Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adventures with fresh produce

September was a delicious month for me and my family. A friend was traveling this month, and we had the good fortune of collecting and enjoying her share of CSA crops each Wednesday. This gave me the opportunity to channel my inner Martha Stewart and try some new recipes.

People don’t have time to cook anymore, and I’m no exception. I have to make the time, literally carve it out of my schedule with a butcher knife (pardon me for the violent analogy, perhaps some buried anger is being activated). My motivation this month was a determination NOT to let these wonderful fresh vegetables go to waste. Their resilience during these drought conditions was nothing less than inspiring, and I felt it was my duty to honor them.

Following is a recounting of four of my kitchen adventures that I put in the success column.

Green tomato cake. I had offered to provide dessert for the big meal at our annual Labor Day Lake Michigan family get-together. That week’s CSA basket contained several green tomatoes, along with a recipe for green tomato pie. Until then, the only use for green tomatoes I knew of was to fry them, a la the movie starring Kathy Bates. There mere suggestion of using green tomatoes in a dessert made my stomach slightly turn, yet my creative side persisted. I Googled for more green tomato dessert ideas and found a promising recipe for Green Tomato Cake. This was a risk – could I dare try something that sounded so unappetizing and subject my extended family to it as well, possibly ruining the entire weekend with a dessert that would end up in the trash can? Why not, I thought. I owed it to the tomatoes. The risk paid off. It turned out to be the most delicious cake ever, moist and dense, somewhat like zucchini bread, perfect with cream cheese frosting. I presented the dessert to the family as a “mystery dessert,” and challenged them to guess the secret ingredient. They were as surprised as I was.

Applesauce. September’s CSA bounty included orchard-fresh apples, along with a recipe for “Easy applesauce.” The easy part got my attention. Peel and quarter 6-8 apples. Throw them in a saucepan with ½ cup of water, some cinnamon and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Simmer for 20 minutes. Mash apples (the fun part) then add ½ cup sugar and a tablespoon of butter. Pure heaven, served warm or cold.

Apple bread. To our delight, the fresh apples kept rolling in. In addition to my continued resolve to properly honor the produce, my motivation for making apple bread was to create an enticement to get my 7th grade daughter out of bed in time to catch the school bus the next morning. Cold cereal has not been doing the trick, nor have Quaker granola bars. I invited her to help me make the bread. As we were stirring and adding ingredients, she noticed the nutmeg was stamped with a date from 2002. That led us to an adventure in going through every spice in the cabinet and throwing out anything older than 2009, INCLUDING the spices in the rack we got as a wedding gift seventeen years ago. I couldn’t part with those, so I combined them in a Tupperware container to save for a yet-to-be-determined non-consumptive use.

Acorn squash soup. This is one of Autumn’s pleasures not to be missed. The tedious work is in the preparation of the squash. It has to be cooked and peeled, and one must exercise care not to burn one’s fingers when handling hot squash straight from the microwave (as she types with a still-tender right thumb). But it is so worth it, and I was obligated to honor the squash. Creamy, smooth, buttery, with a touch of ginger, nothing is better on a cool fall evening before bolting out the door for yoga class. I will be honest: I spent the entire class looking forward to getting back home to enjoy another bowl – how’s that for present mindfulness?

These have been my September adventures with fresh produce. As the month draws to a close and the fruits of the garden dwindle away, it’s good to remember the bounty in spite of the drought. And to the earth I say, “Rest well. You’ve earned it.”

– Kim for the Poplar Grove Muse

Green tomato cake recipe

Squash soup and Apple bread recipes can be found in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (the one with the red and white checks).


  1. Green tomato cake! I love the exotic stuff we find ourselves making when we sign up for a CSA. Can't wait to give that a shot.

  2. I like clearing your clearing of the spice rack! I need to do that too.