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Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Produce Plus Weekend: Sweet Peppers, Edamames, and Cucumbers

We spent the better part of our weekend in the kitchen. But, as I've written before, spending time in the kitchen with a large glass of wine and some good tunes with the one I love is a beautiful thing. So, what did we make? Well...

On Friday, Andy brought home a large pail of cucumbers from his colleague. What a generous lady! We decided to make those in the crock like we did earlier this year. The recipe for that is here. Our first batch is in the fridge, and the pickles are wonderfully crunchy. So, we figured why veer away from a good recipe? (Well, other than the fact that our fridge is very near capacity...we really need a second one to store all of this live food we've been creating.)

On Saturday morning, we picked up 5 pounds of mini sweet peppers and 10 pounds of edamame from the Harmony Valley Farm stand at the Farmers' Market. Juan happily handed us our boxes in return for our check. We love produce plus opportunities ~ they always lend themselves to weekends in the kitchen, preserving up food for the winter, but we are relishing the day when our gardening skills are so fierce that we won't even be tempted to order and pay for produce plus. We look forward to the day when we're swimming in tons of tomatoes and crowded out of the house by piles of edamames and peppers. But until then, produce plus is a perfect way to support a local, sustainable grower, while making an effort to eat  both seasonally and locally.

Funny thing about this week's produce plus pepper purchase is that we had no idea what we'd do with the sweet peppers once we got them. When we received the email that for the first time ever, these mini bursts of goodness were for sale in huge increments, we leaped at the chance. We began receiving these in our box about two years ago, and since then, they're one item we can't seem to tire of. As the summer winds down, at least there are mini-sweet peppers!. Honestly, they are mouth-poppingly delicious. Andy and I both eat them raw, plain or stuffed with cheese. So, what to do with 5 lbs of them? We tossed around roasting and freezing some, just freezing others, pickling them, making them into jelly, or even candying them. But then, this week's CSA newsletter featured mini sweets and provided a recipe for sweet pepper marmalade, and we were sold on that idea. The cans of red, yellow, and orange sweetness are gorgeous, and we're looking forward to sharing some over the holidays. The newsletter suggested serving with pretzels or crackers and cream cheese or goat cheese. Don't those ideas sound absolutely delicious?

...oh...and about that gardening goal, we saved a ton of sweet pepper seeds.

And, as for the ten pounds of edamame, simple! We blanched them (in shells) for three minutes, put them in a water bath, divided them up into freezer bags (2 cups per bag) and froze them. How great will an edamame salad be in the middle of a Wisconsin winter? So good. I'm already planning out my day of "summer eating" on a negative degree day: frozen watermelon juice-vodka drinks, edamame salad, and grilled veggie burgers perhaps?  I think I need to start getting bikini-ready for that fun day inside the confines of my cozy home now.

Here is the recipe we used (courtesy of Harmony Valley Farm) for the pepper marmalade:

1 cup sweet peppers, small dice
1 cup onion, small dice
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup white distilled vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4-1/2 tsp chili flake

Combine all ingredients in a medium saute pan.

Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer another 20 minutes or until liquid is syrupy. You can store in the fridge for several weeks or can and process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Our weekend totals are:
1 crock full of pickles
approx. 6 pints of sweet pepper marmalade (1/2 quart for the fridge)
17 frozen cups of edamame

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