October 11, 2011

From Veggie Box to Plate

The farm where our CSA box comes from is located in Dixon, CA about an hour and half north east from here.  There it's still warm and the summer crops are still happily providing.  This past week we had our first rain of the season and just like that I switched gears into obsessing over things like apples and pumpkins and stews.  Tomatoes, I love you, but I think it's time for a break.

I'm back and forth on my feelings regarding the aforementioned CSA box.  There's only one more box left in our trial, so I've begun to make mental pro and con lists in my head about the experience.  Quality wise, I haven't really any complaints - except that one time we got an heirloom Tigger melon that teased me with its perfume only to taste like nothing.  I suppose my problem is that some of the shopping and cooking control has been taken away from me.  My meal planning has been reversed.  Instead of using what's in season to guide my menu planning and in turn my shopping, I now search for recipes for specific ingredients and work from that direction.

Pros include the affordability and always having a house well stocked with (organic) vegetables and sometimes fruit.  I'm also all about supporting the small, local farms and avoiding Safeway like the plague.

In the meantime however, while I try and make up my mind, I still need to use up the goods in the veggie box.  I'll keep cooking the summer squashes and finding new ways to use up tomatoes and basil.  And for that I have the help of this dish I found on the NYT website.  It's honestly more than the sum of its parts which is exactly what I needed out of the recipe.  Something to surprise me and remind me to be grateful for harvest time's bounty.  Not quite stewed zucchini that maintain some bite to them melting together with sweet tomatoes and a kick of garlic and basil, it's summertime comfort food.  Fast too.

Zucchini Provencal

As suggested in the NYT column, I suspect this would be delicious served over some grilled fish, something mild and white.  We just had it with a chunk of crusty baguette and some salami for a light and simple meal.  It was delicious the next day gently warmed with a sprinkle of feta cheese and scooped up with the leftover bread.

4 side dish servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds medium or small zucchini thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ripe tomatoes, grated on the large holes of a box grater
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped or slivered fresh basil (to taste)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy skillet. Add the zucchini. Cook, stirring or shaking the pan, until the zucchini is lightly seared and beginning to soften, three to five minutes. Remove from the pan, and set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, then the garlic. Cook, stirring, just until fragrant -- less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have begun to cook down, about five minutes. Return the zucchini to the pan, add salt and pepper to taste, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is tender and translucent and the tomatoes have cooked down to a fragrant sauce. Stir in the basil, and taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from the heat and serve hot, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.

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