Appreciation

Emily and I went to one of the best CSA farms I’ve been to (for a couple of reasons, but one is definitely the cherry tomatoes…) and collected my family’s CSA share for that week. We were overwhelmed, overloaded, and overjoyed to have so much produce. Bags and buckets and car trunks full of produce and for good reason: we wanted to cook our families a meal that rivaled professional dinners to show our appreciation for them, and for the summer bounty.

What we had:

Squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, dill, cilantro, beans, sprouts, tomatoes (heritage, vine ripe, cherry), rainbow beets, golden beets, garlic red cabbage, escarole, endive, Swiss chard, arugula, spinach, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, and determination to make this be amazing.

It is a bit funny – Emily and my drive – sometimes. And sometimes scary. On normal summer days, we try to pack any and everything in. Running, yoga, biking, farmers markets, coffee shops, lofty dinners, and night-cap drinks. Sometimes we sleep. On this day, it was like any other, except we just had to plan the dinner on our run, think about prep time, prep before yoga while in the zone and almost not talking to each other because we were so focused and loving the food, give oven directions for when we were at yoga, and finish while our parents sat on the porch with half bottles of wine.

What exactly did we make? Well, harvest diners gather around. The menu for our night was three courses with many parts dancing together in each course:

First Course – Zucchini-Basil-Maple Syrup Bread with Dill Butter and a Cherry Tomato Salad.

This first course we wanted to start out with a bread, like most restaurants, but have it be more gourmet than your average warmed French loaf.  So we focused on a vegetable that is more than in abundance and paired it with the Italian staple: basil. Add a little maple syrup to sweeten the bite, and you’ve got a great starter. And butter? Well the butter had to come with some form of summer built in, so why not dill – a summer essential? The Cherry tomatoes were so good on the vine at the farm, that we had to highlight them almost immediately. A brief flavoring of dill and extra virgin olive oil to sweeten the connected meal.

Second Course – Bean-Corn-Cilantro Salad, Arugula-Spinach Green Salad with citrus dressing, Red Cabbage-Swiss Chard Sautee, Pan Roasted Squash, Beets, Eggplant, and Heritage Tomatoes

This quartet of a course rounds almost every base in a flavor and texture guide: the bright crunch and light herbed flavors of the bean salad, a leafy green salad with sparkling notes from the citrus-vinegar-oil dressing, deep earthy flavors from the red cabbage and Swiss chard sautee hinted with caramelized onions and browned garlic, then the rich savory flavors of a simple oven roasting giving even the toughest of potatoes a salty finish.  Proceed from light to deep and enjoy.

Third Course — That Peach-Basil pie with cardamom crust.

Who wouldn’t want to round out a meal fit for summer and appreciation with a not-too-sweet pie boasting late-summer fruit? Enough said.

This meal was extravagant to cook from bottom to the top with no pre-prepared dishes or elements and I’d do it again in a heart beat.

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