Raquel Sweet Corn
Purple Bell Peppers
Green Chile Hot Pepper
Notes from the Farm
I'm always a little floored by how drastic change can feel so subtle...
Three weeks ago, it was Napa Cabbage, Fennel, Radicchio, Cauliflower... and now we are fully steeped in the rich agricultural history of the Americas, with tomato family crops and corn.
It's easy to look past how differently each share has been constructed, and just see the never ending onslaught of vegetables, but the farm season kind of takes us on a cultural, historical, journey... one that's not super hard to understand, but invokes a “huh! neat!” in me almost every year.
Traditional Italian cooking as you know it is a lie! There, I've said it (I actually say it kind of a lot... maybe too much... I think people get the point).
Europe didn't get the eggplant, tomato or pepper until well into the 1500's... Traditional Italian cooking is as young as European culture is in the Americas... younger really.
And not to slight Europe, but I fully believe the cultures of Mesoamerica don't get the recognition they deserve for essentially saving all of us from boiled turnip dinners... like everyday... before the Mesoamerican crops were brought back to Europe, the large majority of the population essentially lived on turnips... everyday...
The pre-European cultures of the Americas bred and cultivated Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Peppers, Epplants, Beans (dry and fresh), Squash, Corn, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes... they did it all... and so much more than this.
And while I love Fennel, Radicchio and Cauliflower... I may love those Mesoamerican staples more... or, ultimately, I love that I have so much choice, so much culture, so much history, to choose from. Food is not food, it is history, culture... agriculture... our culture.
Chilled Buttermilk Tomatillo Soup
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups Chicken Stock to Make 1 1/2 Quarts, or low-sodium canned
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus a pinch for garnish
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
1 cup buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onion begins to brown.
Add the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeno and cook for 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the chicken stock, cumin, and cilantro, and cook 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and cool.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a food processer and puree until smooth. Add the buttermilk, salt, and pepper and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
Ladle the soup among 4 bowls and garnish each with a cilantro sprig and the cumin.
Grilled Tomatillo and Pineapple Salsa
1 pound tomatillos, husked and halved
2 slices pineapple (each about 6 inches long and 1/2 inch thick)
3 fresh serrano chiles, stemmed
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
Preheat grill to medium (if using a charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grate for just 5 or 6 seconds). Grill tomatillos, pineapple, and chiles, flipping once, until blackened and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.
Using a mortar and pestle or the side of a large knife on a cutting board, crush together garlic and salt to form a paste. Pulse garlic paste, tomatillos, chiles, and honey in a food processor until coarsely combined; transfer to a bowl.
Cut pineapple into 1/2-inch dice. Add pineapple, cilantro, and onion to the tomatillo mixture; stir until combined. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Penne alla Norma
1 pound penne rigate
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain pasta; return to pot.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add eggplant to skillet; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until eggplant begins to release juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes (if bottom of pan browns too much, add a few tablespoons water, and scrape with spoon).
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1/4 cup water to skillet; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Toss sauce and basil with pasta; gently reheat if necessary. Top each serving with a spoonful of ricotta, and garnish with more basil.