I grabbed a knife….

CSA Pickup from the Garden of Earthly Delights

I walked straight in the door, to the kitchen counter and grabbed a sharp knife and a plate. The enormous Brandywine tomatoes were calling my name. Shouting, actually. I am always hungry at 4 in the afternoon, and today I took matters into my own hands. Rustic bread, fat slices of warm tomatoes and some salt and pepper. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Brandywines are one of the most prized heirloom tomato varieties. They are extremely fragile, and a bit weird-looking, which makes them unsuitable for the supermarket, as they cannot handle long-distance transport. That’s one of the many benefits of joining a CSA (or growing your own!)–you get to eat foods that are grown for their taste, not their durability and uniformity. You can place your not-quite-perfectly-ripe Brandywines on the counter top upside down method. In a day or two, enjoy them at the peak of freshness.

We’ve managed to clean our plates and did a pretty good job keeping up with our subscription. I have one holdover, the lovely curvy purple eggplant.

I clipped this recipe from the May ’07 issue of Rachel Ray’s magazine and have made it a half dozen times…the recipe rocks. I am including my notes for those of you who don’t do meat. I prefer this dish to any of the fried, breaded eggplant recipes. You can actually taste the eggplant and it probably has half the calories. You won’t really care, you’ll just want to eat it.

If you don’t have the meat, or don’t eat meat, forget about it. If you can’t get smoked mozzarella, no big deal. I use the fresh mozz from Costco, where the two logs come packed in brine and sell for about $7.00. Winco has fresh mozzarella balls for about $3.98 each. You’d need two. This tomato sauce recipe is really good…..fast, easy and very tasty. I made an extra large batch of it and froze some to have on hand.

Rachel’s Eggplant Stacks (May 2007 Rachel Ray’s EVERYDAY magazine)
2 eggplants, cut into twelve 1-inch-thick slices (she used Black Beauty)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 slices hot capicola (an Italian ham) or prosciutto
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)
One 28-ounce can crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes or fresh chopped from the garden
Pinch ground cinnamon
10 basil leaves, torn or chopped
1 pound smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 12 slices
1. Preheat an outdoor grill or a grill pan to medium-high. Brush both sides of the eggplants with olive oil (about 1/4 cup total) and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Grill the capicola slices for 1 minute on each side.
2. While the eggplant cooks, in a medium saucepan, heat the remaining oil in a sauce pan or sauté pan, on the grill or over medium-high heat on the stove. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cinnamon; season lightly with salt and heavily with pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the basil.
3. Pour a little of the sauce into a shallow, flameproof baking dish (or a heavy duty aluminum roasting pan) and spread to cover the bottom. Make 4 stacks of 2 repeating layers of eggplant, capicola and cheese. Top each stack with the remaining eggplant slices, some sauce and the remaining slices of cheese.
4. Set the baking dish on the grill and cover the grill (or place under the broiler), and cook until the cheese melts. Carefully transfer the stacks to plates, spooning extra sauce on the plate.

This week’s pickup included some lovely freshly dug red potatoes, an armload of fresh basil (pesto making session is scheduled for later tonight), another eggplant (which will be used for the recipe included today), and lots of roma tomatoes to go in the tomato sauce for the eggplant stacks. I passed on the tomatillos which we have decided we aren’t crazy about. I did take a half dozen pears for out-of-hand eating and for salads: salads with blue cheese crumbles and candied hazelnuts. And the husband’s replacement for greens: green beans -steamed and dressed with oil and rice wine vinegar.
Only three more weeks. Where has the summer gone???