What We Ate and How

The share from Middle Earth Farm was larger this week, a welcome development. But then I heard from a friend of a friend that Russell Orchards’ sour cherries were ripened and already on sale, so we took a lazy drive down to Ipswich to pick up several pints as visions of jewel-toned jam pots danced in my head all along the way. Of course the clever folks at Russell’s had all sorts of colorful berries set out alongside the glossy and neon bright cherries. Of course they did. And of course I bought more than I planned to.

So in addition to the week’s produce from the CSA – parsley, scallions, garlic, carrots complete with robust tops, arugula, curly endive, chard, bok choy, a pound of baby summer squashes and a pint of red cherries – waiting for me at home, I now had six pints of sour cherries, six pints of early raspberries, and three pints each of red currants and black currants (with an incongruous bunch of salad onions thrown in for good measure) to deal with. I shouldn’t have given in to my impulse for so much fruit but look at it all; could you have resisted?

Cooking or preserving everything wasn’t easy, but I did it. By now everything has been eaten (or will be as of dinner tonight, when the bok choy makes its appearance on the dinner table with some grilled salmon) or put up for later in one way or another.

The hottest weather dictated lots of curly endive and arugula salads. As a side, I added the onions that had been pickled. For something a little more substantial on another night, flaked smoked trout.

One salad we like a lot as either a side dish or a main is a mediterranean style white bean salad, and we’ll happily eat it more than once a week if the mercury crosses the 90-degree mark.

Always have beans on hand in the pantry. This salad uses cannellini beans, with parsley, scallions, halved cherry tomatoes, celery, and the green stalks of a fennel bulb (if you have some) adding a variety of flavors and textures to them. This dish only needs a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing to pull it together, and it sings with freshness. Fabulous on a hot day. If it’s really hot, add to the salad some oil-packed tuna and you have a main course without lighting oven or grill.

I confess to lighting the oven once last week in order to bake this delicious swiss chard tart, which is really just a quiche with more egg yolks and less cream.

On Sunday, the baby squashes went on the grill in a grill basket to keep them from falling through the grate.

Most of the fruit I washed, dried, and froze. The red and black currants and 4 pints of the raspberries bide their time in freezer bags while I decide how best to use them. I’ve been thinking about making raspberry-red currant jam somewhere down the road. And a plum and black currant crisp, also down the road when plums are in season.

Two pints of the raspberries became a puree for my lunchtime yoghurt.

(This sauce is also delicious warmed a bit and spooned over vanilla ice cream, should you need a crowd pleasing but no fuss dessert for the holiday.Add two pints of berries to a saucepan with about 1 Tbsp. sugar or honey, bring to a simmer and let bubble gently until the berries break down. A matter of minutes.)

I had the most fun with my favorite sour cherries.

Between the pint from Middle Earth and the six pints from Russell, I tallied just over five pounds of cherries, and I cleaned them up right away. Sour cherries must be washed and used right away; their tender skins and flesh are easily bruised and highly perishable. Five pounds was enough to make sour cherry “marmalade” (sour cherry jam made with lemon juice and lemon zest) with some left over to experiment with a David Lebovitz recipe for pickled sour cherries. I doubled his recipe but otherwise followed the instructions to the letter.

These unusual pickles are delicious with cheese and would make a fun addition to a cold platter of meats and antipasti. And someone better versed than I in the art of the cocktail could probably devise a drink where these morsels take the place of a either a maraschino or pickled onion.

If you are interested in trying the jam, pit four pounds of the cherries. Add to this fruit 3 1/2 cups of sugar and the juice and zest of one whole lemon. Follow the general method I used for making strawberry jam, right down the potato masher if you like your fruit jams chunky. If you prefer a more homogenized texture, pulse the pitted cherries a few times in a food processor to easily chop them. Boil, thicken, test for doneness, and can as directed. Four pounds of cherries yielded five half-pints of jam.

©2012 Jane A. Ward