I am a fan of farmer's markets, as most Zuskateers know, and I am grateful that I am able to enjoy their bounty. As I have turned our diet to focus more and more on what I can bring home from the farm market, I've tried to get a bit more creative with the veggies and fruits. This requires a few things beyond the resources to purchase said veggies and fruits. First, you need time - time to study out different recipes and decide which ones you want to attempt and how to go about them, time to undertake the various recipes, and possibly learn some new cooking skills along the way.
Second, you will need a good source of recipes. If you have access to the internet (which, if you are reading this, I assume you do) you can always Google for a new idea, but I like having a book in front of me in the kitchen to page through for ideas. And my favorite veggie cookbook is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It has tons of great recipes, but also it teaches you about veggies and fruits, how to choose and store them, and it teaches you techniques for preparing them, as well as how to make various sauces and dressings that will be good accompaniments. It is not cheap, so if you can get it used, do so. The only thing I do not like about this book is that sometimes I will get excited about a recipe on page x, only to discover that it needs a sauce on page y, which is based on some other sauce on page z, and then I give up, because it's too complicated. Or, I just fudge it. So far I have managed to live without making my own garlic aoli from scratch.
But every once in awhile I do get the notion to make some complicated thing just for the hell of it. Well, not just for the hell of it. Sometimes I find spending three hours in the kitchen making some complicated concoction very therapeutic - it helps me forget all the elder care stuff, the pile of paperwork on the desk upstairs that needs my attention, the phone calls I need to make on behalf of my loved ones (or to yell at my insurance company). Gardening is maybe the only activity more mentally helpful than pureeing the hell out of a bowl of something.
So what have I been making? Fruit has been in abundance, so I've been messing with that. First up, Cantaloupe Soup. Take your melon, chop up the flesh. You'll get about 6 cups, but who's counting. Take 1.5 cups of orange juice, and if you're a purist, you could fresh squeeze your own, but I grabbed the carton from the fridge. 1/4 cup lemon juice, and here I did go the fresh squeezed route because, oh, fresh lemon juice, so nice! 2 T. honey - something nice and fruity, or whateverthehell is on your shelf. Just a little cinnamon, don't go overboard. The recipe said 1/4 tsp but they are insane, it was way too much. At little cinnamon goes a long way. It also called for 1/4 tsp salt and here I agreed with them - it does need that bit of salt. Mix all this mess in a big bowl and get out your immersion blender if you have one, which I hope you are lucky enough to have one, because nothing gets the stress out like sticking an immersion blender into a mess like this, pressing the button and going whirrrrrrrr! The final mess should be sweet and a little tart. Chill, and when you serve, if you are an ultra fancy soul you can garnish with a little chopped mint but I didn't have any so we ate ours plain and it was just fab.
Next, the lemonades. We start with Blueberry Lemonade. Two cups H2O, 3/4 c. sugar, bring to boil. Add peel of one lemon in strips, 2 c. blueberries: boil 5 min. Strain through a fine sieve. Be careful, hot blueberry stuff will splash everywhere and stain. Go slow! Add juice of 4 lemons. FOUR! Do not skimp. Sometimes I strain a second time to make it ultra smooth, into whatever pitcher I am going to keep it in. Refrigerate. Serve diluted 1:1 with club soda or H2O. Imbibers may want to mix with a favorite spirit. You can make this with frozen blueberries too.
Watermelon Lemonade is just as good. Puree about half of a medium-sized watermelon. Not one of those really huge ones, just a decent sized one. Here it is nice to use a blender if you have one. It does the job and the seeds don't really get chopped up, so if you strain the puree into a bowl, they stay behind along with the flavorless pulp. Add in the juice of 1 lemon, and 3 T of simple syrup (more or less, to your taste). (Simple syrup is 1:1 water:sugar, which you will have to heat on the stove to get the sugar to dissolve, then cool before adding to your melonade. You may have extra, you can keep it in the fridge for awhile, or put some in your hummingbird feeder.) Mix it all up, cool, serve. Some say dilute with water but I never do, I drink it straight. Delish, and very refreshing on a hot day.
Neither of those recipes takes terribly long to make - the worst part is cutting up the melon, and/or juicing the lemons, but if you have a good tool it's not too bad. Don't get anything fancy, get an old-fashioned one that sits over a bowl with the cone you stick the cut lemon half over and push down on. You know what I mean. It catches the seeds and lets the juice run through. Pour the juice through the strainer if you don't like the lemonade pulp, or not.
And now, my three-hour crazy recipe. It is from The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook. If you follow that link and look at the middle picture on the bottom row, you will see what I was trying to make. This is how it came out.
So, mine isn't as beautifully photographed and I left off the fried basil leaves because at the end of the recipe I was all "you want me to do what now? In a half inch of olive oil? For six basil leaves? I don't effing think so." But I have to tell you, it tasted damn good.
Cold Golden Tomato Soup With Melon and Basil Essence
I don't know what the hell a Sharlyn Melon is so I just used the cantaloupe I had lying around. That's why it's just "with Melon".
First, the ginger syrup. 1/4 c. water, 1/4 c. H2O, 1-inch piece fresh ginger peeled and grated. Shit. Drive to grocery store and buy ginger. Return home, pour self glass of blueberry lemonade, grate ginger. Mix H2O, water, ginger, bring to boil, boil about a minute, sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and pour it into a little bowl so it will cool quicker. (One pot, one bowl, measuring cup, chopping board and knife dirtied.)
Cut up three big ass "golden" tomatoes (that's yellowy-orange to you and me). The tomatoes were each about the size of a softball. Core them, cut out bad spots - do this over a bowl so you don't lose any juices. Get out your immersion blender and puree that mess! Yippee! Then strain through fine sieve. (Bowl, knife, sieve dirtied. You will have to throw out pulp and rinse the sieve several times to get all that tomato-y goodness strained.) Now strain the ginger syrup into the tomato yum. Stir and refrigerate.
Cut open melon. Scoop out seeds. If you have a nice ripe melon, juice will puddle in the cavity. You need a bowl to put this juice into. You don't have a melon baller, so use a spoon to scoop out sort-of roundish-y cone-balls of melon, somewhere between twelve and twenty, depending upon how many people you are willing to share this with. Do this over the bowl, catching the juices. Cut up the rest of the melon and put it in a container to eat later. Then drain whatever juices have accumulated, into your bowl with your cone-balls. (Cutting board, knife, spoon, bowl dirtied.)
Oh shit, you did not make basil essence yet. Pack a half cup full of basil leaves. Thank the Lord you have chives in the freezer because you do not want to wash and chop 1/4 cup's worth. Mix these two herbs in your blender, or your immersion blender mixing cup, along with 1/4 c. olive oil and, crap, 1 T lemon juice, okay, there's half a lemon in the fridge, that should yield enough. Puree the shit out of this. Takes awhile. Now what? Now...strain through a fine mesh sieve? Are you fucking kidding me? Okay, with great patience, you collect enough frigging basil essence to use in two bowls of this stuff, and since there are only two of you, good enough. Hey, the rest of that stuff would be awfully good on pasta to go with this soup, since I didn't plan anything else for dinner... (Measuring cups, immersion blender, immersion blender cup, lemon juicer, sieve, cup dirtied.)
Okay, pour cantaloupe juice into bottom of two bowls. Arrange cone-balls attractively in bowl. Ladle tomato-ginger goodness over top. Drizzle effing basil essence around. Those fried basil leaves can suck my cantaloupe cone-balls. Serve. Oh. My. God. It is really, really, really good.