  It will change your whole concept of what lemonade can be.  Powdered mix, yellow or pink, be gone!  Once you give this a try you will never want anything else, it is truly an adventure!

Are you curious yet?!  I found this recipe on Chow.com and I knew that it would be great.  The smells when you are cooking the syrup are to die for!  Seriously, the syrup on its own could be poured over vanilla ice cream and that would be a delicious summery dessert.

Fresh CSA strawberries and basil really shine, giving this lemonade a tasty twist.  It will surely wow your family and friends.