Sunday, June 22, 2008

Preserving the Seasons: June, Week 4

When you're intent on preserving as much of the summer harvest as possible to feed yourself and your loved ones throughout the winter, it's awfully easy to lose sight of the need to continue making good, fresh, wholesome meals now.

As promised, my Week 4 posts in this series won't focus on preserving so much as enjoying the produce of the moment. If you ever feel -- like I often do -- that you're displaying too much of your Ant tendencies, working overtime to put food in the freezer or pantry, then you need to give yourself permission to be the "lazy" Grasshopper once in a while, sitting back and savoring the fresh flavors of summer while they're at their peak.

Of all the produce that comes into season in June here in Ohio, the leafy green vegetables offer the biggest selection of vegetables that just won't wait or be preserved for winter. Spinach and pac choi and some of the darker greens can be dried or frozen, but who in their right minds would want frozen and thawed lettuce? Nope, this is salad season, and there's no getting around that fact.

But eating salads day in and day out can get a little, well, boring. So it's worth it to get out of that rut now and then and actually cook something from the produce that's been piling up in the refrigerator.

For my featured local meal, I had planned to try out a new Indian recipe for Punjabi mustard greens. I had found mustard greens in this past week's CSA pickup, and with spinach from the farmers' market and lambs' quarters from weeding the Lady Bountiful's lettuce beds, I knew I had a good mix of greens to use. I added garlic scapes from my CSA along with the spices, making the greens almost entirely local, and I intended to serve them over cooked spelt berries (bought from the Spelt Baker at the farmers' market).

It all made a very healthy meal, but I had to agree with the Renaissance Man who colorfully described the dish's appearance as "a compost pile on a plate." (He is a brave soul, willing to try all my experiments, and he had an understanding smile on his face as he made the comment, so don't worry, I was able to laugh with him.) And while the idea and the flavor were both reasonable overall, it lacked something to take the edge off the mustard greens, and we agreed that it didn't really need to be repeated.

So instead, I offer you a different local meal for the month of June:

--a salad, of course, made from the Deer Tongue and Freckles lettuces from my CSA this past week and the leaf lettuce and amaranth from my own garden

--pesto pasta: homemade spelt pasta (with local spelt flour and eggs) topped with homemade pesto (local basil and garlic), oven-dried tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese

--a glass of cherry wine from the local vineyard

The dinner was not 100% local, of course, thanks to the olive oil and cheese and nuts (in the pesto), but it came pretty darn close. And I especially like that, without even thinking, I was able to use both fresh produce and some of what I had preserved last summer (the pesto and the tomatoes), so that you can see how handy it is to have preserved foods in the pantry to add to the fresh ones.

After this week's trip to the farmers' market, I'll have to make even more fresh dinners to use some of that good fennel and the asparagus that remains in the refrigerator, as well as more greens from my garden.

There's always a balance to be struck between preserving all the summer's bounty and enjoying it as much as possible while it's still fresh. I think everyone has to find their own balance -- and to keep readjusting the balance as needed -- because not everyone wants to do as much preservation work as I do. And that's okay! If you're new to preserving food, by all means, start slowly, appreciate what you are able to do, and savor whatever you eat now. The more you preserve now, of course, the more you'll enjoy later -- but don't let that stop you from enjoying the now, too!

And don't worry... we have more Now coming next week. Stay tuned!

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At 6/24/2008 8:51 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

The compost comment made me laugh. Just so you know, your preservation comments have been inspiring me, and as soon as I have time (tomorrow, I'm hoping), I'm going to blog on my efforts, which do seem pitiful next to yours. But it something!

At 6/25/2008 7:49 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Yes, he gave me quite a laugh with that one. :-) I do look forward to hearing about your preservation efforts, Janet!

At 7/01/2008 12:13 PM, Blogger valereee said...

I have to agree with the compost description! My favorite indian dish is saag paneer, though, so I'm used to looking at compost on a plate and seeing food.

At 7/01/2008 12:31 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

valereee, my favorite is channa saag, so I quite agree with your view. And hey, compost is good stuff, right???


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