BY VICKY BROWN
June 27, 2014
Tis the season… of abundance.
The time of the longest, sunniest days of the year when gardens and orchards are starting to provide the rewards of your spring toiling.
Farmers markets are overflowing with fresh, local goods, music is playing, bright colors are everywhere and gorgeous local food beckons you. Farmers smile as you exchange your hard-earned money for their hard-earned wares.
Then Saturday evening arrives. A glorious local dinner has filled your belly and your refrigerator is still full of the bounty. Your garden is producing now, too. What will you do with that extra bunch of beets? Carrots? Turnips? Zucchini?
Preserving food is important. Farmers work hard to grow it. We don’t want waste their efforts, do we?
However, if you’re like me, you find this season offers little time for preserving the bounty. So I’m going to suggest some short cuts.
We are lucky to have a fantastic entrepreneur in our midst. Britt of Britt’s Pickles makes not only delicious pickled goods, but offers a beginning fermenting chamber—with instructions for you to start your own!
I’ve just started playing with fermenting myself.
But I do have plenty of experience with chips. I practically lived off of kale chips two summers ago, going through at least three to four bunches of kale a week.
This year I’m working on something new. I started playing with veggie chips last summer, and now I’ve gone off the deep end. Forget the salt-soaked tasteless veggie chips you buy in the chips’ aisle at the store. These veggies are already packed with flavor; you’re just going to concentrate that flavor and make them last longer.
Start by slicing your choice of vegetable thin. If you have a mandolin, use it (without grating your thumb!). But if not, don’t fret; a sharp knife will do. Cut your veggies into thin slices, slightly thicker if you prefer a little chew to your chip.
Spritz them with olive oil or other cooking oil. The biggest mistake I make is using too much oil, so be conservative. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste, add other herbs and put them in your oven on broil for a few minutes until they begin to brown.
After a few minutes, flip them and crisp the second side. (If you own a Cook on Clay platter, you might even be able to skip this part by setting your oven at 425F instead of using the broiler.)
Once the chips have cooled, you can store them in a Ziploc with a paper towel, or even a paper bag, in a cool dark spot. They will last much longer—or at least long enough for you to go get another package of chevre to smear on them.
You could also freeze the chips. They are never quite as good, but are still a tasty, healthy treat. When you thaw them, you’ll need to reheat them in the oven to restore crispness.
This method works well for most root vegetables: parsnips, carrots, beets, etc. It also works well for summer squash and zucchini. I have been less thrilled with my results with cucumbers—varieties with fewer seeds and more flesh do better—but I think I will stick with fresh or pickled cucumbers. I tried salad turnips for the first time this week and found they were delicious, especially when sliced very thin; they get a little mushy if they’re too thick.
If you find your beets are too bitter, sprinkle a little sugar along with the salt and pepper on your next batch; once you smear a little chevre on them, they should be tasty without the added sugar.
Yes, I use these as crackers for my cheese. I am lucky and don’t need a gluten-free alternative, but sometimes I run out of Tree-Top Baking’s fruit/nut crisps or Midnight Kitchen’s Turner & Bea’s crackers…and I’m always looking for more ways to get more cheese into my mouth!
When tomatoes start filling the market stands, I have a quick cheat for storing those too (once you have too many for your caprese salads). Come see me at Bayview Farmers Market (Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and I’ll fill you in!
Now that you know how to enjoy the season of delicious excess, let me help you find all those goodies.
Here is a link to a newly released map of farm stores/shops/stands on the island: http://www.goosefoot.org/pdf/farmstands.pdf (This list will be evolving all the time, so stay tuned. One update is that our farm store also offers goat meat, whey raised pork and other local products.)
Vicky Brown, Chief Milkmaid at the Little Brown Farm, puts her passions on the page writing about food, agriculture and the tender web of community.
All photos by Vicky Brown
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